The U.S. Coast Guard is stepping up efforts to improve its equipment and tactics
in order to enhance its part in homeland security.
In recent weeks, the Coast Guard announced a series of contracts connected
with its Deepwater modernization program, which is aimed at replacing the service’s
aging offshore fleet.
The contracts included orders for the service’s first new National Security
Cutter, two medium-range maritime patrol aircraft and three medium response
The Coast Guard’s modernization program was the focus of an exposition
held recently in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. At the expo, the service’s
commandant, Adm. Thomas H. Collins, warned that innovation and “reasonable”
risk-taking would be required for the modernization effort to succeed.
“It is vitally important to encourage a culture willing to embrace innovation
and accept a certain amount of risk,” Collins said. “It is imperative
that the Coast Guard resist that ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome.”
Collins noted that the first successful steamboat—launched in 1807 by
Robert Fulton—was widely derided as “Fulton’s Folly.”
At first, spectators said, “You’ll never get it started,”
Collins observed. “Then, when the engine finally rumbled to life, they
said, ‘You’ll never get it stopped.’
“In a way, they were right,” Collins said. “The steam engine
did keep on running, and it changed the world.”
Like Fulton, the Coast Guard must keep pushing for change, Collins said, if
the service is to fulfill both its new homeland security missions and its traditional
responsibilities, for maritime search and rescue, drug and illegal immigrant
interdiction and fisheries enforcement.
To make that happen, Collins noted, the Coast Guard currently is embarked on
two major modernization projects, the Integrated Deepwater System and Rescue
Deepwater, launched in 1998, is the largest recapitalization effort in the
service’s 213-year history, said spokesperson Jolie Shifflet. It is designed
to replace or upgrade the Coast Guard’s entire fleet of cutters, patrol
boats and aircraft over a 20-year period. To handle this job, the Coast Guard
in 2002 awarded a multi-year contract worth as much as $17 billion to Integrated
Coast Guard Systems, an equal partnership between Lockheed Martin and Northrop
National Security Cutter
Deepwater took some additional steps forward in recent weeks. In April, the
Coast Guard awarded two contracts totaling $129 million to Northrop Grumman
Corporation Ship Systems, of Pascagoula, Miss., for detailed design and long-lead
procurement material for a key part of the program, the service’s first
new National Security Cutter.
The two contracts mark the first step in building a next-generation class of
ships to replace the Coast Guard’s decades-old cutters.
The NSC is envisioned as a 425 foot-long ship, with a crew of 126 and a speed
of 29 knots. It would carry two medium-range interceptor boats and two helicopters
capable of reconnaissance, search and rescue, and interdiction. Arms will include
the Searam guided missile system, 57 mm gun and .50 cal. machine gun.
The NSC’s detailed design will be completed at the New Orleans Engineering
Center of Excellence, where the preliminary and contract design phase was done,
according to Schifflet. Construction of the first cutter is planned to begin
in mid-2004, with delivery scheduled for 2006.
In May, the Coast Guard granted a $130 million contract for the design and
delivery of two maritime patrol aircraft, the first of a multi-year, multi-aircraft
acquisition as part of Deepwater.
The platform chosen for the MPA is the EADS Casa CN235-300M, a medium-range
military transport built by EADS Construcciones Aeronauticas S.A., a Spanish-based
subsidiary of EADS N.V., headquartered in the Netherlands.
The CN235-300M—powered by two General Electric CT7-9C3 engines—can
carry 51 troops or four pallets measuring 88 inches by 108 inches for a maximum
range of 2,730 nautical miles.
Under the terms of this contract, two stock airframes, modified for Coast Guard
use, are to be completed by 2006, said spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Andrea Palermo.
Eventually, the Coast Guard plans to include a mix of CASAs and HC-130s, long-range
transports made by Lockheed Martin, but it has not yet decided how many it will
need, she said.
Also in May, the Coast Guard agreed to buy three Response Boats—Medium.
These boats are the first of a class that will replace the service’s existing
fleet of 41-foot utility boats that coastal stations have used for the past
25 years, said Master Chief Petty Officer Tom Cowan.
The RB-M, with speeds in excess of 46 mph and twin, high-output, inboard diesel
engines, will be faster and more agile than the utility boats, Cowan said. A
full cabin will protect the crew from the weather, and it will be equipped with
a modern, navigation system, heating and air conditioning shock mitigating seats
and an interoperable communications system capable of interacting with other
military units and federal, state and local homeland security agencies.
The Coast Guard is pursuing the RB-M project with a two-phase competitive process,
Cowan said. Three vendors have been selected to produce a test boat of their
own design. These are Ocean Technical Services Inc., of Harvey, La.; Manitowoc
Marine Group, of Marinette, Wis., and Textron Systems, Marine and Land Operations,
of New Orleans. Each test boat will cost about $2.5 million.
After the three boats are delivered in November or December of this year, Coast
Guard personnel will test them, and the service will award one of the companies
a contract for approximately 180 boats over a six-year period.
While the long-range Deepwater project gets underway, the Coast Guard also
is pressing ahead with Rescue 21, which is intended to become the primary maritime
“911” system for U.S. coastal waters and navigable rivers and lakes.
The service in 2002 awarded a $611 million contract to General Dynamics Decision
Systems, of Scottsdale, Ariz., to implement Rescue 21 by modernizing the technology
of the 30-year-old National Distress and Response System. NDRS is the radio
system that the Coast Guard uses to monitor distress calls and assist in the
coordination of search and rescue operations along the 95,000-mile U.S. coastline
and interior waterways. The Coast Guard conducts about 40,000 such operations
Rescue 21 will improve the service’s ability to detect mayday calls from
boaters, pinpoint the location and coordinate rescue operations, Collins said.
