PHILIPPINE SEA – Pilots and air crewmen from the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime
Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 and flight deck crew members from the Ticonderoga-class guided
missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) advanced their flight proficiency through helicopter in
flight refueling (HIFR) and vertical replenishment (VERTREP) operations May 4th.
The evolutions began with the HIFR, in which Sailors on the flight deck and crewman in the air
refueled one of HSM 77’s MH-60R Seahawks as the pilots kept the helicopter steady off of the
ship’s port side.
“Our flight deck crew is mostly new,” said Seaman Hunter Young, Antietam’s flight deck safety
enlisted. “But they got the hang of handling the fuel line pretty quick and we did good overall.”
After completion of HIFR, the flight deck crew stowed the fuel line and put out a weighted
payload as the helicopter circled around to pickup and deliver cargo for VERTREP proficiency.
“I’ve only done VERTREP on land before, back at home field. I’ve never done it on a ship,”
said Lt. j.g. Walter Glenn, a pilot assigned to HSM 77. “I feel like I learned a lot in terms of
knowing what the flight deck crew is doing, my general communication with the crew and my
general piloting skills as well.”
Three crews consisting of two pilots and one air crewman each completed one HIFR and at least
four VERTREPS. The importance of HIFR proficiency lies in having redundancy to refuel if other options are unavailable, said Lt. Elisha Clark, the operations officer for HSM 77’s Antietam detachment.
Clark also stated that continuing to conduct VERTREP operations allows the detachment to help
move stores or provide humanitarian aid for disaster relief.
U.S. Navy helicopter pilots maintain their proficiency to conduct a wide variety of essential
missions including anti-submarine warfare, replenishment-at-sea, search and rescue, personnel
transfer, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations. These operations involve a high level of
skill to conduct, and pilots consistently hone their skills to improve the warfighting capabilities
of their ship's mission. Antietam is forward deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.