“Coast Guard MH-65 program moves into full rate production” –CG-9

This from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9):

Coast Guard MH-65 program moves into full rate production

H65

The Coast Guard MH-65 short range recovery helicopter program began full rate production of the MH-65E configuration in November 2019. CGNR 6522 was the first MH-65 to enter the composite shop phase in the program depot maintenance overhaul. U.S. Coast Guard photo.


The Coast Guard MH-65 short range recovery helicopter program began full rate production of the MH-65E configuration Nov. 21, 2019, with the transfer of CGNR 6522 to the Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Two additional aircraft – CGNR 6514 and CGNR 6593– were transferred to the ALC production line in December 2019 and one – CGNR 6507 – was transferred in January 2020. The program is executing concurrent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) work and avionics upgrades for the MH-65E conversion on the entire fleet.

Full rate production means that the ALC will transition to producing MH-65Es at a rate of 22 aircraft per year.

The avionics upgrades include reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System; installation of a digital cockpit display system and an upgraded digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck with Common Avionics Architecture System, common with the Coast Guard H-60 medium range recovery helicopter and similar Department of Defense aircraft. Once the upgrades are complete, the helicopter is redesignated an MH-65E.

At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing SLEP activities to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

The avionics upgrades and SLEP are being completed at the same time to achieve schedule and cost efficiencies.

The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by fiscal year 2024.

For more information: MH-65 program page

25 thoughts on ““Coast Guard MH-65 program moves into full rate production” –CG-9

  1. I wonder, how long can we keep the MH-65 flying because sooner or later we are gona have to consider options in replacing the MH-65 with something that the USAF is using such as the MH-139.

      • The Coast Guard has not published any plans beyond five years. They will probably be bought as an add on to DOD contracts as most of our C-130s have been.

      • I have my doubts the Army led future helicopter program will result in a suitable marine utility helicopter to replace the H60. Seems the Army is institutionally invested in getting their own tiltroter, and while potentially brilliant the Bell offering seems physically too big. But that being said I see more potential in an H65 replacement assuming the Marines can modify the future recon attack helicopter into an H1 replacement. But that development is still vaporware as the Army recon version doesn’t have any troop carrying requirements. Budget battles might result in the H1 replacement being pushed far back. At which case maybe the Coast Guard follows the French led and buys the H65 direct descendant in the H160.

  2. on my last ship on one patrol they were broke more then flying. never would have been tolerated in the engineering spaces.

  3. The Two prototypes you usually see are H-60 replacement sized but the Army is accelerating their smaller helicopter replacement program and it will probably be the first produced. Some info on the competitors here. https://breakingdefense.com/2019/10/raider-x-sikorsky-supersizes-s-97-for-army-scout/

    If future vertical lift works as advertised, it will make conventional helicopters obsolete, and may allow the Coast Guard to combine the search and recovery missions into a single airframe. Longer range and higher speeds may allow a reduction in the number of air stations.

    • Chuck, your comment about the possibility of closing certain air stations reminded me of the 2017 GAO report recommending that the Coast Guard take actions to shut down certain air stations that were deemed to be “unnecessarily duplicative.” If my memory serves me right, when the Coast Guard tried to shutter boat or air stations, the politicians of the areas affected were *quite* vociferous against the shuttering of the stations.

      Click to access 687952.pdf

      Even if the new aircraft platform theoretically allowed for the shuttering of nearby air stations, I’m sure the Commandant has little motivation to tick of key members of Congress 🙂

      • @Dave Van Dyk, Certainly people generally oppose closures, but what they really object to is slower response.

        Probably true that few air stations would close. More likely we might need fewer air frames since the same aircraft could do medium range search and recovery.

        Where we have two air stations that support different kinds of aircraft like CGAS Sacramento, a fixed wing air station, and CGAS San Francisco, a rotary wing base, some consolidation might be possible.

    • To be fair, I have always been slightly confused with the setup between CGAS Sacramento and CGAS San Francisco. It might be somewhat cumbersome to fold one into the other at this point, but I feel it’d be much easier to have the air assets all in one place. There’s other places where that might also be possible (Eighth District, Thirteenth District)…but I just remembered the push-back the CG got when it tried to do that stuff previously.

