The Coast Guard is expanding the capabilities of its HC-27J medium range surveillance aircraft fleet, thanks to the Minotaur mission system architecture developed by the Navy.
The U.S. Coast Guard began last month the testing of the missionized configuration of the HC-27J medium range surveillance aircraft. The prototype, CGNR 2712 and former USAF 09-27021, took off from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, on Sept.6, 2023, for the first functional test flight tailored to exercise the program’s Safety of Flight and Safety of Test systems prior to fully proceeding into the flight test phase.
The USCG worked with the Naval Air Systems Command’s Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division AIRWorks Team and Leonardo to enhance its fixed-wing surveillance aircraft fleet with improved capabilities to gather, process and transmit information during maritime patrol aircraft joint operations. The testing is being performed by the NAWCAD’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 HC-27J test team.
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The Coast Guard is missionizing 14 C-27J Spartan aircraft that were transferred from the U.S. Air Force under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. As originally delivered after being regenerated from a preserved status at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, the C-27Js were outfitted with weather radar and communications equipment capable of supporting transport and other Coast Guard missions.
The Coast Guard worked with Naval Air Systems Command to determine which additional specialized equipment, such as surface search radar, electro-optical/infrared sensors and processors, could be installed to enhance and expand the aircraft’s capabilities and efficiently perform drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response and search and rescue missions. The other medium range aircraft of the USCG, the HC-144 Ocean Sentry, is undergoing a similar modification.
The C-27J missionization package is based on the Minotaur mission system architecture, developed by the Navy, that the Coast Guard is implementing across the rest of its fixed-wing fleet to integrate the specialized components because it offers significant increases in speed and memory capability. Minotaur incorporates sensors, radar and command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment and enables aircrews to gather and process surveillance information that can be transmitted to other platforms and units during flight.
Minotaur is open-architecture and government-owned, allowing easier and more affordable upgrades, and the two services worked together to develop it to meet Coast Guard mission requirements. The system collects all the data from the different sources and integrates them in a single workstation to give the crew a complete picture of the mission.