Coast Guard completes armed helicopter training at Port Angeles

SEATTLE – The Coast Guard’s ports, waterways and coastal security program in the Pacific Northwest, achieved a new level of readiness when the air crews and aerial gunners from Group/Air Station Port Angeles, Wash., completed their final phase of armed helicopter training evolutions.

The air station crews have been conducting extensive land-based and open-ocean firing range training and hostile-boat intercept maneuvering drills since the initial phase of training began in the spring of 2008, when the air station received the upgraded MH-65C helicopters outfitted with M-14T rifles and M-240 machine guns.

The armed helicopter capability joins the Coast Guard’s existing fleet of armed boats, cutters, and maritime security boarding teams equipped to prevent actions that could adversely impact a large number of U.S. citizens. The armed helicopters add another tool that the Coast Guard, operating in the Pacific Northwest, can utilize to save lives as well as protect vital maritime assets.

Ports, waterways and coastal security is a homeland security mission designed to protect against threats to the Pacific Northwest’s bridges, ships, anchorages, ports, and other potential waterfront targets. The armed helicopter capability will not be used in routine law enforcement missions.

The concept of arming select Coast Guard aviation forces stems from the demand for increased homeland security following the attacks of 9/11. Air Station Port Angeles was the first legacy HH-65 unit in the nation selected to receive the airborne use of force capability. Coast Guard aircrews who conduct this mission are hand-selected, highly trained individuals specifically chosen for their maturity, judgment and sound decision making skills.

Arming select Coast Guard helicopter crews enhances the Coast Guard’s ability to react to maritime security threats and better protect the diverse and essential Pacific Northwest Maritime community.

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