Defense Media Network

Coast Guard Vessels Serve from Harbors to High Seas

White Hulls

The white-hull cutters come in large, medium, and small sizes. The large cutters include the new Legend-class national security cutter and the Hamilton-class high endurance cutters. The medium cutters include several classes of medium endurance cutters, soon to be joined by the new offshore patrol cutter (OPC). The small cutters include the new FRCs, and several classes of patrol boats, including the 110-foot Island class and 87-foot Marine Protector class.

The CGC Bertholf was the first of eight new NSCs to be constructed for the Coast Guard. At 418 feet long and displacing 4,434 tons, Bertholf is the largest multipurpose cutter in the service’s history, although the service’s three icebreakers are larger. NSCs provide the Coast Guard with the most advanced operational capabilities currently available, enabling it to perform all of its missions in a post-9/11 environment. They have a 12,000-nautical-mile range and the endurance to spend 60 to 90 days at sea conducting homeland security, fisheries and environmental patrols, SAR, law enforcement, and national defense missions.

“The national security cutter is a stable, proven program that has achieved regular one-year centers for construction.”

The national security cutter is a stable, proven program that has achieved regular one-year centers for construction,” said Bill Glenn, spokesman for Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss., where the NSCs are being built. “This maximizes efficiencies and allows for Ingalls to experience a learning curve and pass on the associated savings to the USCG. With the stable design, we have worked with the craft teams to develop an optimized build strategy, reducing the number of grand block unit erections from 32 on NSC 1 to 29 on NSC 2 and 14 on NSC 3 and follow. We have co-located the Ingalls team with the USCG team both on the management side and on the production side. We have an aggressive risk management and lessons learned approach with the USCG, who is an integral part of the team.”

In 2012, CGC Stratton demonstrated the feasibility of operating with a ScanEagle® unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

CGC Harriet Lane

The U.S. Coast Guard Famous-class cutter Harriet Lane moored at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, pier Bravo. The medium endurance cutter’s primary responsibility is counter-drug operations in the Caribbean. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Mobley

During a two-week deployment in May 2013, a UAS demonstration team aboard the CGC Bertholf operated a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle for more than 90 hours of flight time and aided in the interdiction of nearly 600 kilograms of cocaine – the first Coast Guard interdiction supported by an embarked UAS.

The 378-foot Hamilton-class cutters are being phased out in favor of the Legend class. The 378s were ahead of their time, and were among the first ships powered by a combined diesel or gas turbine (CODAG) that featured jet engines and controllable pitch propellers. They originally mounted a 5-inch, 38-caliber gun, later replaced by a 76 mm gun. The 12 ships of the Hamilton class often spent many weeks on the high seas conducting SAR operations, enforcing laws and treaties, and protecting the U.S. exclusive economic zone. Four of these ships have been retired by the Coast Guard, but have been commissioned into service with Nigeria, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. The lead ship in the class, the CGC Hamilton, has been transferred to the Philippine Navy (the fourth NSC will also be named Hamilton). The “youngest” ship in the class, CGC Midgett, was commissioned in 1972.

The newer ships have smaller crews, around 122 on Bertholf compared with 170 people on the 378s.

Bertholf’s large flight deck is equipped with an Aircraft Ship Integrated Secure and Traverse system to grab and reposition aircraft on a pitching deck without putting crewmembers at risk. The ship will be able to handle both versions of the Coast Guard’s helicopters, the H-65 Dolphin and larger H-60 Jayhawk. The NSC is the first Coast Guard ship with a sensitive compartmented information facility, which permits better command and control and interoperability than any previous cutter. Bertholf is the first vessel to carry the newest version of the Close-in Weapon System 1B, which can be employed against both air and surface targets. The cutter’s 57 mm Bofors gun has greater range, a higher rate of fire, and requires less maintenance than the larger 76 mm gun found on the 270-foot Famous and 378-foot Secretary classes of medium and high endurance cutters.

Bertholf has both diesels and a single gas turbine, which together can achieve speeds above 28 knots (it achieved 30-plus knots in sea trials), making it the fastest ship in the Coast Guard, and 24 knots on the diesels alone.

There are three classes of medium endurance cutters.

The 210-foot Reliance-class medium endurance cutters displace 1,100 tons. They do not have a hangar, but can carry a helicopter, greatly increasing their surveillance range and ability to respond to emerging situations. They entered the Coast Guard fleet between 1964 and 1969, making them well over 40 years old. Of the 16 ships of this class, two have been decommissioned and are now serving in Sri Lanka and Colombia.

The service urgently needs the OPC to replace the aging fleet of medium endurance cutters, which the service says are “becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate and are, in many respects, technologically obsolete.”

The 270s are newer, being commissioned between 1983 and 1990. The 1,800-ton 270s are larger and newer, but carry the names of noteworthy vessels of the past, hence the name “Famous class.” The 270s carry a 76 mm Oto Melara gun. All 13 ships in this class are active.

There is an additional medium endurance cutter, CGC Alex Haley, converted from a U.S. Navy oceangoing salvage ship. It’s the only ship of its type in the Coast Guard, although in the past, the service operated former Navy salvage ships and oceangoing tugs as medium endurance cutters. At 282 feet and 3,400 tons, Alex Haley is the largest of the medium endurance cutters and is based in Kodiak, Alaska, where it conducts fisheries patrols and SAR duties, but it is more than 30 years old.

The service urgently needs the OPC to replace the aging fleet of medium endurance cutters, which the service says are “becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate and are, in many respects, technologically obsolete.”

Industry has been waiting to take part in the next major ship acquisition project for the OPC. This acquisition is in two phases: The first phase of the competition intends to award up to three contracts to competing firms for preliminary and contract design. The second phase will down-select to a single contractor for detail design and ship construction. Proposals for Phase 1 were submitted to the Coast Guard on Jan. 23, 2013. The technical, management, past performance, and price evaluations are ongoing. According to a statement from the Coast Guard, the service will “conduct discussions with offerors in the competitive range and provide each a limited opportunity to revise and improve their proposals.” The discussions are being held with the top competing industry bidders with the “most highly-rated proposals as determined by the evaluation criteria.” The award of contracts for the OPC preliminary and contract design is expected to take place in the second quarter of fiscal year 2014.

The new OPCs will have greater range and longer endurance; will be more powerfully armed; and will accommodate the latest Coast Guard aircraft and smallboats for all-weather operations. The OPC’s systems will also be fully interoperable with the NSCs and other military ships and aircraft and bases ashore.

The Coast Guard has two large classes of coastal patrol craft, which are assigned to Coast Guard stations around the country, the 41 cutters of the 110-foot Island class and 73 vessels of the 87-foot Marine Protector class.

The Sentinel-class FRC is the newest Coast Guard patrol vessel, capable of conducting independent port, waterways, and coastal security; fishery patrols; SAR; and national defense missions. The FRC is based upon the Stan Patrol 4708 patrol boat design from Damen Shipbuilding in the Netherlands. The service plans to acquire 58 FRCs to replace the service’s Island-class cutter fleet.

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