The Coast Guard’s aviation recapitalization efforts show continued success as the eighth HC-144A “Ocean Sentry” Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), Tail Number (CG 2308), was delivered on June 3, 2009, recognized by the signing of the DD-250 document at Coast Guard Headquarters. The aircraft will depart Spain for the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, N.C., in June. Service plans call for a fleet of 36 fully missionized HC-144As by 2020.
In April 2009, the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Capability cleared the HC-144A Ocean Sentry Maritime Patrol Aircraft for some operational missions, under guidelines described by the service’s requirements documentation. The clearance, called Initial Operational Capability (IOC), is a major step forward for the HC-144A project, which is replacing the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of HU-25 Guardian (Falcon) jets.
Previously delivered HC-144A aircraft, flying under the acquisition project’s test and evaluation phase, have already proven their value in the field. On February 5, 2009, the HC-144A stood watch for the first time. It was immediately put to the test when it launched to respond to distress signal coming from a fishing vessel approx 225 nautical miles southwest of ATC Mobile. The aircrew acquired the fishing vessel with radar and shortly thereafter with EO/IR. Once on scene, they established communications with the vessel and determined the vessel was no longer in distress.
The HC-144A also participated in the highly publicized search and rescue effort following the capsizing of a small fishing boat carrying four men, including two professional athletes, 38 miles west of Tampa Bay, Fla., in March 2009.
In both cases, the HC-144A’s long range, loitering capability, extensive sensor capability, endurance, and passenger capacity suited to the requirements of the mission, demonstrating the HC-144A is well-matched to the multi-mission Coast Guard it will serve.
A derivative of the EADS/CASA CN-235-300, the HC-144A fixed-wing turbo prop aircraft will perform maritime patrol, law enforcement, search and rescue and disaster response missions, with the added operational capability of a hydraulic-operated rear ramp for cargo and personnel transport. The HC-144A also features superb fuel efficiency--consuming less fuel than the HU-25 or HC-130.
For more information on the HC-144A Ocean Sentry, please visit the project’s website at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/MRS.