Coast Guard Gets a D


The latest variant of the United States Coast Guard’s Short Range Recovery (SRR) product line entered flight testing on March 17, when an MH-65D, serial 6543, flew over the Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, N.C. on its initial post-modification test flight.

The MH-65D in flight testing. USCG/David Silva Photo.

Initially entering service as the HH-65A in 1985, the Eurocopter Dolphin/Dauphin has been continuously upgraded since 2000, when the first HH-65B took to the air. The HH-65B was equipped with an integrated flight management avionics suite that included two Rockwell Collins CDU-900 control display units and a pair of flat-panel MFD-255 multi-function displays that replaced several pieces of analog instrumentation.

The HH-65C, which first flew in August 2004, featured new Turbomeca Arriel 2C2 CG engines and the Thales Vehicle and Engine Management Display, which replaced the aircraft’s analog engine displays. Additional upgrades that included a new communications package, weapons mounts, electro-optical sensor system and night-vision-goggle compatible head-up display, searchlight, and formation lighting were included in the airborne use of force (AUF) package that resulted in the MH-65C. The MH-65C was first flown in February 2007 and the ALC is currently converting HH-65Cs to the AUF configuration, with the 35th example recently delivered.

The cockpit of the MH-65D features two Rockwell
Collins CDU-7000 control display units
located in the center console.
USCG/Lt.-Cmdr Al Antaran CGALC Photo.
For the new MH-65D, ALC equipped the ship with a new flight navigation system that replaces the aircraft’s analog compass, directional and yaw rate gyro systems; and the omni-directional air data system and both CDU-900 control display units with dual Honeywell H-764G embedded GPS/INS navigator systems and Rockwell Collins CDU-7000 control display units, respectively. The modifications were developed by Rockwell Collins under contract to the ALC and contractor Developmental Test & Evaluation began on Feb. 10.

Developmental flight testing of the MH-65D variant began in Elizabeth City on March 23 and was nearly complete by press time. After that, according to Cmdr. Jeff Travis, H-65 Dolphin conversion/sustainment project manager, the MH-65D was then scheduled to undergo electromagnetic interference and compatibility testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Travis said that phase of testing will be conducted in an anechoic chamber and no flight tests are planned.

Strictly an avionics/systems modification, the MD-65D changes will not affect the aircraft’s performance, but will provide it with improved navigation and data processing capabilities and increased reliability.

MH-65D serial no. 6543 carried out its first flight
in its new configuration at the Coast Guard’s
Air Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, N.C., on
March 17, 2009. USCG/David Silva Photo.
Once developmental testing is completed, the helicopter will be delivered to the USCG Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Ala., where operational testing will be carried out. The USCG plans to upgrade 102 HH/MH-65Cs to the MH-65D configuration at Elizabeth City beginning in 2010, when the first aircraft is inducted for modification. The newest variant is expected to achieve initial operational capability during the third quarter of 2010. Approximately 22 aircraft will be modified annually during their normal scheduled maintenance period.

The latest cockpit updates are included in the fourth of a six-segment program that has been in process since 2002. According to Travis, “The MH-65D is the mid-point in the evolution of the Coast Guard’s Short Range Recovery helicopter.” Among the changes that will be incorporated in the final two segments is the replacement of the current analog flight control system with a digital system. Additionally, a completely new digital cockpit, similar to the system currently being installed in the USCG’s Sikorsky MH-60T Medium Range Recovery helicopter, will be integrated. Besides making the Dolphin compatible with the USCG’s new National Security Cutter, the final batch of changes are intended to make it compliant with national and Global Air Traffic Management requirements, and allow it to remain on the asset inventory until 2025.


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