Grab the popcorn. An entertaining historical post from Defense Media Network.
Below is a news release from the Acquisitions Directorate, CG-9. This is how the Coast Guard intends to keep the H-60s going until the “Future Vertical Lift” aircraft arrive. Also looks like the H-60, which have already been with the Coast Guard for 30 years, could continue in service for another 30.
Jan. 21, 2021 —
The Coast Guard today awarded a contract to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford, Connecticut, for new H-60 helicopter hulls as part of a program to sustain existing MH-60T helicopter hulls reaching the end of their service life. The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract extends through April 2025 and has a potential value of $850 million.
As part of the contract award, the Coast Guard placed an initial order for 25 new hulls. The initial order, with a total value of nearly $207 million, includes non-recurring engineering costs, which enables Sikorsky to produce the hulls in the Coast Guard MH-60T configuration. The first three hulls will be used for validation of Sikorsky’s production processes and Coast Guard hull assembly procedures before moving to full rate production of the next 22 hulls. Delivery of the first new hull is anticipated in early 2023, with subsequent hulls scheduled for delivery at approximately one per month starting in late 2023.
The Coast Guard’s H-60 helicopters have been in service since 1990, and the first helicopters in the fleet are set to reach their 20,000-hour service life limit in 2023. The new hulls being delivered under this contract will replace the hulls in the legacy airframes and provide an additional 20,000 flight hours of service. These new hulls, combined with existing programmed service life extension activities, will enable the Coast Guard to align operations with the timeline for future fleet recapitalization in conjunction with the Department of Defense’s joint Future Vertical Lift program. The service plans to complete the program on a one-for-one basis as the existing helicopters reach their maximum flight hours, thereby maintaining the fleet size of 45 helicopters.
Hull replacement is just one component of the MH-60T sustainment effort. In addition to hull replacement, replacement of select dynamic components, such as main rotor blades, as well as full replacement of electrical wire harnesses will take place. Aircraft production – assembly of the hulls, installation of dynamic components, and wire harness replacement – will be completed at the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
The Acquisitions Directorate, CG-9 reports,
The Coast Guard accepted delivery of its ninth HC-144B Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance aircraft outfitted with both the Ocean Sentry Refresh (OSR) modifications and the Minotaur mission system Dec. 16, 2020. Modifications to CGNR 2310 were completed at the Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The aircraft will be based at Coast Guard Air Station Miami.
The OSR project upgrades the aircraft with a new flight management system, which manages communication control, navigation and equipment monitoring. After the OSR upgrade is completed, each aircraft is redesignated as an HC-144B.
Minotaur integrates installed sensors and radar and provides dramatically improved data fusion as well as information processing and sharing capabilities.
Completion of missionization and upgrade of a 10th HC-144 is scheduled for June 2021. The service plans to upgrade each of the service’s 18 HC-144s by 2024.
Naval news reports that the French Navy is buying some Falcon Jet aircraft from Dassault. Maybe they look familiar. This aircraft is a bit different, but the family resemblance is clear. Maybe some Nostalgia?
Dmitry Shulgin reports the arrival of the first of a fleet 16 SAR aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
We reported the award of this contract back in 2016. As noted at that time,
The deal means Airbus will supply 16 C295s to replace six de Havilland Canada CC-155 Buffalos and 13 CC-130H Hercules at four bases spread across Canada, providing search and rescue services from the Arctic to the southern border with the USA.
Forbes points to growing strain in the Navy/Coast Guard relationship as defense focus shifts from counter terrorism to near peer conflict.
The author, Craig Hooper, points to limits on reimbursement of Coast Guard costs in support of DOD, limited Navy support for drug interdiction and law enforcement efforts, a push for more Coast Guard assets in the Western Pacific, a need to recapitalize the Coast Guard Yard as a national asset, and possible deployment of Navy personnel and assets, particularly rotary wing, to aid in the execution of missions.
“Reorienting the Coast Guard to address “new” state-based threats is a complex problem that will require patient investment and a lot of preparatory work to be successful. The Coast Guard is part of America’s large National Fleet, and the tighter integration of Coast Guard forces—along with the U.S. Merchant Marine, NOAA’s research fleet and other Federal maritime assets—into the U.S. national security mission space merits thoughtful consideration…”
The topic raises a number of issues.
The Coast Guard is simply underfunded. If the Coast Guard’s defense related missions were properly recognized and funded as part of our very day missions, no reimbursement would be necessary. Certainly fisheries patrols in the US Western Pacific EEZ are a real everyday Coast Guard mission.
As cutters go increasingly into harms way, maybe they need to be better equipped for the possibility of combat.
