US Navy helicopter squadron conducts mine warfare drills

U.S. Navy’s helicopter mine countermeasures squadron (HM) 15 carried out annual airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) training at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) for almost two weeks earlier in October.

HM-15’s annual helicopter advanced readiness program (HARP) HAWKEX training is conducted at NSWC PCD where the squadron can receive technical support to equipment used in mine hunting, such as the AN/AQS-24 sonar used in conjunction with the fleet’s MH-53E Sea Dragon aircraft, in addition to use in the Gulf of Mexico.

This year, in addition to unit-level training, HM-15 focused on a scenario that involved the combination operations of a mine countermeasures triad, consisting of AMCM, surface mine countermeasures (SMCM) and underwater mine countermeasures (UMCM).

The training was developed to simulate real-world scenarios, so the squadron included Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit(EODMU) 1, EODMU6 and San Diego homeported mine countermeasures ship USS Champion (MCM 4).

“NSWC PCD is a great place for our squadron to conduct training; there are resident experts at NSWC PCD, both civilian and military, that provide support to HM-15,” said Vince Spozio, HM-15’s executive officer. “Whether it is maintaining our equipment or providing us with insight into tactics, NSWC PCD is very valuable as we move forward into deployments. The experience gained at NSWC PCD prepares our sailors before they deploy, so they’re getting a good trial wargame before they enter the actual operating area.”

As part of the AMCM and SMCM exercises, Champion called into the operations center located in Panama City with the CTG each night and reported on their operations off the coast of California. The CTG Sailors interpreted these operations reports and geo-translated them onto the scenario they faced in Panama City.

In addition, mobile disposal units conducted underwater MCM with support from HM-15 sailors. EODMU1 assisted by conducting sonar scanning of the seafloor with a Mk-18 unmanned underwater vehicle for mine-like targets. EODMU6 conducted casting exercises where they jumped from the back of MH-53Es into the water to simulate deploying and destroying of a mine the sailors had surfaced.