Coast Guard Still Looking For UAS for NSC

By John M. Doyle

The U.S. Coast Guard is still in the market for a tactical unmanned aerial system (UAS) to extend the surveillance reach of the new National Security Cutter fleet, the head of acquisition for the service said May 11.

“We do envision some UAS flying off the flight deck of the Bertholf [the first National Security Cutter],” Rear Adm. Gary T. Blore, the Coast Guard’s Assistant Commandant for Acquisition, told a reporters’ roundtable.

Ever since the Coast Guard terminated its planned vertical takeoff UAV program, the Bell Eagle Eye, the service has been monitoring other UAS programs, Blore said. He said the Navy’s FireScout pilotless helicopter appears to be the farthest along but “we’re still waiting for [maritime] radar to be integrated on Fire Scout.”

Blore added that the Coast Guard was continuing “robust discussion” with the FAA about flight rules for unmanned aircraft in the National Air Space. The Coast Guard has created new billets for FAA liaison. In the meantime, Blore said the Coast Guard would use helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and possibly a mid-altitude UAS, like the Predator B being used by Customs and Border Protection, another Homeland Security Department agency, to supplement aerial surveillance.

Since the Bertholf, the first of the planned eight-ship NSC fleet, just received final acceptance from the Coast Guard “we still have a couple of years” to work through the problem.

Photo: Northrop Grumman

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