The Coast Guard is outfitting its fixed-wing surveillance aircraft fleet with Minotaur mission system architecture. Minotaur incorporates sensors, radar and command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment and enables aircrews to gather and process surveillance information that can be transmitted to other platforms and units during flight. The system was originally developed by the Navy and is used across multiple Defense and Homeland Security department platforms.
Why this program?
Minotaur integration was driven by obsolescence concerns: the legacy processors could not run the updated systems needed for optimal mission execution. Compared to these, Minotaur offers significant increases in speed and memory capability. The system is open-architecture and government-owned, so the Coast Guard has more control over upgrades and can implement them more affordably. The Coast Guard is also taking advantage of Department of Defense logistics, including maintenance, training and spare parts, to keep life cycle costs down.
How are the upgrades implemented?
The Coast Guard formally decided to integrate Minotaur into the HC-130J and HC-144 fleets in September 2013. Integration of the system into Customs and Border Protection and Navy maritime patrol aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems was already underway at that time.
The Coast Guard has worked with Naval Air Systems Command to develop Minotaur to meet Coast Guard mission requirements, and the Coast Guard’s Minotaur Mission System Integration Lab at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, is leading the development and integration work. Prototype installation for all aircraft began at Patuxent River.
HC-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft
The first aircraft in the Coast Guard fleet outfitted with Minotaur, CGNR 2003, was delivered in June 2017. Since then, Minotaur has been installed on 14 additional HC-130Js. Air stations Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and Kodiak, Alaska, have their full complement of HC-130Js equipped with Minotaur, while Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, began its transition in the summer of 2021. The Coast Guard oversees Minotaur integration on the aircraft at L3Harris in Waco, Texas.
HC-144 Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance aircraft
HC-144 Minotaur production is underway at the Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City. The first Minotaur HC-144, CGNR 2307, was delivered to the fleet in July 2017. Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, has its full complement of HC-144Bs equipped with Minotaur and Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama, and Air Station Miami have the majority of their aircraft integrated. Air Station Cape Cod received its first HC-144B in January 2023. To date, 14 HC-144 aircraft have undergone Minotaur integration and received Ocean Sentry Refresh upgrades, which update the aircraft’s avionics.
C-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft
The service is also basing the C-27J missionization package on the Minotaur mission system. The first Spartan entered the missionization process at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in September 2017; integration work on the prototype is complete and prototype testing is underway. Installation on three additional aircraft is progressing.