Van Ness is a HITRON-10 member and recognized for his role in evaluating night vision goggles (NVG) and applying them to the Unit’s proof of concept and mission. He later retired as a Lieutenant Commander.
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 (USCGC) to answer the call.
The HITRON helicopters aircrews 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 the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron history.
HITRON started with two MD 900 Explorer helicopters, which were later replaced by two more (more modern) MD 902, designated as MH-90 Enforcer by the U.S. Coast Guard. HITRON’s helicopter fleet subsequently quadrupled to eight MH-68A Mako (Agusta A109E Power). All of them were operated by the Unit under rental contract.
Today, the entire current fleet of MH-65 Dolphin helicopters is owned by the USCG and began to fly with the HITRON in 2008 with the introduction of the MH-65C.