ABOARD USS PELELIU (NNS) -- Some old friends dropped in on the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) recently for a historic visit.
The "Gunbearers" of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 11 put their newly acquired MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters through their paces while conducting daylight landing qualifications aboard Peleliu.
This evolution marked the first time the Navy's newest helicopter landed on a Pacific Fleet naval ship.
The MH-60S Knighthawk first entered naval service in February 2002 as a replacement for the CH-46 Seaknight. In the past few decades, the CH-46 has been Peleliu's workhorse when it came to missions such as vertical replenishment, search and rescue (SAR), and special warfare support.
Now, with the acquisition of the Knighthawk, the Gunbearers and Peleliu have a new platform based on a proven design, making the Knighthawk an invaluable air asset in the decades to come.
"It was pretty exciting news for air department when we found out we were going to be working with the Knighthawk," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuels) Airman Andrew Bowman. "We're all looking forward to working with these new helicopters when we go on deployment."
The structure of the Knighthawk is based on the Army's UH-60L Blackhawk and Navy's SH-60B Seahawk. The Knighthawk is capable of lifting 9,000 pounds of cargo with its external cargo hook, can carry up to 20 armed troops in its cabin and, unlike the CH-46, has the additional capability of carrying external Hellfire missiles, rockets and guns.
"The Knighthawk has increased armament, command and control, and over-the-horizon surveillance capability. With the CH-46, we mainly had a SAR asset. Now with the Knighthawk, we have a complete weapons system," said Peleliu Commanding Officer Capt. Dennis D. DuBard.
These attributes will prove to be vital, as Peleliu's missions continue to expand with the ever-changing world climate.
HC-11 is scheduled to deploy two MH-60 Knighthawks aboard Peleliu later this year, marking the first West Coast deployment of the new helicopter.
For related news, visit the Commander Amphibious Group Three Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cpg3.