The U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 short range recovery helicopter program began full rate production of the MH-65E configuration on Nov. 21, 2019, with the transfer of CGNR 6522 to the Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Two additional aircraft – CGNR 6514 and CGNR 6593– were transferred to the ALC production line in December 2019 and one – CGNR 6507 – was transferred in January 2020. The program is executing concurrent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) work and avionics upgrades for the MH-65E “Echo” conversion on the entire fleet.
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, common with the Coast Guard H-60 medium range recovery helicopter and similar Department of Defense aircraft. Once the upgrades are complete, the helicopter is redesignated an MH-65E.
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 avionics upgrades and SLEP are being completed at the same time to achieve schedule and cost efficiencies.
The service completed the operational and test evaluation (IOT&E) activities on the two of the first three helicopter last year following the completion of low rate initial production (LRIP). Full rate production means that the ALC will transition to producing MH-65Es at a rate of 22 aircraft per year.
The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 MH-65 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by fiscal year 2024.
The Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin is a twin-engine, single main rotor, MEDEVAC-capable search and rescue (SAR) helicopter operated by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). It is a variant of the French-built Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin.
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.