On August 13, 2009, the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate’s HH-60 Conversion and Sustainment Project, in conjunction with the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) at Elizabeth City, N.C., delivered the fourth converted MH-60T Medium Range Recovery helicopter (tail number CG 6032).
CG 6032 is noteworthy because it is the first MH-60T equipped with a fully integrated Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Sensor System (ESS). The ESS, manufactured by FLIR Systems Inc., is a variant of their “Talon” commercial EO/IR sensor. The ESS will provide aircrews with enhanced search capabilities to locate, identify, and track surface targets day or night; a critical capability for both search and rescue and law enforcement missions. In order to provide a common EO/IR sensor across the entire rotary wing fleet, the ESS will also be installed in the MH-65C “Dolphin”. MH-65C’s assigned to the Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) have been successfully using the ESS to conduct counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.
CG 6032 is currently stationed at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., where it will be used for aircrew transition training and development of an ESS pilot course curriculum.
Background on MH-60T Project:
The MH-60T project was developed to enhance the multi-mission capabilities of the HH-60 aircraft. This project includes a number of upgrades to improve reliability and mission performance while also adding new capabilities such as the ESS and Airborne Use Force (AUF) package. All 42 H-60 aircraft are anticipated to complete these upgrades by the end of 2014.
Among the upgrades, Rockwell Collins’ Common Avionics Architecture System replaces older cockpit components and provides fully integrated flight and mission management capabilities. Using five multi-function display screens, aircrews can display radar and forward-looking-infrared data, monitor the Traffic Collision Avoidance System and view imagery fed into the cockpit from the rescue hoist camera. Enhanced radar and optical sensors also contribute to an improved common operating picture and maritime domain awareness.
The AUF package increases the MH-60T’s capability by equipping it with a 7.62mm machine gun to fire warning shots and a .50 caliber long range rifle for precise targeting, such as disabling the outboard engines on a non-compliant “go-fast” vessel. The package also provides ballistic armor for aircrew protection and upgraded communications sub-systems for better interoperability with other Dept of Homeland Security components.
The Coast Guard has established a transition training regimen to qualify HH-60 aircrews on the operations and maintenance of the new “T” model. To date, more than 30 pilots and 16 aviation technicians have been fully qualified on the MH-60T’s mission systems.