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July 18, 2005

Coast Guard ends cutter conversion program

Though it's just now making the news, the Coast Guard's decision to terminate the conversion of its 110 ft patrol boats to 123 ft boats was actually taken in May.

On June 22, Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Tom Collins told a House subcommittee: " Last month, I directed that Deepwater's conversion of 110- ft. patrol boats be terminated at eight hulls for several reasons. First, the pre-9/11 design for the 123-foot patrol boats did not provide needed homeland security capabilities called for in the revised Deepwater mission need statement. Second, the advanced deterioration of the 110- foot patrol boat hulls, increased costs associated with conversion and technical difficulties were also significant parts of this decision."

"Several steps have been taken to mitigate the near-term operational impact of this termination," said Admiral Collins. "For the long term, the Coast Guard has advanced the design and construction of the new Fast Response Cutter by a full decade. The revised Deepwater implementation plan builds improved post-9/11 capabilities into this cutter's design and delivers it far sooner than originally planned."

The revised Deepwater implementation plan also has "dramatically modified" the FRC from an $18 million a copy steel hulled vessel to a $40 million composite-hulled craft.

Conversion of the 110-foot patrol boats involved the addition of 13-feet to the stern for a small boat launch ramp, a hull upgrade, and modification of the cutter's bridge, command-and-control upgrades, and improved crew accommodations. The conversions are being carried out by a joint venture of Bollinger Shipyards and VT Halter Marine, which is under subcontract to Northrop Grumman.

Based on the worse-than-expected condition of patrol boats entering the conversion process and unforeseen difficulties encountered in the conversion and post-delivery process, costs for future conversions were estimated to rise significantly from $8 million to as much as $12.5 million per conversion—an increase of more than 50 percent, according to Integrated Deepwater systems

Severe deterioration of the 110-foot fleet, coupled with increased post-9/11 operational hours, the delays in delivery of operational 123-foot cutters, and the continued deployment of 110-foot cutters to the Persian Gulf, created a gap in patrol boat availability. The Coast Guard says it recognizes that ending the conversion program requires aggressive implementation of an immediate and sustained strategy to fill badly needed patrol boat mission hours and mitigate the impact on operations.

The transfer of five 179-foot patrol craft from the Navy to the Coast Guard will immediately lessen short falls in patrol boat hours. The Coast Guard is also testing a multi-crewing concept for the two 179-foot patrol craft stationed in Pascagoula, Miss., with the goal of obtaining more mission hours per hull.

Advancement of the FRC

Longer term, the Coast Guard'srevised Deepwater implementation plan builds improved post-9/11 advances the FRC's delivery from 2018 to 2007.

The fast-response cutter is being built by Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS), a joint venture between Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), under the Integrated Deepwater System Program.

A successful Systems Requirement Review (SRR) was completed on April 27, 2005, representing a major milestone in the development of the FRC.

The purpose of the systems requirements review was to present the ship concept to the Coast Guard and to confirm the customer requirements have been sufficiently developed, so the ICGS team can proceed to design development.

The new composite-hulled craft, to be manufactured at Northrop Grumman's Gulfport, Miss., composites center, will have a 40-year hull-life.

"We are facing very aggressive schedule goals for this program," said Mike Duthu, Northrop Grumman Fast-Response Cutter program manager. "To meet specific homeland security defense needs, the program has been accelerated by nearly 10 years from what was originally proposed at the time of contract award in June 2002. During the execution of each phase, we will have a Northrop Grumman team continually planning, scoping and proposing the next phase to achieve program milestones."

The systems requirements review, held at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems sector's shipyard in New Orleans, included demonstrations on the fast-response cutter's hull, mechanical and electrical design, the Command, Control, Communications and Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite and logistics support. ICGS also presented information on the ship's preliminary operational plans as an asset in the Integrated Deepwater System.

As a result of the systems requirements review process, the Fast-Response Cutter program now moves into the preliminary design phase, with the customer review scheduled for this August.

The Lead FRC is scheduled to be delivered to the Coast Guard in December 2007. The first ship will undergo an extensive test and evaluation period prior to starting construction on the follow-on hulls. .

Length: 140 ft

Displacement: 320 LT

Max Speed: 30+ knots

Endurance: 5 Day Threshold, 7 Day Objective

Range: 3,200 nautical miles

Propulsion: (4) 3,650 BHP Diesel Engines

Aircraft: None

Boats: (1) SRP

Armament: 25mm gun, .50 caliber machine gun mounts

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