MH-60 on WMECs?

The photo above accompanied the press release reproduced below. There is no caption or credit attached to the photo (I hate that). There is no mention of flight ops in the news release. The helicopter may not actually be landing, but that’s what it looks like. This may have just been a training flight with no aviation detachment embarked. The 270s were designed to operate H-60 size helicopters, but it has been very rare. As the service moves to a homogeneous rotary wing fleet of all MH-60s, it should become common.

Doesn’t look like the 210s could operate H-60s at all. That is a mighty small flight deck. My understanding is that the first four 270s had a design flaw that meant that while an H-60 could land on the ships, they could not traverse the deck and be hangared. That means only ten of the 27 currently commissioned WMECs (Haley, 13 x 270s, 13 x 210s) will be able to operate MH-60s. (I assume Haley has the capability.)

The other 17 ships are not going to be replaced anytime soon. Unless they are decommissioned without replacement, it looks like the last 210 will not go out of service until 2031 (at least 62 years old at that point); the four earliest 270s not before 2033 (at least 49 years old); and the last WMEC not until 2038 (Really looks like 2039 to me).

If the Coast Guard wants to continue operating helicopters from these less capable ships, they may have to keep at least a few H-65s for another ten years. The CG has put a lot of money and effort into upgrading these aircraft, reportedly increasing their service life by 10,000 hours. That is a lot of hours. The conversions to MH-65E are not even completed yet. As of 27 April, 2023, 63 of 98 have been completed. It looks like enough MH-65s could be maintained to support the WMECs that cannot support the MH-60 until they are decommissioned, but the service may choose not to do so.

We are seeing a lot of 210s and even 270s operated without an embarked helicopter, particularly while operating in the Caribbean where fixed wing support is readily available and where the flight decks are often used as a holding area for migrants.

There is also the possibility that the ships would be better served by replacing the helicopter with an Unmanned Air System. At least in terms of search capability, a UAS is probably a better choice, but we haven’t seen a UAS capable of HITRON’s airborne use of force/armed overwatch function so essential for the drug interdiction mission.

May 11, 2023

USCGC Thetis returns home following 66-day multi-mission Caribbean Sea patrol

KEY WEST, Fla. – The crew of the USCGC Thetis (WMEC 910) returned to their home port in Key West, Thursday, following a 66-day patrol in the Florida Straits and Caribbean Sea.  

Thetis’ crew contributed to the interdiction, care and repatriation of 125 migrants from Haiti and Cuba while patrolling the Seventh Coast Guard District’s area of responsibility in support of Operation Vigilant Sentry and Homeland Security Taskforce — Southeast.

During the patrol, Thetis’ crew rescued 31 Cuban migrants from an overcrowded, adrift and homemade vessel in the South Florida Straits. The boarding team safely embarked the migrants aboard Thetis, where Petty Officer 1st Class William Ice, a health services technician assigned to Thetis, provided a lifesaving emergency procedure for one of the migrants. During another case, Thetis watch standers spotted a Haitian sailboat in distress and provided rescue assistance to the 13 Haitians.

Additionally, working with Bahamian Customs Department, Thetis safely returned 54 Haitian migrants to their point of departure in the Bahamas after their overcrowded and unseaworthy vessel was intercepted in transit to West Palm Beach, Florida.

“I am so proud of the crew’s hard work and professionalism this patrol,” said Cmdr. Gavin Garcia, commanding officer of Thetis. “It takes a great deal of teamwork within the ship as well as coordination with other organizations to meet the demands of two of the Coast Guard’s main missions in the South Florida Straits: search and rescue and maritime law enforcement.”

Thetis is a 270-foot Famous-class medium endurance cutter. The cutter’s primary missions are counter-narcotics operations, migrant interdiction, living marine resources protection, and search and rescue in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.

5 thoughts on “MH-60 on WMECs?

  1. if i remember right on campbell we did land 60s but i don’t recall ever hangering any and it was rare to land them. maybe less then a half dozen times at most. probably just training stuff. i was a refuel guy, a-gang. was also a-gang refuel guy in navy, we just used h-46s.

  2. Operating H-60s from cutters has been very rare. Should not be a problem on NSCs and OPC, they are designed for it. Will be interesting to see how they handle the problem for the MECs.

  3. “increasing their service life by 10,000 hours. That is a lot of hours.”

    If you ever saw how they tear down and rebuild an HH-65, there is nothing on there that old other than the composite body/shell of the helo. Everything is replaced with new components, wiring, engines, rotors, etc. They are practically new aircraft when they come out of e-city.

    I believe that every crashed HH-65 airframe has been fully rebuilt (except maybe one). We also got one or two spares shells from another country a few years back to add into the parts bin, but never exceeding the number of AC we originally purchased.

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