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 2022.
Why this program?
The 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters that the OPC will replace are approximately 30 and 50 years 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 multi-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. (ESG) to continue to phase 2, which includes detail design and construction.
On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael – a Category 5 storm – made landfall in Panama City, Florida, causing widespread damage to ESG’s facilities. As a result, ESG requested extraordinary cost and schedule relief from the Coast Guard to support continued performance on the OPC contract. The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security determined that extraordinary relief was necessary to maintain the national defense and was in the best interest of the government. The Coast Guard is moving forward with an adjustment to the OPC contract with ESG to include options for construction of up to four OPCs. The Coast Guard will work with ESG to establish new cost and schedule targets under the contract and continue OPC production at ESG’s facilities. The Coast Guard released a request for information to gauge industry interest in re-competing the remainder of the OPC program of record Oct. 18, 2019.
Production activities for the lead OPC, Argus, began in January 2019. Production activities for the second OPC, Chase, began in April 2020 and on the third, Ingham, in April 2021. Long lead-time materials for the fourth OPC are on order.