The Coast Guard’s Air Policing Job Over DC and Armed Overwatch

Back in 2014, I published a post, Random Thoughts on CG Aircraft Missions,
that among other things, talked about the Coast Guard’s air policing/intercept duties over the National Capital, now being done by MH-65s, and use of fixed wing aircraft to provide air borne use of force support for Webber class cutters, which is a capability we currently do not have. 
We may have a unique opportunity to address the problems discussed, using excess USAF assets at little or no cost. In the case of the Air Policing operation it might even reduce operating costs.
To outline the problems, as I see them, I will simply repeat the arguments from the earlier post.
The DC intercept: The problems with the current use of H-65s for intercepting general aviation aircraft that violate the standing airspace restrictions over the capital is that: (1) Many general aviation aircraft have a higher maximum air speed than the helicopter. (2) Even if the target is slower, the relatively slow speed of the helicopter may make achieving an intercept problematic. (3) If the aircraft is in fact hostile, the helicopter has to hand over the task of destroying it to an interceptor aircraft or missile battery introducing the possibilities of delays and misdirection.
Airborne use of force for law enforcement: In the Webber class cutters, the Coast Guard has an asset that can perform many of the missions normally expected of a medium endurance cutter, including drug and migrant interdiction, but they do not enjoy the advantage of organic aviation assets. There is no helicopter to augment their search, to chase down high speed contacts, or to use force to compel them to stop. When boardings are performed, they have neither a second boat nor an armed helicopter to provide over-watch as their boarding team approaches a suspected trafficer.
A couple of the aircraft I suggested might be appropriate for these roles were the A-29 Super Tucano and the AT-6 Wolverine.

The second A-29 Super Tucano for Air Force Special Operations Command, which received this one-off heritage scheme honoring the 1st Air Commando Group of World War II. Sierra Nevada Corporation

It just so happens, the Air Force has three A-29s and two AT-6s that are excess, now less than two years old, and they plan to dispose of them.
Compared to our helicopters, these aircraft have greater speed, range, and endurance and are, I believe, less expensive to operate. They are certainly less expensive to operate than our twin engine fixed wing aircraft.
In addition, these aircraft have excellent electro-optics and both air-to-air and air-to-surface capability, should it be necessary.
Replacing the H-65s providing air policing over DC, with the three A-29s, would not only provide a more capable interceptor, one still capable of operating at low air speeds, it would also reduce wear and tear on the H-65 fleet, whose maintenance has become problematic. As Air Force Special Operations Force aircraft, these planes may be better equipped to interface with the Capital Area Air Defenses, including F-16s and Army Surface to Air missile batteries than the MH-65s.

Basing the two AT-6s out of Puerto Rico would allow them to provide armed overwatch to Webber class WPCs in an area of intense activity. They could also be used as search assets given their excellent capabilities. The AT-6s are based on the T-6 Texan II trainer that is used to train all military aviators including Coast Guard. I understand there are now over 1000 T-6s and the two aircraft have 85% parts commonality.

If we chose to arm these, beyond their organic .50 cal. machine guns, we could probably make an arrangement with a nearby DOD air base to arm the aircraft.

An A-29 Super Tucano with potential external stores. 

6 thoughts on “The Coast Guard’s Air Policing Job Over DC and Armed Overwatch

  1. IMO, for Armed overwatch missions and homeland Defense missions, I can justify the USCG getting either the A-29 Super Tucano or the AT6- Wolverine for Armed overwatch. I can see the A-29 or ATS being used as a Manned ISR platform, Maritime patrol and Overwatch for Cutters and patrol boats.

    On top of that I am a strong advocate of the US Air National guard being fielded with the South Korean F/A-50 Golden eagles for Homeland defense and protecting CONUS, Alaska, Hawaii and even Guam. It would keep the F-15 and F-16 from be worn down and out. It would save the F-15 and F-16 for bigger missions and the South Korean F/A-50 could be used to free up the F-15 and F-16’s for Homeland Defense that curtain Air national Guard units do.

  2. I think that the F-15EX is a great buy for NORAD CONUS air defense to save the stealthy F-22s and F-35s from having to perform this role and fixing their fincky stealth coatings and engines.

    That said, I would not base all A-29s in Washington DC…just one. I would spread the A-29s and AT6s out for one in Alaska, one in Hawaii, one in DC, one in Florida for the Drug War, and one in California (or in the Gulf of Mexico states). That way, the Armed Overwatch planes can provide ISR and SAR with FLIR turrets. The USCG should send the Armed Overwatch planes to areas where the USCG does not have fixed wing HC-130, HC-144, and HC-27J assets.

    Homeland NORAD defense occurs so seldom compared to USCG SAR, ISR, VBSS, and interdiction.

    • And the whole point of this article is that USSOCOM should NOT transfer and sell the five Armed Overwatch planes to foreign nations, but give them to the USCG for multirole uses and missions.

    • I would say, keep the F-15EX for overseas work. I would use the South Korean F/A-50 Golden Eagles for CONUS, NORAD Air defense. and the A-29s for Armed overwatch, Manned ISR, SAR and Homeland defense.,

  3. Pingback: Another Rotary Wing Air Intercept (RWAI) Mission | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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