H-60s on National Security Cutters


As I suggested in the recent review of news from the Acquisition Directorate (CG-9),  I did ask Master Chief Brett Ayer (MCPO for CG-9), “Why is the Coast Guard using a different helo haul down and traversing system from Navy?"(RAST) I thought perhaps he would answer in the newsletter, but instead he answered me directly:

"If you are talking about the ASIST system, it was installed on the first few NSCs under Deepwater. As you know Deepwater was a performance type contract with ICGS. We provided our performance requirements and it was up to them to figure out the best way to meet them.

"My understanding is that we did not specifically spec ASIST. The Coast Guard had a requirement for recovering helicopters and ASIST is what ICGS provided (it met requirements).

"As you know Deepwater is not longer a program, and we are now managing our own acquisitions (although a few Deepwater contracts are still in effect for a little while longer).

"Since the original Deepwater requirements were put together, a few things have changed, one of which is that the Coast Guard had decided that we will not deploy H60s on our cutters. This changes the helicopter handling requirements and somewhat negates the need for the ASIST (or similar) systems. I do not believe the MH65 (as configured) is compatible with either ASIST or RAST.

"Our needs for shipboard handing of helicopters in currently under review, and I have no doubt that we will look at the Navy and their systems as a possible option"

In response to his e-mail I mentioned the discussion in the comments section of an earlier post regarding the possibility of  H-60s could operate from the National Security Cutters. this was his response:

"I think the confusion has to do with the decision not to deploy H-60s on cutters. The NSC were initially designed to deploy HH-60s equipped with the ASIST system.

"However as I stated, the Coast Guard made the decision that the MH-65 would be the primary cutter deployed helicopter not the HH-60. Because of this the Coast Guard never outfitted our HH-60s with the ASIST hardware, they also removed the blade folding equipment from the HH-60s and added other external equipment that makes them incompatible with cutter deployment.

"So in short the HH-60 can operate off the NCSs, but it cannot use the ASIST system and there is no way to fold the blades. This is not a limitation of the NSC, but of the helicopter configuration and policy.

"I cannot answer the question about the Navy HH-60s, but I will ask someone who should have the answer"

I hope the decision not to use the CG MH-60 as a ship board helo does not mean the previous plan to provide accommodations for H-60s on Offshore Patrol Cutter will not be scaled back to accommodate only the H-65. The ability to operate and service H-60s is a potentially important military capability and also will allow the Coast Guard more options when it ultimately replaces the H-65.

15 thoughts on “H-60s on National Security Cutters

  1. I think that if the US Coast Guard wants to operate HH-60’s from the NSC. I think they should have gotten the version from the US Navy called the MH-60R Seahawk and heavily modify it for US Coast Guard use. Heck Sikorsky Aircraft Co in Stratford, Ct is making them right now and the US Coast Guard could get in with the US Navy and buy a version of the MH-60R Seahawk for the US Coast Guard as well.

  2. Not the MH-60R but the MH-60S instead. The MH-60R is the Navy main ASW helicopter. Where as the MH-60S is a more general propose helicopter, that is more likely to fit the Coast Guard mission requirements. And cost much less than the MH-60R.

  3. All the “Seahawk variations are described here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SH-60_Seahawk

    For our purposes we would want the radar and FLIR found on the MH-60R. If you are buying new helicopters you would not necessarily have to pick one or the other. It would be easy enough to tailor an aircraft with a surface surveillance subset of the MH-60S’ systems.

  4. The FLIR yes, the radar yes. We don’t need all the very expensive ASW equipment the MH-60R carries. It easy to fit that equipment to a MH-60S, its a blank sheet of a helicopter.

  5. There is also the possibility that we would want to operate NSCs with a Navy MH-60Rs detachment (the ASW version) when we go looking for Drug subs and semi-submersibles in the Eastern Pacific.

  6. The deployed FFGs carried two SH60 helicopters, six pilots and a host of other people to support the detachment. The RAST system takes a whole equipment room for its own uses and also requires heavy maintenance.

