Xavier Vavasseur 01 Jul 2022
US Coast Guard press release
The Coast Guard awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract to Austal USA of Mobile, Ala. to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs). The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.
In 2019, the Coast Guard revised the OPC acquisition strategy to mitigate emergent cost and schedule risk by establishing a new, full and open competition for OPCs five through 15, designated as Stage 2 of the overall program. Informed by industry feedback received through a robust engagement strategy, the Coast Guard released a request for proposal Jan. 29, 2021, for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production. The Coast Guard’s requirements for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production were developed to maintain commonality with earlier OPCs in critical areas such as the hull and propulsion systems, but provide flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance.
“The offshore patrol cutter is absolutely vital to Coast Guard mission excellence as we recapitalize our legacy medium endurance cutters, some of which are more than 50 years old. The OPCs are the ships our crews need to protect our national security, maritime safety and economic prosperity. I look forward to the new cutters joining our fleet.”
The 25-ship OPC program of record complements the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters, fast response cutters and polar security cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy. The OPC will meet the service’s long-term need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented non-citizens, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting ports.
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Austal press release
Austal USA was awarded a contract with a potential value of $3.3 billion for the detail design and construction of up to 11 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) for the United States Coast Guard (USCG). The award marks Austal USA’s first USCG acquisition program and follows the company’s recent win of their first competitive steel shipbuilding contract, the U.S. Navy’s Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium (AFDM).
The OPC program is the Coast Guard’s highest investment priority as it will recapitalize the aging endurance cutters and provide a capability bridge between the service’s national security cutters which operate in the open ocean and the fast response cutters which operate closer to shore.
Austal USA will construct the OPC using its proven ship manufacturing processes and innovative production methods that incorporate lean manufacturing principles, modular construction, and moving assembly lines in the company’s new state-of-the-art enclosed steel production facility.  
“The Austal USA team is excited to support the U.S. Coast Guard using our new steel panel line to manufacture and deliver ships highly capable of performing their critical homeland security and defense mission. This contract award is the result of our continued investment in our people and our facilities. We are honored the Coast Guard has selected our team of shipbuilders to deliver its most important acquisition program. We are also thrilled for our community and our tremendous supplier base as this program will provide our shipbuilding team the backlog and stability for continued growth.”
The 360-foot OPCs will provide the majority of offshore presence for the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet and will be capable of conducting a variety of missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, and search and rescue. With a range of 10,200 nautical miles at 14 knots and a 60-day endurance period, each OPC will be capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and serving as a mobile command and control platform for surge operations such as hurricane response, mass migration incidents and other events. The cutters will also support Arctic objectives by helping regulate and protect emerging commerce and energy exploration in Alaska.
Through continual capital investments, Austal USA has expanded its capability and capacity to enable concurrent production of aluminum and steel-hulled ships. Austal USA is currently constructing the U.S. Navy’s Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship, Expeditionary Fast Transport, and is under contract for the construction of Navajo-class Towing, Salvage, and Rescue ships and an Auxiliary Floating Drydock Medium. This unique production capability positions Austal USA to meet the growing demands of the U.S. Navy and USCG.
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Naval News comments:
In September 2016, the Coast Guard awarded Panama City, Fla.-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group a contract to build the future USCGC Argus (WMSM-915) with options to build up to nine OPCs. Eastern beat General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Bollinger Shipyards to land the design and construction contract, which could be worth up to $10.5 billion as the Coast Guard intends to buy up to 25 OPCs.
However, in October 2018, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle, severely damaging vast swaths of the region around Panama City, including to Eastern Shipbuilding’s shipyard.
The US Coast Guard released a final request for proposal (RFP) Jan. 10, 2020, for industry studies to support offshore patrol cutter (OPC) follow-on production. The competitors for “Stage 2” were HII, Austal USA, Bollinger & the incumbent Eastern Shipbuilding.
The US Coast Guard plans to acquire 25 OPCs. The cutters will replace the 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. The OPCs will bridge the capabilities of the national security cutters, which patrol the open ocean, and the fast response cutters, which serve closer to shore.
Each OPC will be capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and serving as a mobile command and control platform for surge operations such as hurricane response, mass migration incidents and other events. The cutters will also support Arctic objectives by helping regulate and protect emerging commerce and energy exploration in Alaska. The OPC design includes the capability of carrying an MH-60 or MH-65 helicopter and three operational Over The-Horizon small boats. The vessel is also equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system and C5ISR suite that will enhance capabilities to execute the service’s missions. Leonardo DRS provides the hybrid electric drive system.
Production of the lead OPC, Argus, began in January 2019. It is scheduled for delivery in 2022.
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