“MH-65 upgrades were invaluable to mission success in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian” –CG-9

The report below is from the CG-9 website

MH-65 upgrades were invaluable to mission success in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Air Station Miami crew during Hurricane Ian

The Air Station Miami crew evacuates a person in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. In addition to Air Station Miami’s MH-65Es and HC-144Bs, the coordinated rescue included one MH-65E from Air Station Houston and two MH-65Ds from Air Station Savannah. Total statistics for the coordinated rescue: 46 lives saved, 36 lives assisted and 19 pets saved. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Miami.


Hurricane Ian caused nearly 150 fatalities when it swept through Florida in late September 2022 and has been cited as the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935. In the search and rescue efforts that followed, Air Station Miami crewmembers played a pivotal role in rescuing both human and animal survivors. According to the pilots, upgrades on the Coast Guard’s MH-65E proved vital during multiple rescue missions. In the days following the storm they were faced with harried conditions when fuel stops were limited, communications were intermittent and lives depended on the speed and awareness of the crew.

The upgraded MH-65E, or Echo, sports an all-glass cockpit and Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) that replaced legacy analog components. The new system aligns with Federal Aviation Administration next-generation requirements that call for performance and space-based navigation and surveillance, allowing for more three-dimensional approaches and flight patterns as well as higher visibility of the helicopter by other on-scene aircraft.

Integral to the CAAS is the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B, which allowed command aircraft (both Coast Guard HC-144 and Navy P-3) to track the MH-65E even when it was no longer visible to the crews. The moving map on the pilot screens can be overlayed with the traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), which helps deconflict airspace with multiple aircraft maneuvering in tight quarters. The display can be placed across four multi-function display (MFD) screens and is accessible to both pilots.

“The TCAS was immensely helpful, especially being able to use the moving map overlay,” said Lt. Audra Forteza. “There were so many aircraft in the area, both military and civilian, and not everyone was making traffic calls as they should be – the TCAS allowed us to quickly and efficiently find the most imminent threat and maneuver to maintain separation. Knowing where exactly to look for a target made identification much faster and allowed us to focus on the mission at hand vice continually searching for other aircraft.”

The crewmembers were equally impressed by the bingo fuel alerts, an aviator term used to describe the minimum fuel an aircraft requires to land safely at its designated landing site. Fuel stops were severely limited because of widespread power outages on the ground. This meant that finding an airport with a generator strong enough to facilitate refueling was largely based on recommendations from other parties in communication with the aircrews. “Word of mouth was key to success for aircrews operating the area to determine which airports had fuel,” Forteza said. “And the people at the airfields were extremely accommodating in getting crews food, fuel, water and bathrooms.”

The MFD screens were also very useful when it came to hoisting survivors out of difficult situations while maintaining situational awareness and control of the aircraft. Forteza was able to monitor her co-pilot safely and effectively while they operated the hoist in a series of challenging urban environment rescues over the course of several days.

Additionally, utilizing the upgraded radar weather mode allowed for safe navigation between hurricane bands as the crews searched for survivors by painting a clearer, more accurate picture of the evolving weather situation even when their in-flight tablets did not have reception. In response to Hurricane Ian, Air Station Miami pilots flew a total of 46 hours over several days. Forteza and Lt. Danielle Benedetto personally contributed to saving the lives of 16 people, as well as five cats and three dogs. The air station fully transitioned to the MH-65E in July 2021.

Air Station Miami crew

Air Station Miami crew, from left: Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Kilbane, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nick Rodriguez, Lt. Audra Forteza and Lt. Danielle Benedetto. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Live shots taken by Minotaur-equipped HC-144

Live shots of Hurricane Ian damage taken by Minotaur-equipped HC-144 aircraft were used to support the Incident Management Team. U.S. Coast Guard photos.

MH-65E transition
The Coast Guard has completed 52 out of 98 total conversions including avionics upgrades to the Echo configuration and Service Life Extension work. Air stations that have completed the transition and number of aircraft:

Houston 3
Miami 5
Port Angeles, WA 3
Barbers Point, HI 4
North Bend, OR 5
Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron 12
Humboldt Bay, CA 3
San Francisco 7

Next up for conversion are Atlantic City, N.J., and Savannah, GA

For more information: MH-65 Short Range Recovery Helicopter Program page and Minotaur Mission System Program page

The Very First US Naval Helicopters and Their Coast Guard Pilot

CDR Frank Erickson, USCG, the first US Naval Aviation helicopter pilot.

