After the shuttering of its sister squadron in 2016, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85 (HSC-85), the Firehawks, based out of Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, is now the Navy's only dedicated special operations helicopter squadron. The unit belongs to the U.S. Naval Reserves, but incorporates reservists and active-duty personnel and flies the MH-60S "Sierra" version of the Seahawk helicopter. You can read all about HSC-85 and why the Navy has so few dedicated special operations helicopter assets, as well as how HSC-85 fits into the U.S. military's larger special operations aviation ecosystem, in this past feature of ours. Suffice it to say, HSC-85 is made up of seasoned Sailors and Naval Aviators and it remains a capable, if not niche asset, within Naval Air Forces' portfolio.
The Firehawks can execute a range of missions within their focus mission set, including firing a number of weapons to provide close air support, such as 'crowd-pleasing' miniguns and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Combat search and rescue and, of course, inserting and extracting special operations teams at sea and on land remains the unit's bread and butter. The video showcase below, which was posted on December 5th, 2020, gives us an incredibly exciting look at the Firehawks' exploits. It is packed with awesome footage, from raiding ships at sea to gunners billowing 7.62 ammunition out of fire-breathing miniguns, and so much more.
Check it out below:
At this point, HSC-85 acts as much as a brain trust of organic naval special operations helicopter support knowledge as a squadron dealing with this unique mission set. While the naval special operations support role, including acting as flying chariots for U.S. Navy SEALs, will increasingly be executed by less specialized fleet squadrons in the future, and of course units like the Army's elite 160th SOAR will continue to pick up much of this capacity, especially for the higher-end spectrum of operations, hopefully, HSC-85 won't end up like HSC-84 and become the victim of budget cuts.
In the meantime, we ask the Firehawks to keep posting awesome videos like this to remind everyone what they bring to the table and of their rich naval special operations heritage.
Author's Note: A big thanks to Red Miller (@red__miller) for the heads up on the video!
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