The Coast Guard has awarded Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc., of Panama City, Florida, a Phase II contract for production of the lead Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and up to eight follow-on cutters, according to a Coast Guard news release. The long-awaited contract is valued at $110.29 million, with a potential total value of $2.38 billion if options to produce nine cutters are taken up.
The OPC will replace two classes of the Coast Guard’s hard-working medium endurance cutters (WMECs). Both the 270-foot Famous class and the 210-foot Reliance class are aging, with some having achieved five decades in service. Phase I contracts were awarded in February 2014 to Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana; General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Maine; and Eastern Shipbuilding Group for preliminary and contract designs. Each OPC will feature advanced C4ISR equipment and a flight deck to operate both helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. Up to twenty-five OPCs are planned (replacing the 29 WMECs serving today).
“The Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition is the Coast Guard’s highest investment priority, and we are proud to announce this important milestone,” said Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft. “The Offshore Patrol Cutter will replace our aging medium endurance cutters and provide the majority of offshore presence by the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet. Whether combating transnational organized criminal networks off Central America or patrolling in the increasingly accessible Arctic, the Offshore Patrol Cutter will ensure our Nation’s maritime security and economic interests are preserved for decades to come.”
The OPC fills the gap between the large National Security Cutter, with eight planned to replace the 12 High Endurance Cutters now being retired, and the far more numerous Fast Response Cutter, which is replacing the Island-class cutters in Coast Guard service.
The first OPC is expected to be delivered in FY 2021.