I am sharing a post written by Coast Guard Aviator, Capt. Sean M. Cross, that appeared on his Facebook Page. Captain Cross’s Facebook page provides daily stories about Coast Guard aviation history. I have a bit of a personal connection, because his dad, former Vice Commandant, VAdm. Terry M. Cross, USCG (ret.), served with me, on my first active duty station, USCGC McCulloch. Even then, it was clear he was a standout.


TODAY IN COAST GUARD AVIATION HISTORY – 03 SEPTEMBER 1943: On 3 September, the U.S. Navy Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics requested that Coast Guard CDR Frank Erickson, who was assigned to the Sikorsky Factory in Bridgeport, CT, prepare a weekly report for the Bureau outlining the progress made on various model helicopters, estimates of completion, trial and delivery dates; and in addition, such other technical information determined from time to time which had or may have a bearing on present or future operations of this type aircraft.
[Some excerpts from “1943: Coast Guard Assigned the Sea-going Development of the Helicopter” on the Coast Guard Aviation History website] This arrangement came about because U.S. Navy CDR Charles Booth, the naval aviator in the initial helicopter training class at Sikorsky, was involved in moving the Navy’s flight test facility from NAS Anacostia to the Naval Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland and as a result had not followed through on his qualification. Erickson thus remained the only naval aviator qualified in the helicopter. Hence, in the summer of 1943 Erickson had taken charge of the Navy’s helicopter development program.
Erickson submitted his first report on 18 September. It noted that the YR-4s for the joint evaluation program were on schedule. The two British helicopters had been completed but had not yet been delivered because of rotor problems. He further stated the problems were being addressed. On 25 September a YR-4A was released to the British. On October 16, 1943 – the U.S. Navy accepted its first helicopter, a Sikorsky YR-4B, Navy designation XHNS-1, BuNo 46445, at Bridgeport, Connecticut. However, and this is rich, Coast Guard LCDR Frank Erickson, CGA ’31 flew the one-hour acceptance test flight because the Navy had no helicopter pilots. I will admit – they were pretty busy fighting WWII and winning.
Regardless, the Navy celebrates 16 October as the Birthday of Navy Helicopter Aviation^^^. CDR Charles T. Booth, USN, went to Bridgeport to qualify as a helicopter pilot and to fly the XHNS-1 to the Naval Air Test Center (NATC), NAS Patuxent River, MD. CDR Booth was the first U.S. Navy Officer to become qualified to fly helicopters.
With the acceptance of two additional helicopters at the end of October 1943, the Sikorsky facilities became very crowded. Erickson sought to transfer all operation to Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn at Floyd Bennett Field. The Chief of Naval Operations approved and designated the Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn as the Helicopter Training and Development Base. On 20 November, LCDR John Miller, USN and LTJG Stewart Graham, USCG completed flight training. Graham received Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot Designation Number Two.
[NOTE: the Coast Guard celebrates this anniversary on 15 June 1943 when LCDR Erickson was designated Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot #1 at the Sikorsky Aircraft plant]

USCGC Stone off Guyana, Plus a Drug Interdiction

Some photographs from USCGC Stone’s deployment to the Atlantic Coast of South America. Keep in mind, this is really a shakedown cruise. She still has not been commissioned.

Guyana coast guard small boats patrol alongside the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) off Guyana’s coast on Jan. 9, 2021. The U.S. and Guyana governments enacted a bilateral agreement on Sep. 18, 2020, to cooperatively combat illegal marine activity in Guyana’s waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason McCarthey, operations officer of the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758), bumps elbows, as a COVID mitigation, with a member of the Guyana coast guard off the coast of Guyana on Jan. 9, 2021, to celebrate the joint exercise. The U.S. Coast Guard and Guyana coast guard completed their first cooperative exercise in training to combat illicit marine traffic since the enactment of a bilateral agreement between the two on Sep. 18, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j. g. John Cardinal supervises Petty Officer 1st Class Pamala Jensen as she coordinates helicopter operations from the aviation tower of the USCGC Stone (WSML 758) in the Caribbean Sea on Jan. 7, 2021. Since the Stone began its first patrol on Dec 22, 2020, many of its crew trained in their new positions for the first time to become fully qualified. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard small boats from the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) and small boats from the Guyana coast guard patrol off the coast of Guyana on Jan. 9, 2021.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

Along the way, Stone managed to conduct a drug interdiction operation as well. LANT Area news release below:

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Office: (757) 398-6521
After Hours: uscglantarea@gmail.com
Atlantic Area online newsroom

On maiden voyage, USCGC Stone crew interdict narcotics in Caribbean

Stone launches small boat Stone stops suspect vessel

Editor’s Note: to view larger or download high-resolution images, click on the item above. 

