Austal Awarded Contract for Offshore Patrol Cutter Stage 2

Below is the announcement from Coast Guard headquarters. Some comments first.

The contract award, $208.26 million, does not actually include construction of the first cutter, presumably that will be included in the FY2023 budget. The potential value of up to “$3.33 billion if all options are exercised” equates to an average cost for 11 ships of $303M each. Keep in mind, that does not include government furnished equipment and other cost that go along with building new ships, including the precommissioning crew and its support and infrastructure improvements that may be required to accommodate these substantially larger ships. 

Given that Eastern, builder of the first four OPCs, did not win the contract, and the contract allows “flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance” then we can expect to have A-class and B-class OPCs. 

Considering that the Independence class LCS program is ending, this is an extremely important win for Austal and vendicates their decision to invest in steel shipbuilding.

 

 News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters

Coast Guard awards contract for Stage 2 of the Offshore Patrol Cutter Acquisition

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.

More information about the award can be found here.

“Coast Guard modifies offshore patrol cutter contract to complete installation of the combat and radar systems” -CG-9

OPC “Placemat”

Below is a post from the  Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9). I had never heard of the “Athena combat weapons system” so “Googled” it. The most common thing that came up was an Army laser weapons program. I don’t really think that is what they talking about, but I could be wrong. The post does call it a “weapons system.” I think it may be the Leonardo ATHENA® (Architecture & Technologies Handling Electronic Naval Applications) Combat Management System (CMS). Leonardo’s web page on the system indicates it is the CMS used on the FREMM frigate which is the parent craft for new USN FFG. Maybe the Navy liked the CMS as much as they liked the ship.

The CMS on the Bertholf class cutters is an Aegis based system. I have not heard anything about its application to the offshore patrol cutter (OPC).

Late Addition: Got this, thanks to Timothy H,

AEGIS Athena Baseline 9G
May be an image of text
That is good news, since it means there will be commonality between the systems on the NSCs and the OPCs.

The Coast Guard modified its current contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) May 20 so installation of the Athena combat weapons system and multi-mode radar system will be completed during the production phase of the offshore patrol cutter (OPC). The Athena system, radar and armament of the OPC are provided to the Coast Guard as Navy type-Navy owned government furnished equipment.

Prior to this modification, installation of both systems was to occur after contract delivery while each cutter was in its homeport. The Navy has completed development, integration and testing of the Athena and radar systems, enabling the Coast Guard to shift to production-phase installation. Performing this work prior to delivery reduces the technical risks associated with post-delivery installation and delivers mission-ready OPCs to the fleet as soon as possible.

The first four OPCs are currently in production at ESG’’s shipyard in Panama City, Florida.

The OPC meets the service’s need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of a larger task force and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters, interdicting undocumented individuals and protecting the nation. The acquisition of 25 OPCs will complement the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters and fast response cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy.

For more information: Offshore Patrol Cutter Program page

Contract Award for the Fourth Offshore Patrol Cutter

Photo: Rendering of the future USCGC RUSH (WMSM 918) provided by Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. Click on the photo for a better view. 

Below is a press release from Eastern Shipbuilding Group. To review the situation, the Coast Guard is expected to make a decision in the near future regarding the award of the next batch of Offshore Patrol Cutters. Eastern is one of the competitors.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

         April 26, 2022

Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. Announces Construction of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Fourth Offshore Patrol Cutter

PANAMA CITY, FL – Today, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) announced the U.S. Coast Guard has awarded a contract to begin construction of the fourth Heritage Class offshore patrol cutter (OPC), the future USCGC RUSH (WMSM 918).

The OPC will form the backbone of the service’s future fleet around the globe. ESG has worked hard to earn this opportunity and is honored to be chosen to perform this important work for the United States. ESG, in collaboration with its partners, produced the winning design of the OPC and was awarded detail design and construction of the first hulls in 2016. The new OPC designs reflect cutting-edge technology and will replace the service’s 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate.

“This follow-on award signifies the OPC team and our partners continue to provide quality craftsmanship and unparalleled service. We have a focused vision to support the OPC Program with shipbuilding excellence and provide the country with a long-term industrial capability that can produce exceptional vessels that support national security interests,” said Joey D’Isernia, President of Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc.

