The sun is setting on the AgustaWestland A109s that have performed so well as MH-68A airborne-use-of-force (AUF) platforms for the U.S. Coast Guard.
The service’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Sqdn. (HITRON), based at Jacksonville, Fla.’s Cecil Field Airport, operates those eight aircraft. Designated MH-68A Stingrays, they are leased from AgustaWestland. But the lease is up in January next year. The unit’s crews are transitioning to armed versions of the Eurocopter HH-65C, recipient of upgrades that included more powerful Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG engines.
Armed with a.50 caliber precision-fire weapon and M240B machine gun, those aircraft are redesignated MH-65Cs. The unit is to receive its first mission MH-65Cs late this year and to deploy the first in early 2008. Since its inception in 1998, the Coast Guard says, HITRON has intercepted 146.1 tons of cocaine and 7.37 tons of marijuana.