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — While in transit to conduct joint operations off the coast of Guyana as part of Operation Southern Cross, USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) encountered and interdicted a suspected narcotic trafficking vessel south of the Dominican Republic Thursday.  
 
Having stopped the illicit activity, Stone handed off the case to the USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC 1110), a fast response cutter from Key West, Florida, and continued their patrol south. 
 
Early Thursday, acting on information from a maritime patrol aircraft, the Stone crew approached the vessel of interest and exercised U.S. Coast Guard authorities to stop their transit and interdict illicit maritime trade. 
 
The USCGC Raymond Evans arrived on the scene shortly after. A Coast Guard boarding team from the Raymond Evans conducted a law enforcement boarding, testing packages found aboard the vessel, revealing bales of cocaine estimated at 2,148.5 lbs (970 kgs) total.

Stone’s crew remained on scene during the search of the vessel to assist if need. Following the boarding, the Raymond Evans crew took possession of the contraband and detained the four suspected narcotics trafficking vessel members. They are working with the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District and Department of Justice on the next steps. 
 
Quotes 
“USCGC Stone is a highly-capable multipurpose platform and ready to conduct missions to save lives, support lawful activities on the high seas, and highlight and build Coast Guard partnerships with other nations.  I am not surprised that Stone interdicted drug smugglers – it is what the Captain, crew, and every U.S. Coast Guard member is prepared to do every day underway.  Stone’s crew is exhibiting the highest professional competence, reinforcing that Stone is well-suited to help our partners in the South Atlantic expose and address illicit activities in the maritime domain. These transnational criminal activities – be it illegal fishing or the trafficking of people, drugs, money, etc.  – challenge global security, and only together can we combat these threats.”
– Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
 
 “I’m very proud of the crew for completing this evolution safely and making an immediate impact on our first patrol. This case illustrates that Stone is a competent partner, and our crew is ready for the front-lines. We look forward to our upcoming engagements, first with Guyana.”
– Capt. Adam Morrison, commanding officer of USCGC Stone (WMSL 758)

“Our teammates aboard USCGC Stone are helping keep our shared neighborhood – the Western Hemisphere- safe, successfully stopping illicit narcotics smuggling, while continuing their equally important mission to counter predatory and irresponsible IUU fishing, a growing threat to our partner nations’ sovereignty and our collective regional security.”

- Rear Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson, director of operations, U.S. Southern Command

 Quick Facts
 Mission
– Operation Southern Cross is a multi-month deployment to the South Atlantic countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.

– Stone’s patrol demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the established rules-based order while addressing illegal activity wherever a U.S. Coast Guard cutter is deployed.”

– Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing is a pervasive, far-reaching security threat. One in five fish caught worldwide likely originate from IUU fishing. 
 
 – Healthy fish stocks underpin the food security of coastal communities, maritime regions, and entire nation-states. 
 
 – The U.S. Coast Guard has been the lead agency in the United States for at-sea enforcement of living marine resource laws for more than 150 years. 

– The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to combat IUU fishing and uphold the rule of law at sea. The Service is keen to share knowledge and partner with like-minded nations. 
 
 – The U.S. Coast Guard is recognized worldwide for our ability to perform diverse maritime missions over vast geographic areas. The U.S. Coast Guard’s value to the Nation resides in its enduring commitment to protect those on the sea, protect the United States from threats delivered by the sea, and protect the sea itself.

– As a military, law enforcement, regulatory, and humanitarian service, the U.S. Coast Guard relies upon various authorities and partnerships to enhance our capability and capacity throughout the maritime domain.
  
– Patrols like Stone’s support U.S. initiatives to strengthen and fortify effective governance and cooperation with our partner nations to address destabilizing influences – illegal narcotics and fishing that are high on that list. 
 
