Eighteen HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft are included in the Coast Guard’s medium range surveillance fleet, along with the incoming C-27Js. The fixed-wing, turbo-prop aircraft have an endurance of more than 10 hours and an extensive sensor capability that help the Coast Guard fulfill its maritime patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response, and search and rescue missions more effectively.
The Ocean Sentry is particularly effective at locating objects in large search areas, and vectoring other military, government and first responders to these locations. The aircraft has the capability to perform aerial delivery of search and rescue equipment (such as rafts, pumps and flares) and, with its sophisticated command and control system, can serve as a platform for an on-scene commander during homeland security missions.
The Ocean Sentry also has operational flexibility, with a rear ramp that allows crews to quickly reconfigure the aircraft for varied missions such as command and control, medical evacuation or passenger transport.
The HC-144A fleet is being upgraded in the Ocean Sentry Refresh project. Situational awareness and mission effectiveness will be improved with replacement of the cockpit control and display unit, used in flight management as the primary avionics computer for communication control, navigation and equipment monitoring. Upon completion, each aircraft is redesignated an HC-144B.
The Coast Guard is integrating the Navy’s Minotaur mission system architecture into its fixed-wing aircraft fleet. Work on the HC-130J prototype is ongoing, with the focus shifting to integration of the HC-144 in spring 2016.