As prime contractor, ESG has successfully achieved program goals and mitigated the impacts of COVID-19 and current supply chain challenges. It expects to christen the first vessel this year, is nearly halfway through completion of the second vessel, and will host the keel authentication of the third OPC in a few weeks. The pace of production accelerates with each vessel that comes online.

“We utilized state of the market technology, design, and construction methodologies to offer a more capable vessel than legacy assets currently in service. The innovations built into the OPCs were designed for sustainability and endurance and come from the ingenuity of the best engineers and manufacturers in the world. We thank the hundreds of partners and employees in the thirty-four states supporting us in this effort,” continued D’Isernia.

Construction is taking place at ESG’s Nelson Street Shipyard in Panama City, Florida, a facility that is optimized for multi-hull construction of the Offshore Patrol Cutter and dedicated to supporting the U.S. Coast Guard.

ESG survived the third largest U.S. hurricane in 2018 and has fully rebuilt its operational facilities. The company made many infrastructure investments from $50 million in state appropriations and economic development grants that benefit the OPC project with enhanced manufacturing capabilities and efficiencies that reduce cost and schedule risk. These infrastructure investments include an aluminum fabrication facility specifically designed to support full construction of the OPC aluminum superstructure in a covered and controlled environment. ESG has also completed launch way upgrades, upland bulkhead upgrades, construction platen expansions, and waterway deepening projects to further enhance ESG’s capability to launch and deliver two OPC sized vessels per year.

At its Allanton Shipyard, ESG has constructed a state-of-the-art C5ISR Production Facility to conduct testing and integration of navigation, communication, and command and control, equipment, and simulators on premises prior to final installation on the vessel.

Major Cutter Homeports

“Coast Guard Cutter Forward and Coast Guard Cutter Bear, homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia, finish an at-sea transfer while underway on a two-month patrol. Coast Guard Cutter Forward returned to homeport on April 10, 2021.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Recently I had to look up homeports of WMECs. I found that there did not seem to be a single comprehensive up to date list. Seemed it might be useful to share the list. I have added the Bertholf class and what we know about the basing of the Offshore Patrol Cutters as well. These are not district assets, but I found it convenient to group them by homeport district. The numbers in parenthesis are the hull numbers. First some observations.

OBSERVATIONS:

The intent is to split the Bertholf class, almost evenly between the Atlantic and Pacific Areas: five (45%) to LANTAREA and six (55%) to PACAREA.

The vast majority of medium endurance cutters are assigned to LANTAREA. All 100% of the 270s and 24 (86%) of 28 total.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the US EEZ and territorial sea (84%) falls under the Pacific Area Commander, the vast majority of large patrol cutters are based in the Atlantic Area. This is, at least in part, due to the Alien Migrant and Drug interdiction missions. It is counter intuitive, but Charleston, SC is closer to the Eastern Pacific Drug transit zones than San Diego, CA.

Once the first four OPCs reach their bases in San Pedro and Kodiak, the Pacific Area will once again have ten “high endurance cutters,” as they did before recapitalization began.

WHO BUILT THEM?:

The entire Bertholf class has been built by Huntington Ingalls of Pascagoula, MS. The lead ship was laid down in 2005 and commssioned in August 2008. The tenth is expected to be delivered 2023. The eleventh, maybe 2024.

The Bear class WMEC270s were built by two different builders. The first four ships (901-904) were built by Tacoma Boatbuilding, Tacoma, WA, with Bear laid down in August, 1979 and the last of the four commissioned in December, 1984. The remaining nine were built by Derecktor Shipbuilding, Middleton, RI. The first of these laid down June, 1982, and the last of the nine completed in March 1990.

The 16 Reliance class WMEC210s were built by four different builders, with the first laid down in May 1963 and the last commissioned August 1969, less than six years and three months later.

  • The first three, 615-617, were built by Todd Shipyards, Houston, TX.
  • The fourth, 618, by Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
  • Five, 619, 620, and 628-630, were built at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, MD.
  • Seven, 621-627, were built by American Shipbuilding, Lorain, OH.

