The retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bramble (WLB-392), a WWII-era veteran of the Bikini tests and the historic 1957 voyage through the Northwest Passage left federal service in 2003. She then spent a quiet life as a museum ship in Port Huron, Michigan for years.
Then, in 2018 she was sold to a man who wanted to repeat the famous five-month trek of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian icebreaker HMCS Labrador from May to September of 1957.
He even hired a documentary film crew to cover the whole thing with the name “Bramble Reborn”
The bad part is, Bramble’s new owner ran out of funds, and the ship was seized for debts run up with the Epic Shipyard in Mobile, Alabama and other creditors. She was sold at public auction for $80,000 on Wednesday, her future unknown.
Tragically, the U.S. Coast Guard Historian’soffice had put the ship’s 1944-dated bell in safekeeping when she was decommissioned in 2003 and only returned it to the museum in 2014. Now, it may be gone, along with the vessel, for good.
The LA Times reports that the former Soviet SSK B-427, which has been part of three different maritime museums since she was decommissioned in 1994 and is currently docked adjacent to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, “is expected to be sold soon to an anonymous buyer, with plans to remove the rusting sub by mid-May. The 48-year-old Russian Foxtrot-class submarine, known as the Scorpion, had hosted paying visitors for 17 years before it fell into such disrepair that it became infested with raccoons and was closed to the public in 2015.”
In a (possibly) bright spot, the 20-foot-high smokestacks of the old USS Oregon (Battleship No. 3) have been stored on private property for nearly a decade at the Zidell Yards in South Waterfront. An effort is being made to install them in Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park, where the Spanish-American War/Great War vessel’s mast has stood since 1956. However, the plan seems to be faltering.
Hopefully, they will find a home there. If not, they too could go to the scrapper.
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words
To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…
In the bonkers short video below, you see a U.S. Coast Guard Deployable Specialized Forces TACLET guy deployed on the U.S. Coast Guard Legends-class National Security Cutter Munro (WMSL 755) going for a ride on a 31-foot Long Range Interceptor “somewhere in the Eastern Pacific.”
Said Coastie makes a perfect landing on what JIATF-South calls “a self-propelled semi-submersible suspected drug smuggling vessel (SPSS)” but best just known as a Narco-Sub. The below happened June 18, 2019.
This is the SPSS when surfaced, to give a scale at just how much of the hull was below the sea:
Just two weeks after the above video was shot, crewmembers of the USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South interdicted a second SPSS while conducting counter-trafficking operations in the Eastern Pacific.
The Coast Guard hasn’t been this busy fighting submarines since the Germans!
A few of the last of their kind, which had been planned to be turned into floating museum ships, will now have another fate.
The first of her extensive class of 23 ships– to include spin-offs for the West German and Royal Australian Navies– Adams was ordered in 1957 and commissioned three years later. Leaving the fleet in 1990, she has been rusting away at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard ever since.
Now, the ship has moved from museum hold to the scrap list.
“Unfortunately, the United States Navy has reversed course and determined the ex USS Adams will not be donated to the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association (“JHNSA”) as a museum in Jacksonville but instead will be scrapped. This decision is counter to the Navy’s recommendation in 2014 that the ex USS Adams be released to the JHNSA for donation. We wish to thank Congressman Rutherford, Senators Rubio, and Nelson, Governor Scott, and all the City officials for their efforts with the Secretary of the Navy to have the ex USS Adams brought to Jacksonville. Although disappointed by this development, the JHNSA will continue to pursue bringing a Navy warship to downtown Jacksonville.”
The group has been collecting items to display including a not-too-far-from-surplus SPA-25G radar panel and Adams’ bell, but they want a ship to put them on. Perhaps a recently retired FFG-7?
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, the final two members of the USCG’s WWII-era Balsam-class 180-foot buoy tenders have run out of time. USCGS Iris (WLB-395) and Planetree (WLB-307) were decommissioned after helping with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1995 and 1999, respectively, and have been sitting in the rusting quiet of the SBRF, Suisun Bay, CA mothballs fleet ever since.
While efforts have been off and on over the past couple decades to save one or both, they have been sold for scrap and are headed to Texas by the same long-distance sea tow. As such, it will end more than 75 years of service tended by these vessels to Uncle.
Finally, in a bright sign, the retired U.S. Coast Guard cutter Bramble (WLB-392) could be repeating her historic 1957 voyage through the Northwest Passage. Another of the “180s,” Bramble has been a museum ship in Port Huron for years but was recently sold to a man who wants to repeat the famous five-month trek of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian icebreaker HMCS Labrador from May to September of 1957.
