The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) is an armed United States Coast Guard helicopter squadron specializing in Airborne Use of Force (AUF) and drug-interdiction missions. It is based at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida. HITRON flew armed Agusta MH-68A Stingray helicopters from December 2000 until February 2008. At that time, HITRON took on the mantle of the Atlantic Area Deployment Center, and began flying the MH-65C Dolphin. When conducting counter drug operations, HITRON aircrews will deploy aboard Coast Guard cutters for thirty- to sixty-day deployments. While on deployment, go-fast boats are searched for not only by the HITRON helicopter but also by shore based maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) such as the Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules.
The unit originally flew leased MD 900 and MD 902 helicopters with the unofficial military designation of MH90 Enforcer. In March 2000, Agusta was awarded the contract to provide eight A109E Power helicopters to replace the MH90 Enforcers that HITRON had been successfully flying. The Agusta A109E Power was given the military designation MH-68A Stingray. In 2008 the Coast Guard allowed the lease for the MH-68As to expire and replaced them with the first of the new MH-65C Dolphins. The MH-65C is an upgraded version of the HH-65B which includes, among other upgrades, new avionics and communications equipment and the ability to carry armament. While not as nimble as the MH-68A, the MH-65C is faster, has greater range and endurance, and provides a smoother ride, therefore allowing more accurate shooting.
The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron was originally armed with M16A2 rifles and mounted M240G machine guns for warning shots and self-protection. The Marines worked with the Coast Guard aircrews with weapons employment and aerial tactics, which was instrumental in the Coast Guard Aircrews receiving Naval Aerial Gunner Qualifications. The bolt-action Robar RC-50 .50-caliber rifle was used for disabling fire. The RC-50 has been replaced by a variant of the semiautomatic Barrett M107 .50-caliber rifle with an anti-corrosion finish. It is fitted with an EOTech holographic weapon sight and an Insight Technology laser sight. The M14 Tactical, a version of the standard M14 with a Sage Enhanced Battle Rifle stock and improved muzzle brake, is also used by the squadron.