Norway Buying New SAR Helos

Always nice to know what the other guy is doing. DefenseUpdate is reporting the Norwegians are planning on replacing their current SAR helicopters with a fleet of at least 16 three engine Agusta Westland AW101s. Contract includes an option for an additional six.

Perhaps it is noteworthy that they are still using a version of the HH-3 which the USCG replaced two decades ago. With H-3s still in use by Norway, the UK, and Canada, perhaps we are not doing so badly.

The specs are impressive:

“As a medium/heavy multi-role platform AW101 has a large cabin that can carry 30+ survivors, SAR equipment and crew, and the cabin can be reconfigured in flight to meet mission requirements. crashworthy seats or 16 stretcher patients. The helicopter is powered by three GE CT7-8E engines, but can also cruise with one engine idling, to extend range or endurance of 750 nm (over 1300 km). High cruise speed, all weather operating capability, high reliability and safety are among its main advantages. The company also offers a special variant for Combat Search and Rescue missions, for which the AW101 can be equipped with up to 3 window and door mounted guns, Defensive Aids Suite and air-to-air refueling equipment.”

The AW101 is a very large, fast, long ranged helicopter. It is also in service with the Canadians in a SAR role. It has experienced a number of problems, that now appear to have been resolved. Below are characteristic of the AW101 in its Canadian CH-149 form followed by those of the Coast Guard’s MH-60 taken from their Wiki descriptions.

CH-149 General characteristics

  • Crew: 5 (Aircraft Commander, First Officer, Flight Engineer, 2 SAR Techs)
  • Capacity:
    • 30 seated troops or
    • 45 standing troops or
    • 16 stretchers with medics
  • Length: 22.81 m (74 ft 10 in)
  • Height: 6.65 m (21 ft 10 in)
  • Empty weight: 10,500 kg (23,149 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 14,580 kg (32,143 lb)
  • Powerplant: 3 × General Electric T700-T6A1 turboshaft, 1,286 kW (1,725 hp) each
  • Main rotor diameter: 18.59 m (61 ft 0 in)


  • Never exceed speed: 309 km/h (192 mph; 167 kn)
  • Range: 1,389 km (863 mi; 750 nmi)
  • Service ceiling: 4,575 m (15,010 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 10.2 m/s (2,010 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 53.8 kg/m2 (11.0 lb/sq ft)
  • Power/mass: 0.2849 kW/kg (0.174 shp/lb)

HH-60J General characteristics

  • Crew: Four (pilot, co-pilot, two flight crew)
  • Length: 64 ft 10 in (19.76 m)
  • Rotor diameter: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
  • Height: 17 ft (5.18 m)
  • Empty weight: 14,500 lb (6,580 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 21,884 lb (9,926 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric T700-GE-401C gas turbines, 1,890 shp (1,410 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 180 knots (205 mph, 333 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 140 knots (160 mph, 260 km/h)
  • Range: 700 nautical miles (802 mi, 1,300 km)
  • Service ceiling: 5,000 ft hovering (1,520 m)

Note this is for the HH-60, not the characteristics as modified to MH-60J and that the criteria for service ceiling are different.

Program Updates from a GAO Report

September 26, Fiercehomelandsecurity posted a story (“GAO: Not eliminating two National Security Cutters will cause ‘difficult choices'”) on a recent GAO report, “COAST GUARD, Portfolio Management Approach Needed to Improve Major Acquisition Outcomes” (download the report, GAO-12-918 (.pdf)).

I’m going to look at other aspects of the report later, but there were a number of items addressed in the report that readers may not be aware of. This is not an exhaustive list, the report contains even more, but I thought these most interesting. We may have touched on some of  these changes already, but here goes.


“DHS stated that future breaches in Coast Guard programs would almost be inevitable as funding resources diminish.” (p.17)

Maritime Domain Awareness/C4ISR:

Nationwide Automatic Identification System–Indefinitely deferring plan for continuous nationwide coverage. (p14)

Common Operating picture:

“The Coast Guard planned to buy an integrated C4ISR system for each asset to enable greater awareness. As we reported in July 2011, the Coast Guard has spent over $600 million purchasing a C4ISR system that is difficult to maintain and does not yet achieve the system-of systems capability and the Coast Guard’s helicopters are no longer going to be a part of this system” (p.26)

–Neither the OPC or the FRC are expected to be able to exchange near real time “battle data” (tactical data link?) with DOD assets. (p.25)

–Why don’t we use LINK 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals on all these platforms?

