By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Desmond Parks
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The "Dusty Dogs" of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7 became the first helicopter squadron in the Northeast to fire an HSC Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter during a live-fire exercise Aug. 17.
The exercise marked the start of the HSC-7 work-up cycle in preparation for deployment in the 5th Fleet area of operation with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10.
"We're also making combat maneuvers during the exercise in preparation for our combat deployment," said Lt. Cmdr. Jason Walters, HSC-7 training officer. "We have to have so many qualified people capable of actually pulling the trigger."
The APKWS II is a laser-guided rocket similar to standard, unguided AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The new system serves as a low-cost, high accuracy variant to the Hellfire missiles previously used against lightly armored targets.
"For MH-60S aircraft specifically, the LAU-61G/A and APKWS II add a medium-range guided option to its robust weapons footprint," said Lt. Erik Gustafson, HSC-7 tactics officer. "The MH-60S will employ APKWS II along with its existing 20mm cannon, 2.75" unguided rockets, Hellfire missiles, and crew-served door guns, providing the Warfare Commander with a lethal and effective helicopter weapons system."
The Dusty Dogs employed two helicopters for the exercise at a practice range approximately 20 miles off the Virginia coast near Naval Air Station Oceana - one performing combat maneuvers and firing the APKWS II at both stationary and moving targets, and one serving as a support aircraft, with an observing training officer and two rescue swimmers aboard.
"It is a lot more precise," said Lt. Brian Cramer while using the system during the exercise. "Instead of needing to fire multiple missiles to make sure you hit a target, this is just 'one-and-go'."
The pilots deployed the missiles quickly, aimed at a target using a laser, and immediately deployed a volley of missile fire. Training officers and qualifying pilots observed significant damage to every sea surface floating target provided by the U.S. Navy Air Systems Command after firing a minimal number of missiles.
"The event allowed HSC-7 crews to build proficiency in employing the system before we commence joint training with our Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 counterpart, Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 74," said Gustafson. "Together, we will provide CVW-3, CVN-69 and the whole CSG-10 team with an unmatched anti-surface warfare capability."
According to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the MH-60S Seahawk is the Navy's most versatile helicopter, performing missions such as vertical replenishment, search-and-rescue, regional security, medical evacuations and others. The MH-60R Seahawk is a more combat-based aircraft primarily for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. Both helicopters will deploy with participating HSC's during the upcoming 2016 deployment.