he Nightdippers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5 are playing a major role ensuring the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) gets the supplies it needs during the extensive underway replenishment (UNREP) and ammunition onload, March 25-28.
HSC-5 is a squadron of MH-60S Seahawk helicopters, whose missions typically include naval special warfare support, search and rescue, anti-surface warfare and vertical replenishments at sea (VERTREP). This underway, they conducted one with the fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
“VERTREP is probably one of the most exciting things we do as aircrewman,” said Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Jason Bazell, a rescue swimmer assigned to the Nightdippers. “It’s super dynamic. We need to always keep a lot of communication between the aircrew in the back and the pilots up front.”
While pilots sit in the front of the helicopter, cargo hooks in the middle of the aircraft connect to the supply loads, roughly 15 feet behind them. As the pilots concentrate on operating the aircraft, the aircrewmen provide constant updates on what is going on with the supplies being carried.
“The pilots depend heavily on us; we are their eyes in the back,” said Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Timothy Cox, an HSC-5 rescue swimmer who has flown 60 hours of VERTREPs over the last four years. “We are the only crew members with eyes on the load below. On long-haul VERTREPs, the loads will often start oscillating and swinging; we tell the pilots, and they put in corrective inputs to control the load.”
During Abraham Lincoln’s VERTREP, HSC-5 contributed 38 flight hours and provided 1,569 tons of ammunition including missiles, small arms, and general-purpose bombs.
“It’s an amazing feeling being a part of something so significant,” said Lt. Bryan O’Loughlin, a pilot attached to HSC-5. “I think the helicopters have one of the most diverse mission sets. It makes every day with the Lincoln a welcome surprise.”
While not a part of ship’s company, HSC-5 folded into the crew to bring Abraham Lincoln one step closer to being fully equipped and capable of conducting combat operations around the globe.
“The Navy wins wars, deters aggression, and maintains the freedom of the seas,” said O’Loughlin. “Abraham Lincoln has a major role in that, along with the other key players who make up Carrier Strike Group 12. Through underways such as this, and those to come over the next year, we will continue to sharpen our skills needed to execute those key missions.”
Commissioned in 1956, then HS-5 flew HSS-1N Sikosky helicopters with a primary mission to deny the enemy’s use of submarines against surface and air targets. Later, the squadron proved that over-water, night operations without any visual reference, were viable for 24-hour, all-weather operations. Due to this trailblazing effort, HS-5 attained the name “Nightdippers.”
For the aircrew members and pilots attached to the “World Famous” Nightdippers, mission success for the Navy is a first priority. According to O’Loughlin, they are enthusiastic to put their skills and expertise to the test. “The squadron is eagerly awaiting our upcoming deployment, it’s been a while for us; we are hungry to serve and to execute the mission.”