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HH-65 Dolphin / MH-65C

What is the difference between a "dauphin" and a "dolphin"? In the realm of rotary wing aircraft, the Dauphin 2 (designated SA 365 or SA 366) is a very reputable helicopter of French design, produced by or under license from the Aerospatiale Helicopter Division of Aerospatiale SNI. Its various models are used in search and rescue, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, and assault transport roles, and they fly in the service of at least three nations.

The Dolphin (US Coast Guard designation HH-65A) is a very similar appearing helicopter produced by the Aerospatiale Helicopter Corporation (USA) in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Dolphin was contracted for by the Coast Guard in compliance with the "Buy America Act." According to Jane's All the World's Aircraft, "engines and equipment of US manufacture account. . . for about 60 percent of the total cost of each aircraft."

The H-65 helicopter the Coast Guards most ubiquitous aircraft is certified for operation in all-weather and night-time operations, with the exception of icing conditions. The H-65 is the only Coast Guard aircraft used aboard certified cutters during deployments. FLIR, a heads-up display and other avionics upgrades are being installed aboard the H-65 for law-enforcement operations. H-65 crews have completed night-vision goggle implementation, greatly enhancing night-time search capabilities. There are 101 H-65s in the inventory. As part of the ongoing H-65 Conversion / Sustainment Project, all HH-65Bs have been upgraded to HH-65C configuration, equipped with Turbomecca Arriel 2C2 engines.

The United States Coast Guard added 96 short range HH-65A helicopters to its fleet to replace the HH-52A Sikorsky Sea Guard. The twin-engine Dolphins operate up to 150 miles off shore and will fly comfortably at 120 knots for three hours. The HH-65A is not able to perform water landings. Though normally stationed ashore, the HH-65A can land and take-off from 210-foot WMEC, 270-foot WMEC, and 378-foot WHEC Coast Guard Cutters. These cutters are capable of refueling and supporting the helicopter for the duration of a cutter patrol.

Though normally stationed ashore, the Dolphins can be carried on board medium and high endurance Coast Guard Cutters. They assist in the missions of search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, including drug interdiction, polar ice breaking, marine environmental protection including pollution control, and military readiness. Helicopters stationed aboard icebreakers are the ship's eyes to find thinner and more navigable ice channels. They also airlift supplies to ships and to villages isolated by winter.

The HH-65A minimum equipment requirements exceed anything previously packaged into one helicopter weighing in at less than 10,000 pounds. HH-65As are made of corrosion-resistant, composite-structure materials. The shrouded tail rotor is unique to the Dolphin. Also a unique feature of the Dolphin is its computerized flight management system which integrates state-of-the-art communications and navigation equipment. This system provides automatic flight control. At the pilot's direction, the system will bring the aircraft to a stable hover 50 feet above a selected object. This is an important safety feature in darkness or inclement weather. Selected search patterns can be flown automatically, freeing the pilot and copilot to concentrate on sighting the search object.

The Dolphin is manufactured by Aerospatiale Helicopter Corporation in Grand Praire, Texas. Textron Lycoming builds the LTS-101 750B-2 turboshaft engines in Williamport, Pennsylvania and Rockwell International, Collins Avionics Group manufactures the electronics system in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The Dolphin is a twin engine helicopter powered by, two Lycoming LTS-101-750B-2 each producing 742 shaft HP. The Dolphin is usually deployed from shore but it can be deployed from medium and high endurance Coast Guard Cutters, as well as the Polar Icebreakers. The Dolphin's main jobs are: search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties (including drug interdiction), polar ice breaking, marine environmental protection including pollution control, and military readiness.

When deployed from an icebreaker, the helicopter acts as the ship's eyes, searching out thinner and more navigable ice channels. They also have the job of airlifting supplies to villages isolated by winter, or transporting scientists to conduct remote research.

The minimum equipment requirements exceed anything previously put into one helicopter under 10,000 pounds. The material used to make the helicopter is corrosion-resistant, composite-structure materials. The shrouded tail rotor is also unique to the Dolphin. Another powerful tool that the Dolphin wields is its state-of-the-art communication and navigation equipment. This system provides automatic flight control. At the pilot's direction, the system will bring the aircraft to a stable hover 50 feet above a selected object.

The HH-65A planned service life would have ended in 2006. An SRR mission analysis began in 2000. IOC would follow in 2004, with the project complete in 2008. A Service Life Extension Program (SLEP), including updated avionics, increased payload, and increased power from the LTS-101 engines, was evaluated for the HH-65A. If implemented, the SLEP would extend Coast Guard HH-65 operations through 2015. Efforts are already underway to upgrade the HH-65A fleet by adding an NVG compatible cockpit, TCAS, GPS, an upgraded Environmental Control System utilizing R-134, a refrigerant, and an upgraded main gear box to increase payload.

The first proposed rotary-wing aircraft under the Integrated Deepwater System [IDS] Program is an upgraded version of the legacy short-range recovery helicopter, HH-65. Planned to be redesignated as the Multi-Mission Cutter Helicopter (MCH), the HH-65 would undergo a Service Life Extension Plan (SLEP) that will yield a like-new aircraft. The MCH will assist in the missions of search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, as well as maritime homeland security missions.

