US Navy Retires its Final SH-60B Seahawk Helicopters

US Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Wing Pacific hosted a Sundown Ceremony for the Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk helicopter in Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73’s (HSM-73’s) hangar at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California, on May 11. Active duty service members, retirees, and visitors were in attendance as leadership from the helicopter community provided remarks regarding the SH-60B’s 30 years of active service in the fleet.

The type is being replaced by the new Sikorsky MH-60R and the final retirement ceremony concluded with a fly-by of HSM-73’s hangar by an SH-60B and an MH-60R.

The ceremony’s guest speaker, Vice Admiral Paul A Grosklags, principal military deputy, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisitions, reflected on the life of the aircraft. “In the 80s and 90s, when we often didn’t have an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Gulf, that surface combatant with its one or two embarked SH-60s were the eyes and ears of the fleet and our nation in that very volatile and challenging part of the world,” said Grosklags. “In the 90s and the 2000s, when humanitarian missions arose, whether in our own backyard such as Haiti, or on the other side of the world in the Philippines, Indonesia or Japan, there was always an SH-60B on scene.”

The MH-60R which is replacing the SH-60B is capable of executing the same missions as the latter, but with significant advancements in mission systems that dramatically enhances its effectiveness. MH-60R aircraft carry out various missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, vertical replenishment, search and rescue, humanitarian relief and medical evacuation.

The SH-60B joined the operational fleet in 1985, when the aircraft made its initial deployment with a Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 43 detachment aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37).   Since joining the fleet, the aircraft has completed more than 3.6 million flight hours in support of operations and training.

The last active-duty SH-60B detachment, which was from HSM-49 at North Island, returned from a seven-month deployment to the US 4th and 3rd Fleet areas of operation aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) on April 17. The majority of the retired SH-60Bs are now in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. The first of them arrived there on February 5, 2010, with a total of 99 in storage at the base by mid-April 2015 after squadrons had progressively relinquished their older models for the new MH-60R. Alan Warnes