Airbus helicopters are an indispensable weapon in the U.S. Coast Guard’s fight against illegal drugs.

The Coast Guard deploys the MH-65 Dauphin aboard seagoing cutters as part of a multi-layered approach to combat drug smuggling.

Created in 1998, the agency’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, known as HITRON, has helped seize billions of dollars in illegal drugs. Coast Guard interdiction accounts for more than half of all U.S. government seizures of cocaine each year.

MH-65 helicopter crews embark from cutters deployed on the high seas, patrolling for illegal drug and migrant trafficking. When a drug runner is spotted, the MH-65 helicopter goes into action.

Helicopter crews communicate their findings to the cutter. The MH-65 crew then attempts a series of methods to persuade the drug boat to stop. If the drug trafficker continues to flee, a sniper in the helicopter takes out the vessel’s engines with expertly placed rounds of ammunition, allowing the cutter’s teams to capture the disabled vessel.

USCG - MH-65- drug trafficking patrol


“The Coast Guard is our first line of defense against illegal drug smugglers seeking to bring these substances into the United States, as they fight traffickers on the high seas thousands of miles from our nation’s borders,” said Ron Tremain, senior director of Coast Guard Affairs for Airbus Helicopters Inc. “Airbus Helicopters is proud to support these missions that serve and protect Americans.”

The Coast Guard works with numerous federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and other countries to disrupt the illegal flow of drugs across a six million square-mile region.

In recent months, the Coast Guard:

  • Set a record for the largest single interdiction of cocaine at 10,915 pounds, worth $206.4 million, during an Eastern Pacific patrol.

  • Disrupted the smuggling of $51 million worth of cocaine in waters northeast of the British Virgin Islands.

  • Intercepted 882 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $16 million in the Caribbean Sea.

  • Captured a staggering 55,000 pounds worth more than $1 billion during multiple drug seizures on a single patrol

The Coast Guard selected the Airbus Helicopters Dauphin in 1979 as its new short-range recovery air-sea rescue helicopter. The first delivery followed in 1984.

With their trademark bright orange hue, the helicopters are certified for operation in all-weather and nighttime operations, meaning they are ready to deploy when needed and can be found operating around the globe.

From the Arctic and Antarctic regions to the western pacific and Persian Gulf, the MH-65 is there.

“Every kilo of cocaine or other illicit drug we intercept is a kilo kept off of our streets,” said CAPT Gregory Matyas, HITRON’s Commanding Officer. “Our helicopter fleet is a critical piece of our drug interdiction operations.”