The Coast Guard’s aviation recapitalization efforts show continued success as the fifth HC-144A “Ocean Sentry” Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), Tail Number (CG 2305), departed the EADS construction facility in Seville, Spain on July 31 enroute to the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. Three additional aircraft are on contract and scheduled for delivery to the Coast Guard by February 2009. Service plans call for a fleet of 36 fully missionized HC-144As by 2020.
Part of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater Major Acquisition Program, the HC-144As will replace the Service’s aging fleet of HU-25 Falcon jets. The HC-144A is a derivative of the EADS/CASA CN-235-300 and significantly enhances the mission execution capability of Coast Guard aircrews. This fixed-wing turbo prop aircraft will perform various missions, including maritime patrol, law enforcement, search and rescue, disaster response, and cargo and personnel transport. Additionally, the “Ocean Sentry” provides the added operational capability of a hydraulic-operated rear ramp, with superb fuel efficiency--consuming less fuel than the HU-25 or HC-130.
When equipped with its roll-on, roll-off Mission System Pallet (MSP) suite of electronic equipment, the aircraft crew is able to compile data from the aircraft’s multiple integrated sensors and transmit and receive both classified “Secret”-level and unclassified information to and from other assets, including surface vessels, other aircraft, local law enforcement, and shore facilities. With multiple voice and data communications capabilities, including UHF/VHF, HF, and Military and Commercial Satellite Communications (SATCOM), the HC-144A will be able to contribute to a Common Tactical Picture (CTP) and Common Operating Picture (COP) through a networked Command and Control (C2) system which provides data sharing via SATCOM. The aircraft is also equipped with a vessel Automatic Identification System, direction-finding equipment, surface search radar, an Electro-Optical/Infra-Red system, and electronic surveillance measures equipment to improve situational awareness and responsiveness. The aircraft systems are TEMPEST certified, meaning they meet current federal requirements to guard against the potential emanation of intelligence-compromising electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from computer and telecommunications equipment.
Previously delivered HC-144A aircraft already have proven their capabilities in the field. During a routine training flight on February 20 of this year, a HC-144A was diverted to assist with a search and rescue mission following the collision of two Air Force F-15 aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico. The HC-144A quickly became the on-scene rescue coordinator and successfully led a multi-agency rescue mission, which included assets from the Coast Guard, the Department of Defense, and civilian partners. The HC-144A also provided invaluable reconnaissance capabilities during the Midwestern floods on June 19, 2008, when it assisted Coast Guard and local government officials determine where response and recovery resources should be utilized in the ongoing flood relief efforts. In both cases, the HC-144A’s long range, loitering 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.
The fifth aircraft will supplement the previously delivered aircraft as the HC-144A undergoes a formal Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) process prior to entering operational service for the Coast Guard in 2009. Key elements of that process are listed below:
For more information on the HC-144A Ocean Sentry, please visit the project’s website at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/MRS.