The Coast Guard is in the midst of its largest shipbuilding period since World War II, the head of the service said during a Wednesday address.
Adm. Karl Schultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, spoke about the new ships planned for the service, as well as changes to aviation, during a keynote address at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium.
The service will christen its 10th National Security Cutter in May, Schultz said. The service is also in the midst of building a heavy icebreaker built, the first in several decades.
Ultimately, Schultz would like to have six icebreakers within his fleet, he said, adding that it is a conversation he will continue this year. The timeline has slipped due to supply issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, Schultz said.
The Coast Guard is also awaiting its first Offshore Patrol Cutter, which is about 60 percent complete, he said. Two more will follow.
The offshore patrol cutters are the backbone of the Coast Guard, Schultz said. The service has put out its largest contract, which will be for the second phase of the offshore patrol cutter program.
The Coast Guard also commissioned its 45th Fast Response Cutter in October. There will be 64 in total. Of the 64, 58 will be used domestically, with the remaining for foreign missions.
“You know, as we await the delivery of these ships, every one of those 64 cutters was named for a former Coast Guard hero,” Schultz said. “It’s really been insightful as an organization to look into our own history as we went out and did some research.”
The changes to the fleet reflect the changes to the Coast Guard’s operations, Schultz said, noting the service’s work outside of the American waterways.
“Well, I think we really play a key role in shaping the diction of global maritime security, global maritime safety, and I suspect navies around the world are recognizing that the language and purpose of coast guards are well supported to their interests and their sovereign interests. And that’s why we’re adapting our operations abroad,” Schultz said.
The Coast Guard partners with other countries to accomplish foreign missions, the commandant said, noting the recent operations in the Black Sea.
But the overseas operations are part of the balance the Coast Guard has to accomplish with its missions, which include work protecting fishing as well as search and rescue operations.