Eighteen HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft are included in the Coast Guard’s medium range surveillance fleet, along with the incoming C-27J Spartans. The fixed-wing, turboprop aircraft has an endurance of more than 10 hours and an extensive sensor capability that helps the Coast Guard fulfill its maritime patrol, drug and migrant interdiction, disaster response, and search and rescue missions more effectively.
The Ocean Sentry is particularly effective at locating objects in large search areas and vectoring other military, government and first responders to these locations. The aircraft has the capability to perform aerial delivery of search and rescue equipment, such as rafts, pumps and flares. Also, with its sophisticated command and control system, it can serve as a platform for an on-scene commander during homeland security missions.
The Ocean Sentry also features a rear ramp that allows crews to quickly reconfigure the aircraft for varied operations, including command and control, medical evacuation or passenger transport.
The Coast Guard is upgrading its HC-144A fleet to improve mission effectiveness and situational awareness through the Ocean Sentry Refresh project. Each aircraft will receive a new cockpit control and display unit, used in flight management as the primary avionics computer for communication control, navigation and equipment monitoring. Upon completion, each aircraft is redesignated as an HC-144B.
The service is also integrating the Navy’s Minotaur mission system architecture across its fixed-wing aircraft fleet. The Minotaur integration process for the prototype HC-144B began at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, in July 2016.