Almost 16 years after it completed its first operational sortie, the US Navy’s Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 (HSC-22) ‘Sea Knights’ performed its final flight on February 15.
The squadron – which is home-based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Chambers Field, a part of Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia – flew both the Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk multi-mission maritime utility helicopter and the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B/C Fire Scout unmanned surveillance helicopter in the years since it was activated on September 29, 2006. During this time, the ‘Sea Knights’ became the first US East Coast-based HSC unit to pioneer the integration of rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) into the existing mission sets of the MH-60S.
HSC-22 was also designated as one of the US Navy’s three East Coast-based expeditionary squadrons, with detachments of personnel and aircraft from the unit serving on almost every class of ship operated by the Navy. More recently, one of the unit’s core mission areas was to work with the US Coast Guard (USCG) as part of the Joint Interagency Task Force South. This collaboration provided HSC-22 with a unique opportunity to exercise its manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) concept to support interdiction operations against illicit trafficking.
Having performed its final flight on February 15, HSC-22 – a squadron that once stood strong with 300 personnel – is now being stripped of its personnel and equipment as it is prepared to be formally disbanded on June 30, 2023. The unit operated more than a dozen manned and unmanned aircraft, with some set to be distributed to other US Navy units as the ‘Sea Knights’ are dissolved, while others (likely to be MH-60S Knighthawks) are sent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in Arizona to be kept in long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). It remains unclear how many of the unit’s helicopters will be stored with the 309th.
Commenting on the unit’s final flight, Cmdr Aaron ‘Dempsey’ Berger – the last of 14 officers to command the ‘Sea Knights’ – said: “When this squadron was established we were handed a challenge of living up to the standards set by other squadrons. I believe we’ve risen above and set new standards for other squadrons to meet… I’ve challenged every sailor as they depart for other commands to take their ‘get to yes’ mentality, work ethic, and organisational standards onward so we, as a Naval Aviation Enterprise, can continue to support the National Defense Strategy.”