      • Might be that fixed wings would encounter significant delays in taking off from San Francisco, while Sacramento probably has far fewer delays.

  4. Originally certified for 20,000 hrs, the MH-65 is undergoing concurrent SLEP to add 10,000 additional flight hours while upgrading the flight deck from a “DELTA” to an “ECHO.” The MH-60 will also receive a 10,000 SLEP. Once the 60 and 65 self park themselves in the mid 2030’s, the days of multiple VL airframes will be over. Requirements are being written for a singular airframe and a decision regarding weather a DoD FVL derivative or a COTS H-60 equivalent has not been made. FYI: tilt rotors will not fit in a CGC hangar and the down wash is to much for the victim and rescue swimmer to endure. FYI: USCG VL will orbit Navy requirements, not Army requirements.

    • “FYI: tilt rotors will not fit in a CGC hangar and the down wash is to much for the victim and rescue swimmer to endure.”

      Exactly. Whatever the future airframe ends up being, it’s going to have to fit CG requirements one way or the other, which likely means whatever the Navy goes for (unless CG goes for something already on the market, like the H155). But anything that looks like a V-22 likely isn’t going to cut it.

    • While the Army is primary manager, all the services are involved. The Sikorsky version does look like it would be better for shipboard operations, but it would also need blade folding to fit in our hangars. A tilt rotor could fit in our shipboard hangars if like the MV-22s the wing pivoted and the rotors folded. The downwash, which is bad on a V-22, might not be so bad, if the aircraft were lighter and disk loading was comparable to a helicopter. Unlike the V-22 these new tilt rotors do not point their engine exhaust down.

  5. A bit of an update. https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/2169457/coast-guard-marks-progress-in-h-65-conversion-efforts/

    Coast Guard marks progress in H-65 conversion efforts

    The H-65 fleet reached a milestone April 10, 2020, with the completion of programmed depot maintenance (PDM) on CGNR 6592 at the Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. This is the last aircraft to depart ALC as an MH-65D; all future aircraft will undergo a process at ALC that combines planned maintenance, service life extension activities and, avionics upgrades resulting in the MH-65E configuration. MH-65E upgrades include reliability and capability improvements to the Automatic Flight Control System; installation of a digital cockpit display system and an upgraded digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck with the Common Avionics Architecture System. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by fiscal year 2025. CGNR 6592 is based at Air Station New Orleans.

  6. An update here:
    https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/2407849/coast-guard-mh-65-program-delivers-upgraded-dolphin-helicopters/

    Coast Guard MH-65 program delivers upgraded Dolphin helicopters

    The Coast Guard delivered the first production MH-65E to Air Station Houston July 14, 2020. The MH-65 program plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

    The Coast Guard short range recovery helicopter program delivered an MH-65E to Air Station Miami Nov. 3, completing the transition of a second air station to the upgraded configuration.

    The program is executing concurrent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) work and avionics upgrades for the MH-65E conversion of the entire fleet. Full-rate production of the MH-65E configuration began in November 2019 with the transfer of CGNR 6522 to the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. That first production MH-65E – CGNR 6522 – was delivered to Air Station Houston July 14, 2020. Eight of the 96 conversions have been completed, and air stations Houston and Miami have completely transitioned to MH-65E operations.

    “The new Echo model MH-65 is an amazing update to a proven capable aircraft that allows pilots to leverage new technology to increase situational awareness and reduce pilot workload,” said Cmdr. Marcus Canady, commanding officer of Air Station Houston. “Immediately after launching for a search and rescue mission offshore, pilots can input a detailed flight plan and inform the crew of how much time they will have on scene with a lot more precision.”

    The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System; enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. In addition to the upgraded search and rescue capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response.