WMEC 622 and 628 have since been transferred to Sri Lanka and Colombia respectively. All underwent a major maintenance availability at the Coast Guard Yard between 1984 and 1998.

THE FORCE LAYDOWN:

FIRST DISTRICT: 2 WMEC270s

  • US Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, Kittery, ME: two WMEC270s: Tahoma (908), Campbell (909)

FIFTH DISTRICT: 9 WMEC270s, 2 WMEC210s

  • Portsmouth, VA: 9 WMEC270s: Bear (901), Escanaba (907), Forward (911), Harriet Lane (903, currently in SLEP at CG Yard), Legare (912), Northland (904), Seneca (906) , Spencer (905), Tampa (902)
  • Virginia Beach, VA: WMEC210s: Dependable (626), Vigorous (627)

SEVENTH DISTRICT: 3 National Security Cutters (2 more under construction), 2 WMEC270s, 5 WMEC210s

  • Charleston, SC: 3 NSCs: Hamilton (753), James (754), Stone (758), (two more NSCs building: Calhoun (759), Friedman (760))
  • Naval Station Mayport: 1 WMEC210: Valiant (621)
  • Cape Canaveral: 2 WMEC210s: Confidence (619), Vigilant (617)
  • Key West: 2 WMEC270s: Mohawk (913), Thetis (910)
  • St. Petersburg: 2 WMEC210s: Resolute (620), Venturous (625)

EIGHTH DISTRICT: 4 WMEC210s

  • Pensacola: WMEC210s: Dauntless (624), Decisive (629), Diligence (616), Reliance (615)

ELEVENTH DISTRICT: 4 National Security Cutters

  • Alameda, CA: 4 NSCs: Bertholf (750), Waesche (751), Stratton (752), Munro (755)

THIRTEENTH DISTRICT: 3 WMEC210s

  • Astoria, OR: 2 WMEC210s: Alert (630), Steadfast (623)
  • Port Angeles, WA: 1 WMEC210: Active (618)

FOURTEENTH DISTRICT: 2 National Security Cutters

  • Honolulu, HI: 2 NSCs: Kimball (756), Midgett (757)

SEVENTEENTH DISTRICT

  • Kodiak, AK: 1 WMEC283: Alex Haley (WMEC-39)

OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER HOMEPORTS

We have heard where the first six OPCs are expected to be homeported.

  • Argus (915) and Chase (916) will go to San Pedro, CA
  • Ingham (917) and Rush (918) will go to Kodiak, AK
  • Pickering (919) and Icarus (920) will go to Newport, RI

 

“Coast Guard to host groundbreaking ceremony at Base Boston for Fast Response Cutter pier construction” –News Release

Below is a First District news release. This is good news for those hoping to see some new cutters in New England. We have known for a while that Webber class FRCs were going to Boston, but the surprise I see here is, “…$35 million recapitalization of current Coast Guard facilities at Base Boston and acquisition of six new Fast Response Cutters (emphasis applied–Chuck) at a cost of $380 million.”

This follows the pattern we have seen lately of these vessels being clustered, rather than being widely distributed in ones and two.

Base Boston (photo above) must certainly have much to recommend it, but as a high-cost area, it seems likely it will host no large patrol cutters in the future. It was once homeport to several High Endurance Cutters. Until recently, it hosted three WMEC270s, Escanaba, Seneca, and Spencer. All three have since moved to Portsmouth, VA. We already know the Coast Guard plans to base OPCs #5 and #6 in nearby Newport R.I. at the former US Navy base, where there had been no large cutters.

Wikipedia has a good list of Webber class WPCs and their homeports. It does not reflect the addition of two more ship to the program of record, FRCs #65 and #66, in the FY2022 budget, but it does list 64 named vessels and homeports for 50 cutters including two expected to be homeported in Boston, USCGC William Chadwick (WPC-1150) and USCGC Warren Deyampert (WPC-1151), expected to arrive in the second half of 2022. Homeports are not yet identified for 16 ships. Four of those are presumably going to Boston so where are the remaining 12 going? One is each is expected to go to Seward and Sitka. Two will go to Kodiak. That leaves eight. Some may be added to already identified homeports. One of the 50 identified includes the first ship going to St. Petersburg, FL. St. Pete will likely get at least two more. Assuming that is the case that leaves six. We also know that two will go to Astoria, Oregon. That leaves four. The recent addition of two was probably with the intention of stationing them in America Samoa. Two there would only leave two which might go to previously identified homeports, so we may not see any additional homeports added.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast

Media Advisory: Coast Guard to host groundbreaking ceremony at Base Boston for Fast Response Cutter pier construction

Editors’ Note: Media interested in attending are requested to RSVP at 617-717-9609 by 4 p.m., April 13, and should arrive no later than 9:45 a.m., Thursday.

