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Coast Guard Vessels Serve from Harbors to High Seas

The U.S. Coast Guard has a daunting task of protecting and defending the maritime domain from the Middle East to mid-America, from the Arctic Circle to the Caribbean, from Key West, Fla., to Keokuk, Iowa. While some Coast Guard vessels will never venture too far from home base, a great many of them, such as the national security cutter (NSC), are designed and prepared for any and all operating environments.

“The Coast Guard has been very responsive in the post-9/11 environment, and focused on building the service to meet current and future needs.”

“The Coast Guard has been very responsive in the post-9/11 environment, and focused on building the service to meet current and future needs,” writes Eric Wertheim, author of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Ed.: Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems.

33-foot special purpose craft-law enforcement (SPC-LE)

A 33-foot special purpose craft-law enforcement (SPC-LE) smallboat crew from Coast Guard Station Key West, Fla., pulls alongside the CGC Eagle in the Atlantic Ocean April 13, 2012. There are several types of SPCs. The SPC-LE is an ideal platform to interdict drug smugglers’ go-fast boats. It can plane in less than 3 seconds and can reach a top speed of more than 60 mph. Its enclosed heated and air-conditioned cabin has shock mitigating seats, reducing crew fatigue, and it is capable of operating more than 30 miles from shore. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill

Wertheim states there is a broad spectrum to the variety of types and the utility of the Coast Guard’s smaller boats and vessels and how they are being used. “Coast guards are playing an ever-increasing role in international affairs,” Wertheim states. “Coast guard ships provide a non-threatening option in areas of political tension.”

Wertheim comments that the U.S. Coast Guard is finally seeing the realization of the Deepwater project vision, with new ships, aircraft, and hundreds of boats coming into service. “The national security cutter, fast response cutter (FRC), and new aircraft are entering service now. These assets should have been operational before now, but better late than never.”

The Coast Guard fleet can be divided into several categories. Cutters come in three basic colors: white, black, or red. That’s an over simplification, but the “white hulls” are the oceangoing cutters used for patrol, interdiction, or search and rescue (SAR). The “black hulls” can do those missions, too, if needed, but are built for work, such as maintaining aids to navigation (ATON) both at sea or on the Great Lakes or inland waterways. The “red hulls,” while few in number, are the big icebreakers. There are also numerous boats, such as the 25-foot Defender-class response boat-small (RB-S), which serve in large numbers performing port security and escort duties.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...