Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Deadly HMX-1 Nighthawks, The Marine Helicopter Squadron

Army and Weapons | Deadly HMX-1 Nighthawks, The Marine Helicopter Squadron | Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1) is the only organization responsible for direct helicopter support from the White House. HMX-1 is the only helicopter transport squadron for the president of the United States is alone in its role of testing and evaluating helicopter systems for the Fleet Marine Force. Unlike any other unit in the Marine Corps HMX-1 has three different chains of command. The Marine Corps Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation issues orders for all tasks that HMX-1 is performed in conjunction with Marine Corps activities, while the White House Military Office sends the presidential squadron missions. The squadron's OT & E department reports to Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, Norfolk, VA.

HMX-1's greatest distinction is its special place in history as the first U.S. Marine Corps helicopter squadron ever established. The establishment of the HMX-1 Marine Corps Air Station (MCB), Quantico, Virginia, on December 1, 1947 started a revolution in aviation and the Marine Corps tactical doctrine. On May 23, 1948, the first airborne ship-to-shore movement began at Onslow Beach, Camp Lejeune, NC The first wave of the attack started all five HO3S-1s off of Palau and 30 minutes after arriving in the country- ing zone. HMX-1 pilots continued flight, so 66 marines in the right place at the right time. With the helicopter firmly anchored in Navy warfare doctrine, HMX-1's mission evolved to development testing new helicopter systems and products for the Fleet Marine Force.
With more than 700 personnel assigned, HMX-1 is the largest permanently formed aircraft squadron in the Marine Corps. Therefore includes a number of departments not usually found in a squadron. As the only aviation unit assigned to MCAF Quantico, HMX-1 has a special fiscal and aviation supply department, and the safety and standardization department is similar to that found in a composite helicopter squadron with different types of aircraft. The main divisions within the unit are: Administration, Operations, Logistics, Safety & Standardization, White House Liaison Office, Executive Alert Facility, Plans, Security, Communications, Fiscal, Aviation Supply, Operational Test & Evaluation, Whiteside and Greenside. HMX-1 responds directly to the White House Military Office (WHMO) for Distinguished Visitor (DV) Code 1 and Code 2 tasking helicopter support. HMX-1 has no secondary tasking authority, but if necessary, fixed wing or helicopter general support aircraft as its direct support tasking, it requests that the support of WHMO. WHMO tasking procedures for such secondary transmission to the competent authorities in the DoD.
In addition to its executive transport and OT & E missions, HMX-1 also supports the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) at Marine Corps Air Facility (MCAF), Quantico in the development of helicopter tactics and techniques. HMX-1's CH-46Es and CH-53Es provide helicopter indoctrination course for new battle ground Marines and support of advanced training, such as fast-roping exercises. MCCDC maintains a training facility called "Combat Town", where HMX-1 Marines parties participate in the training of assault troops in hostage rescue scenarios.
During the presidential support missions, HMX-1 often requires Air Mobility Command (AMC) fixed wing support, the Phoenix Banner missions. For overseas Presidential trips, HMX-1 flies VH-3D and VH-60N helicopters to Andrews AFB, Maryland, where C-5 strategic airlifters can transport them to a Forward Operating Base. Up to three aircraft can be lifted to a C-5B. For such long distance missions, HMX-1 would also require airlift for its logistics and personnel. Fixed wing support normally consists of flights to and from the air, military bases, civil airports with large take-off and landing runways and substantial ground support facilities, including instrument flight navigation aids. At Forward Operating Base, helicopters must be transported by C-5B put back together and conduct inspection flights after maintenance, as well as five hours "penalty" flight to a safe condition to ensure equipment. In all forward bases, helicopters must charge for the actual missions exact rehearsals one day before the Presidential lift.
HMX-1 to the first presidential lift aboard a rotary wing aircraft for President Eisenhower in 1957. On September 7, 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower was vacationing at his summer home in Newport, RI, when his immediate presence was required at the White House. Typically, a trip to Washington, DC, from Rhode Island requires a one hour ferry across Narragansett Bay to the presidential guard to transport, the Air Force One, followed by a 45-minute flight to Andrews AFB, MD, and a 20 - column minute drive to the White House. Recognition of the urgent need for his presence in Washington, President Eisenhower directed his assistant for a way for him to Air Force One faster. The assistant informed the President that a helicopter was on station in Rhode Island in the event of an emergency and can be used to fly him to the waiting plane. President Eisenhower approved the idea, a precedent with the seven-minute trip in a UH-HMX-34 Seahorse.
