The HC-130 Hercules is a long-range surveillance and transport, fixed-wing aircraft that is used to perform search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties including illegal drug interdiction, marine environmental protection, military readiness, and International Ice Patrol missions, as well as cargo and personnel transport.
Sixteen new HC-130H turboprop aircraft joined the Coast Guard fleet to replace to ageing HC-130B, E, and early H models. As a long range surveillance and transport aircraft, the new Hercules features more effectively serve the Coast Guard missions of search and rescue, enforcement of law and treaties including illegal drug interdiction, military readiness, marine environmental protection, and International Ice Patrol over the North Atlantic, as well as cargo and personnel transport.
The HC-130H can exceed 2,600 nautical miles in low-altitude flight with mission endurance up to 14 hours. GPS, Inertial Navigation System, and radar are guidance aids that enhance the HC-130s effectiveness during long range maritime patrols. The aircraft are also equipped with scanner windows and a ten tube flare launch system.
The responsibilities of Coast Guard fixed wing aviation increased following World War II. In 1946, Coast Guard aircraft were used for the first time on the International Ice Patrol, a practice that continues today. The primary objective of these Ice Patrol flights is to observe ice floating in the vicinity of the Grand Banks, so that shipping in that well-travelled area can be advised of current conditions throughout the iceberg season. Ice Patrol flight tracks are normally between 1,000 and 1,500 nautical miles long (from six to eight hours' flight time). Since 1983 the flights have used HC-130 aircraft carrying Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) equipment as the primary reconnaissance tool. At the normal altitude of 8,000 feet, the SLAR can cover a swath extending 35 miles on each side of the aircraft.
The Coast Guard current operates a fleet of about 30 early 1970s and 1980s-vintage HC-130H aircraft based at five air stations -- Elizabeth City, N.C.; Clearwater, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Barber's Point, Hawaii; and Kodiak, Alaska.
Once the Coast Guard's most reliable aircraft, the HC-130s are now in a state of serious decline in readiness and availability. Over the past four years, HC-130 availability has dropped from almost 80 percent to barely 60 percent. These problems are directly attributable to aging aircraft, reduced maintenance budgets, an increased ops tempo, and fewer experienced maintenance crews. The result is lost law enforcement and training flights, premature termination of law enforcement deployments because of maintenance problems, and HC-130 crews limited to visual searches because radars do not work.
In a move to modernize the venerable HC-130H, the aircraft is being outfitted with the latest state-of-the-art sensor, communication and computer systems. The Sensor Upgrade design and development leverages the newest technologies available on the commercial market. This new tool in the Coast Guard inventory allows the service to be much more capable of Detecting, Classifying, Evaluating and Identifying target vessels at covert stand-off distances.
The contract for the Sensor Upgrade was awarded to Wescam Inc. of Flamborough, Ontario, Canada. Wescam is the prime-contractor for the upgrade effort and will also provide the FLIR/EO sensor to the Coast Guard. The sub-contractors for the upgrade consist of Boeing of Shreveport LA. providing the work on the aircraft structure and Raytheon Systems Company of San Jose, CA. integrating the computers and communications equipment into the PROS pallet.
The initial Phase I award of contract consisted of $15.6M dollars for seven Sensor Systems and modifications to seven aircraft. Phase II funding of $14.8M was awarded after first article testing and provided for an additional seven Sensor Systems to be procured and modifications to the remaining 23 airframes. Delivery of the first article was in June 1999, with delivery of all remaining six Phase I systems by mid April 2000. The remaining systems and aircraft were all delivered by September 2001.
The aircraft can stay on track and at a higher altitude because the FLIR/EO sensor allows the ATW operator to Classify, Evaluate and Identify target vessels at covert, standoff distances. The other extremely important fact is that the system now allows the operator to Identify target vessels not only during the day but also at night, making the HC-130H Sensor Upgrade equipped aircraft an extremely formidable adversary to any skipper who thinks they are above the law.
When all the tactical plots of target vessels and their associated SABR reports are filled out by the ATW operator, he can transmit them directly to an operational commander on a cutter, on the ground and if needed, even to another Sensor Upgrade equipped HC-130H aircraft in the air at the press of a button. This capability in itself provides savings in man-power in that it gets rid of the requirement of having a radioman on the aircraft try to talk over HF/UHF to another operator on a cutter or the ground. They will simply let the system do all the coordinating and transmission of the critical tactical data to and from the aircraft. Gone are the days of radiomen on both ends of the comms path listening to HF static for hours on end waiting for tactical data to arrive.
