Dramatic USCG Rescue Shows Impact of New C4ISR Systems


Credit: USCG Atlantic Area, January 3, 2010

As we discussed in an earlier article, the new C4ISR systems allow the USCG to connect their assets and work with other agencies to force multiply. Unfortunately, you cannot break a bottle over a C4ISR system (without destroying it) to celebrate its introduction, like you can with a new cutter. As a result, the funding agencies and Congress are less enthusiastic about supporting connectivity than platforms. Yet the electrons matter in delivering results.

A recent example is seen in a dramatic rescue done by the USCG. The twin missions of the USCG are safety and security. This safety mission was enabled by the coordinated operation of USCG and USN assets. The services worked together on January 3 to return a rescued man to shore after his sailboat sank about 250 nautical miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C. The video was shot by the night camera of the USCG C130 which itself is an innovative insertion of technology. The video includes an aerial shot of the sailboat of Dennis Clements before it sank.

An HC-130J, deployed from the Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, NC used newly installed mission systems to locate a sailboat in distress just before it sank. The crew was able to drop a raft to the sole occupant, saving his life. It also acted as on scene commander for a Navy H-60 dispatched from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to hoist the survivor from the raft. During this nighttime search and rescue mission, weather conditions were extremely poor with gale winds blowing ice and snow; visibility was near zero. The HC-130J’s mission system was essential in finding the sinking vessel during the winter storm and providing critical communications with the Navy rescue helicopter.

The HC-130J’s radio direction finder system was used to detect the search and rescue beacon from the distressed vessel. This system provides line of bearing for particular radio frequencies including those of an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). The ocean is a vast expanse and the ability quickly to establish the location of distress beacon is extremely important, even during the day, in favorable weather conditions.

As the HC-130J approached the general location of the distress beacon, the day/night, all weather electro-optical infra-red system was used for identification and tracking of the sinking vessel. This system provided a visual picture of the distressed vessel and an accurate picture of deployed rescue raft. In the pitch dark of a winter storm, so severe the sailboat was literally being torn apart, the crew aboard the HC-130J was able to see that the man in the water was able to locate and climb into the life raft.

The mission system suite provided the local tactical picture enabling the Coast Guard aircraft to be the onsite coordinator of the rescue. Advanced radio systems aboard the HC-130J were used for communication with the USS Eisenhower and the deployed rescue helicopter. A rescue in such brutal conditions was surprising even to the survivor who said, “…man, it was an almost unbelievable experience to realize that I wasn’t going to die.” A great success, made possible by the tremendous bravery and skills of well trained and properly equipped Coast Guard and Navy personnel.


***Posted January 10th, 2010