A Project of the Coast Guard Aviation Association

1982 – HU25 Falcon Jet Enters Service

HU-25 GuardianThe HU-25 Falcon Jet is a medium-range surveillance (MRS) fixed-wing aircraft that was used to perform search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties including illegal drug interdiction, marine environmental protection, and military readiness. The origin of this MRS procurement can be traced back to 1966 when the Coast Guard participated in a full-scale wing fatigue test of the HU-16. A wing service life of 11,000 hours was established. Replacement would be required. The possibility of utilizing a mix of HH-3F helicopters and C-130 aircraft was evaluated in 1971. In 1972 several aircraft that could possibly fit the MRS requirements were leased for evaluation. Because of industry and Congressional challenges, it was not until January of 1977 that a contract was awarded to Dassault-Breguet for the Falcon Twenty (HU-25A). The first aircraft was delivered in February of 1982 with subsequent deliveries of one per month for a period of 41 months.

Forty-one HU-25 medium range surveillance fan jets replaced the HU-16E Albatross and the C-131A Samaritan prop driven aircraft in the Coast Guard aviation fleet. The Guardian’s modern technology and design enhances its performance as the service’s first multi-mission jet. It is twice as fast as previous Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft and can get to the scene quickly to perform its role.

An Aircraft Programs Office (APO) was established in Little Rock Arkansas. The Falcon 20 (HU-25)  was manufactured and flight tested at AMD Dassualt Bordeaux France. The GE CF700 Engines and APUs were removed and the engine pylons replaced with ATF3 compatible pylons. The airframe was then disassembled and loaded aboard a stretch version of a C-130 and delivered to Falcon Jet Aircraft in Little Rock. The wings and empennage were stored at little Rock and the fuselage shipped to Grumman Aircraft Corporation for modifications. Grumman performed five HU-25 specific modifications. This consisted of two large rectangular search windows aft the entry door, a drop hatch in the floor forward of the wing root, a spoiler door for the drop hatch, a drop rail, and a camera window and door. Falcon Jet then re-assembled the airframe in Little Rock. Two Garrett ATF3-6-2 engines and a Garrett auxiliary power unit were installed. The aircraft was flight tested and delivered to the Coast Guard as the HU-25. The Garrett turbo fan engines were manufactured in Phoenix, Arizona specifically for the aircraft’s long flights. The computer controlled air navigation system was built by Rockwell International, Collins Avionics group in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The HU-25 had surveillance system operators (SSO) console including Texas Instruments radar with 160-mile range, manufactured in Dallas, Texas. All 41 HU-25 aircraft were delivered from Falcon Jet Little Rock to the Coast Guard between February 1982 and May 1984.

The Coast Guard, the first user of the AT3-6A-2C engine, initially had problems with corrosion and early engine removals. The HU-25 engines were upgraded to the ATF3-6-4C giving satisfactory performance.

In 1997 the Coast Guard initiated a study to determine the mission profile of the HU-25. The reason for this study was a part of continuing efforts to extend the service life of the HU-25. Dassault-Falcon Jet developed a program whereby Falcon 20’s (the HU-25 is really a Falcon 20G) can have its service life extended from 20,000 flights and 30,000 landings to 40,000 flights and 60,000 landings. The aircraft was given a Major Corrosion Inspection and then periodic additional inspections in critical areas to assure the airplane could continue to fly. To put this in perspective, the Coast Guard has been operating the HU-25 since 1982 and by 1997 the aircraft with the highest time was only about halfway through its initial service life. Civilian Falcon aircraft track flights, while the Coast Guard has always tracked only hours and landings. Pressurization cycles of the fuselage are the most critical factor for the HU-25.

A program, to upgrade the sensor capability on HU-25 aircraft resulted in the HU-25B variant. The HU-25B was equipped with the Aireye Surveillance System and wing pods carrying side-looking radar (SLAR). The upgrade was delayed due to funding and technical problems. The project goal was to capture the analog output of the HU-25B sensors, convert it to a digital signal, and be able to process the data on a computer. The hardware for the first installation was installed on CG 2118 in Kalispell, Montana. Software integration problems were the driving force in the delay of the program.

Additional sensor upgrades resulted in the HU-25C and HU-25D variants. The HU-25C, used for air interdiction, was equipped with an APG-66 air intercept radar, improved Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) radar; an Electro-Optical day color Electro-Optic device; military satellite communications and advanced tactical workstation, with data base, capable of tracking up to 30 surface contacts simultaneously.

The HU-25D had the same FLIR/EO/LLTV/ Tactical Workstation as the HU-25C but was equipped with the AN/APS-143(V) Inverse Synthetic-Aperture Radar (ISAR) system.


Major Missions Search and Rescue/ law enforcement/air interdiction
Max gross Weight 32,000 lbs
Fuel Capacity 10431 pounds
Empty Op Weight 25,500lbs
Operating Range 2045 NM
Length 55 ft
Wing Span 54 ft
Powerplants Two Garrett ATF3-6 turbo fans  5440 thrust each
Cruising Speed 350 kts at sea level      380 kts above 20,000 ft
Max Speed 450 kts
Max Range 1,940 nautical miles
Radius of Action 800 nautical miles
Service Ceiling 41,000 ft
Endurance 5.75 hours
Crew 5

The HU-25 Guardian medium-range search-and-rescue/interdiction turbojet was replaced by the EADS-CASA medium range HC-144A maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) The First HC-144 was operational in April of 2009. The Last HU-25 was taken out of service in June 2013.    The HC 144 is a fixed-wing turboprop aircraft that provides increased on-scene loitering capabilities and performs various missions including maritime patrol, law enforcement, cargo and personnel transport and Search and Rescue. It shares a common mission system with the HC-130. It was the first all-new aircraft to enter into the Coast Guard inventory under the Deepwater program.

The Early Years

The Growth Years

Coming Of Age

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Oral History