April 4, 2017 —
Coast Guard Cutter Stratton returned to its Alameda, California, homeport April 2, completing the first long-term deployment of a national security cutter (NSC) with a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) on board as an operational asset.
This was the first NSC patrol with the cutter’s full complement of aviation support as originally envisioned in the cutter’s concept of operations. The sUAS flew more than 35 sorties, accumulated over 260 flight hours and provided real-time surveillance and detection imagery during interdiction operations. This real-time footage and persistent surveillance capability assisted Stratton’s embarked helicopter and law enforcement teams with the interdiction or disruption of four go-fast trafficking vessels carrying more than 5,000 pounds of contraband.
“We had a tremendously successful deployment from start to finish, and I could not be more proud of the crew. Stratton operates on the front lines attacking transnational criminal networks where they are most vulnerable, on our turf at sea. The addition of the unmanned aerial system added even more capability to help us protect the maritime border,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, Stratton’s commanding officer.
The deployment was also a major step in the sUAS for NSC acquisition, as it provided valuable data that the Coast Guard is using to refine the concept of operations and requirements for installing and integrating future systems across the NSC class.
“This capability that we’re bringing to the NSCs and the Coast Guard is game-changing,” said Jeff Bishop, the sUAS for NSC program manager. “There’s nothing like it out there right now that we have in our organization.”
The Coast Guard released a draft request for proposal (RFP) for sUAS for NSC capability March 28. Both the draft RFP responses and the data gathered from the Stratton deployment will inform a request for proposal for sUAS for NSC capability, planned for release by the end of fiscal year 2017. The contract award for the retrofit of Stratton and one additional NSC is targeted for fiscal year 2018.
For more information: Unmanned Aircraft Systems program page