The U.S. Coast Guard took delivery of its 12th HC-144A “Ocean Sentry” Maritime Patrol Aircraft in Seville, Spain, on July 29, four months earlier than the contractual delivery date. Travelling from the Airbus Military Final Assembly Line in Seville, Ocean Sentry tail number CG-2312 arrived August 3, at the Coast Guard’s Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, N.C.
This was the first of three HC-144As currently being purchased under a firm, fixed-price contract with EADS North America. The contract has options for up to six additional aircraft over the next four years.
“The early delivery of the 12th HC-144A, which is the first delivery of the aircraft with the Coast Guard as systems integrator, represents a significant achievement for the Coast Guard," remarked the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate’s Program Executive Officer Rear Adm. Bruce Baffer. "It is indicative of the teamwork demonstrated across the enterprise, with the project office, contracting personnel, sponsor and the technical authorities all working together with the contractor to ensure success.”
The aircraft departed Seville last Saturday with a Coast Guard ferry crew, after the Coast Guard team completed its aircraft acceptance testing and procedures. It is undergoing induction into the Coast Guard’s aviation configuration and logistics management information systems before being delivered to the Coast Guard’s Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., where it will commence operational patrols. The aircraft is expected to be transferred to Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass. when that facility transitions to the HC-144A from the aging HU-25 “Guardian.”
The HC-144A’s increased endurance gives the Coast Guard a multi-mission aircraft capable of performing such missions as maritime patrol, law enforcement, search and rescue, disaster response, and cargo and personnel transport. A fixed-wing turbo-prop aircraft, the Ocean Sentry is a derivative of the EADS / Airbus Military CN-235 in use around the world as a patrol, surveillance and transport platform. The HC-144A’s long range, loitering capability, extensive sensor capability, endurance and passenger capacity are well suited to the Coast Guard’s many missions.
Currently operating out of Coast Guard Air Stations in Mobile and Miami, the Ocean Sentry is playing an important role in disaster response efforts such as the Haitian earthquake response and Deepwater Horizon oil spill recovery efforts in 2010. Last December, while commanding an HC-144A from Miami, Lt. Cmdr. Mike Zeruto was monitoring communications from a Coast Guard helicopter crew discussing a go-fast boat with suspected drug smugglers transiting southeast of Cuba. The HC-144A tracked the vessel for the next five hours until surface assets could arrive on the scene. A total of 43 bales of marijuana were found in the water and on the boat, marking the Ocean Sentry’s first drug interdiction. The kind of flight endurance necessary to accomplish this mission is something Coast Guard aviators have not had in the past. Previously, the Coast Guard air assets were limited to “three hours [of flight time] at the most, whereas the HC-144A will give you nine or 10 hours. In the case on Dec. 4, a Guardian would have arrived on scene just in time to leave for fuel.” Zeruto said.
The Coast Guard expects to exercise contract option for HC-144A number 15 by October, with aircraft numbers 13 and 14 expected to be delivered by March and July 2012, respectively. The service plans for a fleet of 36 fully missionized HC-144As. For more information, please visit the HC-144A "Ocean Sentry" website at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/MRS.