Things are easier up there these days, and the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple, a 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tender, did the trip in just 47 days last year with no icebreaking involved, so it’s not that hard to fathom.
Either way, you have to love Bramble‘s patch.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.– Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017: The Real McCoy
Here we see the mighty U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Seneca (CG-17), a warship that served in both World Wars and had a tussle or two while enforcing some unpopular laws.
Classified when constructed as a “derelict destroyer” for the then-U.S. Revenue Marine designed to deep-six semi-submerged vessels on the high seas while towing in those still salvageable, she was built by Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company in Virginia and commissioned 12 November 1908, named after the storied Native American tribe of the Iroquois confederation formerly living in New York state.
At least four Seneca’s served in the Navy during the Civil War and Great War while a fifth, AT-91/ATF-91, was a 205-foot Navajo-class fleet tug built during WWII and sunk as a target in 2003. However, the Revenue Service cutter that is the subject of this post was the first cutter by that name.
Built at a price of $244,000, she was a follow-on to the five modern cutters ordered at the turn of the Century, that, at 200~ feet and 1,200-tons were decent steel-hulled vessels that could serve their peacetime use as well as be capable modern naval auxiliary gunboats in times of conflict.
Constructed with lessons learned from those craft, the one-off Seneca tipped the scales at 1,259-tons and went 204-feet overall. Able to float in 18-feet of seawater, her twin boiler plant could chug her along at an economical 12-knots. A quartet of 6-pounders (57mm guns) and a supply of naval mines and explosives for scuttling completed her armament.
Her first “job” was helping to police the massive Hudson-Fulton international naval parade in New York. Her commander during the Hudson-Fulton parade was Captain J. C. Cantwell, USRCS, and she was shown off to both visiting dignitaries and naval personnel.
Seneca immediately went to a harder line of work, in 1909 towing the stricken White Star liner RMS Republic, which sent the first wireless distress signal in history via the then-novel Marconi apparatus after the vessel was mortally wounded in a collision with the steamer Florida off Nantucket.
Then, of course, there was the derelict duty and anti-smuggling work.
As part of her tasking to destroy derelicts, Seneca put to sea from New York on 10 Feb 1910 following a report from the Dutch steamer Prins Wilhelm III of a dismasted, waterlogged sailing vessel far offshore. After searching all day, Seneca found the battered and broken three-masted schooner Sadie C. Sumner of Thomaston, Maine, nearly swamped but with a cargo of cypress timber. Over the course of the next four days, Seneca had to pull the reluctant schooner to port, losing the tow at least three times in heavy seas. She finally made Hampton Roads in one piece.
In March 1913, Seneca responded to the first International Ice Patrol, established in the aftermath of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Operating out of Halifax, Nova Scotia and ranging as far as Iceland, Seneca made no less than 10 patrols in the next three years looking for wandering ice, on one occasion saving adrift survivors of the British freighter Columbian.
During this time the Revenue Marine became part of the new Coast Guard, and Seneca changed her title and took part in the increasingly tense neutrality patrol work as the world descended into the Great War.
Upon the U.S. Declaration of War against the Kaiser in April 1917, the new service became part of the Navy. Accordingly, Seneca landed her battery of 6-pounders, picked up a new one of a quartet of 3″/50 cal guns, and for the next 28 months served as a haze gray colored gunboat for the Navy.
Seneca was assigned to Squadron 2, Division 6, of the Atlantic Fleet Patrol forces, heading to Europe along with the other large blue water cutters on convoy escort and general anti-submarine missions. Assigned to Base 9 (Gibraltar), Seneca joined the cutters Algonquin, Manning, Ossipee, Tampa, and Yamacraw.
Venturing into U-boat-infested seas proved dangerous for the small group of cutters. The small Ossipee, 165-feet of rock and roll, escorted an impressive 32 convoys consisting of 596 Allied vessels and made contacts with enemy submarines on at least 8 occasions, on one of these reportedly side-stepping a torpedo by about 15 feet. Tampa was not so lucky, sunk just six weeks before the end of the war by a torpedo hit with all hands; 111 Coast Guardsmen, 4 U.S. Navy personnel, and 16 passengers.
Seneca herself ran 30 convoys and escorted 580 ships, plucking 81 survivors from the torpedoed RN sloop HMS Cowslip in April. 1918 off Gibraltar, and 27 survivors from the stricken British freighter SS Queen in June.
Then came the Wellington.
