MH-68 Sharks such as these currently are the only armed Coast Guard helicopters; they are used for interdicting drug runners off U.S. shares. If the Coast Guard truly wants to fulfill its homeland security mission, all its helicopters should be armed and ready to use force if necessary.
Arming the Coast Guard's fleet of helicopters and developing tactics in support of our homeland security responsibilities must be accelerated. The effort is well under way, but it needs the continued support of senior decision makers. It also demands some tough decisions.
The speed and maneuverability of rotary-wing aircraft are vital attributes in any maritime counterterrorism or enhanced law enforcement capability. The problem is that the Coast Guard's current rotary-wing fleet is comprised of aircraft procured and sited based on the needs of a world in which search and rescue was the organization's number-one mission. Today, the Coast Guard's helicopters must be armed to provide teeth to a maritime homeland security capability, as well as to add more teeth to the longstanding drug interdiction effort.