Every day, U.S. Coast Guard members are guided by their motto, Semper Paratus, which means “Always ready.” With more than 100,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways to protect, plus international waters, the USCG comprises 41,000 active-duty members manning thousands of marine vessels and aircraft. The fleet has grown stronger and more advanced with the addition of Fast Response Cutters (FRCs). More than 30 FRCs already in commission have seized tons of narcotics, interdicted thousands of illegal aliens and saved hundreds of lives. To keep a successful program such as the FRC moving forward, it takes a team of technicians, engineers and shipbuilders that also must always be ready.
Senior Coast Guard officials have described the FRC as an operational “game changer.” The 154-foot patrol craft has a top speed of 28 knots, state of the art command, control, communications and computer technology, and a stern launch system for the vessel’s 26-foot auxiliary boat. Built to accommodate a crew of 24 and endure a minimum of five days at sea, the ship is designed for rough seas and armed with a remote-controlled autocannon and four machine guns.
With twin 20-cylinder mtu Series 4000 M93L engines providing a total ship power output of 8,600kW, the FRC is ready to respond quickly to any situation. From the U.S. coastlines and inland waterways to U.S. interests at the Marshall Islands in the center of the Pacific, FRCs are deployed to conduct missions that include port, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense. mtu is fully responsible to make sure the propulsion system meets the contract’s requirements for speed, durability and mission capabilities.
Putting the best fleet forward
The FRC program started in 2012 with the USCGC Bernard C. Webber. Since then, more than 30 FRCs have been commissioned, each named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished him or herself in the line of duty. A total delivery of 50 vessels are under contract. Each is built by Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana.
The process of building an advanced ship, such as the Fast Response Cutter, marries time-honored naval architecture traditions with state-of-the-market technologies. It also takes a lot of teamwork. “This whole thing doesn’t get done without a team effort between Bollinger, mtu and the Coast Guard,” says Chris Remont, VP, government programs at Bollinger Shipyards. “The vessels have a contractual obligation to perform at a given speed and endurance. That’s the job of the propulsion system. mtu engines assist us in meeting the contract’s requirements to fulfill the Coast Guard mission.”
From the time the shipyard cuts the first steel to final commissioning, it takes about two years to build and test a Fast Response Cutter. The vessels move though stages of manufacturing, assembly and testing through Bollinger’s 60-acre shipyard. Every 10 weeks, a vessel moves down the line to another stage. Roughly 11 months into a vessel’s construction, the engines are loaded on board with a crane. Due to the ship’s tight quarters, the rest of the ship is built around the engines.
When construction is almost complete, the ship undergoes a series of sea trials. These are comprehensive government and industry inspections, tests, and evaluations of the condition and functionality of the ship as measured against the program’s requirements. When trials are concluded and the ship is judged to be satisfactory, the shipbuilder delivers it to the government. Delivery and Acceptance marks the date when the ship has been found acceptable for service and becomes government property. Commissioning follows many months of preparation, training, further inspection and testing. Only after successfully completing all the necessary steps can a ship be commissioned and earn the title “U.S. Coast Guard Cutter.”