Pilots busting the Washington, D.C. air defense identification zone (ADIZ) will now find a helicopter of a different color off their wing to escort them out of the area and into a nearby airport for questioning. The Coast Guard’s orange-and-white HH-65C Dolphins have replaced the Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) black-and-gold Black Hawks.
While the Coast Guard air station in Atlantic City, N.J., now has responsibility for intercepting “low and slow” aircraft violating the ADIZ without the proper flight plan and clearance, the aircraft are based at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and will be able to respond quickly to violations.
Normally part of the Department of Transportation, the Coast Guard during wartime becomes one of seven uniformed military services under the Department of Defense. As such, it supports the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s mission with its rotary-wing air-intercept capability.
Coast Guard aircrews have conducted rotary-wing air-intercept operations at the 2006 Super Bowl, the 2004 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, the G-8 Summit, in support of space shuttle launches and for other special events where airspace security is crucial.
CBP is primarily a law-enforcement agency, and with the increased emphasis on protecting the border between the U.S. and Mexico, its aircraft are being redeployed to the south.
The Dolphins are equipped with civilian-frequency VHF radios and electronic signboards so that they can communicate with pilots who might be having radio problems. Another plus is that the Coast Guard is more experienced with the chain of command involved in the defense of the National Capital Region airspace.