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National Security Cutter Capabilities Aid Hurricane Irma Relief

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The Hamilton crew deploys a 35-foot long-range interceptor II

The Hamilton crew deploys a 35-foot long-range interceptor II to act as a life boat during helicopter operations in Key West, Florida, to support Hurricane Irma relief operations Sept. 13, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Samantha Corcoran.


The fourth national security cutter (NSC), Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton, has been showcasing its ability to serve as an open-ocean command and control center since it began conducting Hurricane Irma relief efforts on the east coast of Florida Sept. 12.

“The Hamilton, one of the newest national security cutters in the Coast Guard fleet, is already demonstrating its value and capabilities in its ability to provide helicopter support, small boat operations, medical support, and command and control from offshore as the cutter and crew respond to the needs of Florida’s citizens following the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma,” said Capt. Mark Gordon, the cutter’s commanding officer.

Hamilton arrived off the Jacksonville coast early that morning. The cutter’s improved seakeeping stabilized the ship as it transited the narrow band of more than 15-foot seas between Hurricanes Irma and Jose throughout the weekend.

Upon arrival, Hamilton began conducting a preliminary assessment of the entrance to the St. Johns River in Jacksonville and deployed its 35-foot long-range interceptor II (LRI-II) cutter boat to survey the port. The boat’s five-member crew traveled up the river, assessed the status of aids to navigation, surveyed the waterway for hazards and made contact with Coast Guard Station Mayport to provide a clear picture of the damage for Sector Jacksonville.

Hamilton then transited to Key West, Florida, arriving the morning of Sept. 13 to join the medium endurance cutters Northland and Forward in providing assistance.

Since then, Hamilton and its boats have been supporting relief efforts in multiple ways. The cutter provided fuel for an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter so it could continue its relief efforts. Its LRI-II – which has a range of 240 nautical miles and room for up to 15 passengers and crew – surveyed an overturned boat found south of Key West and ensured no one was in distress. The cutter uses its advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment to coordinate operations from the scene.

The NSCs are 418 feet long, with a range of 12,000 nautical miles and endurance for 60- to 90-day patrol cycles. The ships are built to serve as operational-level headquarters for complex law enforcement, defense and homeland security mis­sions. They are replacing the 378-foot high endurance cutters, which entered service in the 1960s.

Six NSCs are in service. Hamilton was commissioned in 2014 and is one of two NSCs based in Charleston, South Carolina. The other four are based in Alameda, California. The seventh and eighth NSCs are scheduled for delivery in 2018 and 2019; they will be based in Honolulu. The Coast Guard placed the ninth NSC on contract in July.

For more information: National Security Cutter program page and Boat Acquisition program page