    At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing SLEP activities to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

    Air Station Port Angeles, California (I think Port Angeles is in Washington–Chuck), and Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, will be the next to receive the upgraded aircraft. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

    Related: Coast Guard pilots discuss conversion from MH-65D to MH-65E platform

    (They have a video here–Chuck)

    For more information: MH-65 program page

  7. “Coast Guard MH-65 program delivers four upgraded Dolphin helicopters”
    “The Coast Guard is in the process of transitioning all air stations to MH-65E configuration; Air Stations Miami and Houston were previously converted. Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, will be the next to receive the upgraded aircraft and complete its transition. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.”
    https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/2465360/coast-guard-mh-65-program-delivers-four-upgraded-dolphin-helicopters/

  8. From the CG-9 web site.

    “The Coast Guard’s H-65 conversion/sustainment program delivered an upgraded MH-65E to Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, Jan. 28, 2021. CGNR 6544 is the first of three upgraded MH-65Es planned for the air station; full conversion is scheduled for April 2021. The program is executing concurrent Service Life Extension Program work and avionics upgrades as part of the MH-65E conversion of the entire fleet. Fifteen of 96 conversions have been completed, and air stations Houston, Miami and Port Angeles, Washington, have completely transitioned to MH-65E operations. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.”

    https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/2498238/mh-65-program-delivers-upgraded-mh-65e-helicopter-to-air-station-barbers-point/

  9. Pingback: “Coast Guard Grounds Some Search-and-Rescue Helicopters As It Struggles to Find Spare Parts” –Military.Com | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  10. From CG-9, https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/2687316/mh-65-program-delivers-upgraded-mh-65e-helicopters-to-sector-north-bend/

    The Coast Guard short range recovery helicopter program delivered CGNR 6521 to Sector North Bend, Oregon, June 28. With this delivery, 24 Dolphin helicopters have been converted to the “E” configuration, and Sector North Bend becomes the fourth air station to complete the transition to the upgraded aircraft.

    The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System; enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. In addition to the upgraded search and rescue capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response.

    At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing Service Life Extension Program activities to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

    The Coast Guard is in the process of transitioning all its MH-65 air stations to the upgraded configuration; Air Station Houston, Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, Washington, and Air Station Miami have transitioned from the MH-65D to the MH-65E. Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, and the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron will be the next to receive the upgraded aircraft and complete the transition. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

    For more information: MH-65 program page

  11. From CG-9 https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/2701309/mh-65-program-delivers-upgraded-mh-65e-helicopters-to-air-station-miami/

    MH-65 program delivers upgraded MH-65E helicopters to Air Station Miami

    July 20, 2021

    The Coast Guard short range recovery helicopter program delivered CGNR 6596 to Air Station Miami July 12. With this delivery, 25 Dolphin helicopters have been converted to the “E” configuration, and four facilities have transitioned to the upgraded aircraft.

    The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System; enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. In addition to the upgraded search and rescue capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response.

    At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing Service Life Extension Program activities to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

    The Coast Guard is in the process of transitioning all its MH-65 facilities to the upgraded configuration; in addition to Miami, Air Station Houston, Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, Washington, and Sector North Bend, Oregon, have also transitioned from the MH-65D to the MH-65E. Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, has received four upgraded MH-65Es and is scheduled to fully transition to MH-65E operations later this summer. The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron will also receive the upgraded aircraft to complete the transition. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

    For more information: MH-65 program page

  12. From CG-9: MH-65 program delivers upgraded helicopters to HITRON
    https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/3010316/mh-65-program-delivers-upgraded-helicopters-to-hitron/

    The Coast Guard H-65 Conversion and Sustainment Program delivered CGNR 6555 to the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) April 4. With this delivery, 40 of 98 Dolphin short range recovery helicopters have been converted to the “E” configuration, and six facilities have transitioned to the upgraded aircraft.

    HITRON’s primary mission of drug interdiction and combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is unique among the facilities receiving the upgraded aircraft. The upgraded MH-65E’s capabilities make for a safer, more reliable execution of HITRON’s missions.

    “On a recent deployment utilizing the MH-65E, following the completion of warning shots on a go-fast vessel, the crew was able to remain on scene longer to provide boarding team cover to an arriving boarding team,” said Cmdr. Kent Reinhold, operations officer at HITRON. “Without the ability to be so precise with our fuel planning with the Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS), this would have been much riskier. We were happy to be equipped with this new capability in the MH-65E.”

    The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the automatic flight control system; enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. In addition to the upgraded search and rescue capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response.

    The updated CAAS, which provides a “significant upgrade in the ‘brains’ of the helicopter and how it interfaces with the pilots and aircrew,” is especially valuable to HITRON, Reinhold shared. “This new system greatly increases the accuracy of our fuel calculations, often providing a few extra vital minutes of on-scene time during the interdiction of a narco-trafficker. While three minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, it can make all the difference for the effectiveness of the interdiction. It also allows for increased safety for boarding teams.”

