Kick starting deepwater: Coast Guard strives to move ahead on modernization.
As originally planned, before the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Coast Guard had intended to renovate or replace its oldest cutters, boats and aircraft over a period of more than 20 years. Integrated Coast Guard Systems--a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman--won the contract for the job, worth an estimated $17 billion, in 2002.
Since 9/11, however, "much has changed for all of us," said Rear Adm. Patrick M. Stillman, program executive officer for the service's Integrated Deepwater System. "The global war on terrorism is a challenge that each of us in this room must wrestle," he told the Navy-Industry International Dialogue, sponsored recently by the National Defense Industrial Association in Arlington, Va.
Just one part of that struggle is the war in Iraq, which has required the Coast Guard's largest overseas deployment since the Vietnam conflict, including 11 cutters, two shore-side support units and more than 1,200 personnel. In addition, in 2003 (the most recent year with compiled figures), the service:
* Conducted more than 36,000 port-security patrols, 3,600 air patrols, 8,000 ship boardings and more than 7,000 vessel escorts.
* Prevented more than 136,800 pounds of cocaine, 14,000 pounds of marijuana and 800 pounds of hashish from reaching U.S. shores.
* Interdicted more than 6,000 undocumented immigrants attempting to enter the country illegally.
* Saved the lives of nearly 5,100 mariners in distress and responded to more than 31,500 calls for help.
Performing all of these tasks with a force of 44,500 military and civilian personnel--slightly larger than the New York Police Department--is taking a heavy toll, according to Stephen E. Flynn, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a retired Coast Guard commander.
The Coast Guard's current force--which includes 93 cutters and 206 aircraft--is "being pushed to the breaking point and beyond," Flynn told a congressional hearing. "It is inexplicable to me that, despite the war on terrorism, the White House and Congress have been reluctant to accelerate the pre-9/11 schedule to modernize the Coast Guard's obsolete fleet."
Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, agreed, noting that the Deepwater program is an estimated two to seven years behind schedule. "This is simply unacceptable," he said. "We should be accelerating, not decelerating."
To help kick start the process, the House of Representatives authorized $1.1 billion for Deepwater in 2005--almost double the 2004 appropriation of $668 million. However, the 2005 appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security, which President George W. Bush signed in October, contained only $724 million for the project.
Still, Stillman noted, that amount represented a $46 million increase over the president's request and $56 million more than Deepwater got in 2004. He thanked the administration and Congress for their "strong support ... in advancing Deepwater's urgently needed recapitalization."
Meanwhile, Stillman and ICGS representatives told the conference that Deepwater was making significant progress.
In October, noted ICGS President Dale Bennett, the Coast Guard received its first remodeled HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, featuring an upgraded power system. The service has been flying the twin-engine Dolphins--made by American Eurocopter, a division of EADS North America--since the 1980s. It plans to re-engine all 96 of them with the Turbomeca Arriel 2C2 engine.
In 2003, the Coast Guard received six HC-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft from the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Ga. The 130Js, which are replacing 30-year-old HC-130Hs, have an enhanced cargo-handling system and large windows on both sides of the fuselage to allow crewmembers to scan the sea surface.
Also in 2003, the service awarded ICGS a $130 million contract for the design and delivery of two maritime patrol aircraft. The platform selected for the MPA is the CN235300M maritime surveillance aircraft, made by EADS CASA, the Spanish subsidiary of the European Aeronautic and Space Company. Delivery is set for 2006.
This year, the Coast Guard intends to buy two HV-911 Eagle Eye tilt-rotor, vertical-takeoff-and-landing unmanned air vehicles from Bell Helicopter, of Fort Worth, Texas, Bennett said.
The Eagle Eye, a smaller, unmanned version of the V-22 tilt-rotor, is still being tested. It successfully completed its preliminary design review in March 2004, and is scheduled to reach initial operational capability in the spring of 2008. The Coast Guard plans to deploy as many as four of them on some of its new cutters.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, in Pascagoula, Miss., in September 2004, began construction of the first maritime security cutter, large, formerly known as the National Security Cutter, said Bob Conrad, ICGS vice president of operations.
This cutter will be a 421-foot vessel powered by a twin-screw, combined diesel-and-gas turbine-propulsion plant designed to travel at a maximum of 28 knots. It will be armed with the Mk 3 57 mm gun, the Mk Phalanx 20 mm close-in weapon system and the Mk 53 Nulka decoy-launching anti-missile system. It will include an aft launch-and-recovery area for two rigid-hull inflatable boats, a flight deck to accommodate a range of rotary-wing manned and unmanned aircraft, and the latest command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance electronics. The first ship is scheduled for delivery in spring 2007.
A maritime security cutter, medium is in the early stages of preliminary design, Conrad said. This cutter will be shorter than the larger cutter--only 341 feel in length--but it will feature the same propulsion system and similar command-and-control technology. "There will be a lot of advantages for the Coast Guard in the commonality of these ships," Conrad said.
In July, the service awarded ICGS a contract to begin the preliminary design for its new maritime patrol coastal ship. Vessels of this class will be 147 feet long, made largely of composites and powered by three diesel engines capable of 30 knots, Conrad told the conference. They will be armed with the Mk46/Mk44 30 mm gun system, and will carry pursuit boats for rescues, raids and high-speed chases.
The vessel will be built at the NGSS Composite Center of Excellence, in Gulfport, Miss. Delivery is planned for early 2007, Conrad said. "This is an extremely aggressive schedule," he said. "We're talking about going from design to delivery in less than two years."
In March, ICGS delivered to the Coast Guard its first refurbished Island class patrol boat. The Coast Guard Cutter Matagorda was extended in length from 110 to 123 feet. It features an 11-ton, 13-foot stern ramp, a RHIB and an enlarged pilothouse. In addition, a modern and robust command-and-control system was installed.
The work was done at Bollinger Shipyard, in Lockport, La., where seven additional conversions are in progress, Conrad said.
A critical element of the Deepwater program, Stillman said, is the modernization of the Coast Guard's command-and-control systems. Plans call for "a network-centric system designed to ensure seamless interoperability between the service's cutters, aircraft and shore facilities," Stillman said. Common software, systems and components in Coast Guard assets will improve its maritime domain awareness, Stillman said. Maritime domain awareness, he said, is the ability to monitor all global ocean-related activity that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of the United States. "That network will be our number one-force multiplier," Stillman said.