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Rescue 21

Why this program?

The 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.

Rescue 21 helps 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. It extends coverage to a minimum of 20 nautical miles from the coastline; improves information sharing and coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal, state and local first responders; and can also help watchstanders recognize potential hoax calls by identifying discrepancies between callers’ reported and actual locations, thus conserving and reducing risk to valuable response resources.

Rescue 21 meets both the safety requirements needed for the expanding Marine Transportation System and for International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea standards. It also provides modernized command and control capabilities and improved maritime domain awareness, both critical to the performance of Coast Guard missions.

During the first phase of installations, which completed in 2015, the Rescue 21 Program installed the system on both coasts of the contiguous United States and three island regions: San Juan, Hawaii and Guam. Deployment in the Western Rivers region of the United States was completed in June 2017. The program completed the Alaska region last, as the region’s unique operational challenges, extreme weather conditions and logistics required implementation of a different solution. The final tower in the Rescue 21 system was accepted in October 2017, completing a design and installation process spanning more than 20 years. Responsibility for Rescue 21 was transferred to the sustainment community in June 2018.

Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard
to execute its search and rescue missions
with greater agility and efficiency.

Features

  • Improved information sharing and coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and federal, state and local first responders
  • Geographic display to assist in identifying hoax callers, conserving valuable response resources
  • Digital-selective calling support, which allows mariners in distress with DSC-equipped radios to transmit, at the push of a button, their exact GPS position and vital vessel information to the Coast Guard and other DSC-equipped vessels
  • Improved clarity, recording and playback capabilities for all communications
  • Simultaneous monitoring and relaying of information over multiple radio frequencies
  • Portable tower communications equipment for use during emergencies and natural disasters
  • Automated transmission of urgent marine information broadcasts

 

Acquisition Milestones

1995 The acquisition project is chartered as the National Distress and Response System Modernization Program
January 2001 Phase one contracts awarded
September 2002 Phase two contract awarded and project name changed to Rescue 21
December 2005 Rescue 21 reaches initial operating capability
2015 First phase of installations completed (Coastal and Great Lakes Regions)
February 3, 2015 Final tower in the Coastal Region activated
June 2017 Rescue 21 installation completed in the Western Rivers region of the United States
October 10, 2017 Final tower in Rescue 21 system is accepted
June 2018 Rescue 21 transitions to sustainment