    A CAAS cockpit also provides a longer-term benefit. The Coast Guard will be moving to an all MH-60T fleet in the future, and the MH-65E will prepare HITRON pilots for that transition, since CAAS is nearly identical to the equipment on the MH-60T. This will significantly reduce transition time and will allow the fleet to maintain mission readiness.

    The transition from the MH-65D to the MH-65E has not come without its challenges, all of which the HITRON crew met head on.

    “Change has its challenges, especially for a large 12-helicopter unit,” Reinhold said. “Over the last year, we have maintained a mix of MH-65D and MH-65E aircraft throughout the transition. This mix of people, qualifications and aircraft creates challenges to deployment scheduling as well as the scheduling of our daily training plan. Crews new to the MH-65E had to adapt quickly to establish a solid level of proficiency in the MH-65E prior to deploying. These challenges required our personnel to step up and meet the task, which they have done admirably.”

    In conjunction with the upgrades, the Coast Guard is completing Service Life Extension Program activities on the Dolphin fleet to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

    The Coast Guard is in the process of transitioning all its MH-65 facilities to the upgraded configuration; in addition to HITRON, Air Station Miami, Air Station Houston, Air Station Port Angeles, Washington, Sector North Bend, Oregon, and Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, have also transitioned from the MH-65D to the MH-65E. Sector Humboldt Bay, California, is the next in line to receive the upgraded aircraft. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

    For more information: MH-65 Program page

  13. From CG-9
    Coast Guard delivers upgraded MH-65E helicopters to Sector Humboldt Bay
    https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Newsroom/Latest-Acquisition-News/Article/3046422/coast-guard-delivers-upgraded-mh-65e-helicopters-to-sector-humboldt-bay/

    The Coast Guard H-65 Conversion and Sustainment Program delivered CGNR 6603 to Sector Humboldt Bay, California, May 19. With this delivery, 43 of 98 Dolphin short range recovery helicopters have been converted to the “E” configuration, and seven facilities including Humboldt Bay have transitioned to the upgraded aircraft.

    The Coast Guard has had a continuous presence at Humboldt Bay since 1856, beginning as the Humboldt Bay Life-Saving Station, with the Coast Guard adopting it as a year-round aviation search and rescue facility in 1977. The Dolphin’s primary mission at Humboldt Bay is search and rescue, which can be harrowing due to the dangerous conditions along the northern California coast. Secondary missions for the Dolphin include aids to navigation, maritime law enforcement and marine environmental protection.

    Humboldt Bay is located on California’s remote North Coast, a region frequently threatened by cold Pacific currents, powerful Alaskan winter storms, towering offshore rocks, fog and dangerous harbor entrance bars.

    The upgraded multifunctional displays on the MH-65E’s digital flight deck provide greater situational awareness to pilots, especially in challenging environments such as the Sierras.

    The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the automatic flight control system; enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. Due to the remoteness of the air station and the unit’s vast area of responsibility, aircrews are ever vigilant with monitoring their fuel burn as well as the distance to nearby airfields to land or refuel, said Cmdr. Karyn Forsyth, H-65 program manager who previously was stationed at Humboldt. With the enhanced digital weather/surface radar and digital flight deck, pilots now have greater situational awareness with the upgraded multifunctional displays and have more accurate fuel calculations to remain on-scene and then return to base, she said.

    In addition to the upgraded search and rescue capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response. With the advanced navigational capabilities, pilots now have the ability to fly routes and procedures that previously could not be utilized in the legacy MH-65D – a critical safety enhancement, especially in this unit’s area of responsibility, Forsyth added.

    In conjunction with the upgrades, the Coast Guard is completing service life extension program activities on the Dolphin fleet to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

    The Coast Guard is in the process of transitioning all its MH-65 facilities to the upgraded configuration; in addition to Sector/Air Station Humboldt Bay, Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron; Air Station Miami; Air Station Houston; Air Station Port Angeles, Washington: Sector North Bend, Oregon; and Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, have transitioned from the MH-65D to the MH-65E. Air Station San Francisco is the next in line to receive the upgraded aircraft. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

    For more information: MH-65 Program page

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