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