FRC

BOSTON —The Coast Guard is scheduled to hold a media event for the Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Homeport Groundbreaking Ceremony at Base Boston, Thursday.

WHO: Rear Adm. Thomas Allan, commander, Coast Guard First District, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Congressman Stephen Lynch, and Mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu.

WHAT: Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Homeport Groundbreaking Ceremony

WHEN: Thursday, April 14, 2022, at 10 a.m.

WHERE: Coast Guard Base Boston, 427 Commercial Street, Boston, MA 02109

This ceremony marks the starts of a large Coast Guard investment in the Northeast with a $35 million recapitalization of current Coast Guard facilities at Base Boston and acquisition of six new Fast Response Cutters at a cost of $380 million. The FRCs are the Coast Guard’s newest cutter class replacing the Legacy Island Class Patrol Boats and will operate throughout the Coast Guard’s First District from New York, to the Canadian border. 

These cutters are designed for missions including:

  • search and rescue
  • fisheries law enforcement
  • drug and migrant interdiction
  • port, waterways, and coastal security
  • national defense

In addition, the Coast Guard will increase personnel presence in the area with 222 new Coast Guard members to crew and maintain the cutters. These new crews are expected to have an annual economic impact of $45 million on the local economy. 

Mark Retiring Cruiser MK41 VLS and 5″/62 Mk45 Mod4s for Possible Future Installation on Cutters

151014-N-GR120-152
INDIAN OCEAN (Oct. 14, 2015) The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) prepares to come along side for a fueling-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to their new home port in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anna Van Nuys/Released)

If we ever have another major conventional naval war, as appears increasingly likely, the Navy is going to need a lot more ships, including a lot more missile shooters. Defense News reports the Navy is considering how to add additional capability. The Navy is even considering putting missiles on cargo ships. As Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA, Cdr. USN, ret.) pointed out, a number of cruisers equipped with MK41 VLS are being retired. The 22 remaining cruisers each have 122 Mk41 vertical launch cells as well as two 5″/62 Mk45 Mod4 guns.

Five of the cruisers have been approved for decommissioning in the 2022 budget. It is likely the remaining 17 will follow in the next few years.

I suggest that some of these VLS sets be stored and earmarked as mobilization assets for possible future installation on the National Security Cutters (NSC) should the need arise. Studies have shown that the NSCs could accept up to 16 Mk41 VLS. These VLS might be recycled to the new Constellation (FFG-62) class too, but since the planned 20 ships will only use 640 VLS, it would only require seven cruisers to donate enough VLS to arm both 20 FFG and 11 National Security Cutters.

It should not be too difficult to integrate the Mk41 VLS on the National Security Cutters since their combat systems use Aegis software.

Potential Mk41 VLS weapons load outs for tactical and strike length launchers.

In addition, it might be wise to earmark the cruisers 5″/62 Mk45/Mod4 guns for possible upgrades for both National Security and Offshore Patrol Cutters as well.

The Navy’s entire Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS) capability is about 114 Mk45 5″ guns on 22 cruisers with two guns each and about 70 DDGs with only one gun. By the time the cruisers are gone, we may have perhaps 80 DDGs. That means the loss of about 30% of the current capability. Equipping the 36 NSCs and OPCs with 5″/62 Mod4 guns from the retiring cruisers could entirely replace the lost capability and importantly provide it in ships that are not likely to be deployed out of position to provide NGFS because they are needed elsewhere to provide AAW protection.

To ensure we can make these changes quickly when needed, it might be prudent to equip at least one ship of each class as a prototype for future upgrades. Upgrading one ship of each class would probably cost less than one FFG and would provide a template for future upgrades if necessary. The OPC prototype might attempt something like I described here.