 USCGC Stone
 – The ship, one of the Legend-class, is named for the U.S. Coast Guard’s first aviator, Cmdr. Elmer “Archie” Fowler Stone.
 
 – Stone is the ninth National Security Cutter. They are a multi-mission platform — 418 feet (127 meters) long with a 54-foot beam and displace 4,500 tons with a full load. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days, and a crew of around 120.

“This Is The Elite Unit That Raided The Tanker Threatened By Stowaways Off The UK Coast” –The Drive

LLOYD’S LIST INTELLIGENCE DATA CONFIRMS THAT THE VESSEL LEFT LAGOS ON OCTOBER 6, WHERE THE STOWAWAYS ARE THOUGHT TO HAVE BOARDED.

The Drive reports on the recapture of the 42,000-gross-tonnage Liberian-registered tanker Nave Andromeda.

While this incident did not involve terrorists that might have had weapons capable of bringing down a helicopter, in this and a previous incident the Royal Navy’s Special Boat Service used not one, but four helicopters to land a team on the ship. Apparently the team, probably consisting of 16 members, was transported on two Merlin helicopters while Wildcat helicopters provided over-watch.

Merlin MK3 Helicopters ( 846 Naval Air Sqdn) Commando Helicopter Force (pics)

“White House Recognizes Superior Drug Interdiction Efforts” –Nov. 1, 2018, Office of National Drug Control Policy

NSC 5 James on builders trials in the Gulf of Mexico March 30, 2015.

Two Coast Guard units were recently recognized by the Office of National Drug Control Policy for exceptional performance

  • US Coast Guard Cutter James (WMSL 754) is receiving the award in the Detection & Monitoring category for their unprecedented 11 days of tactical control while JIATF South was shutdown for Hurricane IRMA.
  • S. Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Aviation Detachment 17-22 is recognized for their Maritime Interdiction & Apprehension successes during a 79-day shipboard deployment.

That USCGC James could take over tactical control of Join Interagency Task Force South for eleven days is truly remarkable.

 

“Marines Fuel Coast Guard Mission”–Military.com

“U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Robert Parkes, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 774 V-22 crew chief, poses in front of a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City HH-65 Dolphin on Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., June 14, 2018. The Marines conducted a forward air-refueling point for the first time – refueling an HH-65 with a VMM-774 V-22 Osprey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ariel Owings)”

Military.com has a report of an exercise in which a Marine V-22 refueled a CG H-65 on the ground.

My first reaction, is that this is a good exercise for the Marines, but I had a hard time imagining how the Coast Guard might use this capability. There were times when we had to call on the Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service to fly very long missions out to sea because Coast Guard helicopters did not have an aerial refueling capability, but this would not help us in those cases. On the other hand this might be useful in the Arctic where fuel stops can be few and far between. There aren’t many Marine assets in Alaska, but the Air Force might have a similar capability.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Video–“Coast Guard Readiness: How Far Can We Stretch Our Nation’s Only Multi-Mission, Military Force?”

Above is the video of the Senate Subcommittee hearing for which I provided the Commandant’s prepared remarks earlier.

Participating Senators I noted were:

  • Dan Sullivan, Sub-Committee chair (R, Alaska)(Lt.Col., US Marine Corps Reserve)
  • Gary Peters, ranking member (D, Michigan)(LCdr. US Navy Reserve, Supply Corps)
  • Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Commerce Committee (D, Florida)(Capt. US Army Reserve)(NASA Scuttle payload specialist)
  • Roger Wicker, Chairman of the Seapower sub-committee (R, Mississippi)(Lt.Col. ret. USAF reserve)
  • Richard Blumenthal (D, Connecticut) (USMC Reserve 1970 to 1976 discharges as Sargent)
  • Brian Schatz (D, Hawaii)
  • Ed Markey (D, Mass.) (Spec4, US Army Reserve, 1968-73)
  • Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma) (Spec4, US Army, 1956-1958)
  • Maria Cantwell (D, Washington)

You can also check out the original post from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (Same video is available there, but the meeting does not actually start on that version of the video until minute 36.) There you can also find the written statements of the other three witness who constituted the second panel. The Commandant was the sole witness on the first panel.

This was something of a love fest for the Coast Guard with repeated praise for the people and actions of the Coast Guard.

