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US Navy big deck hosts Army, Air Force helos for qualification trials

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A US Army AH-64 Apache helicopter lands aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) Jan. 25, 2023. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy’s aviation-centric amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) hosted helicopters from the US Air Force and US Army on its flight deck for a series of exercises late last month.

The Army’s 16th Combat Aviation Brigade based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and the Air Force’s 66th Rescue Squadron, based out of Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, landed UH-60M Black Hawk, HH-60 Pave Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters on Tripoli’s flight deck.

“Tripoli helped the Army pilots by giving them the hours of practice landing on a ship so that they could complete their deck landing qualification,” said US Marine Corps Maj. Keith Hibbert, Tripoli’s air operations officer.

“It was extremely rewarding being able to work with the Air Force and Army during this evolution because it’s not something you get to do every day,” said Lt. Jon Kokot, Tripoli’s mini boss.

The qualification tested not only the pilots, but Tripoli’s flight deck crew as well.
Air force, army, and navy pilots use different terminology and procedures, presenting a unique challenge for Tripoli’s crew. The US Army’s aircraft also require a different procedure to secure them to the flight deck.

“The Apache helicopter has different tie down points for the chains that we’ve never seen before,” said Kokot. “We had to have one of their guys come out and show us how to tie the helicopter down.”

The experience gave Tripoli’s crew a chance to prepare for similar evolutions in the future and expand the ship’s capabilities. The landing qualifications demonstrated that Tripoli has the ability to conduct flight operations with other military branches.

Sailors refuel a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) Jan. 24, 2023. Photo: US Navy

Tripoli is underway on routine operations in the US 3rd Fleet, which spans eastern and northern Pacific Ocean areas including the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and a sector of the Arctic. As the second ship of the America-class amphibious assault ships, returned home to its San Diego port from a maiden deployment to the US 3rd and 7th Fleet areas of operations in November last year.

During the maiden operational tour, Tripoli hosted the Lightning Carrier Concept demonstration, which saw the ship embark 16 F-35Bs. The test demonstrated that amphibious assault ships are capable of operating as dedicated fixed-wing carrier platforms, with the US Marine Corps saying the America-class ships are capable of bringing fifth generation STOVL aircraft wherever they are required.