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Maritime Security Cutter, Large (WMSL)
National Security Cutter (NSC)

The funding request sent to Congress in February 2012 included $658 million for the sixth Legend-class NSC, but the Coast Guard program would end after that ship is delivered. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the proposed "pause" in the NSC program was due to budget constraints as well as examining how it fits with the Navy’s plans. “We will look at [NSC’s] seven and eight in light of what the Navy is doing,” Napolitano told the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee during a hearing to examine her department’s budget request. “So we need to look at what the DoD is doing with respect to their own force lay down to see what we need to be putting in the acquisition pipeline.”

The the Maritime Security Cutter, Large (WMSL, formerly known as the National Security Cutter), the successor of the 378' High Endurance Hamilton class cutters that have been in service since the 1960s. The WMSL is the largest of three new cutter classes -- and the first under construction -- within the Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System (IDS) acquisition program.

As of early 2011 the Service has taken delivery of two National Security Cutters. Both vessels represent tremendous improvements over the 45 year old vessels they are replacing. But by that time the program was two years behind schedule and 38 percent over the revised 2007 budget. In addition, both vessels will require substantial retrofits to meet expected service lives.

The NSC project, which is part of the $24 billion Deepwater modernization and recapitalization program, is building the future flagships of the Coast Guard's fleet. The NSCs, which are under construction by Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, at Pascagoula, Miss., will be the largest and most technically advanced ships in Coast Guard history. The new ships' complexity is reflected in the contractual agreement between the Coast Guard and Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS), which is an industry joint venture between Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. The Coast Guard and ICGS have struggled with the NSC's original contract vehicle and an integrated product team structure that did not adapt very well to change, even as dramatic changes were occurring throughout the Deepwater program.

The Coast Guard's Deepwater Program is the largest recapitalization effort in the 214-year history of the Coast Guard. The IDS, is a vital multi-year program to modernize and replace aging ships and aircraft that will be linked with state-of-the-art Command, Control, Communications and Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance systems supported by an integrated logistics regime. This mix of ships, airplanes, helicopters, and unmanned air vehicles ensures full interoperability while meeting the full range of Coast Guard missions, including homeland security.

The Deepwater Program will improve the Coast Guard's counter terrorism, maritime homeland security, and overall mission performance capabilities. The Deepwater Program is vital to transforming the Coast Guard and ensuring the delivery of required capabilities needed for the performance of homeland security and other missions. The system of systems approach is the most prudent, cost effective and efficient manner to transform the Coast Guard.

The NSC was designed to be the flagship of the fleet - capable of meeting all maritime security mission needs, and supportive of the joint Coast Guard/Navy commitment to Joint Service Combatant Commanders. The NSC contributes to Intelligence Collection/Information Sharing through a sophisticated S/SCIF, SEI sensors and increased data exchange bandwidth. The NSC's Deepwater and DoD interoperability capabilities are enhanced with DHS- and local responder interoperable radio communications. The NSC 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 NSC will now 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 NSC and seamless Common Operational Picture/MDA data sharing, including the Automated Identification System (AIS).

The NSC Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection suite will include underwater sonar that will allow the cutter to scan ports, approaches, facilities and high-value assets for underwater, minelike devices and detect swimmers. The cutter's small arms mounts will be remote operated and fully integrated with the cutter's 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 SRBOC/NULKA missile defense system with CIWS, SLQ-32, and a medium caliber deck gun (57MM) that will provide the ability to stop rogue merchant vessels far from shore. An integrated CBRNE Detection and Defense capability allows the NSC to remain on scene and operate in Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) scenarios.

The WMSL, manufactured by Northrop Grumman Corporation's Ships Systems sector in Pascagoula, Miss., is a 421-foot vessel with a draft of 21 feet and a 4,112-ton displacement at full load when delivered. The twin-screw cutter will be powered by a combined diesel and gas propulsion plant designed for maximum cutter speeds of 28 knots [or 29 knots]. The cutter's design incorporates a stern ramp for underway launch and recovery of two rigid hull inflatable boats, a flight deck and dual helicopter hangar to accommodate a range of rotary wing manned and unmanned aircraft, and state of the art electronics for command and control.

It is designed to have dual stern ramps for deployment and recovery of 2 RHIBs, a maximum range of 12,000 nautical miles, and a helo pad and hanger. The National Security Cutter is designed to have a fitness center, 3 lounges, a learning lab, and 4 person staterooms. It will have an adaptable mission module and 100 percent common C4ISR with OPC.

The WMSL is equipped with 57mm gun as well as .50 caliber guns.

Although originally conceived with "deepwater" missions in mind, including forward-deployed expeditionary operations with Navy component commanders, mobile multimission platforms like the Maritime Security Cutter are ideally suited for the wide range of homeland security operations encountered in ports, waterways, and coastal areas. The design of the WMSL will provide better sea keeping and higher sustained transit speeds, greater endurance and range, and the ability for launch and recovery, in higher sea states, of improved small boats, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles--all key attributes in enabling the Coast Guard to implement increased security responsibilities. Such duties include exerting more effective jurisdiction over foreign-flagged ships transiting U.S. waters.

Deepwater's more capable maritime security cutters, for example, will enable the Coast Guard to screen and target vessels faster, more safely, and reliably before they arrive in U.S. waters-to include conducting onboard verification through boardings and, if necessary, taking enforcement-control actions.

The national security cutter is a crucial element of the Coast Guard's recapitalization and is urgently needed to meet growing mission needs. The largest cutters in the Coast Guard's current fleet, the 378-foot high endurance cutters, are 35 years old and are approaching the end of their service lives. The new cutters will offer the Coast Guard's operating force a safer and more effective platform from which to carry out its missions. The 418-foot national security cutter is uniquely suited for conducting the full range of maritime safety, security and natural resource stewardship missions in the world's toughest environments for extended periods of time. The NSC is intended to be the Coast Guard's most technologically advanced class of cutter and will typically deploy with multi-mission cutter helicopters and vertical unmanned aerial vehicles.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2012 16:24:21 ZULU