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Rescue 21


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.

Why this program?

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. Rescue 21 extends coverage to a minimum of 20 nautical miles from the coastline. It 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 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.

How is the program implemented?

The Rescue 21 Program selected installation sites that met the needs of the Coast Guard and has worked with environmental and wildlife experts and local communities to help ensure that Rescue 21 sites preserve the ecosystem. The site selection process included:

  • Regional surveys.
  • Establishment of remote antenna sites.
  • Physical installation and testing of the communications equipment at Coast Guard facilities and communication centers throughout the region.
  • Ongoing follow-on maintenance and support of the Rescue 21 system.

Rescue 21 reached initial operating capability in December 2005; full deployment was completed in October 2017. The system is now operational along the coasts of the contiguous United States; Hawaii; Puerto Rico; Guam; the U.S. Virgin Islands; the Northern Marianas Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota; in parts of Alaska; and in much of the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio rivers and their major tributaries.

During the first phase of installations, the Rescue 21 Program installed the system on both coasts of the contiguous United States and on several island territories. That effort was completed in 2015. Deployment in the Western Rivers region of the United States was completed in June 2017. The program completed the Alaska phase last, as that area’s extreme weather conditions and logistics challenges required implementation of a different version of the system.

The Rescue 21 Program is currently reviewing open and pending contracts to finalize them before program closeout and is working with operators and maintainers to fully transition responsibility for the system to the sustainment community.