Deepwater Sinking?


frc.jpgA couple months ago, Lockheed whistleblower Mike DeKort prophesied the imminent unraveling of the Coast Guard's $25-billion Deepwater modernization effort due to contractor failures. Looks like he might have been right. Defense News reports that the centerpiece Fast Response Cutter, a Northrop Grumman-led program to field around 60 patrol boats for coastal rescue, has been put on hold due to design flaws:

The Coast Guard wants to build a total of 58 FRC cutters, which are badly needed to replace worn-out 110-foot cutters now in service. A previous plan to rebuild the 110-foot cutter fleet ended after the first converted ships developed serious hull integrity problems.Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Pascagoula, Miss., has strongly been pushing its composite design, to be built at its facility in Gulfport, Miss. The Coast Guard had earlier planned to order a prototype composite FRC cutter in 2006, but those plans are now on hold.
After two false starts, the Coast Guard "need[s] a patrol boat right away," says Rear Admiral Gary Blore, head of Deepwater. Defense News sketches some of the possibilities:
Blore noted that 19 international manufacturers with 27 different designs responded to a request for information put out in February to seek patrol boats that might meet Coast Guard requirements. None of the initial submissions met those requirements, Blore said, so the service modified some of its specifications. As a result, five or six of the designs show promise, Blore said.The Coast Guard is looking for a vessel from 140 to 160 feet in length, Blore said shorter than a number of the foreign designs. The FRC-B plan is based on a parent-craft concept, Blore explained, where the Coast Guard chooses a design, purchases construction rights, and builds the craft in the U.S. A similar approach, he noted, was used on the 110-foot Island-class cutters the FRC is intended to replace.Under current plans, the Coast Guard could build 12 FRC-B cutters and 46 composite-hull FRC-A cutters, Blore said, although he allowed that those figures could change as composite craft are delivered and the program gains maturity.
-- David Axe

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