Small Unmanned Aircraft System for the National Security Cutter
The Coast Guard is procuring unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capability as a cost-effective approach to meeting the national security cutter’s (NSC) operational need for a persistent airborne surveillance capability. Use of UAS expands maritime domain awareness and disseminates actionable intelligence on maritime hazards and threats.
Why this program?
The current non-major acquisition program focuses only on UAS capability for the service’s NSC fleet. A UAS consists of an unmanned aircraft, its mission payloads, launch and recovery equipment, ground control station, and control and data links. For the NSCs the Coast Guard required UAS that can remain on station for extended periods.
The Coast Guard has validated a mission need for other UAS capabilities; for more information see the Overview tab below.
How is the UAS being acquired?
The Coast Guard focused its sUAS for NSC acquisition efforts on evaluating technologically mature systems, seeking commonality with Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense programs, and applying other agencies’ UAS experience.
To minimize acquisition risk, the Coast Guard initially obtained an interim UAS capability on one NSC – Coast Guard Cutter Stratton – via a pre-existing multiple award contract executed by the Naval Air Systems Command. The patrol data was used to refine the concept of operations and requirements for installing and integrating across the NSC class.
The Coast Guard awarded a contract June 6, 2018, to Insitu for contractor-owned and –operated UAS capability on three NSCs and options to outfit the rest of the NSC fleet in future years. In 2019, the commandant of the Coast Guard challenged the program to accelerate the pace. The Coast Guard completed its accelerated production schedule March 22, 2021, and the only remaining cutter to receive UAS capability is Cutter Stone, which will be completed in 2022.
Coast Guard Cutters Stratton, James, Munro, Kimball, Waesche, Bertholf, Hamilton and Midgett are now fully outfitted with UAS capability.