Top Coast Guard Stories of 2012

Hopefully we will soon see the annual summary of Coast Guard Operations for the previous year–lives saved, persons assisted, illegal immigrants repatriated, drugs seized–all the statistics that demonstrate that the Coast Guard has been a good investment. But until then, here are some of the stories that we might remember from 2012.

There were the losses.

28 Feb., CG 6535 an MH-65C crashed in Mobile Bay. All four crewmen were lost.

Dec. 2, BMC Terrell Horne III, 34, was killed in the line of duty when his boat was rammed and run over by suspected smugglers of Southern California.

There was the recrimination.

Negligent homicide charges against Lt. Lance Leone, the co-pilot and lone survivor of the crash of an MH-60 Jayhawk off La Push in 20110 were dismissed, but it is likely that his career is irretrievable damaged.

There were the acquisitions.

The first four of a projected class of 58 new, more capable cutters, the 154 foot, 353 ton, Webber Class Fast Response Cutters Bernard C. Webber (WPC 1101), Richard Etheridge (WPC 1102), William Flores (WPC 1103), and Robert Yered (WPC 1104) were delivered. Fourteen additional vessels are either under construction, or contracted.  There are options for an additional twelve under the existing contract.

A Request for Proposal has been issued and the first phase of the design process funded for the Offshore Patrol Cutters, a new class intended to replace the existing medium endurance cutters. The first of these planned 25 ships will not be delivered until at least 2019, at which time the oldest 210s will 55 years old. Because the deliver rate for this new class is expected to be slower than the originally delivery rate for the 210s, if 210s are retained until replaced one for one, the last of the fourteen 210s will not be replaced until 2028 at which time, the last 210 will be at least 59 years old.

The third National Security Cutter, Stratton WMSL 752, was accepted. Units four (Hamilton, WMSL 753) and five (Joshua James, WMSL 754) are under construction and unit six is funded. Units 7 and 8 were deleted from future budget projections, but the Coast Guard hopes to see them reinstated. Meanwhile two more 378s were decommissioned for a total of four of the twelve.

The Polar Star (WAGB 10) completed a long overhaul and is expected to return to service after testing. The intention was to discard Polar Sea, but her status is still in limbo. The first contract for design of a new icebreaker has been funded. Delivery of the new icebreaker is expected “within a decade.”

Contracts have been issued to MetalCraft Marine USA for up to ten 36-foot “Mark II Long-Range Interceptors” over the next five years, and to SAFE Boats for up to 101 “Over-the-Horizon, IV” 26 foot cutter boats over the next seven years.

111 of 166 Response Boat Mediums ordered have been delivered. These 45 foot 42.5 knot boats are being Delivered at a rate of 30 boats per year.

Contract for the first 38 of up to 470 Response Boat Small replacements has been issued. The remainder are options under the existing contract plus up to 30 boats for Customs and the Navy.

Three additional C-130Js have been ordered. This will bring the total number of this newer model to nine.

The Coast Guard took delivery of its 13th and 14th HC-144 search aircraft and exercised an option for numbers 16 and 17. The 15th unit was ordered in 2011. A total of 36 aircraft are planned.

A Scan Eagle Unmanned Air System (UAS) was demonstrated aboard a National Security Cutter, and the Coast Guard is now pursuing procurement of a small UAS as an interim system.

The Coast Guard has implemented Rescue 21 coverage over the entire Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts of the contiguous 48 states. Additional coverage is being extended to the Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Guam. Modified systems that will not include direction finding capabilities will cover the Western Rivers and Alaska. These systems have features that will help to take the “search” out of “search and rescue” and help to identify and locate hoax calls.

And there were the operations.

There was the effort to supply fuel to Nome after unusually severe conditions made it impossible for the barge that normally supplied their fuel to reach the isolated community.

During Operation Arctic Shield the Coast Guard moved non-icebreaker assets including the National Security Cutter Bertholf,  into the Arctic to test their operational capabilities in anticipation of increased human activity as the a result of global warming.

While perhaps not as demanding as Katrina, Hurricane Sandy again demonstrated the Coast Guard’s flexibility and resilience in spite of its damage to many of the Coast Guard’s own facilities and trashing the homes of many of its members. Like the residents of the effected communities the Coast Guard came back strong. Before the Hurricane made landfall, there was also the high profile rescue of 14 members of the crew of the HMS Bounty which gained national attention.


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