HITRON hits 500

When the U.S. Coast Guard stood up the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in late 1998 as an experiment in Airborne Use of Force (AUF), they did so with a handful of volunteers out of Cecil Field and a few leased MD900 and MD902 Enforcer helicopters (dubbed MH-90s) with stock M16A2s and a mounted M240G.

Isn’t it cute

The proof of concept, shooting to warn, then disable go-fasts, led to the squadron going live with eight leased Augusta A109E Power helicopters, type classified as MH-68A Stingrays/Makos and the M16 was swapped out for the more effective bolt-action Robar RC-50 .50-caliber rifle and later the Barrett M107A1 semi-auto with a EBR’d M14 as back up.

Airwolf! Official caption: JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Oct. 24 2001)– The HITRON, the Coast Guard’s latest drug enforcement weapon, is out on patrol aiding in port security over St. John’s river. The Coast Guard recently unveiled its new MH-68 Mako helicopter which is specifically designed to encounter the “go-fast” drug smuggling boat. USCG photo by PA3 Dana Warr

By 2008, they had switched to the new and improved version of the SA.365, classed as the MH-65C Dolphin and haven’t looked back. HITRON is the single CG source of forward-deployed armed aircrews and helicopters. Some figures estimate that this one unit has accounted for more than 10 percent of all drugs seized coming into the US since their introduction.

Last week they stopped their 500th drug interdiction when a deployed crew stopped a drug-laden go-fast vessel at 1:30 a.m. in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2017.

From the CG’s presser:

This is a historic benchmark for the Coast Guard as HITRON has successfully interdicted 500 vessels transporting approximately 422,000 kilograms of cocaine and 27,000 kg of marijuana with a wholesale value of more than $16.7 billion.

“This achievement is a direct reflection of the training, perseverance, and teamwork from our aircrews, support personnel and other deployed forces and partner agencies that support this dynamic mission and work together to achieve remarkable results in a joint effort countering illegal drug smuggling,” said Capt. Kevin P. Gavin, commanding officer of HITRON.

The aircrew of the Florida-based Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron stand for a photo after the 500th recorded drug bust in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, March 11, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo. Note the M107A1 with mounted AN/PEQ-15 aiming laser in the foreground, the M110 7.62x51mm sniper rifle with can in the background, and the fact that the crew names and weapons’ serials have been blurred for OPSEC/PERSEC.

A 7-page history of the unit from 1998-2004 via the USCG Historian’s Office is here.


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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as GUNS.com, Univesity of Guns, Outdoor Hub, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the US federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

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