U.S. Coast Guard Transition From Original McDonnell Douglas MD-900 Helicopter to MH-90 Enforcer
By Space Coast Daily // August 26, 2020
ARMED U.S. COAST GUARD HELICOPTER SQUADRON SPECIALIZING IN AIRBORNE USE OF FORCE AND DRUG-INTERDICTION MISSIONS
(U.S. COAST GUARD) – The unit originally flew a variant of the McDonnell Douglas MD-900 helicopter, outfitted with USCG specific components, and renamed the MH-90 Enforcer.
In late 2000 the Coast Guard shifted aircraft to the Agusta A109E Power, a corporate helicopter with faster top speeds and a smaller size for USCG cutter landing operations, to be later recognized as the MH-68A Stingray.
After about 8 years of service, in 2008 the Coast Guard pushed for fleet standardization and transitioned the HITRON mission to the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. community.
The MH-65 was faster, had greater range and endurance, newer avionics and communications equipment, and provided a smoother ride for more accurate shooting. It was also already used throughout the fleet, opening the HITRON mission to the rest of the MH-65 community.
Early in the program’s development, HITRON proved just how effective its methods were with a 100% stopping rate of go-fast vessels detected during their first operational patrol.
The aviation detachment successfully interdicted 3,014 pounds of cocaine, 11,710 pounds of marijuana, and detained 20 suspected smugglers.
In the fiscal year 1999, the $10 million investment in this program returned $130 million in seized drugs.
The urges to counter go-fast boats used for smuggling drugs gave rise to Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, a small operation beginning with just two pilots and eight gunners.
When conducting counter-drug operations, HITRON aircrews will deploy aboard Coast Guard cutters for 30 to 60 deployments. While on deployment, go-fast boats are searched for not only by the HITRON helicopter but also by shore-based maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) such as the Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules.
If an MPA locates a go-fast, the HITRON crew will launch from the cutter to intercept it.
The crew will approach the suspect vessel with weapons trained on the vessel for self-protection. The helicopter crew will confirm the nationality or lack of nation status and whether the vessel is in fact a suspect smuggling vessel.
If the vessel stops during this phase, it will be boarded and searched by a boarding team from the cutter which accompanies the chase in an over-the-horizon pursuit boat and is vectored to the scene by the HITRON crew.
If the vessel is found to be carrying drugs, the boarding team will take appropriate law enforcement action.
If the suspect vessel fails to stop after numerous visual and verbal warnings, the helicopter crew will take up a firing position alongside the go-fast and the aerial gunner will fire warning shots across their bow with the mounted M240 machine gun to further compel them to stop.
If the warning shots do not convince the suspects to stop, the gunner will attempt to disable the vessel by shooting out its engines with a .50 caliber precision rifle.