Since this is preparation for war, the prototypes and storage of the weapons could come from the Navy’s budget.

 

“BEWARE BUYER’S REMORSE: WHY THE COAST GUARD NEEDS TO STEER CLEAR OF THE LCS” –CIMSEC

USS Freedom (LCS-1), decommissioned 29 Sept. 2021.

CIMSEC has a post, written by a serving USCG engineer, about why the Coast Guard should not take on the Navy’s unwanted Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). For this discussion, it may be important that you see the author’s qualifications.

“Lieutenant Joey O’Connell has served aboard two Coast Guard cutters as an engineer. He is currently a Medium Endurance Cutter (MEC) port engineer, planning and overseeing depot-level maintenance on the aging MEC fleet. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and two masters degrees—one in naval architecture and the other in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “

It appears the author makes a convincing case, but I would add additional caveats.

The maximum range of the Freedom class, on their installed diesels, is about one third that of the Offshore Patrol Cutter and about half that of the over 50+ year old 210 foot Reliance class WMECs. That is totally unacceptable for typical Coast Guard operations.

The semiplaning hull required to allow the Freedom class to make its exceptionally high speed does not handle rough seas well. The resulting fatigue will limit the performance of the crew, and ship’s motion can preclude helicopter and boat operations in demanding environments. Earlier evaluation found that the OPC could conduct boat and helicopter operations in conditions when the LCS could not.

While the Freedom class have spacious aviation facilities, I have seen very little about their boat handling facilities and these are a cutter’s main armament for law enforcement. They might require extensive rework. Video from USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) below:

Why It Would Make Sense to Award Two OPC Contracts.

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

The Navy League’s online magazine “Seapower” reports,

 Bollinger Shipyards submitted on March 18 its final proposal to the United States Coast Guard to build Stage 2 of the Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter program. If chosen, Bollinger would construct and deliver a total of 11 vessels to the U.S. Coast Guard over the next decade, helping to sustain the Bollinger workforce through 2031.

It is obviously a Bollinger press release, talking about how much good it would do for the local economy, but it does occur to me…

If we have two truly competitive bids, this could be an opportunity to have two shipyards building Offshore Patrol Cutters.

The program is already too long delayed. The phase II contract proposals are likely to be very competitive. In March 2020, contracts for industry studies were awarded to nine different yards.

  • Austal USA of Mobile, AL
  • General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) of Bath, ME
  • Bollinger Shipyards Lockport of Lockport, LA
  • Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL
  • Fincantieri Marinette Marine (F/MM) of Marinette, WS
  • General Dynamics/National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD/NASSCO) of San Diego, CA
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS
  • Philly Shipyard of Philadelphia, PA
  • VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, MS

I know at least three yards, Eastern, Huntington Ingalls and Bollinger, and probably more, are submitting proposals for building first a single OPCs with options to build ten more. With Eastern already building the first four, this gives the Coast Guard the opportunity to contract for the remaining 21 ships based on the bids that will be received this year.

We could have the entire program completed by 2032 instead of 2038 and avoid the complication of a probably much less competitive phase III competition to build the last ten ships. Six years earlier completion would also probably allow us to avoid the expense of the life extension program planned for six of the WMEC 270s.

It would cost more in those years but this project really should have been funded ten to twenty years ago. It would be a big plus up for the PC&I budget but only a few percent increase compared to the Coast Guard’s total budget, small compared to the DHS budget and microscopic to the entire federal budget. It would align with the national objective of growing our naval shipbuilding capabilities, and further stimulate the economy. It might not be too hard to get Congressional support.

It would also provide a hedge against a natural disaster further delaying construction.

 

 

 

“State of the Coast Guard 2022” (Updated)

Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, speaks at the Coast Guard Cutter Benjamin Dailey commissioning ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. Coast Guard Photo

ADM K.L Schultz delivered his “State of the Coast Guard 2022” at Air Station Clearwater, today, 24 February 2022.

You can read the prepared speech here.

There is an awful lot in the 13 pages. Much of it deals with how the Coast Guard hopes to provide a better life for its members and their families. I will not attempt to summarize. I will mention a couple of revelations that I think may be new.

