Tag Archives: Offshore patrol cutter

OPCs of Mobile Bay

We’ve covered the USCG’s new Offshore Patrol Cutter program at length.

OPC Characteristics:
•Length: 360 feet
•Beam: 54 feet
•Draft: 17 feet
•Sustained Speed: 22 Plus knots
•Range: 8500 Plus nautical miles
•Endurance: 60 Days

The main armament is a Mk 110 57mm gun forward with a MK 38 Mod 3 25mm gun over the stern HH60-sized hangar, and four M2 .50 cal mounts. 

I say replace the Mk38 with a C-RAM, shoehorn a towed sonar, ASW tubes, an 8-pack Mk41 VLS crammed with Sea Sparrows, and eight NSSMs aboard and call it a day. The Mexicans do the same loadout with the new Reformador-class frigates on a hull the same size, so why not us? 

The first flight of 11 OPCs has been awarded to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) and they have four– class leader USCGC Argus (WMSM 915), followed by USCGC Chase (WMSM 916), USCGC Ingham (WMSM 917) and USCGC Rush (WMSM 918)— in various stages of completion already at their Nelson Street facility in Panama City.

Well, the Coast Guard, in an effort to get all 25+ of these hulls completed ASAP to replace both the elderly 1960s-era 210-foot Reliance and aging 1980s-era 270-foot Bear-class cutters, announced on Thursday that a second yard, Austal in Mobile, Alabama, would get to work on the second flight of 11 OPCs, a contract estimated at being worth $3 billion smackers (which is a deal these days for 11 American frigate-sized OPVs).

The announcement via USCG HQ, Washington:

WASHINGTON – The Coast Guard awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract to Austal USA of Mobile, Ala. to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs). The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.

In 2019, the Coast Guard revised the OPC acquisition strategy to mitigate emergent cost and schedule risk by establishing a new, full and open competition for OPCs five and through 15, designated as Stage 2 of the overall program. Informed by industry feedback received through a robust engagement strategy, the Coast Guard released a request for proposal Jan. 29, 2021, for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production. The Coast Guard’s requirements for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production were developed to maintain commonality with earlier OPCs in critical areas such as the hull and propulsion systems, but provide flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance.

“The offshore patrol cutter is absolutely vital to Coast Guard mission excellence as we recapitalize our legacy medium endurance cutters, some of which are more than 50 years old,” said Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard. “The OPCs are the ships our crews need to protect our national security, maritime safety and economic prosperity. I look forward to the new cutters joining our fleet.”

The 25-ship OPC program of record complements the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters, fast response cutters and polar security cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy. The OPC will meet the service’s long-term need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented non-citizens, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting ports.

Austal, of course, is the joint Australian-American operation that has built the controversial Independence-class of littoral combat ships and Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ships, all notably with composite hulls. The OPCs will be the company’s first steel-hulled warships.

That has caused some heartburn with Florida Congresscritters.

From U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla-2:

The Coast Guard made a mistake in its Offshore Patrol Cutter stage II decision. Eastern Shipbuilding is known for quality products and the Coast Guard knows this. I am very concerned the foreign company awarded the contract lacks experience in building steel vessels. This will ultimately cost taxpayers more money, and further delay these ships from entering service to protect our nation’s shores. My office will work to push the Coast Guard to reconsider this decision.

I will continue to fight for more economic opportunity for the people of Florida’s Second Congressional District.

Coast Guard Updates: Islands fading, SLEP’ing Bears, and OPC gains steam

From the DHS/USCGC FY2023 Budget book are a few gems including the drawdown of the once-mighty 49-ship strong Island-class 110-foot patrol boats— built between 1985-1992– the fact that at least one of the circa 1960s 210-foot Reliance-class cutters will decommission soon, and one of the 13 crews of the circa 1980s 270-foot Bear-class cutters will be disbanded as the class undergoes a Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) process to continue service for another decade (or two) as the Offshore Patrol Cutter comes onboard.

