Some Fun Coast Guard Reads In Forbes:

by Craig Hooper on December 14, 2022

Over in Forbes, I’ve put up a few Coast Guard pieces–a summary of the USCG funding proposal in the NDAA, and a suggestion that the USCG toss the troubled C-27J MPA for a mix of C-130s and the V-280 Valor, the Army’s choice for a replacement of the epic Black Hawk helo.

The first, looking at the Army’s decision to move forward with a second-gen tiltrotor, really crystalizes some concerns about the Coast Guard–and other utility-oriented players. For decades, the Coast Guard has been content to be a “second mover,” taking mature products and adopting them to USCG needs. That’s great when USCG and military requirements match.

But military requirements are changing. The “warfighters” are pushing more towards artisanal assault assets, and de-emphasizing raw utility. We’ve seen this in the USMC evolution towards the MV-22. Years ago, during California fire season, the skies were full of CH-46s doing bucket work at the latest/greatest wildfire. You don’t see that anymore. MV-22s don’t seem to do well hauling water, and they cost more to operate.

It’s pretty obvious that the V-280 Valor will be hard-pressed to meet the USCG’s SAR standards. But I think there is a niche role for the platform in the Pacific and Caribbean. In time, they might be very good for the DC air interdiction effort, or for tracking things in the Gulf. But we don’t know yet. My sense is that the USCG should get into the game, test the platform in a less demanding mid-range MPA like role with VTOL benefits, working to marinize the tiltrotor for island work. If anything, the Army will be grateful, and, heck, they might even be willing to pick up some of the cost.

I am also a little concerned at the Coast Guard’s stance on future rotary wing assets. For years, the line was that the Coast Guard was going to neck down the the UH-60, and then follow along wherever the Army’s Future Vertical Lift took us. That’s great, but…it was pretty obvious, pretty early that the FVL decision had a strong likelihood of failing to get the Coast Guard a good solution. Was anybody from the Coast Guard in the room for FVL? Was this something USCG should have had more input/vision on? I don’t know.

I’m really proud of the USCG NDAA. A lot of things that I pushed for made it into the NDAA.

One of the big “wins” is the $630 million slated for the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. Remember, back when I had to chide Senator Wicker for leaving the Coast Guard Yard out of the SHIPYARD Act? I’m glad to see that Maryland’s Congressional delegation pushed for Coast Guard Yard funding, and that Wicker supported it, but…it would have been nice to see the two parties pull together more overtly. But with that small irritation aside, I’m really amused to see the Coast Guard Yard go from zero to something of a SIOP hero. It’s a testament to the forward planning done at the yard over the past several years.

Likewise, I’m pleased to see the Congress demand a list of shore improvements the USCG expects over the next seven years–as well as a study on what USCG might need in the Western Pacific. This is great. It forces the USCG to plan–just like it did with the Coast Guard Yard–and it lets Congress know what the service needs. So…it drives strategy and helps the friendly Coast Guard keep from getting bullied and its lunch money stolen by an aggressive CBP.

And, finally, I’m thrilled to see the Congress demand an aviation study. I have wanted more insight on this for awhile. Coast Guard availability rates for the aging Dolphin helo are, at best, a shell game. So is the UH-60 conversion rate. Congress will need to dig to make sure the Coast Guard isn’t blowing smoke, but, at least it is a start. (This isn’t meant to be a dig at Elizabeth City, but my sense is that they need to scale up pretty quick, and the only way to do that is to fund ’em.)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

K. Aud February 16, 2023 at 3:12 pm

I was a proxyman aboard a Coast Guard 210’ cutter from 2014 to 2018 and spent some time talking with various aircrews about the MH65 airframe. At one point I helped a crew strip down their bird as far as possible while underway without a hanger because the gearbox had been pushed beyond its safe limits during an aborted takeoff.

As much as the enjoyed the helo, their chief complaint was the mishmash of aging avionics and all the adapter hardware needed to make it all work. They’re finally getting much needed upgrades in the jump from the D to the E model but it’s going to be a slow conversion process. They’re up to 4 out of about 100 in service.
After the electronics, the gearbox was the next complaint. The engines have plenty of torque but the weak link is the drive train, or at least that’s how the AMT1 explained it to me. Lot of aircraft get grounded for redlining the gearbox or the “chip light” sensor going off due to debris in the lubrication.
Lastly was the flight duration compared to MH60; the 65 was just too short range.

Granted, it’s a small helicopter in comparison and has to be able to operate from the postage stamp flight deck of a 210. I ran around under the rotor disk of one of those things while on a swaying deck and I can tell you a half rotor width is NOT enough room between the super structure and the blade tips.

With the 210 fleet starting retirements this year I don’t see why the V280 shouldn’t be adapted to the Coast Guard. While it couldn’t be hangered aboard the NSC or coming OPC, it could at least land for a lily pad refuel, or worst case scenario HIFR. The biggest issue being that if it lands on a cutter and breaks down, that landing deck is now effectively lost to the fleet until the aircraft can fly again. Any helos or UAVs that were tucked in the hangars so the 280 could land, are effectively grounded.

If they can produce a version where the wings can fold, or rotate completely like the V22, where it can be shoehorned into a hangar then it could become a serious cutter deployable asset. The folding mechanism doesn’t have to be powered either, so no need to waste payload capacity on components that don’t directly contribute to flight; hand cranks and 18 year olds are cheap and easily repaired. If a cutter could deploy its own Maritime Patrol Aircraft, or fill the time on station gaps between shore based birds with longer transit times to the OPAREA, that would be a huge force multiplier.


Craig Hooper December 15, 2022 at 2:54 pm

Hi Planks. As I read it, SAR is one of the USCG’s 11 statutory missions, so you can’t really get away from it. The second USCG neglects SAR, they’re going to get blasted in Congress–it’s one of the reasons we cannot easily close out some of the wee little Great Lakes air stations. It’s a bread and butter mission that pays for a lot of other stuff, but, that said, equipment for SAR and equipment for Defense readiness may be headed in some very different directions. The USCG has enjoyed several decades piggybacking on the robust multi-mission gear coming out of the military. We may not be able to do that as easily going forward. So let’s figure it out. That’s my point of holding up the V-280 as a viable immediate investment. It’s going to be in the arsenal for some time, so let’s start figuring it out.


Planks December 15, 2022 at 9:26 am


Might you be giving entirely too much support and visibility to the SAR mission? Search and Rescue is less than ten percent of the USCG’s mission and focus. It’s also the only mission they are not “mandated” to do. What I am saying is the USCG has critical infrastructure and national security responsibilities that it is ill equipped to handle and frankly negligent, yet the discussion keeps coming back to SAR. No one on the Hill nor in the news is asking for or calling the USCG on the carpet for neglecting SAR. Hell, the news and the Hill aren’t advocating for more SAR either.

The USCG’s Rotary Air Intercept in DC is already on it’s last legs, and showing incapable to handle the current threats of UAVs and even the lawnmower engine fan flyer of 2013 ( As you point out, the Dolphin and other aircraft are also not hitting or exceeding mission goals. Maybe it’s time to call out that the acquisitions should be for what the Nation needs, not what USCG members like to do.


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