Coast Guard launches new airborne capability

SEATTLE – Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, Wash., has commenced training select pilots and crewmembers for its new airborne use of force capability.

This specialized training is part of the Coast Guard’s enhanced homeland defense mission. The public may see Coast Guard helicopters maneuvering above Coast Guard small boats in the Strait of Juan De Fuca as part of this training program.

The majority of training is conducted using blanks. Live fire training is conducted, but only as a scheduled event in designated Department of Defense warning areas or land-based DOD ranges. Coast Guard crews issue a notice to mariners prior to conducting a gunnery exercise.

Following the attacks of Sept. 11, the Coast Guard faced a renewed call to provide increased maritime and force projection for homeland security missions. From this grew the concept of expanding and arming select Coast Guard aviation forces to provide an airborne use of force capability.

This enhanced mission is varied in nature and threat based; a crew may provide security zone enforcement, conduct armed patrols of critical infrastructure or provide aerial cover for vessel boarding teams. Arming select Coast Guard helicopter crews enhances the Coast Guard’s ability to react to maritime security threats, better protecting the nation. This capability also provides operational commanders with an increased capability to perform maritime security duties.

The arming of Coast Guard helicopter crews will not compromise the Coast Guard’s legacy missions such as search and rescue or environmental response. The need to implement this capability will be on specific missions or to counter emerging threats.

Coast Guard aircrews who conduct this mission are hand-selected, highly trained individuals specifically chosen for their maturity, judgment and sound decision making skills. Their training will focus on response operations in port environments and high value asset escort operations.

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