Unleashing the MH-60S KnighthawkU.S. Navy operated and deployed helicopter gunships in support of maritime operations. The surface Navy and embarked staffs that control the composite warfare system have had little experience employing such a weapon system across the range of military operations. In the past ten years, however, the Navy has begun to see the deployment of the MH-60S Knighthawk “armed helo” from the helicopter sea-combat squadrons. Planners and operators alike need to become familiar with the platform and its capabilities to maximize its effectiveness in maritime operations.
During the Vietnam War, the Helicopter Attack, Light squadrons, or HALs, flew Bell UH-1E gunships to support special warfare and riverine missions in the Mekong and Red River deltas. These units developed an impressive record and reputation supporting the SEALs, riverine force, and Army Special Forces. The HAL squadrons were deactivated in the 1980s, and the mission transferred to the Helicopter Combat Support (Special) squadrons HCS-4 and HCS-5. But the pilots and aircraft focused on the special-warfare support element of the HAL mission.