U.S. Coast Guard Expands Fast Response Cutter Program to 64 Vessels
A decade after the U.S. Coast Guard took delivery on its first Sentinel-Class Fast Response Cutter, the vessel has become a centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s Deepwater strategy with the announcement this week that they have exercised a contract option for four additional vessels to be built at the Bollinger Shipyards in Louisiana. What began as an off-the-shelf solution for the Coast Guard’s urgent need for more modern equipment has grown to a current fleet of 43 commissioned FRCs with an additional 21 now on order.
The program began in 2007 using existing technology and based on a design from Damen Group as an urgent replacement to a previously failed program that the Coast Guard was withdrawing from and seeking a quick alternative. The first contract was signed in 2008 with the first FRC delivered in 2011 and commissioned in 2012 to begin a program replacing 1980s vintage vessels.
According to Bollinger the U.S Coast Guard considers the FRC an operational “game changer” due to its performance, expanded operational reach, capabilities, and ability to transform and adapt to the mission. Measuring in at 154-feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, a state of the art C4ISR suite (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), and a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.
Since commissioning, the FRCs have been deployed in support of a full range of missions within the Coast Guard and other branches of the armed services. This includes search and rescue, national defense, ports, waterways and coastal security, drug and migrant interdiction, and fisheries patrols. They have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands—a 4,400 nautical mile trip from their homeport. They have been stationed from Florida and San Juan in the Atlantic to California, Hawaii, and Alaska on the Pacific. In 2020, the US Coast Guard even stationed them in Guam and Bahrain.
The four new FRCs will be built at Bollinger’s Lockport, Louisiana facility and are scheduled for delivery in 2024 and 2025.
“Our unique experience building for the Coast Guard is unparalleled and has shown time and time again that we can successfully deliver the highest quality vessels on a reliable, aggressive production schedule and cost, even in the most challenging circumstances, including the global pandemic and record hurricane season experienced over the past year,” said Ben Bordelon, Bollinger Shipyards CEO.
The shipyard reports that the FRC program has had a total economic impact of $1.7 billion since inception in spending and directly supports more than 650 jobs in Southeast Louisiana. It has indirectly created 1,690 new jobs from operations and capital investment and has an annual economic impact on gross domestic product of $202 million, according to U.S. Maritime Administration data.