PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Navy’s newest amphibious transport dock ship and Coast Guard medium range recovery helicopters trained together in several ship and helicopter exercises Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, while transiting the Gulf of Mexico.
During the training, two Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters based out of Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile in Mobile, Ala., flew parts and supplies to the pre-commissioning unit USS Somerset, conducted more than 60 day and night-vision goggle deck landings, vertical replenishment sling loads and refueling operations to help qualify and certify the Somerset’s crew for aviation operations.
The Coast Guard helicopters are the first aircraft to ever land on the 684-ft. Navy ship, which is headed for Philadelphia for their upcoming commissioning scheduled for March.
“Celebrating one of the heroes aboard Flight 93, Todd Beamer’s now famous quote, ‘Let’s Roll’ is boldly emblazoned on the Somerset’s hangar door,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Craig Neubecker, a Jayhawk helicopter pilot. “Calling on that spirit of taking action, this joint training exercise highlights the cooperative efforts between the Navy and the Coast Guard to protect the nation and save taxpayer dollars.”
The exercises also helped the Coast Guard aircrew complete their semiannual deck landing training. After the exercises, Coast Guard helicopters transported 10 certification experts from the ship back to shore.
The Coast Guard has upgraded the service’s fleet of H-60 Jayhawk Medium Range Recovery helicopters with new avionics, communications, navigation equipment and flight instruments, converting them to MH-60T’s. The upgrade provides a Common Aviation Architecture System in the cockpit for fully integrated flight and mission management capabilities. An Electro-Optical/Infrared sensor system enables aircrews with enhanced capabilities to locate, identify and track surface targets day or night, critical for both search and rescue and law enforcement missions.
The USS Somerset, a 684-foot San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, is named after Somerset County, Penn., to honor the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, whose actions prevented terrorist hijackers from reaching their intended target by forcing the airplane to crash in Somerset County, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.
There are 22 tons of steel, from a crane that stood near Flight 93's crash site, used in building the Somerset. The ship was built at Huntington Ingalls Industries Shipbuilding site in Avondale, La.
The ship is scheduled to be commissioned March 1 in Philadelphia.