The U.S. Navy re-established a minesweeping helicopter training squadron last month, two decades after it was disbanded.
Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 12 (HM-12) is based at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia to train new pilots in the Navy’s MH-53E Sea Dragon—a modified Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion used primarily for airborne mine countermeasures.
The MH-53E had gone without a dedicated training squadron since HM-12 was originally disbanded in 1994, with new pilots trained by various other squadrons over the years. The MH-53E was to be replaced in the minesweeping missions by the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky Aircraft MH-60R.
But the “Romeo” and its counter-mine systems have been unable to demonstrate the endurance needed for flying effective minesweeping missions or the ability to prompty return data on mines to naval commanders.
Also, the CH-53K replacement for the U.S. Marine Corps’ CH-53Es, which conceivably would take on the Sea Dragon’s mission should the Navy acquire it, has been delayed several years. According to the Navy Times, “the lack of a viable replacement means [the MH-53E] will remain in the fleet for at least another decade.”