Mac Donald Douglas MD-90 “Enforcer”
As part of FRONTIER LANCE, a mostly secret operation within an operation, named Operation NEW FRONTIER was conducted. Despite intelligence cueing, surface assets could not match the speed of the “go-fasts.” Helicopters on board the larger cutters could keep up with the “go-fasts” and keep them under surveillance until they required refueling but they had no means of forcing them to stop. Any serious attempt to stop the “go-fasts” would require a drastic change in capabilities. The Commandant directed that a proof of concept operation using armed Coast Guard helicopters to interdict and apprehend “go-fasts” be conducted.
A group, named HITRON-10, pioneered novel and effective operating tactics and procedures. HITRON was the acronym for Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron and 10 represented the number of crewmembers assigned. The team flew leased MH-90 enforcer helicopters The MH-90, a militarized version of the MD 900 helicopters built by MD Helicopters Incorporated, was an all weather, short range, single rotor, shipboard helicopter. It was powered by a Pratt & Whitney 206D turboshaft engine and designed without a tail rotor. It could cruise at 120 knots for 2.5 hours. The 6,500-pound helicopter was equipped with weather radar, an Mk III forward-looking infrared system (with video-recording capability), night-vision devices, an external sling capable of lifting 1,500 pounds, and a rescue hoist capable of lifting 600 pounds. The crew consisted of two pilots and one crewman. The crewman’s principal duties included firing an M240G 7.62mm machine gun (swivel-mounted at the portside cabin door) and/or a hand-held laser-sighted .50-caliber rifle. He also operated hand-held video and photographic equipment. MD Helicopters Incorporated provided logistic support for the Enforcers.
In March 2000, the Coast Guard completed its proof-of-concept efforts and started the process of standing up a fully operational HITRON squadron. Soon thereafter, Coast Guard pilots, aircrews, and support personnel began reporting to Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, where the new unit would be headquartered.