Islands

We’ve talked a bunch about the Islands in past years, and they deserve it, as they are great boats. The planned drawdown leaves just five Island-class cutters in domestic waters, three in New England and two in the Pacific Northwest, areas where smaller 87-foot boats have a tougher go of it:

USCGC Key Largo (WPB-1324) is based in Gloucester, Mass 


USCGC Sitkinak (WPB-1329) is based in Portland, Maine 


USCGC Tybee (WPB-1330) is based in Woods Hole, Mass


USCGC Cuttyhunk (WPB-13) is based in Port Angeles, Washington


USCGC Anacapa (WPB-1335) is based in Petersburg, Alaska

The cutter Anacapa tied up at the Coast Guard’s mooring in Petersburg in April 2022 Joe Viechnicki KFSK

Of note, Anacapa is somewhat famous, having sunk by NGF a Japanese “zombie trawler” a few years back.

Now THAT’S Homeland Security! ( USCG D17 photo)

Cuttyhunk is set to decommission this week– on Thursday 5 May– after 33 years of service and will be replaced at Port Angeles by Anacapa who just shipped down there from Alaska, where she has, in turn, been based for the past 32 years.

A snippet of Cuttyhunk’s long and distinguished career: 

Over the past 34 years of service, Cuttyhunk’s crew conducted a wide range of operations. The cutter’s crews completed over 1,000 operations ranging from law enforcement boardings to search and rescue responses throughout the Pacific Northwest. Cuttyhunk assisted U.S. Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in several submarine escorts before Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Unit Bangor was established to ensure the safe transport of Ship Submersible Ballistic Submarines.

Nicknamed “The Pest of the West”, Cuttyhunk assisted in one of the largest maritime drug seizures in the Pacific Northwest, near Cape Flattery, Washington, in December of 1997. More than 3,500 pounds of marijuana, estimated at a street value of $15 million, was recovered from the OK Jedi, a 60-foot sailboat with three people onboard.

And then there were four.

Bears in hibernation

The Coast Guard has a habit of doing most of their repair, modernization, and SLEP work in-house, at the Government-owned CGY in Maryland. If only the Navy had such a program, right?

Anyway, USCGC Seneca (WMEC-906), commissioned in 1987, is the sixth of the 270-foot Bear-class cutters completed but is the first to complete its nine-month SLEP. Besides hull work in drydock, this included replacing generators and updating systems throughout the ship.

Incidentally, the Coast Guard Yard has been the DOD’s primary supporter of the MK 75 76mm gun, as everything that carried the old OTO Melera Super Rapid in the U.S. Navy (FFG-7, PHM, etc) has been decommissioned.

Bear-class cutter USCGC Thetis with her new (to her) MK 75

Changeout of CGC THETIS’ MK75 using a previously-overhauled MK75 this month at the CG Yard

Offshore Patrol Cutter

Fast facts:
• Class: Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Heritage-class (WMSM)
• Weight: 4,320 tons
• Length: 360 feet
• Beam: 54 feet
• Speed: 22.5 knots
• Armory: Mark 110 57mm Bofors rapid-fire gun, Mark 38 MOD 3 25mm autocannon with 7.62mm chaingun over the helicopter hangar, remote and crew-served .50 caliber M2HB heavy machine gun mounts
• Crew: up to 126

Panama City’s Eastern Shipbuilding Group is celebrating the award of the fourth Heritage Class offshore patrol cutter (OPC), the future USCGC Rush (WMSM 918), as Hull# 309A last week. The Coast Guard plans to field as many as 25 of the new 360-footers to replace both the 210-foot Reliance and 270-foot Bear-class cutters.

The three other OPCs under contract to ESG, all in various states of construction:

Hull# 302A: WMSM-915: USCGC Argus
Hull# 305A: WMSM-916: USCGC Chase
Hull# 307A: WMSM-917: USCGC Ingham

Bollinger Looks to Get a Slice of that Sweet, Sweet OPC Pie

With as many as 25 of the Coast Guard’s 4,500-ton/360-foot new Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter/Maritime Security Cutter, Medium set to be built (don’t be surprised if the number of hulls increases) a big name in the USCG build game is trying to get in on the action.

New Orleans-based Bollinger and the Coasties go way back, delivering 170 vessels in the last three decades, all of which have had a long and (mostly) successful history. This includes the 110-foot Island-class (49 delivered), the 87-foot Marine Protector class (77 delivered), and now the 158-foot Sentinel-class (44 of 64 delivered to date). The yard also built the Navy’s Cyclone-class patrol ships (14 delivered) in the 1990s and is building the 5,100-ton/263-foot Navajo-class rescue and salvage ships (7 building) as well.

