Tag Archive | Little Birds

Of Swamp Rats and Little Birds

The aging Reliance-class USCGC Decisive (WMEC-629) just returned to homeport in Pensacola, Florida, after 58-day patrol. I visited with the “Swamp Rats” when she was based at Pascagoula in 2011 and they have taken exceedingly good care of the now-51-year-old cutter.

On her helicopter deck, which regularly accommodate up to an HH-65-sized chopper and conduct HIFR on larger birds. A junior officer normally doubles as the ship’s LSO. (Photo: Chris Eger)

For an idea of just what era she dates from, for the first 20 years of her career, she carried a 3″/50 open mount forward as her main armament.

Sistership USCGC VIGILANT WMEC-617 12 May 1969, note her original 3″/50 and long helicopter deck. These ships were originally to be capable of supporting an 18,000-lb Sea King(!) augmented by a sonar and Mk32 torpedo tubes to conduct convoy operations/coastal defense in the event of WWIII. Those ASW upgrades never happened but these ships are still in service 50 years later. As far as helicopters went, they were only initially tested for and typically used with the 8,500-lb  HH-52 Seaguard, which is more of a baby Sea King than anything else. In wartime, they could have likely operated the SH-2 Seasprite, which went closer to 10,000-lbs.

Of interest in her latest deployment around the Gulf, which included a three-week TSTA at Mayport, saving a fishing vessel taking on water and conducting inspections, the Decisive became the first 210-foot Coast Guard cutter to conduct ship-helicopter operations with three U.S. Army MH-6 helicopters, “Little Birds,” from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR).

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Decisive conducted helicopter operations with three Army H-6 helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico, March 9, 2019. The training is meant to help pilots land on a moving platform and for crewmembers to work with unfamiliar aircraft. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo/Released)

Now that, is different.

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