Part of the 21-ship Convoy OM-99, outbound from Milford Haven to Gibraltar, the 5,600-ton freighter Wellington suffered an explosion that blew the first 30-feet off her bow and Seneca, responding to the scene, chased off a surfaced U-boat with her 3-inchers. Sending over a 20-man crew of volunteers to help keep the coal-laden merchantman from foundering with the hopes of making for Brest, about 350 miles away on the French coast.
While they could slow the flooding, and make 7.5-knots, a storm set in and the act turned hopeless, with 1LT Fletcher W. Brown ordering the boarding crew and remaining Wellington sailors to abandon ship and take their chances in the water.
However, 11 went down with the freighter and were awarded the Navy Cross for their heroism while Acting Machinist William L. Boyce received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for staying in the engine room until the very end. The final message from Wellington, sent by Electrician 2nd Class Morrill C. Mason, USCG: “We are turning over, you’ve done everything you could. Goodbye.”
In all, Seneca received three letters of commendation from the Admiralty for her service in Europe. She fired upon or dropped depth charges on no less than 21 occasions, often credited with sinking one submarine, though post-war analysis never firmed that up.
Chopping back to Coast Guard duty in 1919, she picked up her white scheme, but she still had another battle to fight.
Once enforcement of the Volstead Act began in January 1920, it was the Treasury Department that was given the unpopular task of enforcing Prohibition, and “T-men” of the newly formed Bureau of Prohibition (which became ATF in 1930 and was transferred briefly to the Justice Department) became a popular term at the time for those engaged in the act of chasing down bootleggers, speakeasies and those with hidden stills. It should be noted that Elliot Ness and his “Untouchables” were T-men and not G-men of the FBI, as is commonly believed and for every public hero of the force, there were heavy-handed and unprofessional agents such as “Kinky” Thompson who gave the work a black eye– literally.
Nevertheless, as a branch of the Treasury going back to the days of Alexander Hamilton, the Coast Guard became responsible for enforcement on the seas, fighting booze pirates and rum-runners smuggling in territorial waters. The agency was hard-pressed to chase down fast bootlegging boats shagging out to “Rum Row” where British and Canadian merchantmen rested on the 3-mile limit loaded with cases of good whiskey and rum for sale.
This led the agency to borrow 31 relatively new destroyers from the Navy, an act that would have been akin to the USN transferring all the FFG7 frigates to the Coast Guard during the “cocaine cowboy” days of the 1980s.
However, Seneca and the other legacy cutters held their own as well.
One of the more infamous on Rum Row was William “Bill” McCoy, a graduate of the Pennsylvania Nautical School in Philadelphia who went on to sail the seven seas for two decades before he opened a boatyard in Florida. Picking up first one schooner and then another, the 130-foot British-flagged Arethusa which he renamed Tomoka, McCoy specialized in running liquor from the Bahamas and Bermuda as well as from the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (where Arethusa flew a French flag and went by the name Marie Celeste) to New England, reportedly making $300,000 in profit for each trip. His profits were high because he never stepped on his booze and cut it with water, with his whiskey being passed off as “the real McCoy.”
It was a night in November 1923 when Seneca came across McCoy and his hooch-laden Arethusa off the New Jersey coast.
From Rum Wars at Sea:
Agents in cooperation with the Coast Guard put into effect without warning the principal of search and seizure beyond the 3-mile limit, realizing the likelihood of legal complications. The cutter Seneca arrived near Tomoka at daybreak and found the schooner riding placidly at anchor. The ship was first boarded by agents, and as soon as they were on board a fist fight developed in which all hands took part. The agents, though badly beaten up, were able to search her and found 200 cases of whiskey remaining from an original cargo of 4,200. Then Tomoka got underway with the agents on board. Seneca ordered her to stop. When she disregarded this, the cutter sent two shots screaming across her bows with the desired result. She was then boarded by a larger group of coast guardsmen from Seneca and seized.
It was the end of McCoy’s rum-running days and he soon headed off to federal prison on an abbreviated sentence, with Arethusa sold at public auction.
Still, Seneca proved a scourge for those who remained in the business.
Badly worn out, Seneca was placed out of service in 1927-28 for reconstruction and spent the rest of Prohibition stationed in New York, transferring to San Juan in 1932 and Mobile in 1934. Showing her age, she was decommissioned 21 March 1936 and stored at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore to make room for the new 327-foot Treasury-class cutters then under construction.
