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The United States Coast Guard (USCG) belongs to the executive branch and forms one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. During peace time it is subordinated to the United States Department of Homeland Security and forms one part of the military of the United Sates. During war times it reports to the Secretary of the US Navy and its equipment is integrated in the military operations.

The Coast Guard has more than 200 air craft on 24 air stations in use in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. The aircraft fleet includes helicopters like the MH-65 Dolphin and MH-60 Jayhawk and fixed wing aircraft like the HC-144A Ocean Sentry and HC-130H Hercules.

Four HC-130H Hercules are based on the Coast Guard Station McClellan Airfield, one of the three larger airfields in Sacramento. The aircraft are mainly used for SAR (Search And Rescue) along the pacific coast. The Hercules is not designed for coastal services, but especially for SAR duties the aircraft fulfils a useful role in combination with other aircraft. The Hercs of McClellan are already refurbished with modern Garmin Avionics and partly glass cockpits. Furthermore the aircraft have a large window on the left and right side in the front fuselage allowing visual observations of ocean and coast.

Beyond SAR duties the aircraft are used for transport duties and fly freight as far as Alaska and Hawaii. In addition they support the border troops in controlling the coastal areas on the border to Mexico at night, documenting illegal border crossings and guiding afterwards ground based troops to the relevant spots. These missions can last up to 12 hours, thus very exhausting for the Crews.

Good-Bye Hercules?

Not completely, but at least for the McClellan Airfield it is true. Due to its age the HC-130H aircraft will be retired on this and all other bases. As replacement the Coast Guard will use C-27J Spartans which have been purchased but not taken up by the US Army. Due to its performance the C-27J is very well suited for the Coast Guard and their missions, accepting as negative consequence the reduced fright volume. The aircraft are already in Sacramento and are prepared for their future missions.

For the Hercules 2016 marks the end of the line. Due to more special mission areas some more modern C-130s will remain in use on the Eastern Coast and in Alaska. These aircraft will receive complete glass cockpits and new propellers to extend their lives and bring them to modern standards.

Tragic accident: On October 29th2009 a tragedy developed 24 kilometres away from San Clemente Island involving a Coast Guard Hercules home-based in Sacramento. The aircraft with registration 1705 passed through a military training area on a Search and Rescue mission for a missing oarsmen and collided with an AH-1W Super Cobra from the US Marine Corps based in Cape Pendleton close to San Diego. Today a bronze memorial in front of the base reminds everyone about this accident which no-one of all involved survived.

We would like to Thank Press-Officer Lieutenant Alklison Majcher!

Thomas Ziegler und Alexander Schwarz, May 2016

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