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.
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.