Now, the yard wants to step up to the larger cutters and has submitted a package to get in on the second flight of 11 OPCs, vying against Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, a largely commercial tug/supply boat company, that is building at least the first two of the initial flight of 11. The ships are projected for a rapid build-out with the Coast Guard expecting the first 22 by the early-to-mid 2030s, which sounds far away but really isn’t.

They will be replacing the 30-to-50-year-old 1,300-ton, 210-foot Reliance-class and 1,800-ton, 270-foot Famous-class medium-endurance cutters, which, along with the circa 1967 former Navy Edenton-class rescue ship which has been serving as USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39), amount to some 30 hulls.

“Bollinger is the right shipyard at the right time to build the Offshore Patrol Cutter program for the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Ben Bordelon, Bollinger President and CEO. “Our long history building for the Coast Guard is unparalleled and has shown time and time again that Bollinger can successfully deliver the highest quality vessels on an aggressive production schedule.”

Bollinger was a contender in every step of the U.S. Coast Guard’s OPC acquisition process, including the execution of the Stage 1 Preliminary and Contract Design, where the company was included in the final three shipyards, as well as execution of the OPC Stage 2 Industry Study.

The OPCs are essentially a scaled-down light frigate, with lots of commonality sensor and weapon-wise with the Navy’s LCS and planned new Constellation-class FFGs, as well as the Coast Guard’s larger National Security program cutters.

This includes the BAE Mk110 (Bofors’ 57Mk3, which uses an interesting Mk295 3P fuzed ammo), an SPS-77 (Saab Sea Giraffe) 3D radar with gun cueing so that the 57mm can be used for AAA/anti-missile defense, a stabilized Mk 38 25mm gun (that can be upgraded to a 30mm or 50mm barrel on the same mount), two stabilized .50 cals and four good old M2s. Northrop Grumman was just named the systems integrator for C5ISR and control systems. They can interface with the fleet via Link 22 and have IFF/TACAN systems.

There is also weight and space available for anti-ship missiles and a CIWS and they can carry an HH-60-sized helicopter which means, in a pinch, they can support an Oceanhawk/Seahawk and a UAV at the same time due to a large hangar. 

The Sea Giraffe AMB has proved successful on the Independence-class LCS (the variant that seems to be having fewer issues) as well as the Swedish Visby class corvettes, Canadian Halifax-class frigates, Singapore’s Victory-class corvettes et. al. while the Bofors gun is used both far and wide overseas and the Navy is looking to up the lethality of that program as well since they are installing it on the Constellations.

Pascagoula, Miss. (Feb. 11, 2008)- The MK 110 57mm gun was fired off the bow of the Coast Guard’s first National Security Cutter, Bertholf, on Feb. 11 during sea trials (Northrop Grumman photo)

The 57mm’s 13-pound 3P Mk 295 Mod 0 cartridge projectile section delivers over 8,000 pre-formed tungsten fragments in reaction to 420 grams of PBX-explosive. It has a range of “at least” nine nm. (BAE)

The OPC also has lots of soft kills such as a newer version of the Slick 32, Nulka, and other countermeasures.

The program should prove interesting and could contrast well against the LCS debacle.

Second Offshore Cutter on the Way, 23 to go!

Late last month, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) hosted the keel authentication ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard’s future Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC Chase (WMSM 916), at their Nelson Street facility in Panama City.

USCGC Chase is the second OPC laid down, following on class leader USCGC Argus (WMSM 915), is part of a ~25 ship sloop/light frigate/corvette/offshore patrol vessel group meant to replace the over half-decade old 210-foot Reliance and 30-year-old 270-foot Bear-class medium endurance cutters.

OPC Characteristics:
•Length: 360 feet
•Beam: 54 feet
•Draft: 17 feet
•Sustained Speed: 22 Plus knots
•Range: 8500 Plus nautical miles
•Endurance: 60 Days

The main armament is a Mk 110 57mm gun forward with a MK 38 25mm gun over the stern HH60-sized hangar, and four M2 .50 cal mounts. 

