Sikorsky products made naval history earlier this year when the first aircraft carrier deployment for Sikorsky MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters took place as sailors from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 departed San Diego, Calif., aboard the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group.
“This scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific was not routine for Sikorsky because the trip marked history for the Sikorsky MH-60R and MH-60S helicopter fleets,” said Vice President Naval Programs Len Wengler. “This milestone represents the realization of the U.S. Navy’s (USN) new helicopter concept of operations (CONOPS) and the beginning of the transition of all USN carrier air wings to the new construct,” Wengler said.
More than 250 sailors from HSM 71, also known as the “Raptors,” participated in the Stennis mission. HSM-71 was the first operational MH-60R SEAHAWK® helicopter squadron introduced to the fleet on Jan. 19, 2006. The MH-60R fleet features electronic support measures, airborne low- frequency sonar, a multi-mission radar upgrade, forward-looking infrared, and a weapons suite, including torpedoes and Hellfire missiles. The “R” line is designed to replace the SH-60B and SH-60F.
While deployed, HSM-71 will operate as an integral part of Carrier Air Wing 9 aboard the USS John C. Stennis along with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8, which operates MH-60S helicopters aboard Stennis. The HSM-71missions include anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, surveillance communications relay, search and rescue, naval gunfire support, logistics support and personnel transfer.
Another reason this deployment is so significant is that, according to Raptors Command Master Chief (AW/SW) Ernesto Caballero, HSM-71 sailors prepared the squadron for deployment nearly a year ahead of schedule.
“The sailors at HSM-71 prepared the squadron for deployment in 12 months – a task that normally takes new squadrons 18 to 24 months to do,” said Caballero. “This says a lot about the command climate and the type of high-quality sailors assigned to this squadron.” The squadron is led by Commander Jeffrey Dodge and comprises 40 pilots, 20 aircrew personnel, and 208 aircraft maintainers and support sailors.