210-Foot Medium Endurance Cutter (WMEC)
The 16 Reliance-class cutters are primarily assigned law enforcement and search and rescue missions. They can support one HH-65A helicopter, but no hangar is provided. All ships of the class have undergone or will undergo Midlife Maintenance Availability (MMA) during the next several years. The purpose of MMA is to upgrade machinery and equipment in order that the class may remain mission capable, supportable, and reliable for the second half of its service life. The Storis and Divers class round out the WMEC fleet with one each.
Typical patrols last about 6 or 7 weeks. The cutters spend half of the year away from home on patrol and half of the year inport accomplishing maintenance, crew rest and training.
The 210-foot cutters were added to the Coast Guard as part of an effort to upgrade the aging fleet of World War II-era cutters. The Naval Engineering Division designed these cutters for search and rescue and law enforcement patrols of a "medium endurance"--i.e. they could conduct patrols of up to three weeks without requiring replenishment. The outward appearance of these new cutters reflected the evolving nature of Coast Guard operations during the latter part of the 20th Century. They had sleek lines with the most prominent feature being their flight decks. They were originally fitted with transom exhaust ports that provided more room for a larger flight deck and kept the flight deck clear of exhaust smoke. In practice, however, the exhaust system proved problematic. Their high pilot house gave the bridge crew unrestricted all-around visibility, making ship-handling easier. A number of other concerns figured into the design phase including maximum serviceability, improved habitability, long service life, and safety.
Her superstructure is arranged in three levels forward of midship affording the wheelhouse 360 degrees visibility. Featured also is a flight deck suitable for carrying the Coast Guard's newest type of rescue helicopter. A streamlined tower type mast with platform, yard and gaff accommodates the navigation and signal lights and antennae. Conspicuously missing is the conventional stack, which is eliminated by the use of an exhaust vent in the stern. She is equipped with facilities for ocean towing of vessels up to ten thousand gross tons. The crew accommodations are so modernistic in design and comforts they can only be compared with those aboard some of the modern merchant ships
Two shafts capped by controllable pitch propellers drove these cutters to a top speed of 18 knots. Those shafts were powered by a number of different power plants. The Coast Guard actually designed two types of propulsion. Cutters 615-619 received a CODAG propulsion plant consisting of two Cooper-Bessemer Corporation FVBM-12 turbocharged diesel engines coupled with two Solar Aircraft Company gas turbines turbines, the first U.S. vessels to receive this unique propulsion system. The other cutters received only the diesels. The propulsion system could be remotely controlled from the pilothouse, either bridge wing, or the engine room control booth.
Crew comfort and convenience were also a priority. The Coast Guard actually hired the interior design firm Raymond Loewy Associates of New York to design the cutters' interior arrangement, colors, materials, furniture and appointments. The interior spaces were paneled and all piping and cables were hidden behind removable panels. The entire interior of the cutter was air conditioned for crew comfort. Additionally, "color schemes have been designed to give varied and pleasing effect." The recreation rooms included television sets, tape recording and playback equipment, AN/URR-44 radio receivers, and commercial AM/FM high fidelity radio receivers. These cutters were also designed to incorporate additional armament in case of national emergency. This equipment originally would have consisted of: an additional 3-inch gun; a total of six .50 caliber machine guns with mounts; an SQS-17 sonar (later suggestions included using a SQS-36); one anti-submarine projector (Hedgehog); two torpedo launchers and two depth charge tracks. Space was included in the original design to incorporate the additional equipment although stability issues were a continual concern. No cutter, according to the historical documents, was actually ever fitted with this wartime armament.
Each cutter underwent a "Major Maintenance Availability process," or MMA, between 1986 and 1996 at a cost of between 19 and 21 million dollars per cutter. The Coast Guard Yard conducted the work on all but two cutters and Colonna's Shipyard, in Norfolk, Virginia, converted the remainder. The first five cutters traded in their unique powerplants and every cutter received the following modifications and upgrades: improved habitability, improved stability by rearranging tank locations, replacement of all asbestos paneling, increased the berthing space, upgraded the flight deck and helicopter equipment, increased the amount of helicopter fuel carried, improved the evaporator, increased and upgraded the communications and electronics capacities, installed vertical exhaust stacks and associated ballast, and installed a smoke detection system and new fire-fighting equipment.
