Though the majority of mine countermeasures (MCM) missions are accomplished at sea, the ‘Blackhawks’ of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM 15) and the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters they employ are paramount to the success of these missions.
The MH-53E is the largest helicopter in the U.S. inventory, with a maximum takeoff weight of 69,750 pounds, overall length of 99 feet, and a rotor diameter of 79 feet. It is capable of carrying over 50 passengers, 25,000 pounds of cargo, and flying over 700 miles without refueling. The U.S. Navy routinely uses this heavy lift capability for humanitarian relief missions and the MH-53E is the only aircraft that can conduct MCM operations by capitalizing on thier increased time-on-station capabilities and utilizing various towed devices including mine hunting sonar and mechanical minesweeping gear.
HM 15’s mission is “To maintain a world-wide 72-hour airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) rapid deployment posture and a four aircraft forward-deployed AMCM and vertical onboard delivery (VOD) capability in the Arabian Gulf,” and will focuses on Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) during IMCMEX. They will also be conducting logistics/vertical onboard delivery (LOG/VOD) support, to include personnel and material transfer.
AMCM operates in tandem with surface mine countermeasures (SMCM) and underwater mine countermeasures (UMCM) to provide a complete MCM effect. Each platform has particular advantages; however, the major value that AMCM adds is speed and range of operations. The MH-53E is capable of flying over the horizon at 150 knots, providing MCM support more immediately than any other platform. Once on station, aircraft tow the devices at speeds up to ten times faster than surface ships, allowing AMCM to provide a rapid, effective response to any threat around the world.