Additional Specifications and Characteristics:

  • The MCH will have increased communications, increased Common Operating Picture (COP) capability, and night/all-weather capability with radar and Electro-Optic/Infrared sensors.
  • The MCH will be capable of deployment from flight deck equipped cutters like the National Security Cutter (NSC) and the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), as well as existing legacy assets.
  • The MCH has a rapid response capability and is used to extend classification and identification ability of the cutter to which it is embarked.
  • The combined asset pairing of a Flight Deck Equipped Cutter with a deployed MCH will allow the Commanding Officer of the ship to utilize the air asset to investigate, classify, and identify a threat and then to vector the cutter to the target.
  • The MCH meets the requirements associated with cutters deploying on defense operations and peacetime military engagements, and may also be used to meet non-Deepwater aviation demand missions currently being conducted by existing HH-65s.
  • The MCH will increase the monitoring range for small boat operations.

Improvements (as proposed under the ICGS contract):

  • Low-cost, low-risk major airframe upgrades.
  • Avionics common with Recovery and Surveillance Aircraft (VRS); accommodates flexible payload.
  • Engine upgrades for mission performance.
  • N3+ Gear Box transmission.
  • Landing gear replacement.
  • Improved fenestron.
  • Extension of nose.
  • Additional fuel-carrying capabilities.
  • Maximum air speed of 175 knots.
  • Ability to deploy on most major cutters.

* Note: While information on near-term efforts is kept up to date, information on asserts that will be acquired in the far-term is considered notional. For far-term assets, the provided information reflects the proposed system solution at time of award, and changed over time.


Spurred by an unacceptably high incidence of in-flight engine power losses, the Coast Guard imposed operational flight restrictions on its 95 HH-65B helicopters to maintain safety. Early in 2004, it began a priority program to re-engine its inventory and install new control systems as part of the Deepwater Programs first phase of the aircrafts conversion to the multi-mission HH-65C model. The Charlie models two Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turboshaft engines provide approximately 40 percent more power than those they replacedresulting in improved endurance, payload, and performance. With six re-engined and upgraded HH-65Cs assigned, Atlantic City pilots, aircrew, and maintenance personnel speak highly of the more capable and reliable aircraft.

Twin Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turboshaft engines provide 40 percent more power and improved safety margin crucial to everyday operations. Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) technology results in dramatically increased engine performance and reliability. Even in the unlikely event of an engine failure or major malfunction, upgrades enable the HH-65C to continue flight under most circumstances. Increased fuel capacity and payload. The HH-65C can take on 1,930 pounds of fuel, hoist six people and stay on scene for almost two hours and 30 minutes. In contrast, the Bravo model maxed out at 1,600 pounds of fuel, three passengers and can only endure up to an hour and 15 minutes on-scene time.

Three of the more powerful HH-65C helicopters worked rescue-and- assistance operations along the Gulf Coast in September 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, flying 85 sorties to save 305 lives. It was not uncommon for the modernized helicopter to hoist twice the number of people and remain on station for twice as long as older and less-reliable Bravo models. With its reliable and more powerful engines, pilots can now generally transition to a hoist operation immediately should the need arise during a search-and-rescue mission. With the flight restrictions imposed on the Bravo model, by contrast, pilots often needed to jettison fuel to reduce weight sufficiently to provide an acceptable power margin. This requirement limited the Bravos time on station to conduct a demanding hoistin close proximity to a sail boat, for example, or during confined-area operations.

The Coast Guard reached an important milestone in June 2006 when half of the Coast Guards operational HH-65s were converted to the Charlie model. The conversion project was a collaborative effort involving the Deepwater Program, AR&SC, and industry. Industry partners participating in the conversion project include Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman), EADS North America and EADS Eurocopter, and Turbomeca, the manufacturer and supplier for the Charlies engine and engine-control system. In addition to conversion work at AR&SC in Elizabeth City, N.C., a second line for HH-65 re-engining was in service at an American Eurocopter facility in Columbus, Miss. Phase I of the HH-65C conversion was scheduled to be completed for all 84 of the Coast Guards operational HH-65s in 2007, with the services remaining 11 aircraft completed during scheduled depot-level maintenance.

The Dolphin is primarily a Short Range Recovery (SRR) aircraft, and once fully upgraded, the Coast Guards HH-65s are redesignated as the Short Range Recovery Helicopter and perform search and rescue, law enforcement and homeland security missions. The SRR will feature:

  • Re-engining effort that provides 40 percent more power and higher performance
  • enhanced command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment
  • improved vertical insertion and vertical delivery capability - the ability to deliver a 3-person interagency counter-terrorism or response team 50NM from a US shore or a Coast Guard flight deck equipped cutter
  • enhanced radar and electro-optical/infrared sensors will allow Common Operational Picture/Maritime Domain Awareness data exchange capability
  • capability to be deployed from flight deck equipped cutter - allows Commanding Officer of a ship to utilize the air asset to investigate, classify and identify a threat and provide targeted location
  • airborne use of force package (in common with that of the modernized HH-60T) will provide the capability to fire warning and disabling shots from the air
  • chem-bio & radiological environmental hazard detection and defense
As of 2000 there were a total of 96 Dolphins in the Coast Guard Fleet, and by 2010 there were 102 Dolphin helicopters in the Coast Guard fleet. The Dolphin replaced the old HH-52A Sea Guard helicopter. The fleet has home ports in 17 cities on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Hawaii, and the Great Lakes region.

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Page last modified: 14-04-2016 20:08:25 ZULU