Sailors assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 worked together to land four MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters on Ford’s flight deck while the ship was moored at Naval Station Norfolk, Aug. 30. While underway, HSM-70 is able to provide logistic support, conduct search and rescue operations, execute plane guard and conduct unit specific training while Ford completes carrier qualifications and other ISE evolutions. HSM-70, stationed in Jacksonville, Florida executed the rare, pier-side fly-on to quickly enable follow-on operations during Independent Steaming event (ISE) 12, while ensuring the health of the crew during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is underway in the Atlantic Ocean conducting Independent Steaming Event 12 of 18, as part of the ship’s Post-Delivery Test and Trials phase, scheduled to continue through mid-2021.
Lt. Cmdr. Joey Kühn, from Moorpark, California, HSM-70’s officer in charge, explained how HSM-70 and Ford’s crew work to seamlessly integrate with one another. “This underway we’re doing training, that’s our primary focus while we’re out here, as well as to work with the ship to get the MH-60 Romeo Sea Hawk helicopter integrated with the carrier,” said Kühn. “When it comes time to start doing work ups, we will have the muscle memories of doing anti-submarine warfare and sub-surface warfare to support Ford.”
Lt. Bryant Henderson, from Jacksonville, Florida, a pilot assigned to HSM-70, explained how flying onto the ship in-port made it easier for his squadron to keep a “bubble-to-bubble” mindset while embarking the ship. “You’ve got half your squadron on the ship, you’ve got your crews that are trying to figure out where to stay out in town and you got stuff to carry with you. That’s what we would usually do. Henderson went on to say, “we flew onto this ship pier side so that no squadrons were intermingling, so it feels like it’s more of the bubble-to-bubble to get us safely onboard and it seemed to work out very, very well.”
Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 employs the MH-60R “Seahawk” multi-mission helicopter to continuously provide an updated surface picture to the strike group commander, enabling informed decision-making within the battle space. Additionally, HSM-70 serves as the strike group’s only organic submarine defense asset capable of locating, tracking, and destroying subsurface threats. As a secondary mission, HSM-70 has the ability to conduct electronic surveillance and gather intelligence and can perform non-combat operations including vertical replenishments and logistics. The Spartan’s maiden deployment took place between May-December 2011 aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and included detachments of aircraft, pilots, aircrewmen, and maintainers embarked aboard USS Gettysburg (CG 64), USS Truxtun (DDG 103) and USS Philippine Sea (CG-58). While deployed, the squadron conducted operations in support of Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom.