Monday, March 26, 2012

HSM-77 Saberhawk Technicians Keep Helicopters Mission Ready

By Lt. j.g. Adam Arndt, HSM-77 Public Affairs

USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, At Sea (NNS) -- The aviation electronics technicians (ATs) of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 have maintained the squadron's helicopters at 100 percent mission capable status on their deployment aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) for the past four months.

The Saberhawks of HSM-77 fly the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk, housed with an array of sophisticated sensors and mission systems. These systems, which include secure cryptographic radio, satellite and data communications, forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imaging and state-of-the-art airborne low-frequency sonar (ALFS), support HSM-77's primary missions of surface warfare (ASuW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR).

"In order for us to successfully execute our primary missions, our aircraft must be 100 percent mission capable, and our aviation electronic technicians play a critical role in ensuring our aircraft combat readiness," said Cmdr. Brent Gaut, commanding officer of HSM-77. "Our platform and its mission systems are AT-intensive; it is crucial our ATs maintain a robust level of knowledge and subject matter expertise in order to effectively address time-critical malfunctions."

Since deploying in early December 2011 with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, HSM-77 has already flown more than 450 sorties from Lincoln and navigated through the Strait of Hormuz numerous times, while also supporting Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in the Arabian Sea. Of those flights, none have been cancelled due to mission system failures.

This execution is due in large part to the level of knowledge and expertise that ATs embody. With backgrounds that range from technical training in the fields of basic electrical theory and advanced aviation electronics to prior experience on various other aviation platforms like the SH-60B Seahawk, F/A-18 Hornet, and P-3 Orion, HSM-77 ATs are able to quickly and efficiently address issues that arise in the fast-paced military environment.

"AT's are a rare breed. Few can match their intelligence, work ethic and contribution in our ability to complete our mission," said Lt. Naotomo Gibson, AT division officer.

It is not uncommon for a mission system to degrade or have issues during a flight, thus handicapping the aircraft in executing its mission. However, the aforementioned level of expertise exhibited by ATs has allowed them to troubleshoot and address these issues within narrow windows of time, bringing the helicopter back to full mission capability and allowing air operations to continue seamlessly.

"I have worked on many other naval aircraft, but the MH-60R has the added advantage of instant satisfaction upon fixing a problem," said Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Cisneros. "When you have less than 15 minutes to determine the nature of a problem and to be able to address it as well, bringing the system back up to its full capability and allowing the helicopter to re-launch and continue its mission, you know you made that happen and were a part of something big."

HSM-77, CVW 2, and Lincoln are part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ALCSG), which also includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9 ships USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Sterett (DDG 104).

ALCSG is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of OEF.