Shortly thereafter, the President asked HMX-1 naval aide to the possibility of landing a helicopter on the lawn south of the White House for review. Preliminary evaluations and flight tests determined that there was enough room for a safe landing and departure. Once the formal procedures were completed, the HMX-1 began the President and to the south lawn of the White House to Andrews AFB, home of Air Force One. Until 1976 the executive rotary wing mission shared with the military. In that year, HMX-1 designated as the sole source of rotary wing support to the President and other persons to the WHMO. Since its commissioning in 1948, HMX-1 has flown 273,500 flight hours. About history, there is not an accident during a presidential lift mission. Only three planes were involved in Class A accidents since HMX-1 took the only provider role for Presidential support. After two aircraft were lost to mechanical failures in the early 1960s, the Squadron went without a Class A accident over the next quarter century.
Three Class A accidents occurred in the 1990s - one each in the VH-3D (FY91), the VH-60N (FY93) and the CH-46E (FY96). Only the first two of these aircraft are authorized to transport the president (although he recently drove in CH-46E aircraft in the direction of the WHMO). Only minor injuries occurred in the VH-3D and CH-46E mishaps, and in fact, the VH-3D aircraft was repaired and is still in service today within Naval aviation. Both accidents occurred on the ground, rather than during the flight. The VH-60N was lost, along with his crew, due to a maintenance error.
HMX has two separate and distinct maintenance departments. The first is called the Executive Flight Detachment (the "White Side" - a reference to the colors for the tops of the presidential aircraft support or a reference to the fact that all assets and equipment are kept within the confines of a high fence, with No unauthorized access is allowed). The Whiteside Simply put, supports aircraft dedicated to White House mission. The second, called Marine Corps Aircraft Maintenance (within the squadron commonly known as the "Green Side" - a reference to color the plane back, or reference here is to load or "Stake" trucks). These are the "no frills" fleet aircraft assigned to HMX-1 flying in and support, testing, and transport roles other than the executive elevator.
Specific Military Occupational Specialties (MOSS) does not exist for the VH-3D, because the training is performed by a contractor, instead of the army. Personnel deployed and maintained by the VH-3D were selected from the population of the regular naval forces and aviation personnel have no experience on this platform. Personnel are specifically recruited for HMX-1 and usually spend one year at the Greenside while intensive background investigations are conducted by the competent department of Defense agencies. Once an appropriate space and staff access, they are eligible for transfer to the Whiteside.
Squadron manpower policies and procedures are keyed to the most demanding and important missions of Executive Helicopter Transport and Contingency Support. The most qualified personnel available, officer and employed shall be assigned to billets that directly support these two primary tasks. No matter where assigned, all Marines associated with these two missions have a Top Secret clearance by means of a Defense Investigative Service Single Scope background investigation (SSBI) and Yankee White Access through the approval by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. This clearance may require one year to complete, set high standards for approval, and influence personnel assignment at HMX-1 more than any other fact. In the mid-1990s about 15-20 percent of the designated individuals were unable to end the desired "Yankee White" Clearance to obtain the WHMO and the Department of the Navy. Those who can not be cleared for "Yankee White" access they should all remain on the Greenside. This affects the normal flow of personnel from Greenside / Whiteside.
After the initial field screening of staff, is a play set developed and submitted to the Defense Investigative Service that the SSBI required for Top Secret installing it. The completed SSBI is submitted to the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility which grants the TS clearance. The approved package is then returned to HMX-1 security research and recommendations for Yankee White access. Following a positive recommendation, the packet is forwarded to the Secretary of the Navy White House Liaison Office, where a final check is performed, and then to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for final Yankee White access approval. This whole process takes from six months to one year and, once begun, delays are rare.
The necessary "cleared" manpower base, each Marine assigned to HMX-1 are prepared to ultimately occupy a billet associated with Executive missions and, in fact most bats in the squadron have a degree of association with these missions. Persons not eligible for a Top Secret or Yankee White clearance while assigned to HMX-1, or those whose distances are withdrawn can not be assigned to the best clubs in the machine, and as a result can effectively reduce the staff based on which the squadron depends.
As of 1996 HMX-1 had a total of nineteen aircraft in the "VH" configuration authorized to transport the president and the WHMO tasking. This number includes eleven VH-3D and eight VH-60N airframe. Under the highly controlled and structured tasks of both the executive transport and emergency evacuation of the aircraft configuration is tightly controlled for VH aircraft, and no "non-standard" installation of parts or equipment is allowed.
HMX-1 has a flow of 6 CH-46E PAA, and six CH-53E's. Actual "on-hand" assets include CH-46E aircraft, CH-53E aircraft, CH-53D aircraft and a UH-1N (on loan for the operational test and evaluation (OT & E) purposes only. The eventual retirement of the CH-53D assets and the purchase of new CH-53E airframe was underway in the early 1990s. After 1996 operational peak caused by the presidential election, was the last CH-53D aircraft out of HMX- 1.