At Least 9 Helicopters Damaged, Blown Over in Norfolk Storm

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Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 returns to Norfolk Naval Station.
Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 11 returns to Norfolk Naval Station, Va. after a regularly scheduled seven-month deployment in support of maritime security operations, June 5, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua D. Sheppard)

Editor's Note: On Thursday, the Navy updated the total number of helicopters that were damaged to 10.

The U.S. Navy has confirmed that at least nine of its helicopters were damaged in a severe storm that hit Naval Station Norfolk's Chambers Field on July 26 in a statement released Wednesday.

"Known damages to the aircraft span from broken tail and rotor blades to structural dents and punctures in the airframes," spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Rob Myers said in an emailed statement.

The Navy said damaged aircraft included MH-60S Seahawk and MH-53E Sea Dragon mine countermeasure helicopters. The service did not say what units the aircraft belonged to.

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Records from the National Weather Service show that, at the time of the storm, winds gusted to around 36 miles per hour. However, some area residents told local TV station WAVY-10 that they experienced winds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Shortly after the incident, dramatic images of flipped and severely damaged helicopters showed up on social media. In those images, several aircraft are seen lying on their sides or nearly upside down with clearly visible, severe damage to their rotors.

Myers' statement noted that no sailors were injured in the storm, but did not elaborate on why the aircraft were not taken inside hangars or tied down to the flight deck ahead of the storm.

"The Navy is continuing to assess the full extent of the damages to each airframe, but there are no impacts to operational forces as a result of this incident," Myers said.

The Naval Safety Command has classified the incident as a "Class A" mishap, meaning that it resulted in more than $2.5 million in damages or the total loss of aircraft.

This is the second weather-related aviation mishap to hit the Navy this month. On July 8, an F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet fell into the waters of the Mediterranean from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman "due to unexpected heavy weather." That incident also remains under investigation, and it is unclear whether tie-down procedures were followed.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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