SOUTH CHINA SEA – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (35), Detachment 3, completed Initial Ship Aviation Team Training (ISATT) while operating underway aboard littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) June 7.
ISATT is the qualification period necessary to validate the basic flight proficiency of Air Department crew members, from maintenance personnel to pilots.
“The AVDET [aviation detachment] and Crew 102 conducted day and night DLQs [deck landing qualifications], emergency flight quarters, helicopter crash-on-deck drills, ELVAs [Emergency Low Visibility Approaches] and smoke light approaches for both the MH-60R and MQ-8B Fire Scout, “said Lt. Cmdr. Philipp Lines, HSM 35, Det. 3 air boss. “We are gaining flight operation proficiency and preparing ourselves for the multi-faceted mission sets that are typically assigned to a littoral combat ship and aviation detachment unit in the 7th Fleet AOR [area of responsibility].”
During ISATT, personnel are graded on their ability to perform basic flight operations and flight-based damage control efforts on a non-carrier platform safely and efficiently. The ISATT qualification is a requisite for any deployment of two months or more, and will qualify Fort Worth for flight operations throughout this deployment.
“Manning on LCS class ships is about a third of the size (96 personnel) of a typical non-aviation class ship [i.e., Crudes, destroyers, and frigates],” said Lines. “When flight quarters are conducted, about two-thirds of the entire ship's crew is involved. We truly work as "One Team" to ensure manned and un-manned aircraft are launched and recovered safely and effectively.”
Fort Worth is the first LCS to deploy under the "3-2-1" manning concept, which allows LCS to sustain a 16-month forward presence without fatiguing the crew during the extended deployment. It is named 3-2-1 because three rotational crews will support two LCS ships and maintain one deployed ship. Two crew swaps have already taken place and one more will occur during the remainder of Fort Worth's deployment.
Prior to getting underway, Crew 102 conducted a one-week in port turnover with Crew 103. During the at-sea period ending June 7, the crew, aviation detachment and surface warfare mission package team conducted underway workups to maintain the proficiency achieved during training in San Diego before their arrival in Singapore late May.
Coordinating ISATT qualifications along with required crew exercises, air detachment and surface warfare mission package certifications, all in about 6 days, is an impressive feat, said Lt. Eric Cote, Crew 102 operations officer.
Throughout the summer and fall, Fort Worth will take part in most of the 2015 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series. In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations including, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Republic of Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.
“Everyone is excited to finally be on board USS Fort Worth, and we are preparing for multiple CARAT exercises between naval partners in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lines.
Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare.
Fort Worth will employ the surface warfare (SUW) mission package for her entire deployment, augmenting her 57mm gun and rolling airframe missile launcher with two 30mm guns, two 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats, and two six-member maritime security boarding teams. Enhancing the SUW mission package is the embarked aviation detachment from HSM 35, the Navy's first composite expeditionary helicopter squadron, which consists of one MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and one MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system. The Fire Scout complements the MH-60R by extending the HSM-35's range and endurance, enhancing maritime domain awareness.
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.