A Seaguard for the Coastguard


The first military helicopters used relatively low-powered piston engines, and these gave a marginal performance in ‘hot and high’ situations. Examples of these types include the SARO AOP 12 Skeeter in Great Britain (200hp Gipsy Major engine) and the Sikorsky R-6 (280hp Lycoming TVO-435F1A). Until a higher-powered turboshaft engine could be fitted, these early generation helicopters were going to be confined to short-range two/three seaters.

By the early 1960s, Sikorsky had established themselves as a major manufacturer of military helicopters, but wanted to extend the performance envelope. The US Coastguard were operating their equivalent of the Army’s H-19 Chickasaw, the Ho4S-3G (later called H-19G), powered by a Wright R-1300 of 700 hp, on search and rescue duties. Sikorsky designed a larger, more capable aircraft for the Coastguard, a version of the S-62, called the HH-52. Here we can see an HH-52A, powered by a single General Electric T58-GE-8 turboshaft producing 1,250 eshp. This engine is identical to the two units used in the larger S-61 of the US Navy, which is of the same general design.

The HH-52A has a watertight hull, with pontoons, so it can safely land on water and perform difficult rescues, but it usually deploys the rescue hoist you can see on the starboard side of the fuselage, just above the door. Airframe technicians and other USCG personnel were put through HH-52 familiarization courses at the Sikorsky factory school, as well as airframe and powerplant training at the Aircraft Repair & Supply Center at USCG Elizabeth City, North Carolina. No less than 151 HH-52A helicopters were taken into service by the USCG, 17 of which are preserved in  museums. This particular example is on display at the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. One HH-52A, #1394,  is still being flown in private hands, and makes appearances at air shows around the US, a real tribute to crew members who flew the Seaguard, and who saved more than 1500 lives between 1963 and 1989. It was replaced by the HH-65A Dolphin (derived from the Eurocopter 336 G1 Dauphin).

One interesting fact is that, in times of peace, the Coastguard comes under the operational control of the Department of Homeland Security; in war, the USCG is controlled by the Department of the Navy, if so designated by the President or Congress of the United States.

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