ABOARD USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC-20) -- Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa expanded its war-fighting capabilities Dec. 27 when a U.S. Air Force MH-53 Pave Low air crew used the ship's flight deck for landing qualifications.
The Pave Low crew from Holbert Field Air Force Base, Fla. flew from Djibouti for the qualification.
"Pilots must be current on this type of landing," said Marine Corps Capt. Douglas S. McLean, CJTF-HOA air watch officer. "It will help synchronize the pilots with the ship's operations."
The pilots are required to conduct six daytime landings, six nighttime landings and 10 landings using night vision goggles, but there is a difference between landing on a ship and landing on land.
"USS Mount Whitney has a very small deck, and there are lots of obstacles to avoid," said McLean, Cordova, Tenn. native. "The pilots also have to deal with ship movement making it a very delicate and precise operation."
Allowing the MH-53s to use the ship's deck to qualify benefits the ship, the task force and the pilots in this war against terrorism in the Horn of Africa region.
"Deck qualifications help with not only our ship, but others as well," said Air Force Maj. Daniel R. Taylor, CJTF-HOA air component coordination element. "MH-53s have longer leg capacity than H-46 Sea Knights, they can conduct aerial refueling and can carry more cargo or passengers than H-46s, so the more ships they are able to land on in this region, the more all of us will benefit."
Pave Lows will continue to qualify and practice deck landing periodically throughout the duration of their use in the area.
"Having our ship in station and letting the pilots use the ship's deck to qualify is a huge benefit to everyone and it shows how everyone is working together," said McLean.