The Coast Guard awarded Bollinger Shipyards a $179.7 million contract option for four more Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) on Sept. 22, 2011. The four FRCs to be acquired under the contract option are to be delivered by 2014 and will be homeported in Key West, Fla. A total of 12 FRCs are now under contract with the Lockport, La., shipyard, for a total contract value of $597 million. The current contract with Bollinger contains options for up to 34 cutters, and if all options were exercised, would be worth up to $1.5 billion.
The initial $88 million contract for the first FRC was awarded to Bollinger in September 2008. The lead ship, named for Coast Guard hero Bernard C. Webber, was launched on April 21, 2011, and is expected to undergo sea trials and be delivered before the year is out. Webber will be homeported in Miami, Fla. Richard Etheridge, the second FRC, is also in the water after its launch on Aug. 18, 2011, and will also operate out of Miami. Construction is under way on the third through eighth FRCs.
The FRCs are based on the Damen Stan Patrol 4708 patrol boat design. Similar vessels are in service in the U.K., Netherlands, South Africa, Jamaica, Barbados, Albania, Vietnam, and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.
The FRCs will replace the Coast Guard’s aging Island class 110-foot patrol boats, which were also built by Bollinger. The Sentinel-class patrol boats are 154 feet long, with a 25-foot beam and an expected displacement of 353 long tons. They are expected to make a required flank speed of 28 knots on two 20-cylinder MTU diesel engines driving non-variable-pitch propellers. Armament will be one stabilized, remotely operated 25 mm chain gun on the bow and four crew-served flexible .50-caliber machine guns. A 12-degree stern ramp able to launch and recover rigid-hull inflatable boats up to 7.9 meters is part of the design, and the ship is to be capable of operating independently for a minimum of five days at sea. Its state of the art C4I technology is required to be compatible with existing and future Coast Guard assets as well as those of the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department.
Bollinger has stated that the shipyard will begin to deliver a new FRC every two months starting with the fifth hull, and the Coast Guard intends to buy up to 58 FRCs.
All Sentinel-class cutters will be named after enlisted Coast Guard heroes. The names of the next 12 ships to follow Webber and Etheridge have been announced as: