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HH-60T Sea Hawk / "Jayhawk"
MH-60T Sea Hawk / "Jayhawk"
Medium Range Recovery (MRR) Helicopter

The HH-60T Sea Hawk, informally known as the "Jayhawk," is a medium range, multi-use, all weather Instructment Flight Rules (IFR) certified vehicle. The HH-60T is an upgraded HH-60J with Modified cockpit and avionics suite with weather search and Forward-looking Infrared Radar (FLIR). The upgrades to the basic HH-60J include new avionics, replacement of the weather radar with a surface search radar and outfits all aircraft with electrooptic/infrared sensors, the extention of aircraft service life to 2027, and the standardization of engines with other Department of Defense configurations.

The HH-60T also features a revamped cockpit with 5 multi-functional display screens (which disply sensor and hoist camera images), a full-screen radar display , improved primary flight instruments, and an Integrated Traffic Collision Avoidance System. The aircraft can also be fitted with the US Coast Guard's Airborne Use of Force (AUF) package, including an M240 machine gun and Robar RC-50 precision rifle (subsequently replaced with an M107 rifle) for firing warning and disabling shots, and armor to protect the aircrew from small arms fire. When fitted with the AUF package, the aircraft is designated as the MH-60T.

The HH-60Js, introduced in the mid-1990s, were equipped with avionics hardware that was becoming obsolete and increasingly unsupportable a decade later due to a lack of production components and discontinued manufacturing sources. Equipment software support for existing aircraft systems were no longer economical to maintain or available. Over the years, the HH-60J's avionics subsystems, auto-pilot, communications, navigation equipment, and flight instruments, were plagued by a rapid increase in equipment failure.

As a result, the United States Coast Guard planned to upgrade and modernize its existing Sikorsky HH-60J helicopter fleet to meet its expanded Homeland Defense responsibilities, according to the revised Deepwater Implementation Plan presented to Congress in April 2005. Deepwater outlined the USCG's long-range acquisition strategy across its entire inventory of cutters and aircraft to provide improved systems for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) and innovative logistics support.

An earlier version of Deepwater called for the purchase of a new and smaller aircraft to replace the HH-60J, as the Coast Guard's Medium Range Recovery (MRR) Helicopter. In light of the USCG's post 9-11 requirements, Deepwater passed on the new aircraft and called for upgrading the existing HH-60J helicopter. The new helicopter, designated HH-60T (and later MH-60T), would be fitted with a new state-of-the-art cockpit, new search /weather radar and Electro-Optics/IR units, upgraded engines and airframe, and an Airborne Use of Force Package to provide more firepower and protection from small arms fire.

The Coast Guard began converting its 42 in-service HH-60J aircraft to MH-60Ts in January 2007. Although the upgrade to the T model was designed to be a sustainment project, the updated hardware and software was to provide additional capabilities to the H-60 fleet. Equipped with improved avionics and Airborne Use of Force (AUF) capabilities, the converted H-60Ts woul improve medium-range response and recovery operations, including law enforcement, search and rescue, and cutter operations. The H-60T's enhanced avionics and communications systems would greatly improve its operational capabilities and reliability.

The upgrade was to proceed in 4 discrete segments. The upgrades were referred to as such because the aircraft's outward appearance would not change significantly, but the aircraft would become completely different on the inside.

Discrete Segment 1 of the conversion project included a common avionics architecture system (CAAS) in the cockpit, which provided fully integrated flight and mission management capabilities. Using 5 multi-function display screens, aircrews could display radar and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) data, monitor the traffic collision avoidance system and view imagery fed into the cockpit from the rescue hoist camera.

The H-60T aircraft had many of the same mission system components as the MH-65C Dolphin Multi-mission Cutter Helicopter, and its CAAS was similar to the cockpit avionics installed on the HC-144A Ocean Sentry Maritime Patrol Aircraft and the HC-130J Hercules Long Range Surveillance Aircraft. These common systems afforded improvements in aircraft logistics, training and maintenance.

The Airborne Use of Force (AUF) upgrade was also provided, which equiped the aircraft with a 7.62mm M240 machine gun for firing warning shots and a .50-caliber long-range rifle (initially this was a Robar RC-50 rifle, but was later replaced with the M107 rifle) for precise targeting, such as disabling the outboard engines on a noncompliant go-fast boat-has been completed on all aircraft under a separate project. The AUF package also provided ballistic armor for aircrew protection and upgraded communications sub-systems for better interoperability with other US Department of Homeland Security components.

Discrete Segment 2 included a fully integrated electro-optical/infrared sensor system (ESS) with a new Trakkabeam searchlight permanently mounted outside the pilot's door. The ESS also provided aircrews with enhanced capabilities to locate, identify and track surface targets day or night, which was a critical capability for both search and rescue and law enforcement missions. Enhanced radar and optical sensors also contributed to an improved common operating picture and increased maritime domain awareness. In order to provide a common system across the service's rotary wing fleet, a new ESS package was also being installed in the MH-65C. The ESS package also included flight plan checkpoints that give pilots more situational awareness, and, in a crosswind, allow pilots to see where the aircraft is supposed to go as opposed to where the aircraft's nose may be pointed.

Other upgrades that were part of Discrete Segment 2, but were still being implemented included the Helicopter Integrated Data Storage (HIDS), which stored information from the ESS system, and the Helicopter Airborne Video System (HAVS), which recorded audio and video from the ESS and the hoistmounted camera that covers the hoisting area.

Discrete Segment 3 would upgrade the helicopter's search radar sensor system and would involve developing and testing a prototype aircraft. Discrete Segment 4 would incorporate an advanced command-and-control suite. Segment 4 was also expected to include a Component Recapitalization and as of 2009 was planned to begin in FY13. The segment would enable the helicopters to connect with DoD's SIPRNET, as well as install other enhancements.

As of March 2009, the Coast Guard had completed 2 conversions of the planned 42. The prototype aircraft, tail No.6027, was at the Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, where the Coast Guard was developing a school for pilots of the converted HH-60T. While the upgraded aircraft looked superficially similar to the HH-60J, the Coast Guard estimated that there was an 80 percent pilot-to-machine interface change.

The Coast Guard would use the second converted aircraft, tail No.6017, for validation and verification testing of upgrades, including the avionics suite and the ESS. The testing process was a team effort, with the US Navy providing valuable support to the Coast Guard. For example, the Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland had helped conduct developmental test and evaluation. Also, the Navy's Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR) was to help conduct operational test and evaluation, scheduled for the first week in September 2009.




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