On October 1, 2009, the U.S. Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate’s HH-60 Conversion Project held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., in honor of the Medium Range Recovery Helicopter achieving Initial Operational Capability (IOC). The air station received its third MH-60T aircraft in September, a key step towards establishing the first operational MH-60T unit in the Coast Guard. The achievement of IOC means that this unit is now capable of maintaining “Bravo Zero” readiness, which is the ability to launch within 30 minutes of receiving a request for assistance.
The MH-60T has already achieved operational success in the field. In August 2009, an MH-60T aircrew was diverted from a routine training flight to assist a diver suffering from symptoms of decompression sickness off the coast of Wilmington, N.C. The diver was flown to Duke University Hospital Center for treatment.
Two MH-60Ts support aircrew training at the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala. The Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center H-60 Product Line in Elizabeth City executes the conversion and sustainment work for the project.
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 adding new capabilities via Electro-Optical/Infrared Sensing System (ESS) and Airborne Use of Force (AUF) packages. All project segments for each of the Coast Guard’s 42 H-60 aircraft are scheduled to be completed by 2020.
Among the upgrades, the 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 equips the MH-60T 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 Department of Homeland Security components.
The Coast Guard established a transition training regimen to qualify HH-60 aircrews on the operations and maintenance of the new “T” model. To date, 45 pilots and 16 aviation technicians have been fully qualified on the MH-60T’s mission systems.