MH-60R Helps Thwart Pirates
U.S. maritime helicopter on deployment to multi-national force gathers intel that leads to ship’s rescue
U.S. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 77, Detachment 5 and its MH-60 R helicopters helped rescue of merchant vessel from pirates during a two-week deployment aboard Combined Task Force 151’s flagship, the United Kingdom’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Fort Victoria.
Pirates are finding that merchant ships off the African coast are no longer easy marks.
International cooperative initiatives such as the Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 – a multi-national naval operation formed by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) in 2009 – have helped reduce the number of vessels hijacked by pirates. According to NATO, pirates succeeded in capturing only four vessels in 2011, compared to 26 in both 2009 and 2010.
The counter-piracy benefits of international cooperation were on display again in May during a two-week deployment of U.S. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, Detachment 5 and its MH-60 R helicopters aboard the CTF 151’s flagship, the United Kingdom’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Fort Victoria.
On May 11, the Fort Victoria received information about the hijacking of a merchant ship in the southern portion of the North Arabian Sea. An HSM-77 MH-60R helicopter was dispatched to gather critical data and intelligence that enabled a coalition boarding party to rescue the hijacked ship later that day, according to a U.S. Navy web article.
"(HSM-77’s) presence… aboard RFA Fort Victoria was a major milestone for the squadron, and contributed significantly toward U.S.-U.K. interoperability in the area of responsibility," said Cmdr. Brent Gaut, HSM-77 commanding officer, in the Navy article. "This marked the first time a U.S. Navy MH-60R detachment embarked on a Royal Navy vessel and further cemented the bond with our coalition partner navies."
The deployment provided Fort Victoria with an enhanced surface search capability for its counter-piracy mission, and showed that U.S. Navy helicopter squadrons can successfully operate from foreign vessels.
Lockheed Martin integrates the mission systems and sensors aboard the Sikorsky-built MH-60R, including the Common Cockpit Avionics Suite, which it shares with its sibling, the MH-60S “Sierra.” The world’s most advanced maritime helicopter, the MH-60R serves as the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral waters.
Posted on June 19, 2012