In September, the 28-year-old disarmed cutter was sold to the Boston Iron and Metal Co., of Baltimore, Maryland for $6,605, who did nothing with her and subsequently resold her to the Texas Refrigeration Steamship Line to turn into a banana boat on the Guatemala to Gulfport run. However, TRSL went bankrupt and Seneca never left Baltimore, leaving her to be reacquired at auction by Boston Iron, who still owned her in 1941 and weren’t doing anything with the old girl.
With another war coming, the Coast Guard took Seneca back into service in 1941. However, she was deemed to be in too poor a condition for escort duty and was instead shuffled to “The Real” McCoy’s alma mater, the Pennsylvania Nautical School in Philadelphia for use as a training vessel. Seneca, renamed Keystone State, replaced the old 1,000-ton gunboat USS Annapolis in September 1942.
During this time, admission requirements at the school were raised to high school graduates between the ages of 17 and 20 years and students were instructed in dead reckoning, the duties of an officer; theoretical and practical marine engineering; and in handling boats. Some 2,000 young men cycled through the school in the war years.
In April 1946, the Maritime Commission made the newly-decommissioned Artemis-class attack cargo ship USS Selinur (AKA-41) available to the school as Keystone State II, and Seneca was returned.
She was scrapped in 1950, one of the last vessels built for the Revenue Marine Service still afloat at the time.
Seneca, however, is well remembered.
In 1928, the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, honoring the service’s war dead in general and those lost on Tampa and Seneca during WWI in particular, was dedicated.
Architect George Howe and sculptor Gaston Lachaise captured the spirit of the Coast Guard’s legendary steadfastness in the monument’s rock foundation and pyramid design. Above the Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus (meaning “Always Ready”), is a bronze seagull with its wings uplifted. The seagull symbolizes the tireless vigil that the U.S Coast Guard maintains over the nation’s maritime territory.
Further, the centennial medals issued by the U.S. Mint in 2018 honoring the service’s participation in the Great War depicts a lifeboat from the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca heading out in heavy seas toward the torpedoed steamship Wellington.
Her name was recycled for the “Famous” class 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutter, WMEC-906, was commissioned in 1987 and is homeported in Boston.
Tonnage: 1,259 tons (gross)
Length: 204 ft.
Breadth: 34 ft. Breadth
Draft (or Depth): 17.3 ft. (depth)
Engines: Two Scotch boilers, one triple expansion steam engine, one shaft.
Speed: 11.2 knots
Crew: 9/65 designed, 110 wartime
Armament: (1908) 4- 6pdrs
(1917) 4 3″/50 cal guns, depth charges
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The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maple, a 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tender, completed their historic voyage through the Northwest Passage yesterday and has arrived at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, MD.
Accompanied for most of the way by the Canadian Coast Guard vessels under the 1988 Canada-US Agreement on Arctic Cooperation, Maple departed Sitka, Alaska on 12 July.
The passage marks the 60th anniversary of the five-month trek of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador from May to September of 1957.
This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage.
The crews the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador, charted, recorded water depths and installed aids to navigation for future shipping lanes from May to September of 1957.
All four crews became the first deep-draft ships to sail through the Northwest Passage, which are several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.
As a nod to that, the 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tender USCGC Maple, accompanied for most of the way by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier under the 1988 Canada-US Agreement on Arctic Cooperation, departed Sitka, Alaska on 12 July and will reach Baltimore, Maryland, 23 August.
Along the way they are conducting scientific research in support of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as well as dropping three sonographic buoys to record acoustic sounds of marine mammals. A principal investigator with the University of San Diego embarked aboard the cutter will analyze the data retrieved from the buoys.
In another milestone that the agency is expanding their polar reach, the Coast Guard dived in the Arctic for the first time since two divers perished in 2006 while on the icebreaker Healy. The mission was supported by Coast Guard Regional Dive Lockers San Diego and Honolulu and U.S. Navy Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Intermediate Maintenance Facility, with the latter providing a portable recompression chamber and a DMT.
Healy is also conducting, as part of the RDC Arctic Technology Evaluation, a number of tests of tech in the polar region including the InstantEye small unmanned aircraft system and others.
Happy 227th Birthday to the U.S. Coast Guard!
From the top:
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-092//
SUBJ: COAST GUARD’s 227TH BIRTHDAY
1. August 4th, 2017 will mark the Coast Guard’s 227th birthday.
2. On that date in 1790, President George Washington signed an Act, passed by
Congress and championed by the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton,
that authorized the creation of a federal fleet of 10 revenue cutters charged
with enforcing laws and protecting commerce of the new nation. Since the
federal government did not have a navy at the time, the small federal fleet of
sea-going, revenue cutters was the only naval force capable of protecting U.S.
maritime interests on the high seas and along the coastline. National defense
has therefore been a core mission since our founding.