Fast Response Cutter:

“…the Coast Guard has attributed the more than $1 billion rise in the Fast Response Cutter’s cost to a reflection of actual contract cost from the September 2008 contract award and costs for shore facilities and initial spare parts not included in the original baseline.”


Coast Guard’s Aviation Logistics Center told us they recently identified that the end of service life for the HH-60s and HH-65s could be reached as early as the 2022 time frame—not the 2027 time frame as originally planned. Officials added that this will require the Coast Guard to either buy new HH-60s and HH-65s or conduct a service life extension—previous service life extensions have been funded with acquisition dollars.(p16)

H-65 program: dropping both a helicopter handling, traversing, and securing system and a surface search radar. (p.13)

H-60 Program: deferring indefinitely upgrades to include a surface search radar and C4ISR due to budget constraints. (p.13)

A revise baseline program for C-130s has been forwarded DHS that recommends 11 H models and 11 J models (p.40) (I think this is an increase in the expected number of “J” models.)

Sanity Prevails:

The Coast Guard has dropped its plans to deliver boarding parties on potentially hostile ships by helicopter (p.27)

A Small Bit of Surprisingly Good News:

The National Security Cutter can do 32 knots (“speed is based on the results of an operational assessment” p. 32), making it almost certainly the fastest major cutter ever.

H-60s on National Security Cutters


As I suggested in the recent review of news from the Acquisition Directorate (CG-9),  I did ask Master Chief Brett Ayer (MCPO for CG-9), “Why is the Coast Guard using a different helo haul down and traversing system from Navy?"(RAST) I thought perhaps he would answer in the newsletter, but instead he answered me directly:

"If you are talking about the ASIST system, it was installed on the first few NSCs under Deepwater. As you know Deepwater was a performance type contract with ICGS. We provided our performance requirements and it was up to them to figure out the best way to meet them.

"My understanding is that we did not specifically spec ASIST. The Coast Guard had a requirement for recovering helicopters and ASIST is what ICGS provided (it met requirements).

"As you know Deepwater is not longer a program, and we are now managing our own acquisitions (although a few Deepwater contracts are still in effect for a little while longer).

"Since the original Deepwater requirements were put together, a few things have changed, one of which is that the Coast Guard had decided that we will not deploy H60s on our cutters. This changes the helicopter handling requirements and somewhat negates the need for the ASIST (or similar) systems. I do not believe the MH65 (as configured) is compatible with either ASIST or RAST.

"Our needs for shipboard handing of helicopters in currently under review, and I have no doubt that we will look at the Navy and their systems as a possible option"

In response to his e-mail I mentioned the discussion in the comments section of an earlier post regarding the possibility of  H-60s could operate from the National Security Cutters. this was his response:

"I think the confusion has to do with the decision not to deploy H-60s on cutters. The NSC were initially designed to deploy HH-60s equipped with the ASIST system.

"However as I stated, the Coast Guard made the decision that the MH-65 would be the primary cutter deployed helicopter not the HH-60. Because of this the Coast Guard never outfitted our HH-60s with the ASIST hardware, they also removed the blade folding equipment from the HH-60s and added other external equipment that makes them incompatible with cutter deployment.

"So in short the HH-60 can operate off the NCSs, but it cannot use the ASIST system and there is no way to fold the blades. This is not a limitation of the NSC, but of the helicopter configuration and policy.

"I cannot answer the question about the Navy HH-60s, but I will ask someone who should have the answer"

I hope the decision not to use the CG MH-60 as a ship board helo does not mean the previous plan to provide accommodations for H-60s on Offshore Patrol Cutter will not be scaled back to accommodate only the H-65. The ability to operate and service H-60s is a potentially important military capability and also will allow the Coast Guard more options when it ultimately replaces the H-65.