The U.S. Coast Guard short range recovery helicopter program started the delivery of upgraded MH-65E Dolphin helicopters to the fleet, the service announced.
The full-rate production of the MH-65E configuration began in November 2019 with the transfer of CGNR 6522 to the Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. That first production MH-65E – CGNR 6522 – was delivered to Air Station Houston July 14, 2020. An upgraded MH-65E helicopter was also delivered to Air Station Miami, on Nov. 3, completing the transition of a second air station to the upgraded configuration.
The program is executing concurrent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) work and avionics upgrades for the MH-65E conversion of the entire fleet. Eight of the 96 conversions have been completed, and air stations Houston and Miami have completely transitioned to MH-65E operations.
“The new Echo model MH-65 is an amazing update to a proven capable aircraft that allows pilots to leverage new technology to increase situational awareness and reduce pilot workload,” said Cmdr. Marcus Canady, commanding officer of Air Station Houston. “Immediately after launching for a search and rescue mission offshore, pilots can input a detailed flight plan and inform the crew of how much time they will have on scene with a lot more precision.”
The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS); enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. In addition to the upgraded search and rescue (SAR) capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response.
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.
Air Station Port Angeles, California, and Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, will be the next to receive the upgraded aircraft. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.
USCG HH-65/MH-65 Dolphin
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.