3. Revenue and later Coast Guard cutters, along with the men and women in
Coast Guard service, participated in all of the nation’s major conflicts since
its founding, including the Vietnam War. Now 50 years hence, we honor those
who served our nation in Southeast Asia.
4. Coast Guardsmen first answered the call after the Navy requested Coast
Guard support for operations in the waters off South Vietnam. Coast Guard
afloat units, both WPBs and WHECs, served in two Coast Guard squadrons in the
waters of Southeast Asia and engaged in combat patrols, gunfire support, and
humanitarian missions. After a request for navigation support, the Coast Guard
established Long Range Navigation (LORAN) stations throughout Southeast Asia,
in an important operation codenamed “Tight Reign”. Additionally, Coast Guard
aviators served with Air Force search and rescue units and the buoy tenders
established maritime aids to navigation. A Port Security and Waterways Detail
and Explosive Loading Detachments ensured the safe loading and unloading of
vital munitions in theatre and a Merchant Marine Detail provided needed
support of merchant marine personnel and vessels. Many Coast Guardsmen and
their Public Health Service shipmates conducted numerous medical support
visits to South Vietnamese villages and distributed food, clothing, and toys
to those in need.
5. The Coast Guard role in South Vietnam ended with the closing of LORAN
stations in South Vietnam and Thailand in 1975, as Saigon fell to North
Vietnamese forces. The Coast Guard’s service was not without cost, as eight
Coast Guardsmen perished in the line of duty in Vietnam, while another
61 were wounded in action. It would do well, on this Coast Guard birthday,
to remember their sacrifices along with the sacrifices of all Coast Guardsmen
who gave their all in service of their country.
6. Over the next years the Coast Guard will continue to support efforts to
recognize the service of its veterans in Vietnam. For more information
please visit our website at https://www.uscg.mil/history/ops/wars/VTN/VTN
-Index.asp. Eligible Coast Guard Vietnam Veterans may obtain lapel pins from
The Vietnam War Commemoration. For details please see:
7. Ms. Ellen Engleman Conners, Acting Director of Governmental and Public
8. Internet release authorized.
USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, was commissioned in 1969 and, after nearly a half-century of service, including action in the Vietnam War, numerous major drug interdictions, law enforcement cases, and a variety of noteworthy rescues was taken out of U.S. service at Honolulu in April. Now, renamed CSB 8020, she was commissioned into the Coast Guard of Vietnam where she will continue her traditional mission under a red flag.
“This cutter provides a concrete and significant symbol of the U.S-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership,” said U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael J. Haycock, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, in a statement. “The Coast Guard is honored to see this vessel continue to preserve global peace and prosperity as a part of the Vietnam coast guard.”
As part of Operation Market Time, Morgenthau was very active in the Vietnam War, conducting support for coastal patrol craft, naval gunfire support, and patrol duties off the coast of Vietnam in 1970-71. During her period in Market Time, she delivered 19 naval gunfire support missions on targets ashore, inspected 627 junks and sampans, and cruised 39,029 miles on patrol. In total, she fired 1,645 rounds from her main 5-inch gun, destroying 32 structures and 12 bunkers ashore.
Her crew also sank an armed North Vietnamese SL-8 trawler in a night surface action while it was trying to infiltrate the South Vietnam coastline.
Morgenthau later made Coast Guard history by being one of the first ships to have gender-integrated crews and captured a number of drug runners on the high seas. In short, she had an extensive and celebrated career.
The cutter was transferred in conjunction with an additional six smaller 45-foot patrol boats this week as tensions in the South China Sea between China and her neighbors escalate and Vietnam is now counted as a key U.S. ally in the region.
This is not the first time the U.S. has helped rebuild the navies of former enemies. Among the first ships of the new Japanese and German fleets in the 1950s in the aftermath of World War II were loaned former U.S. Navy vessels.
Moving past equipping the Vietnamese coast guard, the Southeast Asian country is looking to pick up 100~ modern fighter-bombers “to replace its antiquated fleet of 144 Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbeds and thirty-eight Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter strike aircraft.”
While some say competitors range from the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and South Korea’s F/A-50 lightweight fighter, how much do you want to bet they may get 100 gently refirb’d surplus F-16C/Ds fresh from the boneyard.
Heck, we are using the F-16A/Bs as target drones at this point.
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.