The USS O'Brien (DD-975) just finished a three-and-one-half month stint in the Persian Gulf. During that time, our embarked forward-looking infrared radar and missile-equipped SH-60B, call sign "Hellfire 14," was a hugely important part of our capability. HF-14 provided Commander Naval Forces Central Command with through-the-night surveillance of Iraqi oil smugglers in the northern Gulf, located and classified underway smugglers during maritime intercept operations, played the key roles of shock inducement and force protection during our non-compliant boarding of same, was the best classification sensor during ASW operations against diesel submarines and provided rapid and timely situational awareness during antisurface warfare exercises. The helo was integrated fully into the ship's combat information center; the pilots and tactical action officers spoke routinely over tactical circuits. As one flag officer noted to my air boss, HF-14 "is a mini-TARPS" [(tactical aviation reconnaissance pod system) installed on F-14s to provide real-time intelligence].
Now, one might respond that this is the way it is supposed to be. Some ships, however, consider helos to be modestly useful but considerable hindrances in the sense that going to flight quarters and performing other aviation functions interrupts "more important" things.
Aegis ships are not the only ones with such views; some simply do not understand the tremendous synergistic capabilities their embarked helos provide. Surface officers must give this issue increased attention if we are to exploit the capabilities offered by the advanced technology embodied in the LAMPS III.
Commander van Tol commanded the USS O’Brien (DD-975).