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The Coast Guard had been well ahead of the other services in recognizing the usefulness of the helicopter. After the war, the Service continued to pursue new uses for the new machines.

In 1944, the Service evaluated the Sikorsky HOS-1. After the war, it ordered 27 of them, which served from both land and icebreakers until 1949. The HOS was followed by two HO2S-1Gs that served from 1946 to 1950 and by nine HO3S-1Gs from 1946 to 1957. The 3S was basically the identical airframe as the 2S, but with some stability improvements.

At about that time, Sikorsky lost its monopoly on the helicopter market. In 1945, Bell developed its Model 47, which became the first helicopter granted a type approval as a commercial helicopter. The Coast Guard version was the Bell HTL-1. Two of these served from 1947 to 1955. They were used by the Captain of the Port of New York for harbor surveillance. They generally landed on pontoons. The HTL-4 eliminated the fabric covering on the rear fuselage and gave the helicopter its distinctive look as the MASH medevac helicopter.

Frank Piasecki was also building helicopters. He preferred a tandem-rotor arrangement. The Coast Guard bought three of his HRP-1G Flying Bananas and flew them until 1952. They carried a crew of two and could hold eight survivors.

In 1950, Kaman delivered one HK-1 Mixmaster that the Coast Guard used for training until 1954. The Mixmaster had counter-rotating main blades that gave it exceptional stability, but the concept never really caught on.

1951 brought the first helicopter with any real staying power. The Sikorsky Model 52 was a two-seat machine introduced in November 1951. Fifteen of them became Coast Guard HO4S-1Gs and the main search and rescue helicopter for the next 15 years. Hundreds of rescues were made with this helicopter, primarily using the hydraulic hoist and the Coast Guard-designed rescue basket still in use today. The helicopter was also fitted with a Tugbird system that allowed it to tow fairly large vessels for fairly long distances. Continued development of this type led to all-weather capability, improved night illumination, extended range and payload, plus flexibility and improvement of search and rescue devices.

In 1952, the Coast Guard bought three HTL-5s, which were –4s with improved engines. The landing gear was still pontoons. They served until 1960.

The Coast Guard bought six Sikorsky HUS-1G Seahorses in 1959. The type was originally designed as an ASW platform and the Marines used it extensively early in the Vietnam War. The Coast Guard had no luck with them. Two crashed while attempting to rescue the crew of a downed B-47 and a third crashed when it fouled in the rigging of a fishing vessel from which it was trying to hoist an injured crewman. The others were retired in 1962.

In 1959 the Service also bought two Bell HTL-7s and two HUL-1Gs. Both were Bell Model 47s, with the HUL-1Gs being specially modified for cold weather flying aboard icebreakers and other ships on Bering Sea Patrol. In 1956, the 30-minute documentary Men Against the Artic was released to rave reviews. It was a collaborative effort by Disney Studios and the Coast Guard to introduce the American public to the far-flung duties of the Service. The four HUL-1Gs flew from Eastwind and Westwind to capture giant icebergs, polar bears, the large base at Thule, and routine duties aboard ship. The idea of the movie was to show the importance of keeping a vigil in the cold weather climate of the Arctic in the Cold War climate of the times. These aircraft were retired in 1967.

In 1963, the Coast Guard acquired the helo most associated with the Service, the HH-52 Seaguard. Sikorsky delivered 93 of them. The Seaguard was an amphibious helicopter, capable of landing on the water to pick up survivors. The helicopter flew every mission flown by all previous helicopters. It flew search and rescue, law enforcement, aids to navigation, port security, general logistics, and military preparedness. It flew from land, from icebreakers and from flight deck-equipped ships like the 210s and 378s. It was the workhorse of the Fleet until retired in 1987 after 24 years of service. The Coast Guard was the only buyer of the helicopter. As these helicopters came into the Fleet, the HO4S retired. The last HO4S left service in 1966.

In 1968, Sikorsky began delivery of 40 HH-3 Pelicans. These were Air Force helicopters that were based on the Navy HH-3 Seaking. The Air Force and Coast Guard versions added a rear cargo ramp. The HH-3 could carry bigger and heavier loads further than the HH-52. It could only land on the 378s.

In 1962, the services went to a joint aircraft classification system. The UF-1Gs became HU-16Es. The GV-1Gs became HC-130s. The HO4S became the HH-19. The HLT became the H-13. The HUL became the H-13Q. The HUS became the H-34.

The venerable Seaguard stayed in service till 1987 and the Pelicans hung on till 1994. But it was time to modernize the fleet. In 1984, the Aerospatiale HH-65 Dolphins came in service to replace the Seaguards. There were 96 of them in service at the end of the century. In 1994, the Coast Guard joined the other services in ordering a variant of the H-60 helicopter, the HH-60J Jayhawk, to replace the Pelican. The Service ordered 35 of them.


For a complete list of helicopters used by the Coast Guard from 1947 to 2000 go to this Link.