Acquisition Update: MH-65C Completes Second Successful Interdiction
April 4, 2008
Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Bear offloaded approximately 3,200 pounds of cocaine at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday, March 27, between 8 and 10 a.m. The drugs were seized during a recent law enforcement patrol in international waters north of Panama. This marked the second successful interdiction involving the upgraded MH-65C Dolphin helicopter.
The case began when a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircrew from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., conducting law-enforcement patrols in the Western Caribbean Sea, sighted a suspicious go-fast vessel on March 18. When the smugglers knew that they had been detected, the go-fast vessel immediately departed the scene at a high rate of speed.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bear dispatched its embarked MH-65C Dolphin helicopter aircrew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville, Fla., to stop the vessel. The Bear also launched one of the its small boats with a law-enforcement team onboard.
Confronted by some of the Coast Guard's most advanced interdiction platforms and technology, the smugglers aboard the targeted go-fast vessel began dumping bales overboard and continued to flee.
The HITRON aircrew, flying an MH-65C multi-mission cutter helicopter (MCH) with airborne use of force (AUF) equipment, fired warning shots to try and stop the go-fast. While the smugglers and go-fast eventually evaded capture, the Bear's boarding team recovered 50 bales of cocaine with an estimated value of $100 million.
HITRON, based at Coast Guard Air Station, Jacksonville, Fla., recently transitioned to the MH-65C. (Once AUF capability is added to a helicopter, the HH-65C’s mission designation is changed to MH-65C. The MH-65Cs will replace 10 Stingrays at HITRON, and they will take over HITRON’s role, which is primarily counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism.) The armed Dolphin provides aircrews upgraded radio capabilities, a heads-up-display to enhance night operations, and an Electro-optical Sensor System to enhance detection capabilities. This MH-65C helicopter also has two new engines; each upgraded engine (the Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turboshaft engine) has 40 percent more power and allows the helicopter to continue flying even if one of the two engines fails.
These upgrades were installed by the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate and the Aviation Repair and Supply Center at Elizabeth City, N.C. The upgrades were part of phase one of the 3-phased MCH modernization project, which is being funded by the Acquisition Directorate.
The MCH project’s second phase will modernize aging and obsolete systems essential to safe flight, and install a flight deck recovery and traversing system (for use aboard new ships, such as the National Security Cutter). The third phase will modernize the helicopters’ automatic flight control system and cockpit avionics. When all three phases are complete, the helicopters will be designated as the MCH, denoting their multi-mission capabilities. These improvements will enhance the Coast Guard’s ability to stop drug smugglers.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bear is a 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter based in Portsmouth, Va.