Anybody know anything about the MH-68 Sting Ray?

I was reading a story about a Coast Guard bust of a “go-fast” cocaine smuggling boat in the Caribbean. The seizure was accomplished using a MH-68 helicopter to disable the outboard engines of the smuggler.

I was not aware of this aircraft previously. It seems to be a variant of the Augusta A109, purchased specifically for this mission. Which got me to wondering, why was a new aircraft necessary? It has a max airspeed of 170 knots, which is not notably faster than the other two copters in USCG service, the HH-60J Jayhawk and HH-65A Dolphin. The range and size of the Sting Ray is similar to the Dolphin, as well. I don’t see that the Dolphin or Jayhawk couldn’t be capable of carrying the weapons or sensors in the Sting Ray, but I suppose it is possible.

Was it an economic decision? Is the Augusta cheaper than the Sikorsky? Given the near-ubiquity of variants of the H-60 in US armed forces, I would think that there are standardization savings in using that instead of a new platform, but I could be wrong.

Anyone know the story about getting a third copter just for this duty?


USCG MH-68 / A109 Fleet Yields Fast Pay-Off

That helps, thanks. It explains why the A109 versus others in the competition. Unfortunately, it doesn’t identify the competition, so I don’t know if the HH-60J and HH-68 were considered. I’m still left with half of my original question, which is why even hold a competiton instead of re-deploying existing types?

I did see one error in the linked article: “The A109 Power, the only twin light helicopter capable of ship-based operations,” The SH-2 Seasprite is also a twin-engined light shipboard-capable helicopter, but I have no idea if it is suitable for the mission of the A109.

One issue is availability of existing aircraft. The CG doesn’t have a supply of 60’s & 65’s just sitting around doing nothing. Each aircraft at an air station is a huge asset that no station could easily lose due to mission change. While the 60 can certainly be armed, that arming comes at the sacrifice of its SAR capabilities, the core mission of the CG aviation community. (among other problems)

The HITRON unit that employs the armed helos are a new approach to the counter-drug mission for the US. These helos are mission dedicated, cutter deployable, and the results thus far have been impressive.

I would guess, that since acquisition of new aircraft would be required, a competition was held to determine the best type, and the 68 fit the best.