To beachgoers and boaters, the sight of the U.S. Coast Guard's MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flying along the New Jersey coastline is routine.
The twin-engine, red-colored helicopter, an American variant of a French-built model, can be seen flying over Ocean and Monmouth counties on a near-daily basis.
But the local fleet of 10 Dolphins, based at Air Station Atlantic City in Pomona, recently received some top of the line upgrades which will increase the short-range recovery helicopter's effectiveness in responding to search-and-rescue and medevac calls at sea.
The Dolphins have been upgraded from the MH-65C variant to the MH-65D, or Delta, variant phase, which was first tested in January.
The upgrades include digital avionics components, including a new flight navigation system, new digital computer displays and embedded GPS, according to a statement from Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment Atlantic City.
The Coast Guard says the upgrades are critical to maintaining the helicopter’s safety and performance, and provide the crew with improved situational awareness and enhanced navigation and communications capabilities.
“By adding digital equipment that is smaller and lighter than the old equipment, the Delta [MH-65D] upgrade decreases the weight of the helicopter,” said Rear Adm. John Korn, Coast Guard Assistant Commandant for Acquisition, at a ceremony in Atlantic City on Friday. “This, in turn, makes it more fuel efficient to stay on scene longer.”
The Atlantic City Dolphin fleet, the Coast Guard's largest, is responsible for responding to calls in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia.
The helicopters are used for search and rescue missions, medevacs, as well as port security and environmental protection missions.