The Case for Big(ger) OPCs

File:HDMS Vaedderen (F359).jpgUSCG Photo: HMDS Vaedderen, at 3,500 tons, a relatively large but simple, ice strengthened Offshore Patrol Vessel of the Thetis Class, with StanFlex modular payload capability

Considering the new Navy destroyer program, GAO identified problems that come from trying to put too much, into too small a hull. They call this problem design density. While perhaps less of a problem for the Coast Guard, this also applies to cutters like the proposed Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC).

It may be counter-intuitive, but size alone is not necessarily a significant determinant of cost. As we noted earlier, the new largest ships in the world do not really cost that much. In fact, they cost less than the National Security Cutter (NSC), and probably less than the OPC. The GAO report indicates for a given capability, a smaller hull may actually cost more, because the density of systems may make design, construction, and maintenance more difficult. Additionally GAO notes it may lead to shorter hull life as it seems to have in some Navy ships. Certainly it is easier to provide good range and sea keeping if we use a larger hull. Both the crew and the machinery are likely subject to less motion. Larger hulls also mean more underway maintenance may be possible, because it is easier to get to the machinery.

This also goes a long way to explain why the NSC is larger than the 378s, the Fast Response Cutters are larger than the 110s, and why hopefully the the OPCs will be larger than the 210s and 270s. There is also the long term advantage of the vessels being able to take on new and unforeseen future roles, as we saw with the 327s.

13 thoughts on “The Case for Big(ger) OPCs

  1. For all those people who advocate cheaper smaller ships for the Coast Guard, should remember the history of the Owasco 255 class cutters. They were too small and too crowded that they had a relative short career in the Coast Guard.

  2. Probably doesn’t look that way now, but the 210 were a lot bigger than the 125s and 165s they replaced. Now they are considered only marginally adequate.

  3. I’m all for a bigger ship and Maybe the Next OPC should include some automation and even be as big as a Corvette

  4. I suppose everything is realtive, but the 255’s did last a good 25 years or so. Longer than most Navy ships. They were certainly uncomfotable and crowded, plus didn’t ride worth a darn.

      • I suspect the price tag is daunting, and the early issues with the hull design (now fixed) probably don’t help Ingalls marketing efforts.

      • If it had been a Navy ship, the hull life issues would not have been seen as a problem, since few of their ships ever last that long.

      • The Burke did not enter service until 1991, so the oldest is currently 21 years old. Aircraft carriers are expected to last 50 years, but very few cruisers, destroyers, or frigates last even 25.

        The 37 FFGs entered service from 1979 to 1989, they started decommissioning or selling them off in 1996. The last few are expected to be decommissioned soon.

      • What do you think about turning the NSC into a Patrol frigate such as the Patrol Frigate 4501 and Patrol Frigate 4921. The specs for both of them are;

        Patrol Frigate 4501 is closely aligned with the basic National Security Cutter hull with limited design changes. The ships are 418 feet long with a 54-foot beam and displace 4,600 tons with a full load. The ship has a 12,000-nautical mile range and can operate in speeds up through 28-plus knots. They have an endurance of 60 days and accommodations for 148. The ship includes an aft launch and recovery area for two rigid hull inflatable boats and a flight deck to accommodate a range of aircraft, with twin hangars for storage of one H-60 class helicopter and two rotary-wing unmanned aircraft. The ships are equipped with various sensors and surveillance systems as well as a 57-mm gun, a 20-mm close-in weapon system and six 50-caliber machine guns.

        Patrol Frigate 4921 has additional mission capabilities for anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, anti-surface and mine-warfare provided by a 76-mm gun, a 12-cell vertical launch system, an anti-ship missile launcher and torpedo launcher, sonar dome and remote-controlled and manned 50-caliber machine guns.

        Both frigates retain the NSC’s propulsion system of one LM2500 gas turbine and two MTU20V 1163 diesels in combined diesel and gas configuration. All variants incorporate the current quality-of-life features on the NSC, including modern berthing compartments, entertainment facilities and workout facilities.

      • Right now, I don’t see it, but that may change. More likely, the Navy will rethink the LCS program to put more emphasis on ASW and build ships that have more endurance than the current LCS designs. If the reports I have heard that the NSC has already used up its designed margins of stability, then it is unlikely to be the basis of a new design.

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