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Rescue 21, the Coast Guard’s advanced command, control and direction-finding communications system, was created to better locate mariners in distress and save lives and property at sea and on navigable rivers. By harnessing state-of-the-market technology, Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to execute its search and rescue missions with greater agility and efficiency.

Why this program?

Rescue 21 replaces the National Distress and Response System, which has been in use since the 1970s. Rescue 21 can more accurately identify the location of callers in distress via towers that generate lines of bearing to the source of VHF radio transmissions, thereby significantly reducing search time. Rescue 21 extends coverage out to a minimum of 20 nautical miles from the coastline. It improves information sharing and coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local first responders, and can also identify suspected hoax calls, conserving valuable response resources.

How is the program implemented?

Rescue 21 will meet both the safety requirements needed for the expanding Marine Transportation System, as well as International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea standards. Rescue 21 also provides modernized command and control capabilities and improved MDA, both critical to the performance of Coast Guard missions.

The Rescue 21 system reached initial operating capability in December 2005. The program is ccontinuing to install sites in order to maximize Rescue 21 coverage as well as sustain equipment at Coast Guard sites, including those of the Continental United States, Hawaii and overseas territories. Additionally, the Coast Guard is deploying a Rescue 21 system that is tailored to the unique logistical and operational needs of sectors located in Alaska and Western Rivers.

The Rescue 21 program selects for installation sites that will meet the needs of the Coast Guard, and, working with environmental and wildlife experts and local communities, helps ensure that Rescue 21 sites preserve the ecosystem. The site selection process includes:

  • Regional surveys.
  • Establishment of remote antenna sites.
  • Physical installation and testing of the communications equipment at Coast Guard facilities and communication centers throughout the region.
  • Ongoing follow-on maintenance and support of the Rescue 21 system.