This hearing was reputedly about how the Coast Guard had been impacted by the unusually severe Hurricane season. There is not a lot new here but there were some interesting remarks.

Polar Icebreaker Contracts

The intention is to Contract for the first Icebreaker and then employ block buy for the next two (28m). To me this seems to negate most of the advantage of a block buy. I don’t believe we will or should buy one and then wait until we have tried it out before contracting for the next two. That would necessitate a delay of at least five years during which we would still have the nightmare scenario of our only heavy icebreaker having no rescue if it should break down in the ice–certainly not an impossibility even with a new ship. If we are going to contract for the remaining two before testing the first, we might as well block buy all three.

First of class is always the most expensive. If the shipyard gets a block buy they know that initial improvements in productivity can be amortized over the entire block buy quantity. In some cases, in order to win the whole project, the shipyard will cut the price of the first ship substantially knowing they will make a profit over the entire project.

If we buy one and then block buy the second and third, we have paid for improvements to the winning yard with the first contract and minimized the chances for a competitive bid for numbers two and three.

Legislation has capped DOD participation in icebreaker procurement, so the bulk of icebreaker procurement costs will come out of the Coast Guard budget.

Authorization

There was a lot of discussion about the need to have the Coast Guard Authorization Bill signed into law, still not approved. You can see it here.

Other topics

There was a discussion of the high cost of the Coast Guard response to the recent series of Hurricanes.

Representative Sullivan spent a lot of time, discussing and advocating for an eleven mile road from King Cove  (population estimate–989) to Cold Bay, Alaska (population estimate–122) which has an all-weather airport with two runways, one 10,180 feet and one 6285 feet in length. The Coast Guard connection is that the road would minimize or eliminate the necessity for the Coast Guard to Medivac emergencies from King Cove by helicopter, which is frequently hazardous. It is a Federal issue, because the road would run through a Federal reserve. The Commandant fully supported the desirability of completing the proposed single lane gravel road as a means of minimizing the requirement for helicopter medivac.

Video Breakdown

28m Domestic icebreakers–Design work on new domestic icebreakers is expected to start in 2030. That sounds a bit late to me. Mackinaw was commissioned in 2006 so if that is what he is really talking about, that makes sense, but the 140 foot icebreaking tugs are a different story. The first for of these will be 51 years old in 2030. More than  half of them have already completed in-service which was expected to add 15 years to their service life. Morro Bay, at least, is expected to reach the end of her service life in 2030, and considering how long it takes us to build a ship we really need to start the process not later than 2025.

45m Western Pacific Fisheries Protection–They have not seen much risk of Illegal, Unregulated, or Unreported fishing. 

51m Inland River Tenders

56m We may need to replace the 52 ft MLBs with something larger than the 47 foot MLB sometime in the future, but their end of life is not yet apparent

58m Coast Guard Museum in New London

60m Sexual Assault in the CG

1h02m Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands continuing commitment and its effects on drug seizures and alien migrant interdiction.

1h05m Vessel homeporting

1h08 CG center of expertise, particularly in regard to clean up spills in ice and fresh water

1h16m Army Corp of Engineers dredging backlog.

1h17m  Second Panel begins.

1h19m Medivac from King Cove

1h31m Mr Smithson regarding Deepwater Horizon experience, unified approach, investment in mitigation.

 

Ship’s Motion Prediction

MarineLink reports that General Dynamics Applied Physical Sciences (GD-APS) has developed a capability to predict ship’s motion for the navy.

“…These continuously updating ship motion predictions can then be used to inform the timing of ship operations. Although maximum forecast time varies with sea condition and vessel speed, the FutureWaves system has been demonstrated to provide accurate, phase-resolved wave and ship motion forecasts to several minutes into the future.”

“The system also produces a directional power spectrum of the ocean waves, a map of where the wave energy is coming from and at what wave period. This wave spectrum data is fed to the ship motion model to produce a plot of the statistical representation of the ship motions as a function of ship heading and speed, allowing selection of ship orientation to minimize particular modes of motion. This planning tool is continuously updated from the radar-calculated directional power spectrum, and can also be fed wave spectrum forecast products to inform longer term planning.”

This could be useful to the Coast Guard in conducting boat and helicopter operations.

This system should also be capable of providing warning of rogue waves allowing the ship to turn so as to minimize the effect and alert the crew to prepare for it.