I say replace the Mk38 with a C-RAM, shoehorn a towed sonar, ASW tubes, an 8-pack Mk41 VLS crammed with Sea Sparrows, and eight NSSMs aboard and call it a day.

But no one listens to me…

Anyway, 

The first flight of 11 OPCs will include the ActiveArgusDiligence, and Vigilant, named for four cutters of the first fleet [of Alexander Hamilton’s 10 revenue service cutters in 1791] and subsequent cutters with the same names.

OPC Pickering will pay homage to the distinguished combat record of the Quasi-War cutter Pickering.

OPC Ingham will carry the name of a 327-foot “Treasury”-class cutter that served with distinction in World War II. [See Warship Wednesday entry on Ingham here]

OPC Icarus will honor the fearless 165-foot cutter that sank one of the first Nazi U-boats after U.S. entry into World War II.

OPCs Chase and Rush will bear two cutter names long associated with the Coast Guard, most recently with two high-endurance cutters of the 378-foot Hamilton-class [who put in time on the gun line off Vietnam.]

OPCs Alert and Reliance will bear the names of two famed workhorses of the medium-endurance cutter fleet.

USCG keeps the lineage intact with OPC cutter names

The Coast Guard just dropped the names for the first flight of 11 new 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters.

The agency stuck with the naming convention of recycling historical cutter names which is so much better than, oh, naming them after current members of Congress in charge of purse strings or, say, the political whims of the SECNAV.

From the CG:

The first flight of 11 OPCs will include the Active, Argus, Diligence and Vigilant, named for four cutters of the first fleet [of Alexander Hamilton’s 10 revenue service cutters in 1791] and subsequent cutters with the same names.

OPC Pickering will pay homage to the distinguished combat record of the Quasi-War cutter Pickering.

OPC Ingham will carry the name of a 327-foot “Treasury”-class cutter that served with distinction in World War II. [See Warship Wednesday entry on Ingham here]

OPC Icarus will honor the fearless 165-foot cutter that sank one of the first Nazi U-boats after U.S. entry into World War II.

OPCs Chase and Rush will bear two cutter names long associated with the Coast Guard, most recently with two high-endurance cutters of the 378-foot Hamilton-class [who put in time on the gun line off Vietnam.]

OPCs Alert and Reliance will bear the names of two famed workhorses of the medium-endurance cutter fleet.

The first offshore patrol cutter is scheduled for delivery in fiscal year 2021.

OPC seems right on track

Eastern Shipbuilding Group announced last week they successfully completed the Offshore Patrol Cutter ICDR Milestone for the U.S. Coast Guard on time and under budget, which is a good sign, esp since the class is the first warship the company is making.

ESG has options for production of up to nine vessels with a potential total value of $2.38 billion (or about $265m per hull, which is a fairly good deal when you consider the cheapest LCS is $432 million) while the USCG is expected to order as many as 25 of the vessels to replace a like number of smaller and much older vessels.

OPC Characteristics:
•Length: 360 feet
•Beam: 54 feet
•Draft: 17 feet
•Sustained Speed: 22 Plus knots
•Range: 8500 Plus nautical miles
•Endurance: 60 Days

I say replace the Mk38 with a C-RAM, shoehorn a towed sonar, ASW tubes and an 8-pack Mk41 VLS with LRASMs aboard and call it a day.

What is this LRASM?

Update on Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutters

offshore patrol cutter ESG VARD 7Seems the Panama City commercial shipbuilder who is crafting up to 25 new mil-spec OPVs (light frigates) for the USCG is getting some serious subcontractors.

Announced Monday:

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a contract from Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) for the design of C4ISR [command, control, communications, computers and intelligence] and machinery control systems (MCS) for the U.S. Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). The systems being supplied include integrated bridge systems, command and control consoles, navigation and combat data distribution systems, ship-wide computer network systems, machinery control systems and propulsion control systems

“Our suite of integrated C4ISR and machinery control systems will provide the Coast Guard the long-term offshore capability needed to perform Coast Guard missions,” said Todd Leavitt, vice president, maritime systems business unit, Northrop Grumman. “This high priority investment will allow the Coast Guard to affordably and efficiently modernize the fleet, while extending their existing capabilities and effectively addressing the changing needs of their missions.”

