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Coast Guard HITRON History Series: Rear Adm. Donna Cottrell

Coast Guard HITRON History Series: Rear Adm. Donna Cottrell
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.
U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Dave Hardesty.

The U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (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 use armed helicopters operating aboard Coast Guard cutters to answer the call.

The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron today operates eight MH-65D Dolphin helicopters, which will soon be retrofitted to MH-65E. Beginning the first years their operations with the MH-90 Enforcer (MD 900, later replaced by MD 902), and The MH-68A Mako (Agusta, today Leonardo, A109).

The Coast Guard 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.


In this documentary series, we track down the founding members, pioneers, and stakeholders who have played an important part in HITRON’s history. In this video, we sat down with Rear Adm. Donna L. Cottrell, commander, U.S. Coast Guard 9th District, and asked her to talk about her experience as the 6th commanding officer HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron).


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