Coast Guard Helicopters
By 1941 the Coast Guard was very interested in developing the helicopter for search and rescue. LCDR William Kossler had represented the Coast Guard on an inter-agency board formed in 1938 for the evaluation of experimental aircraft, including the helicopter. However, World War II interrupted these plans. The Coast Guard, incorporated into the Navy on 1 November 1941, was tasked in early 1943 with developing the helicopter for antisubmarine warfare. Sikorsky HNS-1 and HOS-1 helicopters were ordered and pilot training began at Brooklyn Air Station. Coast Guard personnel trained British pilots who undertook a joint British-American helicopter trial on board the merchant ship Daghestan. In fact, during the war all Allied helicopter pilots were trained by the Coast Guard at Brooklyn Air Station. The Daghestan, fitted with a landing deck and carrying two HNS-1 helicopters, crossed the Atlantic in convoy in November 1943.
Additional helicopter evaluation tests were carried out on the cutter Cobb [left]. This old coastal passenger ship had been converted into the world's first helicopter carrier. On 29 June 1944 CDR Frank Erickson [below, right] made the first landing on its deck in Long Island Sound. As the war progressed and the U-boat threat moved deeper into the North Atlantic and then abated, the service re-oriented its helicopter research from antisubmarine warfare to search and rescue.
The versatility of the helicopter was demonstrated during a series of floods which occurred in the United States during the 1950s. To carry out this kind of rescue work, the helicopter had to hover among trees, telephone poles, television antennas and the like. In 1955 Coast Guard helicopters rescued more than 300 people as rivers overflowed in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In December of that year the Coast Guard on-scene commander directed the rescue of thousands in California. Included among the 21 rescue aircraft were Coast Guard helicopters.
In December 1952, the color schemes became basically aluminum with chrome yellow trim for high visibility. Helicopters were painted an over-all yellow color scheme, with varicolored tips on rotating aerodynamic surfaces. This was to enhance visibility to personnel working around helicopters on the ground, and helped track the main rotor blades. These schemes may be seen in illustrations of the HO3S-1G helicopter. In 1958, Coast Guard aeronautical engineers began experimenting with a new easy-visibility paint scheme. Cornell University assisted in the research and suggestions were obtained from other interested observers. The idea was to paint aircraft conspicuously as a preventative to mid-air collisions, which was the concern of the whole aviation industry, military services, and a jittery public. The most promising scheme was a fluorescent blaze orange outlined in black appearing on the nose of the plane, in a band around the fuselage behind the wings, and on the tail, on a basic field of solar heat reflecting white paint.
Aviators were among the 7,000 Coast Guard personnel who served in Vietnam. In April 1968 three Coast Guard helicopter pilots were assigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Da Nang, Vietnam. Pilots were assigned there until November 1972 while their Air Force counterparts were assigned to stateside Coast Guard air stations.
In October 1980, the Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican, the service's medium range helicopter, was the primary rescue vehicle when hundreds of individuals, mostly senior-citizens, were plucked from bobbing lifeboats some 200 miles out in the Gulf of Alaska. This followed a fire on board the cruise ship Prinsendam and was one of the most successful maritime rescues in history. The Pelican, the last amphibian helicopter in the Coast Guard's inventory, was retired from service in 1994.
The HH-65 helicopters served as the Coast Guard's primary search and rescue aircraft and these twin engine Dolphins can operate up to 150 miles off shore and can fly comfortably at 150 knots for three hours. The HH-65 Dolphin served as the service's medium range helicopter.
Guard began leasing MH-68 Mako helicopters [left] to outfit a new squadron, HITRON-10, formed to augment the service's capabilities in the continuing fight against narcotics smuggling. The squadron was developed specifically to combat the drug-smugglers' use of what are called "go-fast" boats. These MH-68s carry an armed Coast Guardsman who, if needed, could use his .50 caliber sniper rifle to disable a "go-fast" boat that refused a demand to stop and be boarded. This is not the first time Coast Guard aircraft were armed during peacetime; Loening OL-5s carried .30 caliber Lewis guns during the service's earlier fight to enforce Prohibition.
In the early 1990s the Congress of the United States directed the U.S. Coast Guard to determine the potential offered by tiltrotor aircraft technology, more specifically the V-22, for three Coast Guard functions; Search and Rescue (SAR), Law Enforcement/Maritime Interdiction (LE/MI), and Marine Environmental Protection (MEP). A 1993 study by Veda examined potential employment scenarios of the V-22 in the identified mission components, measures the operational effectiveness of the V-22, and determines the manpower and operating costs associated with those employments. The effectiveness and costs of the V-22 were compared with the effectiveness and costs of the four aircraft models which the USCG expected to employ in 1998. These four aircraft are the HH-6OJ, the HH-65A, the HC-13OH, and the HU-25A/B/C and represent the baseline aircraft alternatives for this analysis.
In general, the V-22 offered some distinct advantages over the baseline helicopter fleet due to its ability to cruise at fixed-wing airspeeds, to operate at greater distances and to transport more cargo/personnel than either the HH-65 or the HH-60. In addition, the fixed-wing capabilities of the V-22 were, for the most part, equal to or slightly better than the HU-25. The greater speed of the HU-25 was generally offset by the greater operational radius and the mission flexibility provided by the dual role (helicopter and fixed-wing) capacity of the V-22. These advantages become marginal, however, when examined in the context of the historical USCG employment of aircraft in SAR, LE/MI, and MEP. The study also indicated that tiltrotor technology would substantially increase USCG operating costs over current aircraft while having a negligible effect on manpower costs of the baseline fleet.
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