NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — In a rare and cost-efficient move, the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River completed a unique multi-program training exercise on July 11, aimed at helping aircrews of H-1, H-60, H-53, and V-22 aircraft regain their aerial gunnery qualifications. Michael Hunt, Air Vehicle Stores Compatibility (AVSC) H-1 Engineering Technician, hosted the training.

H-1, H-60, H-53, and V-22 aircrew members take part in an aerial gunnery qualification training exercise at Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River on July 11, 2023. Photo courtesy of Michael Hunt, ASVC H-1 engineering technician. Credit: NAS Pax River

The training occurred in the Patuxent River firing tunnel and offered significant cost savings. Conducting the exercises in this setting allowed the H-1 Light/Attack Helicopter Program Office (PMA-276) and the H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopters Program Office (PMA-299) to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in flight, man, and range hours.

“This training exercise proved extremely beneficial to the aircrew members and was completed at a meager cost to the involved program offices. Training exercises like this keep developmental test aircrew in tune with the mission sets exercised by their fleet counterparts and provide the engineers and subject matter experts hands-on experience and interaction with the systems and personnel they support,” Hunt stated.

The training not only served to maintain aircrew proficiency with the weapons deployed in the fleet operating force but also provided invaluable context and exposure to various other departments. Personnel from AVSC, aeromechanics, propulsion, mission system, Naval Munitions Command (NMC), and firing tunnel branch all gained a deeper understanding of the operational aspects of crew-served weapons, particularly about aerial gunnery missions.

An aircrew member takes part in an aerial gunnery qualification training exercise on July 11, 2023. Credit: Michael Hunt, ASVC H-1 engineering technician

The event served as a practical and mission-focused test environment, aligning closely with the goals of the project officers and offering valuable insights for a new external gun mount program planned for the H-60 aircraft.

As a tangible result of this unique training, the H-60, H-1, H-53, and V-22 test teams managed to satisfy 11 training and readiness codes for their respective aircrews. Additionally, 48 Air Vehicle Test and Evaluation (AVT&E) employees had the opportunity to engage hands-on with the weapons they may be called upon to test in the future, enhancing their understanding of real-world crew-served weapon employment and testing procedures.

This multi-faceted training session is a testament to the Naval Air Systems Command’s commitment to efficiency, readiness, and the continuing education of its personnel. By optimizing resources and maintaining a keen focus on mission-critical skills, the exercise has set a new precedent for cost-effective and highly targeted military training.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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