The most ubiquitous aircraft in the U.S. Coast Guard’s fleet, the twin-engine Eurocopter MH-65 search and rescue (SAR) helicopter is the main aircraft the Coast Guard deploys aboard its commissioned cutters. The MH-65 Dolphin was chosen to replace the branch’s fleet of Sikorsky HH-52A Sea Guard rotorcraft. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains an inventory of one hundred MH-65 Dolphins operating from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, and the Great Lakes regions. The Dolphins are the American versions of the French-produced Eurocopter SA366 G Dauphin rotorcraft.
While the Dauphin is manufactured in France, the Dolphin is produced by American Eurocopter in its Grand Prairie, Texas facility. The Dolphin completed its maiden flight in July 1980 and its initial deployment with the Coast Guard occurred in November 1984. In 2004, the Coast Guard commenced a modernization project on the HH-65 to extend its service life until 2025. As part of the conversion project, 95 helicopters were upgraded and seven were newly built to the MH-65 multi-mission cutter helicopter variant (MCH).
Featuring digital glass instruments akin to those present on the Coast Guard’s upgraded MH-60T Jayhawk recovery helicopters, the Dolphin’s semi-glass cockpit houses a three-man crew of a pilot, co-pilot, and crewman/hoist operator. Integrated with augmented radar and electro-optical/infrared sensors, the Dolphin has operational picture/maritime domain awareness data exchange capability.
For armament, the Dolphin is fitted with an M107-based, 0.5-caliber, precision fire weapon and a belt-fed M240B 7.62mm general purpose machine gun produced by FabriqueNationaleHerstal.
Powered by dual digitally-controlled TurbomecaArriel 2C2-CG engines, the Dolphin can reach a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet and fly at a speed of 165 knots for a range of 356 nautical miles. These engines generate 40% more power than the initial LTS 101 engines.
In the fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard will debut the MH-65E helicopter. Featuring an entirely glass cockpit with modernized navigation systems, the MH-65E meets emerging Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards.
The MH-65 Dolphins are stationed at the following U.S. Coast Guard Air Stations (CGAS):
- CGAS Traverse City, Michigan
- CGAS Barbers Point, Hawaii
- CGAS Borinquen, Puerto Rico
- CGAS Atlantic City, New Jersey
- CGAS Corpus Christi, Texas
- CGAS Detroit, Michigan
- CGAS HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron) Jacksonville, Florida
- CGAS Houston, Texas
- CGAS Humboldt Bay, California
- CGAS Los Angeles, California
- CGAS Miami, Florida
- ATC (Aviation Training Center) Mobile, Alabama
- CGAS New Orleans, Louisiana
- CGAS North Bend, Oregon
- CGAS San Francisco, California
- CGAS Port Angeles, Washington
- CGAS Savannah, Georgia
The following are the general characteristics of the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter:
|Power Plant||Two 853-shp Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turbine engines|
|Max Speed||175 knots|
|Cruising Speed||148 knots|
|Service Ceiling||10,000 feet|
|Range||290 nautical miles|
|Gross Weight||9,480 lbs|
|Rotor Diameter||39 ft 2 in|
|Length||44 ft 5 in|
|Height||13 ft 5 in|
|Armament||Single 7.62mm M240B/H machine gun; 7.62mm shoulder-fired precision weapon; 0.50-caliber shoulder-fired precision weapon|
|Crew||2 pilots; 1 flight mechanic; 1 rescue swimmer|