USA - Get To Know The Coast Guard’s New Heritage Class CutterE
The medium-endurance Heritage class cutters which will form a core component of the service’s surface capabilities for decades to come.
USCGC Argus, the first of the U.S. Coast Guard’s future Heritage class cutters, was launched last week in Panama City, Florida. The event represents an important step towards fielding this new cutter class — which will replace the Coast Guard's aging medium-endurance cutters that currently form the backbone of the service's cutter fleet. With the Coast Guard increasingly tasked with conducting activities far beyond U.S. shores, as well as facing ever increasing challenges closer to home, having access to all-new medium-range cutters will be of benefit to it in the decades to come.
The first four Heritage class Medium Endurance Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) — including the aforementioned class leader USCGC Argus alongside USCGC Chase, Ingham, and Rush —are being produced by the Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Florida. Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, will build a further maximum of 11 OPCs, the first of which has been named USCGC Pickering. The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 25 Heritage class OPCs to eventually replace the service’s array of geriatricmedium-endurance cutters. Those vessels comprise 13 Famous class and 13 Reliance classships — three Reliance class vessels, USCGC Courageous, Durable, and Decisive, have already been decommissioned.
According to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Heritage class OPCs are expected to have a full displacement of some 4,500 tons — a substantial increase over earlier estimates ranging from 3,500 to 3,700 tons. The 4,500 ton figure would put the vessels on par with the displacement weight of the service’s largest, and most capable, Legend class National Security Cutters (NSCs). The equivalent displacement figures for Famous class and Reliance class vessels are just over 1,800 tons and 1,100 tons, respectively.
The new Heritage class OPCs will measure 360 feet long, and will have beams measuring nearly 54 feet and drafts measuring nearly 17 feet. As such, they are set to be larger than the medium-endurance cutters they are replacing, but smaller than the Legend class NSCs. Famous class and Reliance class cutters are 270 and 210 feet long, respectively, while the Legend class ships measure 418 feet long.