The Coast Guard is procuring the Sensor Upgrade to provide improved collection, filtering and dissemination of critical tactical data to Operational Commanders in the ever evolving Law Enforcement, Defense Operations and Search And Rescue environments. The Sensor Upgrade includes Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS)/Non-Developmental-Item (NDI) equipment.
The Wescam 20TS Forward-Looking-InfraRed (FLIR)/Electro-Optical (EO) turret is the heart and soul of the system and contains a third generation 3 to 5 micron INSB step zoom FLIR, a 2.3 to 39 degree FOV continuous zoom color EO imaging sensor and a .12 to .61 step zoom EO monochrome Low Light imaging sensor. All this and more is packed into a 185 lbs. 20 inch turret that will be mounted in the nose radome of the HC-130H aircraft, thereby providing the operator with an unobstructed 360 degree field of view. All sensor data will be recorded onto dual S-VHS recorders, which will allow the operator to replay previously recorded imagery. Of the three sensors the Low Light EO monochrome step zoom sensor is the real technological breakthrough as it, along with special software, will allow an operator to extract names and numbers of target vessels at night at standoff distances. Imagery from the three sensors can be displayed on one of three different monochrome displays.
The Communications system incorporate into the HC-130H a Mil-SATCOM, DAMA compatible comms receiver/transmitter with an imbedded cryptographic processor. The contractor has chosen the Motorola LST-5D system to meet the ever demanding communications requirements of the Coast Guard. The system will also provide the capability of communicating voice and data over existing comms paths including UHF-Line Of Sight (LOS)/KY-58, HF/ANDVT.
Tactical Data includes target vessel track files as well as Sighting-And-Boarding-Report (SABR) information, all which can be displayed on an Operations Center or cutter's GCCS-M computer display after being datalinked to other users. The datalink paths for tactical data will be the Officer in Tactical Command Information eXchange Sub-system or better known as the OTCIXS network, UHF-LOS/KY-58, HF/ANDVT and the standard Mil-SATCOM channels available to the Coast Guard. The picture below graphically depicts the architecture of the communications system.
Imagery includes frame grabbed images from any of the three FLIR/EO sensors. These images can be frame grabbed, filtered, annotated and compressed using special software imbedded in the onboard computer and then transmitted to operations centers or CIC on cutters over either the Mil-SATCOM or the UHF-LOS/KY-58 systems.
The computer portion of the Sensor Upgrade system named the Airborne Tactical Work Station (ATW) includes a Ruggedized VME chassis with ten card slots allowing the system to accommodate numerous computer, interface, communications and frame-grabbing cards, while still leaving room for future expansion when required. The TWS computer system was developed by Raytheon for the U.S. Navy P-3 AIP program. The Coast Guard is leveraging this existing technology to meet its operational requirements, thereby reducing the overall cost and technical risk associated with the project. Softwares running on the computer system will include Windows-NT O/S, Navy OASIS software a Global-Command & Control-System-Maritime (GCCS-M) software, Law Enforcement Information System-II (LEIS-II) software and database, Phototelesis ICE imagery manipulation and communications softwares. The ATW computer operator will be capable of opening up to six different windows on a 19 inch color monitor that can display real-time tactical data on a GCCS-M type charts, sensor imagery, frame-grabbed images and LEIS-II and SABR data.
Much of the Sensor Upgrade system components resides in a ruggedized cabinet bolted to what is aptly called a Palletized Radar Operators Station (PROS) Pallet. This pallet is ten feet by ten feet and is able to be rolled on and off the HC-130H aircraft in less than 15 minutes. The Sensor Upgrade system controls,Mil-SATCOM Receiver/Transmitter, computer, monitor, power UPS, keyboard, trackball and dual S-VHS recorders. Residing on the PROS pallet alongside the Sensor Upgrade system is the extremely capable AN/APS-137 Surface Search Radar, which to date has been the heart and sole of the HC-130H detection capability. Although the Sensor Upgrade system will be a highly capable system, it will not generally be used to detect target vessels, but instead will provide the capability of Classifying (what type of vessel), Evaluating (is it fishing, dumping trash.) and Identifying (what is the vessel name and Doc. number). The APS-137 radar system on the other-hand will be used to first detect target vessels and then send an electronic signal to the FLI/EO turret telling it to rotate its sensors to look where the APS-137 is looking. Because this automation of target hand-off exists between the APS-137 and FLIR/EO sensor, operator tasking will be minimized.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|