In other OPC related news, I already talked about how the design is based on Norwegian-owned/Singapore stock exchange registered VARD’s series of OPVs in use around the globe (Ireland, Mauritania, Canada, and New Zealand,), and now it looks like Italian naval shipmaker heavyweight Fincantieri  is moving to take full control of the company which has ten strategically located shipbuilding facilities, including five in Norway, two in Romania, two in Brazil and one in Vietnam. Fincantieri already owns 55.63 percent of the company’s public stock and now wants the rest.

Well, the USCG decided to fish rather than cut bait

After an evolutionary process that has been dragging on since for 15 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has awarded a $110 million (which could turn into an estimated $10.5 billion if all options are used) contract to build a new generation of frigate-sized offshore patrol cutters. It will be the largest shipbuilding program the branch has ever embarked on with as many as 25 hulls built.

The hunt began as part of the Integrated Deepwater System Program back in 2001 which led to early talks with five companies, then it was whittled down to three with Mississippi naval builders VT Halter Marine and Ingalls Shipbuilding excluded in 2014 (as was the design’s stern launching ramp).

The three remaining were: Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Florida; Bollinger Shipyards in Louisiana and Bath Iron Works in Maine. Bath is a heavy hitter, building the $4 billion Zumwalt and her follow-ons as well as DDG51 class destroyers. Bollinger is a Coast Guard darling, creating their 110-foot Island, 87-foot Marine Protector, and 154-foot Sentinel classes of patrol boats and patrol cutters.

But both Bollinger and BIW were left smoking this week as the award for the first nine OPCs went to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. of Panama City, FL (who teamed with Canada’s STX/VARD Marine–part of Italy’s frigate making Fincantieri concern– Northrop Grumman, Quantic Engineering, and MAN on the design).

What have ESG built before? As for military ships, they are in a Design Study and Analysis for the Landing Craft, Utility (LCU) 1700 by the United States Navy, but that’s about it. They are commercial ship experienced, however, with some 150 vessels up to 433-feet built in recent years ranging from tugs to dredgers to trawlers and school ships.

The design is the VARD 7 100m but tweaked.

offshore patrol cutter ESG VARD 7 offshore patrol cutter ESG VARD 7

Eastern Shipbuilding Group’s notional design is 360 feet long, with a beam of 54 feet and a draft of 17 feet. The OPCs will have a range of 10,200 nautical miles (at 14 knots) on a set of MTU diesels and endurance for 60-day patrol cycles. The OPC will conduct missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction search and rescue, and other homeland security and defense operations. Each OPC will feature a flight deck and hangar capable of carrying a MH60 sized bird and advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. The ship will embark 3 OTH boats and be capable of 22knots when wide open.

No word on manning of these ships, but similar designed craft in use in Ireland and New Zealand are being run with 30-5o man crews (with extra berths for aircrew and transients), which is a huge reduction from the current 75 person complement on the Coast Guard’s 210’s and 100-man crews on the 270s.

The VARD 7 090 design was recently selected by the Irish Naval Service to replace their older LE Roisin and LE Niamh ships. The Royal New Zealand Navy uses a VARD 85m design as their Protector-class offshore patrol vessel and the Mauritian Coast Guard has used a similar vessel for the past 20 years, so the OPC has some legit OPV lineage.

LE Samuel Beckett P61, a VARD 90m design.

LE Samuel Beckett P61, a VARD 90m design.

HMNZS Wellington a VARD 85m design

HMNZS Wellington a VARD 85m design

Shrinking numbers 40…28…25..?

The OPC will replace the branch’s Medium Endurance Cutters (WMECs). Back in the 1988 the Coast Guard had 40 WMECs to include two classes purpose built as cutters: 13 newish 270-foot Bear-class and 16 1960s-era 210-foot Reliance-class; as well as a number of WWII vintage ships converted to the task to include the 230-foot Storis, 3 213-foot Diver-class rescue and salvage ships (Yocona, Acushnet, Escape), 4 205-foot Cherokee/Navajo-class auxiliary tugs (Ute, Lipan, Chilula, Cherokee, Tamaroa) and 3 “white hulled” 180 foot buoy tenders (see this week’s Warship Wednesday).

The newest cutter in the fleet, USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913), was commissioned in 1991, making her 27-years young and not getting any younger.

