"The World's Famous Nightdippers"
The “World Famous Nightdippers” of HS-5 are a member of Carrier Air Wing SEVEN currently assigned to USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69). The Nightdippers fly two variations of the H-60 "Seahawk" helicopter, designated the HH-60H and SH-60F. The HH-60H's primary missions are Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Support and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW). The SH-60F's primary mission is Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) defense of the inner zone. This includes the detection, classification and destruction of hostile submarines. Additional missions performed by both helicopters types are Search and Rescue (SAR), logistic support, vertical replenishment (VERTREP), and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).
Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron FIVE was commissioned at Naval Air Station, Key West, Florida, on January 3rd 1956. Its primary mission was to deny the enemy effective use of their submarines against air or surface targets.
In 1958, HS-5 received the first HSS-1N helicopter. Subsequent testing and evaluation proved that helicopters could be hovered at night over water without visual reference to the ocean and were ready for around-the-clock, all-weather ASW operations. It was due to this trailblazing effort with the submersible sonar-equipped HSS-1N that HS-5 acquired the name "Nightdippers”.
Following a homeport move in 1959 to Naval Air Station, Quonset Point, Rhode Island, HS-5 was assigned to Carrier Antisubmarine Air Group Fifty-Four. While assigned to CVSG-54, the squadron deployed several times on ASW exercises, participated in two Mercury spacecraft recoveries including America’s first astronaut, CDR Allen B. Shepard.
In 1963, HS-5 transitioned to the first twin jet-turbine helicopter, the SH-3A "Sea King". The next several years found HS-5 deploying for ASW exercises and astronaut recovery missions. The squadron surpassed 25,000 consecutive mishap free hours in 1968 and was presented with the Sikorsky Safety Award in recognition of this accomplishment.
In 1972, the Nightdippers earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their participation in the rescue efforts near Elmira, New York, following Hurricane Agnes. Later that year, the squadron was permanently assigned to Carrier Air Wing SEVEN (CVW-7), embarked on USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62).
In 1978, HS-5 and CVW-7 were assigned to USS DWIGHT D. EISNEHOWER (CVN 69), the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier at the time. Following an extended Mediterranean deployment, HS-5 transitioned to the SH-3H, which incorporated the latest in ASW technological advances and changed its homeport to Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. The squadron flew in excess of 3,000 hours in support of the Eisenhower Battle Group and the multi-national force in Beirut, Lebanon, and was twice awarded the CVW-7 Silver Wrench Award for maintenance excellence.
In 1985, HS-5 achieved over five years of mishap free flying and won the first two competitions of the HSWING Commodore's Trophy for ASW Excellence, the Silver Anchor Award for retention, and the CNO Safety Award. In 1986, HS-5 conducted an extended turnaround-training schedule involving operations on four aircraft carriers- USS CORAL SEA (CV 43), USS SARATOGA (CV 60), USS NIMITZ (CVN 68), and USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71).
After returning from Operation DESERT SHIELD in 1990, the squadron converted to Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) aircraft. This revitalized SH-3H was stripped, reworked, and fitted with many airframe improvements and more powerful turboshaft engines. During the turnaround cycle, HS-5 was awarded the CNO Safety Award. In October 1991, the squadron deployed to the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Gulf aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) which afforded the Nightdippers an opportunity to develop tactics and procedures for mine countermeasure and CSAR missions.
In July 1992, HS-5 and CVW-7 were assigned to USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) and deployed for the "GW's" initial shakedown cruise during September and October. The squadron's commitment to excellence was recognized by receiving the 1992 COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E" Award, and DOD Maintenance Excellence award. In May 1994, HS-5 deployed with USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (CVN 73) on her maiden deployment to the Mediterranean Sea. They transited through the Suez Canal to the Arabian Gulf twice, first to participate in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH and again to counter Iraqi aggression near the Kuwaiti border in Operation VIGILANT WARRIOR. During the deployment, HS-5 surpassed 14 years and 44,000 hours of mishap-free flying.
In February of 1995 the squadron transitioned to the H-60 "Seahawk" helicopter. HS-5 completed a demanding transition three months ahead of schedule while completing their operational commitment to a rigorous pre deployment work up schedule. The Nightdippers marked the end of an era when the last of their SH-3H “Sea King” helicopters was transferred from NAS Jacksonville to various locations around the country. There is still one proudly displayed at the Quonset Point Air Museum in Rhode Island.
In January 1996, the Nightdippers embarked on USS George Washington (CVN 73) where they joined Carrier Air Wing SEVEN in supporting NATO's Operation DECISIVE ENDEAVOR. While in the Gulf, the Nightdippers continued to expand their joint war fighting proficiency conducting several exercises in Undersea Warfare (USW), Surface Warfare (SUW), Helicopter Visit Board and Search (HVBSS) and CSAR mission areas. These multi-national exercises were highlighted by the first drop of a MK-50 torpedo outside U.S. territorial waters.
As a result of their first operational deployment with the new SH-60F/HH-60H, the Nightdippers were awarded the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle "E", the Admiral Thach Award for mission effectiveness, performance, and readiness, and the Commander Sixth Fleet "Hook' em" Award for Undersea Warfare Excellence.
Between 1998-2009 HS-5 received the Admiral Thach Award 4 times and the COMNAVAIRLANT Battle “E” in 2000, 2002, and 2005-2010. They also received the Isbell Trophy for ASW Excellence in 2006. In the summer of 2005, approximately 30 maintainers, aircrew, and pilots from HS-5 were deployed for six months to an Expanded Maritime Interdiction Operation (EMIO) operating site. The Nightdippers effectively fulfilled the Navy’s EMIO mission, acting as a critical maritime component to the Global War on Terrorism by deterring, delaying, and disrupting the movement of terrorists and terrorist-related materials at sea. In addition to the completion of the EMIO mission, HS-5 provided two aircraft and 37 personnel to participate in the massive Hurricane Katrina relief effort. The Nightdippers logged 93.6 flight hours, rescued 41 people in distress, and delivered 14,860 pounds of food and water to hurricane victims.