As of June 2000, all WMEC-210 platforms, including CGC Alex Haley, had been updated to the SCCS-210 version 1.0.0 baseline. In December 1999, a USCG HQ Configuration Control Board (CCB) chose to interface the AN/SPS-73 SSR with the COMDAC INS software, similar to the SCCS-270 platforms, and providing a new ECDIS functionality. This system concept was proven during the Paragon Smartship initiative conducted on CGC Dependable. During April 2000 funding was appropriated to provide this baseline change, designated SCCS-210 version 1.2.0. Throughout summer 2000, C2CEN selected and procured hardware to allow expansion of the SCCS-210 suite with an additional QMOW flatscreen console. During late FY2000, the Coast Guard Yard conducted these upgrades to the SCCS-210 system, combining many installations with the AN/SPS-73 installations. Return Yard visits were conducted for those SCCS-210 platforms already in receipt of the AN/SPS-73.
The Coast Guard established the Ship Structure and Machinery Evaluation Board [SSMEB] as a way of assessing the condition of ships and determining if their service life can be extended. The assessments are supposed to be conducted on one or more ships of each type 10 years after the commissioning of the lead ship and at each 5-year interval thereafter. An SSMEB consists of a review of the repair history of a class of cutters, an assessment of the future supportability of the main propulsion, auxiliary, and prime mission equipment on that class of cutter, and a thorough physical examination of the hull, engines, and auxiliary equipment. An SSMEB's determination that a ship's service life can be extended by a certain period (e.g., 5 additional years) should not be taken to mean that the ship will necessarily reach the end of its useful life when the 5-year period has ended. A subsequent SSMEB would determine if the useful life can be extended further.
SSMEBs conducted on two 210-foot cutters in 1997 showed that their service life was longer than that shown in the DMAR (at least 2 additional years for one cutter evaluated and at least 5 years for the other).
Under the Mission Effectiveness Project (MEP), 110’, 210’ and 270’ legacy cutters undergo an extended refurbishment at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Md., overseen by the recently-established Legacy Sustainment Support Unit (LSSU). Refurbishing the 110-foot patrol boats will help bridge the gap until the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters are delivered, while refurbishing the 210-foot and 270-foot cutters will help bridge the gap until the Offshore Patrol Cutters are designed and delivered.
In 2008, the Coast Guard decided to accelerate the number of 210-foot cutters undergoing MEP to expedite the installation of a small crane known as a Welin-Lambie boat davit, which facilitates the deployment of over-the-horizon cutter boats. The 210-foot cutters needed an average of seven to nine months at the yard to complete MEP, which includes approximately 100 to 125 work items for each cutter. All of the work items were considered hull, mechanical and engineering repairs. MEP does not include anycommand, control, communicationsor computer upgrades.
Since her commissioning in 1967, DAUNTLESS was homeported in Miami, Florida, until 1993 when she was decommissioned and entered Major Maintenance Availablility (MMA) at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. After MMA, DAUNTLESS was assigned to her new homeport of Galveston, Texas. In 2009, DAUNTLESS, once again was refitted in a major overhaul, called the Mission Effectiveness Program (MEP), also in Coast Guard Yard in Curtis Bay, Maryland. DAUNTLESS resumed operations in November 2009, and was expected to serve for at least 15 more years - that is, a total service life from 1968 to the year 2024 of about 55 years [the US Navy normally operates ships for about 30 years, though aircraft carriers serve for 45 years].
The U.S. Coast Guard celebrated USCGC Steadfast’s departure from the Coast Guard Yard at a 24 September 2010 ceremony honoring it as the 14th and final 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter to complete the Mission Effectiveness Project (MEP). MEP is the most cost-effective way to provide equipment upgrades and structural repairs that maintain the core mission effectiveness of selected in-service vessels. Since MEP began in 2005, the project consistently achieved its goals on time and on budget.
The Coast Guard plans to spend over $12 billion over a period of 20 years to acquire a fleet of 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), its highest investment priority and largest acquisition program. The OPCs will replace the aging fleet of Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC). The Coast Guard divided the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program into two stages and revised its cost and schedule goals following widespread disruptions from Hurricane Michael in October 2018.
To address the potential operational capability gap resulting from the risk of the MECs failing before they are replaced by the OPCs, the Coast Guard started a $1.86 billion acquisition program to extend the service life of six of the 270-foot MECs. The Coast Guard built flexibility into this MEC SLEP that allows it to include up to all 13 of the 270-foot MECs, as necessary, such as in response to the MECs failing faster than anticipated or if the OPC deliveries are further delayed. The Coast Guard decided not to extend the service life of the 210-foot MECs, which are slated to be replaced first by the OPCs. The MECs continue to face significant risks of failure due to age and obsolescence. Coast Guard officials stated that the 210-foot MECs—some of which have been in commission for over 55 years—are too old to be considered for service life extensions because of their condition and the extent of system obsolescence make it cost prohibitive.
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