Since Mohawk‘s commissioning, these 40 hulls were trimmed to 28 as the WWII vessels and a couple of the 210s were retired (USCGC Courageous struck in 2001 after 33 years service and was transferred to to Sri Lanka where she currently serves as P-621 SLNS Samudura. USCGC Durable transferred to Colombia in 2003 as Valle del Cauca. Both were removed from service due to the “increasing age of the deepwater fleet after 30 years of service, and due to mounting, costly maintenance requirements”).

During this period only one ship was added and kept, the 28-year-old surplus Edenton-class salvage and rescue ship USS Edenton (ATS-1) transferred as USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39) to replace the Storis in Alaska.

USCGC Vigilant returning from an 8-week patrol. The USCG has 14 of these now 50-year old 210-footers left that OPC will replace

USCGC Vigilant (WMEC-6217) returning from an 8-week patrol. The USCG has 14 of these now 50-year old 210-footers left that OPC will replace, likely first. USCG photo.

USCGC Northland (WMEC-904) returning from patrol last week. These 270-footers were a compromise design in the 1980s that replaced the old 327-foot WWII Treasury class cutters and others. They are the last in the U.S. fleet to mount the Mk75 76mm gun

USCGC Northland (WMEC-904) returning from patrol last week. These now 30-year old 270-footers were a controversial compromise design in the 1980s that replaced the old 327-foot WWII Treasury class cutters and others. They are the last in the U.S. fleet to mount the Mk75 76mm gun and are the newest WMECs in the Guard. USCG photo

Now, the atrophy will continue as a maximum of 25 (expect that to be trimmed to 20 over the years) OPCs will replace the 28 WMECs. On the bright side, the OPC is larger, and the artist conception image from Eastern shows a 57mm Mk110 forward, a 25mm Mk96/38 aft, and six M2 mounts as well as a SRBOC and a AN/SLQ-32(v) EW suite– which is far more armament that the current cutters they are replacing save for the 270s. If you ask me, they should add a couple Harpoon cans amidships,  some Mk.32 ASW tubes on deck and swap out the 25mm for a Sea Ram, but hey…

With the figure of $2.38 billion for the first nine cutters, this amortizes out to $264 million a pop, or about half the price of the similarly sized and armed Navy LCS vessels. While these ships are very slow when compared  to LCS, they are a few knots faster than the 16-19 knot max speed WMECs currently in service.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Bath is expected to protest. 

The first OPC is expected to be delivered in fiscal year 2021 at which point the oldest WMEC in the fleet, USCGC Reliance (WMEC-615), will be 57. Assuming two hulls will be ordered per year, and a three-year build out, the last of newest of the current WMECs, Mohawk, could be replaced around 2034, when she will be hitting age 43.

Or, in Coast Guard parlance, just getting broken in.

COAST GUARD SAYS DEEPWATER IS DEAD

Deepwater RIP graphic illustration

USCG graphic by Craig Behrin
  • (Sidebar- The US GAO found that of the 40 former high-ranking Coast Guard officials who left the service from 2005 through 2009, 22 have been compensated by Coast Guard contractors.)

Deepwater RIP – A Leadership Perspective

by Rear Adm. Jake Korn, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition

— Published Dec. 8, 2011

NSC Stratton - click for larger view

USCG photo by PA2 Andrew Kendrick

The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, the newest cutter in the fleet, transiting the Chesapeake Bay Oct. 31.View and download this image from the Coast Guard Visual Information Gallery.

The time has come for the U.S. Coast Guard to officially drop the Deepwater name from any reference to our acquisition portfolio. The active period of performance for the last line item under the Integrated Coast Guard Systems contract ends in January, and there will be no further work initiated.

The Coast Guard has long since taken over as the lead systems integrator for all acquisition projects, including those which started under the Deepwater umbrella. The Coast Guard, as a whole, has greatly improved our acquisition governance processes and exponentially increased the number of certified acquisition professionals across many disciplines and directorates.

This year, the Government Accountability Office retired Deepwater from the title of its annual audit. The new title is “Management and Oversight of Coast Guard Recapitalization.”

