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Coast Guard sets path for aviation upgrades.

The U.S. Coast Guard is moving briskly on its multifaceted Deepwater aviation upgrade program. Integrated Coast Guard Systems--the Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman joint venture--formally launched the Coast Guard aviation upgrade with a contract for two EADS CASA 235-300M medium range surveillance maritime patrol aircraft. "We gave ICGS a list of missions and how well we have to do them," explains Lt. Cmdr. Tom Maine, human systems integration lead for air training and manpower in Deepwater's Coast Guard Aviation Group.

Depending on future funding, EADS CASA may build up to 35 aircraft to replace HU-25 Guardian jets and HC-130H Hercules turboprops in patrol missions. Deepwater aviation upgrades also include a modernized Eurocopter HH-65X Multi-Mission Cutter Helicopter, the new Bell Agusta AB139 Recovery and Surveillance helicopter, and new Lockheed HC-130J patrol aircraft. Additionally, the Integrated Deepwater System draws imagery from the Bell Eagle Eye vertical takeoff and landing UAV and the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high altitude endurance UAV.

All the Deepwater platforms are recommended choices with final specifications developed with and approved by the customer. ICGS says other platforms would be considered if they presented better alternatives at the time of contract award. Beyond the original Deepwater plan, ICGS is now managing the armed Agusta Westland MH-68A Stingrays leased for Coast Guard tactical operations. Separate from Deepwater, the Coast Guard has embarked on an HH-60J Jayhawk modernization to keep it in service through 2022.

Northrop Grumman finished upgrading 15 of 41 Coast Guard Falcons to HU-25Ds last year. The service will retire the most costly-to-fly jets by 2013. The new contract with options sets a firm fixed price for up to eight CASA 235s delivered by 2006. The number of aircraft may shrink if ICGS opts for more new HC-130Js, but EADS CASA still plans to open a support facility at the Coast Guard Air Training Center in Mobile, Ala., by the time the fifth aircraft is delivered.

ICGS, EADS CASA, and the Coast Guard have completed the MRS MPA (medium range surveillance maritime patrol aircraft) preliminary design review. The new patrol aircraft will be built and integrated with its Rockwell Collins Flight II cockpit avionics in Spain, then flown to the United States for Lockheed Martin to integrate mission equipment. All Deepwater platforms will share a common command and control system, but a roll-on/roll-off pallet with two operator stations will enable the MRS MPA cabin crew to control their radar and electronic support measures, and the data-link that exchanges information with aircraft, ships and ground stations.

Lockheed Martin has yet to identify the components of the sensor suite. The Coast Guard is expected to fly the CASA 235 about 1,200 hours per year--twice much as the existing patrol aircraft.

With nearly 11 hours endurance, the CASA 235 nearly matches the performance of the C-130 at lower operating costs. However, Maine notes, "it doesn't necessarily have to do everything the other aircraft did. Deepwater is not about replacing assets one-for-one."

The program expects to replace the 22,000 lb. HH-60J helicopter with the 15,000 lb. AB139.

In June 2002, ICGS won the Deepwater competition to supply up to 91 new ships, 35 fixed-wing aircraft, 34 helicopters and 76 unmanned air vehicles. The program also will upgrade 49 cutters and 93 short-range recovery helicopters in the existing fleet.

Lockheed Martin is responsible for the aviation platform choices. The company, for example, initially proposed the CASA 235ER MRS MPA with additional fuel and heavier landing gear, but ultimately recommended the stock CASA 235M to trim costs. The choice was validated by the Department of Homeland Security in May 2003.

The pace and scope of Deepwater modernization, nevertheless, depends on annual appropriations, and funding shortfalls have already stretched the 20-year program to more than 22 years. Congressional supporters are now pushing for money to complete the modernization in a decade.

