Acquisition of the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) is the Coast Guard’s highest investment priority. The OPC will provide a capability bridge between the national security cutter, which patrols the open ocean in the most demanding maritime environments, and the fast response cutter, which serves closer to shore. The ships will feature state-of-the-market technology and will replace the service’s 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. The first OPC is scheduled for delivery in 2021.
Why this program?
The 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters that the OPC will replace are approximately 30 and 50years old, respectively. The Coast Guard has made targeted investments to improve the reliability and operational availability of the medium endurance cutters, but they are still on their way to technological obsolescence. In addition, the Coast Guard’s missions have evolved in response to changing national and international maritime security needs, and the service needs a fleet designed to execute its missions. The OPC is the most affordable way to fill the service’s need for long-term offshore capability to maintain current and future mission effectiveness.
The Coast Guard is using a two-phased design-build strategy to acquire the OPC. This approach established stable requirements and design early in the acquisition to help mitigate cost and schedule risks. The Coast Guard awarded contracts to three vendors in February 2014 for phase 1, preliminary and contract design. After evaluating an extensive range of contract deliverables submitted by the preliminary and contract design phase contractors, the service selected Eastern Shipbuilding Group Inc. to continue to phase 2, which includes detail design and options for construction of up to nine OPCs. This approach further promotes affordability by allowing the Coast Guard to review how nine cutters would be priced in a competitive environment before selecting a single contractor.
Production of the lead OPC, Argus, began in Jan. 2019. The Coast Guard has also ordered long lead time material for the second OPC, Chase.