MH-65D First Flight - click for larger view

USCG photo by Dave Silva

The MH-65D Dolphin’s first flight. (Short Range Recovery helicopter)

Deepwater was an innovative idea and in line with conventional wisdom at the time. Moreover, the Coast Guard found ourselves in a position where all our surface assets were in need of recapitalization at nearly the same time, and we needed to elucidate the urgency of this problem. Deepwater was the solution.

However, due to some well-publicized problems in execution, the Deepwater title now has negative connotations. In the end, the general consensus is that we ceded too much responsibility to the contractor, including some functions that should have been reserved for government employees. However, there is a great deal of good that has emerged from this endeavor. We have learned many hard lessons, fostered systems thinking, built our acquisition expertise and are collectively smarter as a service. Chances are good that you, the reader, have one or more acquisition certifications.

HC-130J Super Hercules - click for larger view

USCG photo by Dave Silva

An HC-130J Super Hercules (Long Range Surveillance aircraft)

So why should we care that Deepwater has ended? In short, the collection of acquisitions formerly known as Deepwater was not inclusive of all service acquisition needs and, more importantly, had an artificial end date associated with it. This end date implied that the Coast Guard would be recapitalized, no further Acquisition Construction and Improvement funding would be needed, and all would be well. Of course, we would continue to need an adequate annual stream of funding to avoid getting into the familiar position of outdated assets and infrastructure that mandated the exceptional creativity of a program like Deepwater.

C-144 Maritime Patrol Aircraft - click for larger view

U.S. Coast Guard photo

An HC-144A Ocean Sentry (Maritime Patrol Aircraft)

Before shoveling the last spade of dirt on Deepwater, let’s take stock of our current acquisition projects with a genesis in Deepwater. Depending on how progress is measured, we are probably somewhere between 25 to 50 percent complete. Much of the planning investment and upfront work has been completed across all projects. The Offshore Patrol Cutter, the last major shipbuilding project, is nearly through the analyze/select phase of the acquisition process and is a beehive of activity.

We have delivered about 50 percent of our planned aviation acquisitions and upgrades. Six HC-130Js are in service, with funding in hand for two more. Additionally, 12 HC-144As have been delivered with three more on order. The MH-60T and MH-65 series helicopters are nearly halfway through their periodic upgrade segments at the Aviation Logistics Center. The HC-130Hs have upgraded surface search radars, center wing boxes have been purchased and the avionics upgrade segment is well underway.

USCGC Webber, Fast Response Cutter - click for larger view

U.S. Coast Guard photo

The Coast Guard Cutter Bernard C. Webber prepares to enter the water. (Fast Response Cutter)

Three National Security Cutters have been delivered, with two more under construction, and 12 Fast Response Cutters are being built as I write this article. Delivery of FRC #1, the Bernard C. Webber, is imminent. The 110-foot patrol boats and 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutters have completed the Mission Effectiveness Project at the Coast Guard Yard, and approximately half of the shipyard availabilities for the 270-foot MEC class have been completed.

Our Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) and small boat projects are also making progress on a regular basis. A total of 126 Response Boats-Medium have been ordered, with 77 delivered. We have awarded contracts for the 7-meter Over-the-Horizon cutter boat and will evaluate four contenders in February. We received proposals for the 11-meter Long Range Interceptor cutter boat. Rescue 21 is nearly complete in the continental U.S. with island sites in progress. The Nationwide Automatic Identification System, Interagency Operation Centers and C4 Common Operational Picture are making regular progress and providing real value to overall maritime domain awareness.

Response Boat-Medium - click for larger view

USCG photo by PA3 Nick Ameen

The crew of a Coast Guard Station Key West 45-foot Response Boat-Medium patrols off Key West April 7, 2010. Station Key West is one of three smallboat stations within Coast Guard Sector Key West, which has a 55,000-square-mile area of responsibility that contains two international borders–Cuba and The Bahamas.View and download this image from the Coast Guard Visual Information Gallery.

The operational successes of our new assets have been well documented. The significant developmental work invested over the last several years has removed the majority of risks from our current acquisition projects. The one significant risk across the board is having the cash flow to finish funding them as efficiently as possible. The business case to do so is compelling given the operational needs and the maturity of the projects.

Failure to finish out these investments will create capability gaps in the future as other recapitalization needs become inexorably more urgent.

Deepwater is officially dead – long live Coast Guard recapitalization.