Coast Guard to Begin Training with Armed Helicopters

CLEARWATER, Fla. – As part of an effort to expand homeland-security capabilities, helicopter crews from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., will begin Airborne Use of Force (AUF) training along Florida’s West Coast, from Citrus County to Collier County, beginning April 18.

Providing our aircrews with the AUF capability will enhance our ability to perform our maritime security responsibilities, and therefore, better protect our community and serve our nation.

During this training, helicopter crews will simulate stopping a boat by firing blank rounds. Coast Guard small boats will serve as simulated targets. Coast Guard helicopter crews will also be conducting live-fire training exercises inside designated Department of Defense warning areas offshore.

While every effort will be made to conduct this training away from boating-traffic lanes and populated areas, the training may be visible and audible to boaters.

The safety of the public and our members is of the utmost concern and an integral component of the planning for the training. Coast Guard air crews who conduct the AUF mission are hand-selected, highly-trained individuals specifically chosen for this mission. This training will significantly increase the capabilities of the Coast Guard and enable our crews to better react to threats to maritime security.

The Coast Guard’s AUF capability is used regularly by the counter-drug Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON). Trained gunners on armed helicopters operating from Coast Guard cutters fire disabling rounds into outboard engines with a heavy caliber, shoulder-fired rifles to stop drug smugglers that refuse to comply with warnings to heave-to. The concept has proved extremely successful and effective, paving the way for future Coast Guard AUF operations.

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