The Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) successfully conducted its final critical design review on June 29 after talks and demonstrations between the Coast Guard and contractor Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG).
Eastern Shipbuilding beat out two other companies in September 2016 to win the OPC competition. The Coast Guard awarded the company a $110-million contract to design the OPC and build the first hull, with options for eight more ships. The first cutter, USCGC Argus, is expected to deliver in 2021.
The final critical design review was meant to ensure the OPC design meets all Coast Guard requirements for the program, according to an Eastern Shipbuilding news release.
“This major milestone for the OPC program was achieved on time and our design was found to be ready for the next milestone, Production Readiness Review (PRR) on July 31, 2018,” Eastern Shipbuilding President Joey D’Isernia said in the release. “We will continue to work closely with the Coast Guard to make the design more affordable to build and develop refinements to improve mission effectiveness. Today’s success could not have been achieved without the hard work and dedication exhibited by the members of both the ESG and Coast Guard project teams. We are eager to take the next step with PRR and start of construction and look forward to an exciting fall for the Coast Guard and Eastern Shipbuilding.”
The Coast Guard has so far exercised contract options for detail design and for acquisition of long lead time materials for the first hull, according to the shipbuilder, located in Panama City, Fla.
The OPC will replace the service’s 210-foot and 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutters with a much larger hull – notionally 360 feet long, with a 17-foot draft and sustained speeds of 22.5 knots, according to a Coast Guard fact sheet. It will support the MH-60R or MH-65 helicopter and three operational Over-The-Horizon (OTH) small boats, and will be equipped with a command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite that will allow for more sophisticated missions than today’s platforms.
Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft had called OPC the Coast Guard’s “number-one priority” in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and in a 2017 notice naming the first 11 OPCs he stated that “the offshore patrol cutter will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities. It is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, for interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports.”