The ultimate line of defense
Drug-smuggling vessels are no match for the Coast Guard’s new breed of National Security Cutters. The USCGC Stratton is the third Legendclass cutter to join the Coast Guard fleet. Legend-class cutters are the second longest of all USCG cutters, trailing only research icebreakers. They specialize in long-range, highly challenging missions. At 418-feet long and 4500 long tons, the demands on these new vessels are unprecedented.
The USCGC Stratton is equipped with one of the most sophisticated and complex propulsion systems available. Built to accommodate a crew of 110 and conduct missions that last 90 days at sea, the ship can reach speeds of more than 30 knots (35 mph). Two high-speed 20-cylinder Series 1163 TB93 MTU engines provide a powerful foundation to the system, delivering 7400 kW at 1350 rpm. “With all the missions they perform, the Coast Guard needed as much space on the ship as possible. The Series 1163 was the only engine out there with the power-toweight ratio to do the job,” says Young. The multi-million dollar propulsion system also includes a gas turbine, Rolls-Royce controllable pitch propeller system, 3-component gear system and completely automated propulsion control system. The entire system was packaged and integrated by MTU.
Big-time support for long-range missions
As MTU America’s largest marine customer, the U.S. Coast Guard counts on MTU’s Large Engine Service group to make sure that their vessels are in top condition, at all times. Regional support sites are located near the Coast Guard’s west coast home base in Alameda, California and their east coast home base in Charleston, South Carolina. With a team of 16 trained Series 1163 technicians, five automation technicians and over $5 million of local parts inventory, the Large Engine Service group is well equipped to support the Coast Guard’s critical missions. The Coast Guard places a great deal of responsibility on MTU to maintain its engines and propulsion systems. “They expect exceptional service, parts and technical support 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days of the year, at ports all over the world,” says Young. “We receive a lot of emergency requests in very far off destinations and we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
The Large Engine Service group in Alameda, California is located eight miles away from the USCG base, where three Legend-class cutters are stationed. Most engine service is performed on shore, but there are times that a cutter is serviced at sea as well. The Coast Guard covers a huge area—from the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of South America. The Large Engine Service group at Alameda is always on call. Technicians are often sent to distant ports all over the eastern Pacific to perform service. Sometimes, they’re helicoptered to the cutter hundreds of miles offshore.
Typically, a national security cutter such as the USCG Stratton is at sea for three months at a time. It’s on patrol 265 days a year and stationed at port for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance for the other 100 days—usually a three-month period and a one-month period.
“Running 3,500 hours per engine per year is substantial for any marine engine of this size. It’s a challenge to maintain these engines in the relatively short periods of time the vessel is docked,” says Young. For example, scheduled 6,000-hour engine maintenance can take about four weeks with four technicians working 50 to 60 hours per week. These are large, sophisticated engines and maintaining them is not a simple task. One cylinder head weighs 220 pounds. Massive cranes and complex logistics are just a part of the equation.
Ready for anything
It takes exceptional resources to keep Coast Guard cutters running smoothly. The MTU Large Engine Service group’s warehouse in Alameda is equipped with a large parts inventory and full arsenal of special tools designed specifically for large MTU engines. Later this year, the group will move from its current warehouse to a new facility nearly five times its size. This additional space will allow MTU America to meet the demands of the growing Coast Guard fleet as well as the U.S. Navy.
Just like the Coast Guard, the Large Engine Service group is staffed with an elite team of experts. Most are ex-Coast Guard service technicians, who have amassed years of hands-on experience with National Security Cutter propulsion systems. “Due to their backgrounds, our team has the mindset to go anywhere at any time, along with the professionalism and work ethic you expect from Coast Guard personnel,” says Young. The team sharpens their skills with annual training at MTU headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany. All are trained to service Series 1163 engines, along with the massive 11-foot-high Series 8000 engines used by U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ships and Joint High Speed Vessels. The combination of expertise, readiness and resources has made the Large Engine Group the perfect partner to help the USCG and U.S. Navy conduct their critical missions.