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Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Completes Western Rivers Rescue 21 System

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Western Rivers Rescue 21 System

The Coast Guard has now completed the Rescue 21 system in the Western Rivers region, with stars representing tower locations also called remote fixed facilities (RFFs). The system is also operational along the coastline of the contiguous United States and in several U.S. territories. U.S. Coast Guard graphic.


The Coast Guard conditionally accepted the Rescue 21 system in Sector Lower Mississippi River May 23 and in Sector Ohio Valley May 31. The service began operating the completed Western Rivers system in June.

The Western Rivers Rescue 21 system provides very high frequency search and rescue communications for much of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers and their major tributaries. To complete the system, the Coast Guard installed Rescue 21 equipment on 51 tower facilities and upgraded three sector command centers and three marine safety units with Rescue 21 monitoring stations. The Rescue 21 Program is working with the Command, Control and Communications Engineering Center (C3CEN) and the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Internet Technology Service Center (C4ITSC), which will manage the system throughout its service life, to ensure that the service is prepared to sustain the system throughout its service life.

The Rescue 21 system provides improved search and rescue communications and supports digital selective calling, which allows boaters with properly installed equipment to transmit an automated distress signal, including vessel location and other information at the push of a button. It also features high-quality audio recording and playback to help watchstanders better understand distress calls and includes the ability to monitor multiple channels simultaneously.

Rescue 21 is replacing the National Distress and Response System (NDRS), which was built in the 1970s and lacks digital selective calling support and high-quality audio capabilities. The Rescue 21 system adds an estimated 200 miles of river coverage compared to the NDRS network.

The Coast Guard completed installation of Rescue 21 capabilities along the coastline of the contiguous United States, Hawaii and several U.S. territories in 2016.

The Coast Guard is also installing the final components to complete a Rescue 21 system that will provide coverage along parts of the Alaskan coast. The service will build three more tower facilities and upgrade two existing towers to complete the system in Alaska by the end of 2017.

For more information: Rescue 21 program page