Mobilization planning really should address how Navy Reserve Personnel and equipment, notably ASW helicopters, LCS mission modules, and ASW, EW, and Weapons operators and support personnel, could augment cutters and bring them up to a wartime compliment.
DefenseSyetems reports the Coast Guard is working with DOD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC)
“We’re looking see how do a better job doing predictive maintenance for aircraft, helicopters in particular,”
So far, JAIC has released the first version of an algorithm to help with H60 Blackhawk maintenance to the Special Operations Command that will then head to the Army, Air Force and Navy. It is also working on solutions to help firefighters predict a fire’s movements and intensity and aid humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, like California’s wildfires.
Seapower Magazine is reporting that the Norwegian Coast Guard is to begin a second set of tests to confirm the usefulness of a vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) for SAR in the Arctic environment.
The UAS, the Schiebel Camcopter S-100, has a max takeoff weight of 200 kg (441 lb), a length of 3.11 m (10 ft 2 in), and a main rotor diameter of 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in). The system is widely used, including operation by the German, Italian, and Chinese Navies and the Russian Coast Guard. (More here). It is much more compact than even the smaller MQ-8B version of Fire Scout which has a max. takeoff weight: of 3,150 lb (1,430 kg), a length of 23.95 ft (7.3 m), and a main rotor diameter of 27.5 ft (8.4 m)
We might want to ask if we could send an observer or at least get the results of their evaluation.
A recent DefenseNews post reports that the Army has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (read it here) for a Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) to be fielded by FY2030. This would be a replacement for their H-60 Blackhawks.
There are some details of what they expect.
Price: “… roughly $43 million per unit.”
“FLRAA — at a minimum — to have a 95% maximum rated power to perform a 500 feet per minute vertical rate of climb from a hover-out-of-ground effect. The helicopter should be able to fly at 6,000 feet in 95 degree heat with 12 passengers.…objective requirements for the aircraft to maintain 100% maximum continuous power in a 500 feet per minute vertical climb.”
Range: Threshold 1,725 nautical miles one way without refueling. Objective 2,449.
Speed: Threshold 250 knots, objective cruise speed goal of 280 knots.
There could be a “competitive down select by FY2022.”
US Naval Institute News Service is reporting that the Navy is looking at providing better sensors, in particular a better radar, on the MQ-8C Fire Scout (the larger version).
“What’s important to us right now is making sure we have the right sensors, a good multi-function radar, some kind of passive targeting capability and the right networks to push that information to the right people at the right times.”
When the Navy finally gets around to deploying LCS to the drug transit zones, these could be very useful.
Reportedly they will provide, “…a circle of influence and sea control out to about 300 miles” although probability of detection almost certainly depends on target size and characteristics.
The radar of choice is reportedly the Leonardo Osprey 30 active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar. This radar has no moving parts.
Leonardo’s Osprey AESA radar. The two panel configuration allows 240 degree coverage. A three panel configuration allows 360 degree coverage as on Norway’s AW101 SAR helicopters. Configurations of up to four panels are possible (Photo by Leonardo)
“Each antenna contains 256 Transmit and Receive Modules (TRM) – 25% more than that the single array on the Seaspray 7500E radar fitted to U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules search aircraft (also a Leonardo product–Chuck). The antennas, which can be used in several different modes including surface search, air-to-air and synthetic aperture radar and moving target indication, are controlled through a single processing unit which collects the data and displays it as presenting a single radar picture.”
- Class-leading maritime surveillance capability
- AESA-enabled small target mode (STM)
- Very high resolution, wide swath SAR Mapping
- Small radar cross section (RCS), low minimum detectable velocity (MDV), multi-channel moving target indication (MTI)
- Air-to-Air surveillance, track and intercept
- Instantaneous multiple mode interleaving
- Difficult target detection from high altitude
Ultimately as more of the “C” models are built, we might see them on Coast Guard cutters. There is also the possibility that as more of the larger “C” models come on line, the Coast Guard may be able to get some of the smaller “B” models. The “B” model did operate for Bertholf for two weeks.
The larger C model, with its higher speed, greater payload, better sensors, and 11+ hour endurance, would certainly be an improvement over the ScanEagle currently planned for the National Security Cutters. Whether the “B” model‘s presumably better sensors but shorter range/endurance would allow a greater effective search area compared to the ScanEagle I could only speculate, but I suspect it would also be an improvement, using perhaps two flights per day.
The National Security Cutters could certainly support both an H-65 and an MQ-8C, since they can support two H-65s. It is less clear if the OPC could support both. They reportedly can support an MH-60 or an H-65 and a UAS, but what size UAS?
These systems suggest that at some point, at least on our largest cutters, we may be able to relieve shipboard manned helicopters the routine search function.