“Coast Guard delivers upgraded multi-mission helicopters to Air Station Atlantic City” –D5 News Release

MH-65E interior.

While you may have heard the Coast Guard is headed for an all H-60 rotary wing fleet, it seems we will continue to have H-65a for some time.

The upgrades comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Airspace Transportation System requirements, and extends the aircraft service life to the late 2030s.

The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 of its Dolphin helicopters to the MH-65E configuration by the end of 2024.

News Release U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Public Affairs North
D5 Public Affairs North, Baltimore, Md

Coast Guard delivers upgraded multi-mission helicopters to Air Station Atlantic City 

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City received its first upgraded MH-65E Dolphin helicopter Monday to replace the legacy MH-65D helicopters that serve out of the Coast Guard’s largest MH-65 helicopter unit. 

The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration will provide enhanced search and rescue capabilities including modern “glass cockpit” technology that increases pilot and aircrew situational awareness. 

The Dolphin upgrades also include reliability and capability improvements for the automatic flight control system, enhanced digital weather and surface radar, and multifunctional displays with more accurate fuel calculations.

The upgrades comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Airspace Transportation System requirements, and extends the aircraft service life to the late 2030s.

The transition of Air Station Atlantic City’s 12 MH-65D helicopters to the upgraded “E” configuration is expected to take approximately 10 months. 

During the upgrade period, the unit’s 62 pilots and 104 aircrew members will undergo a three-week transition course at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama. Aircrew and mechanics will undergo formal training specific to their roles and duties during this course.

“The upgrades and advanced training will enhance the situational awareness of our aircrews and improve mission planning capabilities aboard the Coast Guard’s most prolific rotary-wing asset,” said Cmdr. Christian Polyak, engineering officer at Air Station Atlantic City. “The replacement and inspection of key aircraft components as a part of the upgrade are also expected to extend the aircraft’s service-life and enable us to continue safeguarding and securing our coasts for years to come.”

Air Station Atlantic City Dolphin helicopter crews perform search and rescue, provide aids to navigation support, and maritime law enforcement and marine environmental protection to the mid-Atlantic region from Long Island, New York, to the Maryland/Virginia border. 

Air Station Atlantic City helicopters and aircrews also provide continuous support for the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s airspace security mission in Washington, D.C., and throughout the country as necessary.

Additionally, the upgrades also include advanced navigation capabilities that will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response.

The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 of its Dolphin helicopters to the MH-65E configuration by the end of 2024.

For more information visit the MH-65 Program page at SRR – MH-65 (uscg.mil) .

Is There a Replacement for the M2 .50 caliber Machine Gun

Most of us are familiar with the M2 .50 cal. machine gun. It is found on most Coast Guard Cutters. Its familiar. Its simple. It is a stand alone weapon that requires no external power. It is frequently a Coast Guard vessel’s primary weapon, as on the 87 foot patrol boats, buoy tenders, and icebreakers. It is the secondary as on the FRCs and WMECs.

Modern-day air-cooled 0.50″ (12.7 mm) Browning Machine Gun. US Navy Photograph No. 020704-N-0156B-002.

Nominally it has an effective range of 2,200 yards, but I suspect that is only against advancing infantry formations. It is certainly not accurate at that range after the first round in full auto.

Aside from firing warning shots at close range, it is frankly not a very good weapon for use in the naval environment. The gunner is largely exposed, where he can be picked off by a sniper. Even terrorists or criminals can easily obtain weapons that equal or overmatch it range and hitting power. The damage it can do to anything beyond the smallest vessels is very limited.

When used in a crowded harbor, its range, combined with its inaccuracy, and the lack of a self-destruct feature for it projectiles, mean it may cause collateral damage.

It is almost totally useless against aircraft. During World War II, Navy experience was that it required an average of 11,285 rounds for a .50 caliber machine gun to bring down an aircraft. The .50 caliber weapons on ships were credited with 14.5 aircraft kills for 163,630 rounds expended, so it probably not going to be very useful against drones.

We should not expect it to provide an effective self defense capability.

There are things we could do to improve it. We could provide better sights. We could provide protection for the gun crew. We could mount it in a Remote Weapons Station (RWS), but really we could do a lot better.

Northrop Grumman seems to think they have a replacement, perhaps two. Most recent is the 20mm Sky Viper proposed to equip the Army’s planned Future Attack  Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) seen in the video above.

As with General Dynamics’ offering, specialty munitions for use against troops, unmanned aerial vehicles, ground vehicles and other helicopters, can be integrated with Sky Viper, flexibility which naturally suggests other applications.

While emphasizing that Sky Viper is a FARA-focused effort (with DEVCOM funding), Canole acknowledges that Northrop Grumman is looking beyond the platform to where it might offer a solution “with a lot more firepower than a .50 caliber”. That could include the Army’s new Mobile Protected Firepower light tank prototypes for which .50 caliber (12.7mm) auxiliary guns are already spec-ed.

“The low recoil and a relatively lightweight system really opens the door for [applications] where .50 calibers tend to be the mainstay,” Canole says.

From Back Left: 40mm grenade casing, 30x173mm (A-10/M44), 30x113mm (M230), 25x137mm (M242/Mk38 gun mount), 20x102mm (Phalanx), 50 BMG; Foreground: 300Blackout (typical rifle round), 9mmx19 (typical pistol round)

The Sky Viper, which uses the same 20x102mm round as the 20mm Vulcan Gatling gun, that equips the Phalanx CIWS, is evolved from the 30mm M230 that fires the 30x113mm. You can see in the photo above that the 20x102mm is a much smaller round than either the 30x113mm or the 25x137mm used by our current 25mm MK38 mounts, but it is substantially more powerful than the .50 caliber.

As the newest member of the chain gun family, we can expect some improvements. Compared to the M230 it has much lower recoil forces, a higher rate of fire, and is lighter, lighter in fact, than the .50 caliber M2.

Apparently earlier the M230 was also seen as a potential replacement for the .50 caliber M2. It still offers some advantages.

It is in service with the Marine Corps, so it is already in the Navy inventory and ammunition supply system. It is actually smaller, more compact, lighter, and has far less recoil than the 25mm M242 in the Mk38 mounts.

Compared to the .50 caliber, the 30x113mm projectile is far more effective against larger targets and is effective at a greater range.

Used in a remote weapon station, it is far more accurate than a .50 caliber M2, and anytime you add a remote weapon station, the ship benefits from the high quality optics that come with it.

Plus there is a programable air burst fuse already available for the 30x113mm round that is apparently effective against drones.

I would not suggest replacing the 25mm Mk38s with either of these, unless the remote weapon station also incorporated missiles like Hellfire/JAGM and/or Stinger, but as replacements for .50 caliber they offer great advantage.