Coast Guard officials formally accepted the fourth HC-144A “Ocean Sentry” Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), tail number 2304, on May 7, 2008, in Seville, Spain, following successful completion of the formal acceptance procedures. This aircraft will remain in Seville to support ongoing pilot training for approximately six weeks prior to beginning its trans-Atlantic journey to the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center (ATC) in Mobile, Alabama. Four additional aircraft are currently on contract and are scheduled for delivery to the Coast Guard by February 2009.
Slated to replace the Service’s aging fleet of HU-25 Falcon fan jets, the HC-144A, a derivative of the EADS/CASA CN-235-300, significantly enhances the mission capabilities of Coast Guard aircrews. This fixed-wing turbo prop aircraft provides initial on-scene loitering capabilities and will perform various missions, including maritime patrol, law enforcement, search and rescue, disaster response, and cargo and personnel transport. Additionally, the “Ocean Sentry” provides the added operational capability of a hydraulic-operated rear ramp, with superb fuel efficiency--consuming less fuel than the HU-25 or HC-130.
When equipped with a roll-on, roll-off Mission System Pallet suite of electronic equipment, the crew is able to compile data from the aircraft’s multiple integrated sensors and transmit and receive both classified “Secret”-level and unclassified information to and from other assets, including surface vessels, other aircraft, local law enforcement, and shore facilities. With multiple voice and data communications capabilities, including UHF/VHF, HF, and Military and Commercial Satellite Communications (SATCOM), the HC-144A will be able to contribute to a Common Tactical Picture (CTP) and Common Operating Picture (COP) through a networked Command and Control (C2) system that provides for data sharing via SATCOM. The aircraft is also equipped with a vessel Automatic Identification System, direction-finding equipment, a surface search radar, an Electro-Optical/Infra-Red system, and Electronic Surveillance Measures equipment to improve situational awareness and responsiveness.
This fourth aircraft will supplement the previously delivered aircraft as the HC-144A begins a formal Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) process prior to entering operational service for the Coast Guard in 2009. Key elements of that process are listed below:
OT&E, Phase 1, “Test Planning and Preparation,” continues through May 2008.
Operational Testing Readiness Review is planned for May 2008.
OT&E, Phase Two, “Data Collection,” is scheduled for June through November 2008.
OT&E, Phase Three, “Analysis and Reporting,” is scheduled for December 2008 through mid-February 2009.
Three technical issues were carried forward on the Material Inspection and Receiving Report (Form DD250). Two of them are related to installation of communications equipment due to export restrictions, and they will be corrected upon arrival at the Coast Guard facility at ATC Mobile. The third was a software version update for the aircraft radar, which has already been corrected by the radar Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Each of the three issues is listed within the formal Letter of Technical Exception (LOTE). Per that letter, funds are held back from the contractor until all issues are successfully resolved.