HS-5 completed a six month cruise from January to July 2009 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. HS-5 logged over 1691 hours while embarked on USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69). Upon return from their 2009 cruise the Nightdippers wasted no time getting back to work. The Nightdippers left for AUTEC in October and then went out to sea in November for Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) to fulfill at-sea qualifications for their upcoming deployment.
On January 2nd, 2010, HS-5 deployed again in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM aboard CVN 69 only seven months after returning from the previous deployment. The first night aboard the USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) set the tone for the remainder of deployment. HS-5 demonstrated excellence in SAR and the first item in the Nightdippers motto – “we rescue”. Answering the call of a vessel in distress, HS-5 launched the alert aircraft and safely and efficiently conducted a long range open ocean rescue in dangerously severe weather conditions. The sustained professional performance was repeated countless times throughout the deployment in the daily execution of their missions.
Through close coordination with the carrier, fixed-wing assets, and surface assets, HS-5 was a critical component in the development and practical application of new force protection tactics against the increasingly dangerous fast attack craft (FAC) and fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) threat. Critical MEDEVACs to foreign countries and countless logistical support flights were routinely executed professionally and precisely. The squadron’s plane guard presence was highlighted when an E-2C Hawkeye was forced to ditch in the North Arabian Sea. Within 30 minutes of ditching Nightdipper aircraft recovered the three surviving members of the crew. For the following 72 hours HS-5 aircraft provided continuous coverage searching the surrounding water space for the fourth and final member of the E-2C crew.
Throughout deployment HS-5 played an integral role in the Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) efforts of both FIFTH and SIXTH Fleets. Additionally, HS-5 gained FIFTH Fleet approval for sustained TERF training opportunities in both Oman and Bahrain. The squadron executed two highly successful TERF detachments to the Omani island of Masirah. Working hand-in-hand with the Royal Air Force of Oman, the ground-breaking effort by HS-5 not only strengthened their relationship with a valued ally, but also paved the way for future helicopter squadrons to gain critical TERF experience while operating in FIFTH Fleet. While on deployment the squadron’s homeport officially changed to Naval Station, Norfolk, Virginia.
In October 2010, the mighty Nightdippers executed a planned detachment to Camp Dawson, West Virginia. The squadron completed 20 TERF training flights over 3 days. In March 2011, HS-5 returned to Camp Dawson, West Virginia with two HH-60Hs and one SH-60F for a ten-day Strike Warfare training detachment. Camp Dawson affords squadrons the opportunity to conduct overland missions in a mountainous environment with elevations ranging from 2000 to over 4000 feet. During the detachment HS-5 flew over 79 hours (35 at night), and completed nine pilot and 19 aircrewmen SWTP syllabus events.
HS-5 kicked off their work-up cycle for its upcoming deployment with a Helicopter Advanced Readiness Program (HARP) training detachment on May 16th, 2011. The first week included lectures and simulators in both ASW and ASUW at NAS Jacksonville, FL, followed by a week of training and evaluation at AUTEC on Andros Island, Bahamas.
HS-5 successfully conducted 10 exercise torpedo shots in the first two days of flying at AUTEC. Over the next several days HS-5 continued to conduct day and night ASW events of increasing complexity including coordinated ASW training with a P-3C maritime patrol aircraft. The Nightdippers effectively demonstrated skill and consummate professional dedication to one of their core missions, ASW, to the HSCWSL evaluators.
Shortly thereafter, the Nightdippers were at it again completing six Hellfire missile shots over August 1st and 2nd as HARP picked back up. HS-5 completed the HARP evaluation period after an additional two and a half weeks of intense planning, execution, and evaluation of their ASUW and Personnel Recovery (PR) mission areas.
In September the Nightdippers embarked once again on USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER in support of a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) Carrier Qualification (CQ) detachment. They completed over 50 sorties totaling more than 140 hours. In October, the Nightdippers and CVW-7 set out to sea on board CVN 69 to take part in Tailored Ship’s Training Availability (TSTA). They completed more than 70 sorties and flew nearly 200 hours as well as sending a two aircraft detachment ashore to NAS Jacksonville for a week to accomplish a number of PR and ASUW events.
In January of 2012, the Nightdippers started off the year with Air Wing Fallon (AWF) at NAS Fallon, NV where the entire air wing is exposed to the rugged, mountainous, high desert environment of the Sierra Nevada. It is an especially challenging and rewarding flying experience, particularly for helicopter pilots. HS-5 flew over 280 hours during the day and over 73 hours at night, the majority of which were flown in low light conditions. The pilots and aircrewmen of HS-5 successfully flew 126 sorties executing an array of missions including CSAR, Aerial Gunner (AG), Heliborne Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (HVBSS), Moving Vehicle Targeting (MVT), and Special Operations Forces (SOF) Escort. Additionally, the Nightdippers executed numerous Close Air Support (CAS) missions in coordination with student Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) expending over 6,500 rounds of 7.62 mm and 5,500 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition. HS-5 aircrew successfully launched three live Hellfire missiles on time and on target and executed dozens of simulated Hellfire attacks.
The squadron and CVW-7 will deploy with Carrier Strike Group 8 (CSG-8) aboard USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (CVN 69) in 2012 and will once again proudly and professionally execute all assigned missions. After all, we’re the HS-5 Nightdippers; “We rescue; we protect; we deliver.”