Deepwater plans to introduce a high-altitude endurance UAV between 2016 and 2022 to feed the network-centric system. Flying at 65,000 feet, the proposed Global Hawk UAV provides better than 30 hours endurance and the ability to send imagery to ships, aircraft, or ground stations via satellites or line-of-sight.

In the near term, the Eagle Eye tilt rotor gives the Coast Guard an unmanned air vehicle able to operate from its new national security cutters and offshore patrol cutters and legacy vessels. The tilt rotor takes off and lands like a helicopter but cruises with the speed and efficiency of a fixed wing airplane.

Current plans call for 69 Eagle Eye VUAVs to operate from national security cutters and land bases.

The 3,000-pound VUAV will send imagery from a forward looking infrared systems SAFIRE III electro-optical payload and enhanced Telephonics RDR 1700 radar via a data-link provided by L-3 Communications West. With standard fuel reserves, it flies a five-hour mission with three hours loiter at 100 nautical mile radius.

The VUAV passed its preliminary design review in late January, and ICGS delivered and accepted the final performance specification for the tilt rotor. First flight of a risk reduction prototype is expected in late 2005 or early 2006, and a production system of three air vehicles and two ground control stations will be aboard the first new national security cutter in late 2006. The new ship has an Indal deck recovery system compatible with both the tiltrotor UAV and the multi-mission cutter helicopter.

The original proposal called for remanufacturing existing Coast Guard HH-65A/B Dolphins into HH-65X multi-mission cutter helicopters. The MCH recapitalization due to start in 2005 would have introduced transmission, engine and landing gear improvements to hike the gross weight of the helicopter from 8,900 lbs. to 9,500 lbs. and accommodate new mission equipment. Coast Guard dissatisfaction with the existing Honeywell LTS101-750 turboshaft in the HH-65 nevertheless has accelerated the engine change schedule, and ICGS has been directed to upgrade the fleet immediately.

A plan to replace the Dolphin engines was expected in April 2004 for work to begin in June. The Coast Guard currently flies about 80 of its 94 Dolphins, and fleet re-engining should be complete within 18 to 24 months.

Initial reports called for the LTS101 turboshaft to give way to the Turbomeca Ariel 2C2, but Honeywell answered the ICGS request for information with an improved LTS101. The updated LTS101-850 already is in some Coast Guard aircraft.

The Deepwater plan calls for the new recovery and surveillance helicopter to enter the fleet in 2014. The AB139 earned its civil certification last year with a Honeywell flight management system. The avionics and sensor package has not yet been revealed, but ICGS is expected to seek commonality with other platforms. Like the smaller MCH, the AB139 will be able to operate from OPCs, NSCs and larger legacy cutters.

Too big for most Coast Guard vessels, the Sikorsky HH-60J still gives the service a rescue helicopter appreciated for its range and endurance. Deepwater plans initially included only modest Jayhawk upgrades pending retirement starting in 2013, but the Coast Guard has funded improvements that could keep the helicopter in service well beyond 2022.

The Coast Guard will insert a common avionics architecture into the Jayhawk. The effort will insert search-and-rescue functions into the same hardware and software used in U.S. Army Special Operations helicopters. A prototype is already in the works, but the HH-65 re-engining crisis has delayed HH-60J production installations until 2006. In addition to the new integrated cockpit, the Jayhawk would receive an unidentified radar and forward looking infrared sensor.

The main transmission beams in the HH-60J are being replaced, and the Coast Guard has funded integration of the new General Electric T700-GE-701D engine in the Jayhawk.

Separately from Deepwater, the Coast Guard is conducting demonstrations with an armed HH-60J.

Other aviation improvements remain in early planning stages. The Coast Guard currently has 23 legacy HC-130Hs. The new HC-130J has better performance and operating economy, but the ultimate number of Hercules in the fleet is to be determined.

The Coast Guard and the Deepwater integrator are developing metrics to measure the performance of the entire system and each individual asset.
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Article Details
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Author:Colucci, Frank
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
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