Director Air Warfare: Howgozit by RADM Mark Fitzgerald

Director Air Warfare: Howgozit by RADM Mark Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald, Mark

In this issue’s HowGozit I want to highlight a very important part of Naval Aviation. They may not make the news as much as our carriers and strike fighters, but they have continuously demonstrated their warrior spirit and professionalism time and time again. I don’t think any of us would want to go into battle without them – I am, of course, talking about the men and women of our Naval helicopter force.

As the capabilities of helicopters have advanced, so too has the need for them to continually adapt to a variety of missions. From defending carriers from Soviet nuclear subs during the Cold War to the multi-tasked combat of the War on Terror, the Naval helicopter force has always responded and adapted to the mission at hand. This inherent flexibility is part of what makes our Naval HcIo force a vital and indispensable member of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) team! In the future, the helicopter will move steadily forward in capability and responsibility. As CNO has said: “Helicopter air is as of this moment at the forefront of Navy transformation.” Armed Naval helicopters are at the top of every Strike Group commander’s priority list and rightfully so as the Naval HeIo team has proven itself to be a versatile, multi-dimensional force multiplier. As we implement Sea Power 21 we will integrate sea, land, air, space, and Cyberspace to a greater extent than ever before and we will depend on helicopters to be a critical component of sea and littoral battlespace dominance within the pillars of Sea Shield, Sea Strike and Sea Basing. The requirements of Sea Power 21 are the latest chapter in the development of the Navy helicopter community and are part of a long rotary wing tradition of vertical transformation.

As with our other Naval aircraft, we are reducing the type model series of the Navy’s battle group helicopter force from eight to three, the MH-60 Sierra, MH-60 Romeo, and the MH-53E, with the overall objective of greatly expanding war fighting capability while significantly reducing costs. This plan capitalizes on efficiencies of singular maintenance, logistics, and training pipelines, while satisfying the needs of both active and Rreserve forces. At the same time, we will modernize and increase our helicopter force and weapon systems by adding an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR), an advanced dipping Airborne Low Frequency Sonar (ALPS), Hellfire and Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), and the new mission of Organic Airborne Mine Countermeasures with five new generation Mine Counter Measures (MCM) sensors (RAMICS, OASIS, AMNS, AQS-20A and ALM DS). The tremendous leap in capability represented in these aircraft has compelled Naval Aviation to further examine fundamental changes to the helo command structure that will also be transformed. Ten MH-60S and ten MH-60R squadrons will deploy on board the carrier as part of the carrier air wing. ((There will be 20 helos in a carrier strike group: six Romeos and six Sierras on each CVN, six Romeos dispersed on small boys and two Sierras on AOEs.) Detachments from the CVW squadron will in turn support CRUDES ships.

In this manner helicopter squadrons and their commanding officers will become more closely integrated with CSG leadership. Additionally, five expeditionary Romeo Squadrons and six expeditionary Sierra squadrons will meet non-CSG requirements, such as counter-narcotic detachments, independent CRUDES operations, SAR, and Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) support. The Expeditionary squadron is a detachment based squadron similar to the HC/HSL squadrons of today and could, if required, surge to add even more capability to the Strike Group.

A modern Naval helicopter force armed with the latest weapons and technology is a force multiplier of great value to the strike group commander. The helicopter community remains at the core of Naval Aviation and a robust and highly capable helicopter fighting force is a fundamental requirement to any Navy operation. Our roadmap of helicopter force modernization will enable the helo community to effectively execute its essential role in Naval Aviation.

Copyright Association of Naval Aviation Spring 2004

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