Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC)
WMSM Maritime Security Cutter Medium
The Offshore Patrol cutter is the successor to the 270' Famous class and the 210' Reliance class Medium Endurance Cutters. The OPC is designed to have a maximum range of 9,000 nautical miles and an adaptable mission module. The U.S. Coast Guard awarded a contract to Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS) to begin the design and final requirements work for the Offshore Patrol Cutter as part of the Coast Guard 's Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) Program.
The Coast Guard's existing fleet is reaching a point where some vessels are no longer capable of reliably or effectively performing operations resulting in unexpected casualties and lost patrol days. The aging medium endurance cutters are slated for replacement by a new class of cutters. The new Offshore Patrol Cutter will operate more than 50 miles from land, carrying out the Coast Guard's maritime security and safety activities in support of national interests.
The revised Deepwater implementation plan provides additional capabilities to reflect the domestic environment changes post-9/11. The OPC is designed to contribute to Intelligence Collection / Information Sharing through a sophisticated S/SCIF, SEI sensors and increased data exchange bandwidth. The OPC's Deepwater and DoD interoperability capabilities are enhanced with DHS- and local responder-interoperable radio communications. The OPC flight deck will grow to accommodate all variants of DHS and DoD HH-60 helicopters to provide enhanced interoperability with interagency and inter-service counter-terrorism teams.
The OPC will be fully integrated with the National Distress Response Modernization Program, known as RESCUE 21, which will provide the port commanders with real-time tracking of the OPC and seamless Common Operational Picture/MDA data sharing, including the Automated Identification System (AIS). The cutter's two-person manually operated small arms mounts will be remote operated and fully integrated with the cutters, radar and infrared sensors such that the cutter and high-value assets under its protection can be protected from a USS COLE-like incident.
The Maritime Security Capabilities allow cutter's weapons and command and control suite to be upgraded and hardened to better survive potential terrorist incidents and process increased data flow. This will include a medium caliber deck gun (57MM) that will provide the ability to stop rogue merchant vessels far from shore. The OPC speed will increase from 22 to 27 knots providing exceptional response and reaction capability. This increased transit speed will allow for more time on station protecting port approaches. An integrated Chemical, Biological, and Radiological, Detection and Defense (CBRD&D) capability allows the OPC to remain on scene and operate in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) scenarios.
OPC will feature increased range and endurance (60-90 day patrol cycles); more powerful weapons; larger flight decks; chem-bio & radiological environmental hazard detection and defense; and improved Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment. The cutters will be equipped with air and surface search radars and target classification sensors. The cutters' mission influence will be extended by aircraft and a new generation of cutter boats.
DHS approved the OPC’s requirements document in October 2010 despite unresolved concerns about three key performance parameters — seakeeping, speed, and range — that shape a substantial portion of the cutter’s design. For example, DHS questioned the need for the cutter to conduct full operations during difficult sea conditions, which impact the weight of the cutter and ultimately its cost. The Coast Guard has stated that limiting the ability to conduct operations during difficult sea conditions would preclude operations in key mission areas.
While it approved the OPC requirements document, DHS at the same time commissioned a study to further examine these three key performance parameters. According to Coast Guard officials, the study conducted by the Center for Naval Analysis found that the three key performance parameters were reasonable, accurate, and adequately documented. By approving the operational requirements document before these factors were resolved, DHS did not ensure that the cutter was affordable, feasible, and unambiguous and required no additional trade-off decisions, as outlined in the Major Systems Acquisition Manual. Previous GAO work on DHS acquisition management found that the department’s inability to properly execute its oversight function has led to cost overruns, schedule delays, and assets that do not meet requirements.
In addition to these three performance parameters, other decisions, with substantial cost and capability implications for the OPC, remained unresolved as of 2011. For example, it was not known which C4ISR system will be used for the OPC, whether the cutter will have a facility for processing classified information, and whether the cutter will have air search capabilities. The Coast Guard’s requirements document addressed these capabilities but allowed them to be removed if design, cost, or technological limitations warrant. According to Coast Guard officials, remaining decisions must be made before the acquisition program baseline is approved as part of the program’s combined acquisition decision event 2A/B and the request for proposals is issued, both of which were planned for the fall of 2011. In addition, following the approval of the requirements document, the Coast Guard formed a ship design team tasked with considering the affordability and feasibility of the OPC.
The primary beneficiaries are members of the U.S. public who depend on the successful and efficient execution of the maritime missions described above. The benefits that the OPC Project will bring to the Coast Guard fleet include: mproved sea keeping capability allowing small boat and aviation operations in higher sea states; Expanded aviation facilities for existing Coast Guard aircraft and future UAV employment; Intelligence gathering capability improving overall fleet operational effectiveness''Increased speed allowing greater operational effectiveness in intercepting and boarding merchant and smuggling vessels; Improved living/working conditions for Coast Guard crews embarked on the cutter; Updated systems that are less manpower and maintenance intensive reducing lifecycle costs; Improved self-protection capabilities increasing cutter survivability and crew?s force protection; Enhanced ability to operate in accordance with federal, state, and local environmental laws, regulations, and international treaties.
The Deepwater acquisition plan includes 25 OPCs, which will notionally be 360 feet long, powered by four diesel engines, with an endurance of 45 days. OPCs are to be adaptable, multi-mission vessels with a C4ISR electronics suite, and capable of sustained, intensive small boat and flight operations in support of law enforcement, defense and search & rescue missions. The OPCs will complement the NSCs' capabilities, including air surveillance with helicopters and unmanned air vehicles; increased situational awareness through an integrated C4ISR electronics suite; improved force protection and automated armament (including a 57mm deck gun); and improved defenses for operating in chemical, biological, or radiological contaminated environments.
The notional design of the OPC anticipated a 341-foot vessel with capabilities and equipment similar to the Coast Guard's new National Security Cutter, a 421-foot world-class cutter. The final mission requirements and detail design of the OPC will be refined with additional funding available for follow-on contracts.
In April 2007, Rear Adm. Gary Blore, the Coast Guard's program executive officer for Deepwater, said that the two cutter programs where there may be potential for commonality are patrol boats and the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Blore said some of the potential options for the Offshore Patrol Cutter include the Navy's 2,800 ton Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and a smaller version of the 4,300 ton National Security Cutter. Early in the Deepwater program the Coast Guard's nominal length for the Offshore Patrol Cutter was about 340 feet. What length the ship will ultimately be is unknown. General Dynamics' LCS design is nearly 420-feet long and Lockheed Martin's is just under 380 feet, while the National Security Cutter is 418 feet long.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|