Three FRCs will be homeported in Tampa Bay with Sector Saint Petersburg. This will bring the final number of FRCs in the 7th District up to at least 23. We repeatedly see these little ships doing fisheries and drug and migrant interdiction missions in the waters off Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean that would have previously been performed by WMECs. This frees the larger cutters to perform missions in more demanding environments.

We have seen a growing tendency to group long range assets. Apparently, this will continue.

We’re developing geographic centers of gravity, creating more Coast Guard hubs like Portsmouth and Alameda… These new or improved operating hubs will be in  Charleston, Seattle, Pensacola, Los Angeles, and Newport, Rhode Island… These operating hubs will allow us to better support our operational assets, and to further support the geographic stability of our workforce.

To some extent these centers of gravity exploit infrastructure built by the Navy but now considered excess. This applies to at least Charleston, Pensacola, and Newport.

These “centers of gravity” suggests expansion or creation of additional Support Centers. It may also suggest where Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) will be homeported. We already know at least two OPCs each are going to San Pedro (Los Angeles), Kodiak, and Newport. Alameda already has four National Security Cutters (NSC) and Charleston will have five when all are completed. Seattle will most certainly be the homeport for three Polar Security Cutters. This suggest that at least Portsmouth, Pensacola, Los Angeles, and Newport will host large numbers of OPCs, perhaps as many as six. If that were to be the case, it would mean 14 large patrol cutters in Pacific Area (6 NSCs and 8 OPCs) and 22 in Atlantic Area (5 NSCs and 17 OPCs).

That would be close to the historic split of resources, but recent developments, including the success of the FRCs and IUU concerns in the Pacific, suggest we may have more large ships in the Pacific, perhaps a third OPC in Kodiak and up to three in Seattle or more likely Honolulu. That would make the split 18 in PAC Area and 18 in LANT Area.

(Updated: Corrected number of NSCs in each area.)

“USCG Provides Information on OPCs’ Speed and Machine Gun Armament” by Peter Ong

Comments on an earlier post here, “Updated: “U.S. Coast Guard Provides Information On The Offshore Patrol Cutter” –Naval News” prompted friend and journalist Peter Ong, author of the referenced Naval News story, to enquire further. Results below: 


The comments posted on Chuck Hill’s CG Blog in response to my story published 13 January 2022 on Naval News about the U.S. Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) had a running discussion as to the maximum speed of the OPCs and how many .50 caliber M2HB heavy machine gun mounts the OPCs will be outfitted with.

Some commentators believe that the OPCs can sail faster than 22.5 knots, which according to specifications is the sustained speed of the OPCs.  Furthermore, the number of .50 caliber (12.7mm) M2HB mounts is relatively unknown with some believing that the mounts will be a mixture of remote weapons stations and handheld crew-served pedestal mounts.  (The OPCs are armed with a Mark 110 57mm turret cannon at the bow and a Mark 38 MOD 3 with 7.62mm coaxial chaingun over the hangar).

I inquired to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Public Affairs Department seeking more information on the maximum OPC’s speed and the quantity of small caliber weapon mounts.  Brian Olexy, Communications Manager with the U.S. Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate, replied via email at the end of January 2022.

Question: Some believe that the OPC’s maximum sprint speed, or emergency Flank Speed, is more than 22.5 knots as rated by the specifications.  Can the USCG settle this dispute and provide the maximum “all engines at 100% or more” speed that the OPCs can safely sail at?

Brian: “The contract requires the [Offshore Patrol] cutter to be capable of maintaining a sustained speed through the water of 22 knots in full load condition at delivery.  Sustained speed is not “flank speed,” but rather the speed that the cutter can maintain in trial conditions. While the cutter design is required to meet the capability requirement of 22 knot sustained speed, the Coast Guard expects to obtain greater clarity on the actual speed range of the vessel during pre-acceptance sea trials.”

Question: How many 7.62mm M240 or 12.7mm M2HB mounts will the OPCs have in total?

Brian: “Final armament of the cutter will not be determined until the Coast Guard takes delivery, but the cutter has been designed with six different small caliber weapon mounts.”

Thanks to Peter for the follow-up.