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Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) History

Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) History
Archive image: LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 1, 2003) — The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) patrols the skies over the Los Angeles Harbor.
The MH-68A helicopter is specially equipped with M-16 rifles, an M240 machine gun and the RC50 laser sighted 50-caliber precision rifle.
HITRON’s primary missions are drug interdiction and Home Land Security.
The Queen Mary is a Long Beach Treasure. The ship is one of the largest passenger ships ever built. During WWII it transported military personnel and prisoners of war. It is now included in the National Register of Historic Places and houses restaurants, shops, banquet facilities and a hotel.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dave Hardesty.

In this documentary series the U.S. Coast Guard spoked with Charles Anthony Hopkins, a Chief Warrant Officer retired with nearly 32 years in military service and was one of the original ten members to stand up Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON).

Hopkins is a HITRON 10 member and recognized for his role in selecting and developing the team’s weapons systems and procedures. He was also the gunner on the very first HITRON drug interdiction.

The HITRON operations started as an experiment in 1998 to halt the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S. Drug trafficking organizations primarily used «go-fast» boats, high-speed smuggling vessels capable of traveling over twice the speed of Coast Guard cutters. The Coast Guard needed a way to counter the threat.

In late 1998, six Coast Guard pilots and four enlisted aircrew members developed tactics and procedures to utilize armed helicopters operating aboard Coast Guard cutters to answer the call.

The Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron started with the MH-90 Enforcer (MD Helicopters 900 and later MD 902 Explorer). They were later replaced by the MH-68A Mako (Agusta A109 Power) and currently operate a total of eight Airbus Helicopters MH-65D Dolphin helicopters (awaiting upgrade to the MH-65E version).

The HITRON helicopters operate in known smuggling vectors and rely on expertly trained aircrews and precision marksmen to disable go-fast drug smuggling vessels in the event suspects refuse to comply with verbal and visual warnings for law enforcement boardings under international maritime law. This series focuses on the founding members, pioneers, and stakeholders who have played an essential part in HITRON’s history.

In this HITRON documentary series, the U.S. Coast Guard spoked with Charles A. Hopkins, retired as a Chief Warrant Officer him was one of the original ten members to stand up Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron.
U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Stanton.

Interview by: Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Moreno.
Edited by: Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Stanton.

-USCG-

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