Surface Forces: Converted Cutters Collapse

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December7, 2006: The U.S. Coast Guard has suffered a major loss in capability when it was discovered that a ship upgrade program made the modified ships structurally unsound and subject to breaking up in heavy seas. All eight of the modified 123 foot cutters (as coast guard ships are called) have been removed from service after cracks were found in the hull and decks. The 123 foot "Island Class" ships used to be 110 feet long and displace 154 tons. After 13 feet were added to the hull length, ship displacement went to 166 tons. Crew size (16) didn't change, but top speed (53 kilometers an hour) was reduced five percent. The ships are armed with a 25mm cannon, and two 12.7mm machine-gun. The original plan was to spend $100 million to modify all 49 of the 110 foot ships, so as to extend their useful life (normally, 15 years) a bit, until a new class of cutters was built. The modification also added a rear ramp for launching a small boarding party boat.

The modification program was already in trouble for being behind schedule and over budget. Now the program is halted, and probably dead. This leaves the coast guard short of ships right now, and in danger of being in even more trouble over the next decade. The coast guard has 250 cutters, and the Island Class ships are a fifth of that.

 


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