  7. Which ever version the US Coast Guard considers, it would bring jobs to Connecticut and keep the Seahawk line going. I think the version you guys are talking about is the one my father builds at Sikorsky and it’s the MH-60S “Knighthawk”. Also do you think in flight refueling should be part of the H-60 for the US Coast Guard

  8. I think the US Army is doing a good job on its on keeping Sikorsky in business. Beside the Marines are about to help Sikorsky to reopen the CH-53 Super Sea Stallion line. It will be a improved verion of the CH-53E called CH-53K.

  9. Yea, the US Army is always keeping Sikorsky in business and giving my Father a job. I think The US Coast Guard should buy the MH-60S and modify it for the US Coast Guard. It would create jobs for Connecticut and for Sikorsky. It would keep the state’s economy going as well.

    As for the CH-53K, my father has told me the Israelis are buying the CH-53K and they have people in Connecticut working on it and training it as well. Do you think the US Coast Guard may have some use for a CH-53K

  10. Don’t believe the Coast Guard has any plans to buy new helicopters in the foreseeable future, with the possible exception of replacements for those lost in accidents.

  11. 60’s cost too much to operate to be our deployable R/W answer. Because of the relatively small size of our fleet, we pull from all of our air stations to support cutter deployments. This would mean that the CG would have to completely adopt the 60’s instead of the small number we maintain at key stations now. This would also mean that all of the helo’s would need to have the folding tail rotor which is a maintenance nightmare. More than half NMC helo’s I see deployed on FFG’s are due to that tail rotor being broken. It also adds significant weight which limits endurance. Finally, the 60’s are too much capability! I’d love to work in a CG with 50+ NSC’s, each with two UAV’s and a 60 but the reality is that we will never get the longterm budget support to make it happen. Instead, we have to accept reality and build a fleet with the capabiltiies we need, not the ones we want.

    Its all moot anyways for two reasons:

    1) the 60 won’t fit in the NSC hangars and I don’t think the interiors were even built to carry that much weight (even though the flight deck can)

    2) The 65’s are here to stay for the next decade or more. They have completed the C modification, are almost done with the D mod and missionization, and are getting ready to start the E mod.

    Also, why would we want to adopt the Navy or Army versions of the 60’s? Our versions are purpose built to provide us with the capabilities we need. Our inventory of 60’s is almost done with the missionization and will be going to the T model modification next.

    The CG has settled on the four airframes it wants for manned A/C (HC-130, HC-144, MH-60, and MH-65) and are likely to going settle on the CBP version of the Guardian and a FIRE SCOUT with a ISAR radar for the UAV’s. We would be better off designing our cutters around the reality of our airframes rather than pontificating on how nice it would be if we had a DOD size budget.

    I think the MCPO’s answer was spot on.

    • The way I read the Master Chief’s statement, the hangers of the National Security Cutter are already big enough to hanger the Navy H-60s. “The NSC were initially designed to deploy HH-60s equipped with the ASIST system.” My concern is that the OPCs retain the same flexibility for the future. Presumably they, like the NSCs, will have the facilities to land, fuel, and take off H-60s. We are really only talking about the hanger which doen’t necessarily add much to the cost of the ship.

      The H-65s have already been with the Coast Guard for over 25 years, even if their life extends to 50 years, OPCs may be in service another 30 years after they are gone.

      Future naval helicopters are likely to be built to fit in the same space the Navy H-60s occupy, because manufacturers will not want to be excluded from operating from existing platforms because they made the helo too large, just as the Navy H-60’s footprint is similar to the SH-3 it replaced. If we make the hanger large enough for the H-60, then they will almost certainly be able to operate a range of helicopters in the future. We might even be able to go to a single type of helo with all the attendant advantages.

      That the Coast Guard has chosen to make all the H-60s identical is a policy decision, as is the choice to use crews and helos from all over the Coast Guard on ship board. If the Coast Guard wanted the options of putting H-60s on ships for specific missions, say for ALPAT or Eastern Pacific Drug Patrols, and only converted a subset of the H-60s and operated them exclusively out of only one air station on each coast that would be an option. I can understand why they would choose not to do that, but it is certainly not impossible. Most foreign navy’s have far smaller fleets of helicopters than the Coast Guard does.

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