USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS, At Sea (NNS) -- The Night Furies of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light (HSL) 42, Det. 10 assisted the Enterprise Carrier Strike Group throughout a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) by participating in numerous exercises Feb. 2.
The detachment is contributing to exercise Bold Alligator 2012, the largest amphibious exercise in the past 10 years, as a multipurpose air wing embarked aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS James E. Williams (DDG 95).
"We are a support detachment that specializes in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASU)," said Lt. Hector B. Ferrell, maintenance officer and a pilot for Det. 10. "We integrate, deploy, and participate in any mission the ship is tasked with."
Two SH-60B Seahawk helicopters aboard the destroyer can be sent at any moment to deter piracy and hostile forces, assist vessels in distress, or provide reconnaissance through integration with shipboard combat systems using the helicopter's radar and forward-looking infrared camera (FLIR).
"Our radar sets us apart from other Navy helicopters," said Lt. Cmdr. Chris M. Conlon, Det. 10 officer in charge. "We're able to go beyond the horizon and extend the view of combat systems."
"Hawklink," a mechanism for connecting the ship to the helicopter's systems, provides secure communications and data transfer to increase the collective defense of the ship and the strike group.
"Hawklink is a great tool for us," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas J. Higginbotham, an anti-surface and anti-submarine tactical air-controller aboard James E. Williams. "It allows the two-way flow of data between us and the helicopter for correlation and concurrence on contacts."
This bird's-eye view offered by the unique systems of the Seahawk deliver the ship and the strike group a more accurate and detailed picture of both undersea and surface contacts. This detail benefits the mission by providing better assessment of the situation and helps protect the assets within the strike group by identifying and potentially engaging hostile forces.
These immediate threats, and situations which necessitate the need for air support, require the detachment to be capable of quickly launching helicopters at any given moment.
"We're always on 'alert 60,'" said Conlon. "That means we have to get the aircraft off the deck in 60 minutes."
As soon as communication is received necessitating the use of helicopters, the flight deck is immediately prepped for launch, the pilots are briefed, and the helicopter is then sent to either perform a mission or assess the overall situation and relay that information back to the ship.
Along with the primary mission of ASW and ASU, the detachment also conducts vertical replenishments, medical evacuations, search and rescue operations, personnel transfers, reconnaissance, and other functions according to the mission.
The versatile nature of the detachment calls for both the aircrew and maintainers to consistently adapt to unknown operational requirements.
"We have completed six underway periods in a 10-month work-up cycle, and flown over 550 hours in approximately 100 days while embarked on James E. Williams," said Conlon. "We have trained extremely hard in support of our mission sets and are looking forward to finally getting out there on deployment and performing them for real."
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