Vanguard test high speed vessel as MK-105 launch,


 recovery platform


by Clarence Z. Graves, The Flagship - Thursday, May 27, 2004 edition


Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 (HM-14) is the leader in airborne mine countermeasures operations around the world and AMCM training for the fleet. The squadron played an integral role in Operation Iraqi Freedom by clearing the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr of sea mines and delivering soldiers, divers and equipment to the port city to ensure safe passage for the first humanitarian aid ship, the British landing ship Sir Galahad.


The MK-105 minesweeping sled is the Navy's premier magnetic mine sweeping device. It consists of a large hydrofoil sled which houses a generator and other electrical equipment, a 600-foot mine sweeping cable and 450-foot tow cable which attaches to the helicopter during AMCM tow operations


In March, HM-14 teamed up with the officers and crew of the high speed vessel Swift to test its capabilities as an AMCM launch platform. The HM-14 “Vanguard,” home ported in Norfolk, hoped to use its versatile mission bay and crane to conduct mine sweeping operations using the MK-105 magnetic mine sweeping sled. This is the first time the Vanguard attempted this type of operation since the Navy first began using the HSV last spring during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Using the HSV in this manner allows the AMCM community more flexibility by utilizing the ship's speed and low draft to deploy its AMCM assets to a greater range of littoral areas safely and quickly.


HM-14 first saw Swift in action last spring while working with the high speed vessel Joint Venture during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although the ship did not serve as a launching platform for HM-14, it did play a vital support role transporting the MK-105 gear and equipment to the Northern Persian Gulf. The equipment was loaded onto the amphibious transport dock Ponce, where it was launched and recovered from the ship's well deck using the mighty MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter. Unlike an amphibious assault ship, the HSV cannot support an MH-53E helicopter aboard its flight deck This does not diminish its potential as an AMCM platform because the ship' roles would be to house the MK-105 equipment; not the helicopters. This gives more flexibility to the mine warfare commander because the HSV can bring the equipment to littoral areas LPDs and LHAs cannot reach. Having the device near the minefield gives the helicopter more time on station by eliminating transit time. A recent detachment to Panama City, Fla., proved the HSV can sucessfully launch and recover the MK-105 under certain sea state conditions.


The test operations were conducted off the coast of Panama City in calm seas and light wind conditions. The crew of the HSV maneuvered the ship and operated the crane, while members from HM-14 handled the sled and its associated equipment. The launch director and his launch crew stabilized the sled and tended its gear as the crane operator slowly raised the sled from the ship and lowered it into the water. Once the sled was in the water, RHIB boat crews from HM-14 tended the equipment while the MK-105 troubleshooter removed the lifting pendant. The RHIBs were created by three coxswains and their crews operating under the direction of boat officer, skillfully maneuvered the equipment a safe distance away from the ship where an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter could receive the sled's tow cable and conduct mine sweeping operations. The launch and recovery officer was responsible for overseeing the entire evolution and directing the LD and boat officer to ensure proper communication between the deck crew and boat crews. Once the boat crews safely maneuvered the sled away from the ship the entire evolution was conducted in reverse to get the sled back on board Swift. The test was conducted safely without incident or injury to personnel or equipment. Upon completion of the mission, the HSV and RHIBs returned to Panama City.


HM-14 stands ready to meet any airborne mine countermeasures threat around the world quickly and decisively. The HSV enhances the Navy's ability to conduct rapid and effective AMCM operations. The HSV has power to be an excellent platform from which to conduct AMCM operations in the future and offers the AMCM community added flexibility back in combating the Navy's longtime nemesis - the sea mine.

flexibility back in combating the Navy's longtime nemesis - the sea mine.