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. 

Thailand Buys AT-6 for Coast Guard Type Missions

Defense News reports that Thailand has become the first international customer for the Textron Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft.

Thomas Hammoor, president and CEO of Textron Aviation Defense, said in a statement that the Royal Thai Air Force selected the Beechcraft AT-6 to conduct a broad array of missions in support of border security as well as anti-smuggling, counternarcotics and anti-human trafficking operations.

This is basically the same aircraft Coast Guard aviators train on before they get their wings, but with upgrades. I can’t help but think something like this or the similar Embraer A-29 Super Tucano could handle a lot of ISR missions more economically than what we are using now.

They could be used to scout for D7 Webber class FRCs doing drug or migrant interdiction and provide shots across the bow and over-watch in lieu of a helicopter.

The Washington DC air intercept mission in particular comes to mind. Local searches for overdue boats is another possibility. As you can see these aircraft support integrated electro-optical sensors.

An AT-6 Beechcraft is on display at the 2021 Dubai Airshow. (Agnes Helou/Staff)

Armed, these could also provide a response to terrorist attacks. My earlier ramblings on Coast Guard aircraft missions here.

More on the Scorpion ISR/Light Attack Aircraft

I did an earlier post on this aircraft because it was offered also as a potential Coast Guard ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) asset for Coast Guards, but this post seemed to offer enough new insights to justify another post.

It still appears to be a economical, highly flexible, reconfigurable alternative to land based UAVs, that can quickly put sensors where we need them, with additional potential for air-policing and an armed response to maritime terrorist attacks.

I’ll also add this quote I added to the previous post as a comment, from

Given all the attention the attack component of the Scorpion has received in the press, it is often overlooked that the aircraft is built around a payload bay.
The modular payload bay is impressive with great volume, electrical and cooling capacity for a wide variety of payloads/sensors.
One example is the L-3 Wescam MX-25 – now capable of full retraction into the payload bay.
The MX-25 is L-3 Wescam’s largest electro-optical/infrared camera.
For comparison purposes, the US Navy P-8 Poseidon utilizes the slightly smaller L-3 Wescam MX-20.
Aside from great payload flexibility, the Scorpion is night vision capable and both the front and rear cockpits are prepared for use with the Thales Visionix Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System.