Two years ago the United States Coast Guard (USCG) high command was very anxious that President Donald Trump might severely cut back funding for the service.
These fears, though, have proved to be unfounded. Already in series production for the USCG, to replace obsolescent vessels, are two new classes of ship, namely the 4,600-tonne National Security Cutters and the 360-tonne Fast Response Cutters.
Furthermore, it was recently confirmed that production of another new class of USCG vessel is underway, when steel cutting for the first Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), Argus, took place at the Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Panama City, Florida.
The 3,700-tonne, 110-metre OPC is powered by twin MTU diesel engines, linked to Rolls-Royce controllable-pitch propellers, enabling a top speed of at least 22 knots. Bow thrusters are also provided by Rolls-Royce.
Armament is a 57mm. gun mounted forward, backed up by a 25mm cannon, a remotely operated twin 12.7mm machine gun mount, and four manually operated single 12.7mm machine guns. Three fast interception craft are carried.
Advanced Saab Sea Giraffe multi-mode radar is fitted, and a flight deck and hangar support operations by a USCG MH-60 or MH-65 helicopter, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
In USCG service the new ships will be designated Heritage-class Maritime Security Cutter Medium. They will replace ageing vessels of the Famous Cutter, and Reliance classes. Duties will include interdiction of fast craft carrying irregular migrants, and narcotics, counter terrorism operations, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, and support of the US Navy in combat operations.
21 of the class are planned, with all to be built by the Eastern Shipbuilding Group.