Currently, NDRS cannot hear distress calls along about 14 percent of the U.S.
shoreline. The new system, once fully deployed, will reduce those gaps to less
than 2 percent.
Rescue 21 also will be more interoperable with other Coast Guard, federal,
state and local communications systems. It will have digital selective calling
capability that—when used in conjunction with an integrated global-positioning-system
receiver and properly registered Maritime Mobile Service Identification number—quickly
will provide the vessel’s name, exact location, nature of distress and
other vital information.
The new system is being installed at ground-based installations on 270 Coast
Guard facilities, more than 300 radio towers, 657 vessels and 3,000 portable
radios. During fiscal year 2003, installation is being conducted in Atlantic
City, N.J.; the Eastern Shore of Maryland; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.;
Seattle, and Port Angeles, Wash. The project is scheduled for completion by
September 2006, according to the deputy project manager, Cmdr. Edwin B. Thiedeman.
Such improvements are needed if the Coast Guard is to maintain its recent pace
of operations, Collins said. In addition to its usual missions, the service
has played a major role during the invasion of Iraq, he said.
“We have deployed two high-endurance cutters, eight patrol boats, one
buoy tender, four port security units, strike team personnel, several law enforcement
detachments and two maintenance support units,” Collins told the annual
meeting of the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md.
More than a thousand active-duty and reserve Coast Guard personnel deployed
to the Iraqi theater. They protected key ports and oil platforms, detained prisoners
of war and helped speed the delivery of relief supplies.
During the first three days of military operations, the Coast Guard Cutter
Dallas, whose homeport is Charleston, S.C., was the only surface ship protecting
two aircraft carriers north of the Suez Canal. Dallas stood ready to rescue
down aviators, and the cutter’s aircraft warning lights helped fliers
home in on the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s bobbing flight deck.
Four 110-foot patrol boats, the Pea Island and Knight Island, from St. Petersburg,
Fla.; the Bainbridge Island, from Sandy Hook, N.J., and the Grand Isle, from
Gloucester, Mass., escorted military sealift ships entering and leaving the
“Over 15 million square feet of critical military cargo was shipped by
sea to support Operation Iraqi Freedom, all under the protection of the Coast
Guard,” said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge at a June welcome-home
gathering in Norfolk, Va.
Four of the Coast Guard’s six port security units normally based in the
United States deployed to the Iraqi theater. One of them, Port Security Unit
305, from Fort Eustis, Va., was sent to Rota, Spain, to develop plans for U.S.
operations in Turkey. They also provided pier-side security in Souda Bay, Crete.
Law Enforcement Detachment 205, from Yorktown, Va., located and secured a large
Iraqi military equipment and weapons cache found hidden in coastal caves in
Southern Iraq. Among the weapons found were small arms, grenades, rocket launchers,
missiles, explosive devices, gas masks, uniforms and ammunition.
The Iraqi operations come at a time when the Coast Guard was already quite
busy. In March, it was transferred from the Transportation Department to the
newly created Department of Homeland Security, Collins noted.
“The enormous effort involved in that single transition—the largest
reorganization of the federal government in 60 years—should be enough
to mark this year as historic,” he said.
Non-homeland security missions “remain vitally important,” he said.
Despite diverting key assets from the Coast Guard’s counter-drug operations
to support homeland security, “we had a near-record year in cocaine seizures,”
Collins said. The total amount for 2002 “was the third largest of any
previous year, including a 25,000-pound seizure that was the second largest
maritime seizure ever recorded,” he said.
Search-and-rescue operations continue to save nearly 4,000 lives per year,
Collins said. Such operations consume a considerable amount of the Coast Guard’s
time, effort and resources from coast to coast—and well beyond. Just in
the month of June, for example, the service:
- Dispatched an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, Falcon jet and cutter to search for
a fisherman who fell from his ship 150 miles off of Cape Cod, Mass.
- Rescued two people after their boat capsized in Saginaw Bay, Mich.
- Hoisted seven boaters into a helicopter from their sinking fishing vessel
off of Biloxi, Miss.
- Sent two rescue boats and an HH-65 helicopter to search for a 14-year-old
boy near the Santa Ana River in Huntington Beach, Calif.
- Searched, with lifeboats and helicopters, for survivors after a 32-foot charter
boat, from Garibaldi, Ore., capsized with 19 passengers aboard. Eight survived.
The Coast Guard’s search and rescue efforts, however, are being complicated
by an increasing number of hoax calls. The Coast Guard Group in Portland, Ore.,
received five phony mayday calls in one recent week.
Such calls put search and rescue crews in needless danger, said Coast Guard
public affairs specialist Amy Gaskill. They waste hundreds of thousands of dollars
per year on equipment and personnel expenses
As a result, the Coast Guard is cracking down, she said. The penalties for
issuing a false distress call are six years in prison, a $250,000 criminal fine
and a $5,000 civil fine, plus reimbursement to the Coast Guard for the cost
of the search. It costs about $3,700 per hour to fly a Coast Guard aircraft,
$1,550 for a medium-size ship and between $300 and $400 for a search-and-rescue
The Coast Guard also is reminding boaters that they must comply with security
zones established to protect U.S. naval vessels. In June, a Coast Guard boat,
escorting a Navy tug and barge in the Delaware River near Philadelphia, encountered
a pleasure craft that was too close. After issuing repeated orders to leave
the area, the Coast Guard boat was forced to push the pleasure craft away and
escort it to the Coast Guard station. The pleasure craft then was boarded and
the master was cited for the violation.
Violating the Naval Vessel Protection Zone is a felony, punishable by up to
six years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines.