The Coast Guard’s (USCG) Sentinel-class fast response cutter (FRC) newbuild program is on track and budgeted through the next four years, despite an earlier report suggesting otherwise.
“The Coast Guard currently has 56 fast response cutters under contract, which will keep FRC production moving forward into fiscal year 2024,” Brian Olexy, a spokesman for the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate, said in July.
A June 15 article in National Defense implied production could be delayed as no new FRC procurement funding was included in the fiscal year 2021 budget request. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said at the time the service needed to allocate funds for other priorities, such as polar security cutters (PSC), but intended to add FRC procurement funding during the budget process.
The USCG will acquire up to 64 Sentinel-class 154'x25' FRC cutters, with 58 designated for domestic operators and the remaining six to be assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, Olexy said.
On April 3, Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La., delivered the 38th FRC, the Harold Miller (WPC 1138), which was commissioned on July 15 at its Galveston, Texas, home port. The cutter’s patrol area will take in 900 miles of coastline from Carrabelle, Fla., to Brownsville, Texas.
Meanwhile, Rear Adm. Nathan Moore, the Coast Guard’s chief engineer, said the U.S. polar security cutter program needs no less than six PSCs, three of which should be engineered for heavy icebreaking service.
“The reality is, the United States is far behind where we need to be in terms of icebreakers. You just have to compare us to the other nations that operate icebreakers,” he said during the American Society of Naval Engineers’ Virtual Launch & Recovery symposium in July.
The current PSC fleet comprises one 420’ medium icebreaker and one 399' heavy icebreaker, which is nearly 45 years old. In April 2019, the Integrated Program Office (IPO) of the USCG and Navy awarded Pascagoula, Miss.-based VT Halter Marine a $746 million contract for the detailed design and construction of the Coast Guard’s lead PSC. Construction is set to begin next year with a planned 2024 delivery.