Mission Impossible? Not for Coast Guard

HC-144 aircraft’s C4ISR system helps Coast Guard thwart drug sub bound for the United States



A Coast Guard aircrew used its HC-144 airplane’s aviation mission system developed by Lockheed Martin to thwart a drug sub in the Caribbean Sea off the Honduran coast and detain four suspected smugglers.

Ethan Hunt and his Impossible Mission Force team have nothing on the U.S. Coast Guard when it comes to accomplishing difficult missions.

Drug cartels use semi-submersible vessels – with ranges up to 5,000 miles and capable of transporting 10 metric tons of contraband – to make it nearly impossible for law enforcement to stop their illicit shipments. And just like Tom Cruise’s character in the Mission Impossible movies, the Coast Guard is using the latest technology to thwart these drug subs.

Recently, a Coast Guard aircrew used its HC-144  airplane’s aviation mission system developed by Lockheed Martin to thwart a drug sub in the Caribbean Sea off the Honduran coast. The mission system is a suite of electronic equipment that collects, compiles, interprets and disseminates data from the aircraft's multiple integrated sensors to exchange both classified and unclassified information with other assets.

“Our aircraft has surface search radar, a day/night camera and a mission system pallet that connects both to the rest of the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Justin Hunt, the HC-144’s commander in a May 2 article posted to the Coast Guard’s website. “Our mission system operators are trained to use this equipment to search for objects of interest well beyond what a person aboard the aircraft can see with their eyes.”

Searching for 100-foot drug subs in thousands of square miles of ocean is a daunting task, and the Coast Guard relies on advanced systems to find this proverbial needle in a haystack. Using the HC-144’s on board control station – known as the mission system pallet – to operate the aircraft’s sensors, the crew identified the possible target.

After receiving the HC-144’s information, the USCGC Pea Island, the USCGC Decisive and the Honduran Navy interdicted the drug sub and arrested four suspects, who scuttled the ship before being detained.

Lockheed Martin developed the aviation mission system for the Coast Guard’s HC-144 and HC- 130J aircraft as well as the Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems for the National Security Cutter. The systems provide better and more precise information, and its interoperability allows the Coast Guard’s air and sea assets to work with other agencies and organizations.

Posted May 4, 2012