The U.S. Coast Guard H-65 Dolphin helicopter fleet reached a milestone on April 10, 2020, with the completion of programmed depot maintenance (PDM) on CGNR 6592 at the Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
CGNR 6592 is the last aircraft to depart ALC as an MH-65D; all future aircraft will undergo a process at ALC that combines planned maintenance, service life extension activities and, avionics upgrades resulting in the MH-65E configuration. CGNR 6592 is based at Air Station New Orleans.
The avionics upgrades include reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS); installation of a digital cockpit display system and an upgraded digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck with Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS), common with the Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk (a variant of UH-60 Black Hawk) medium-range recovery helicopter and similar Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft.
At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing SLEP activities to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.
The service completed the operational and test evaluation (IOT&E) activities on the two of the first three helicopters last year following the completion of low rate initial production (LRIP). The program began full-rate production on Nov. 21, 2019, with the transfer of CGNR 6522 to the ALC.
The Coast Guard H-65 fleet is French-built Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin (“Dolphin”). The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the fiscal year 2025.
The HH-65 Dolphin is a twin-engine, single main rotor, MEDEVAC-capable search and rescue (SAR) helicopter. The MH-65 is the multi-mission variant of the HH-65 helicopter that can be armed with the Barrett M107CQ 12.7 mm anti-materiel rifle and M240G 7.62 mm machine gun. The helicopter can also be used for counter-terrorism operations.