- mh-90 enforcer: the armed helicopters of us coast guard’s drug interdiction program
MH-90 Enforcer: The Armed Helicopters of US Coast Guard’s Drug Interdiction Program
In the 1990s, the United States Coast Guard enacted a covert program, dubbed “New Frontier”, to create an advanced helicopter which could keep up with speedboats used by drug cartels for smuggling illicit goods. Towards this purpose, the Coast Guard intended for these new helicopters to be weaponized with machine guns and sniper rifles, have sufficient cabin space, an integrated avionics suite, high speed ability, and have takeoff and landing capabilities on the USCG’s Medium Endurance Cutters (WMEC), commissioned vessels longer than 65 feet with a permanent crew aboard.
The helicopter deemed most suited for drug interdiction operations was the MD-900 Explorer, manufactured by the now-defunct rotorcraft company, McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. These helicopters were unique in that the rotorcraft’s tail used a proprietary NOTAR vectored thrust tail boom, instead of a conventional rotor. This design creates lift through an enclosed articulated fan providing wake from the main rotor with down wash from low pressure air forced through two slots on the tail boom.
This system is much quieter as well as less physically cumbersome than rotorcraft fitted with a traditional rotor tail. The service procured two MD-900s
and renamed them MH-90 Enforcers. The Enforcers were fitted with military specification equipment including night vision lighting, a forward looking infrared (FLIR) turret, armored plating on the body, an emergency landing system, a rescue hoist, and high frequency radios which could be encrypted.
In 1999, this program was declassified after numerous successes and confiscation of over $100 million of drugs within two years of inception. In 2000, an official airborne drug interdiction program was introduced – the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron (HITRON) – and the USCG sent out a formal request for special purpose helicopters.
The A109E Power by AgustaWestland was procured and its military variant was designated the MH-68 Stingray. The MH-68 was utilized until the end of its military lease in 2008. Currently, HITRON employs the MH-65C – the HITRON variant of the USCG’s Search and Rescue HH-65 Dolphin (originally developed and manufactured from the AS365 Dauphin by Eurocopter).
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Posted on March 23, 2015