In this documentary series the Coast Guard spoke with JD Lawrence, Aviation Maintenance Technician Petty Officer 1st Class, USCG HITRON (Ret). JD Lawrence retired with over 26 years of military service and was one of the original ten members to stand up Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON). He was one of the first two gunners at HITRON.
Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron 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.
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.
The HITRON began operating with rented helicopters MH-90 Enforcer, USCG designation for the MD900 Explorer which were later replaced by the type MD902 (made by MD Helicopters). The MH-90s gave way to Italian aircraft MH-68A Mako, or Stingray, (Agusta A109 Power).
Currently the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron aircrews fly eight MH-65 Dolphin.
The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.