SPECIAL REPORT / NETWORK-CENTRIC WARFARE & COMMUNICATIONS
The Coast Guard’s vast modernization program continues churning out
new ships, with the 15th Fast
Response Cutter (FRC) being
commissioned in January. This
comes on the heels of Congress
making a surprise announcement
late last year that it will provide
funds for the service to build its
ninth National Security Cutter
(NSC), one more than the program
While the operational capabilities of new assets like the FRC and
NSC are far superior to those of
older ships in the fleet, such as the
four-decades-old 378-foot High-Endurance Cutter Rush, which
ended its career in June, the sensors
and communications equipment — for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) — are kept as up-to-date as possible across the fleet.
Lt. Cmdr. Steve Myers, test director for the Coast
Guard’s C4ISR acquisition program, said the newer ships,
such as the FRC and NSC, have similar data relay and
communication capabilities as the legacy ships. The difference is that systems aboard the new cutters are more
efficient and cost-effective.
“I don’t see the big [capabilities] gap being there. …
We are constantly going back and doing the necessary
technology upgrades and refreshes on the older ships
to keep them updated,” Myers said.
Systems, no matter if they are on legacy or newer cutters, need to be overhauled every five to seven years. Over
that span, there will be some minor upgrades along with
major ones that require ripping out hardware and replacing it to meet security standards. This process, depending
on the upgrade type, can cost millions of dollars, he said.
Brian Slattery, a defense expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, believes the Coast Guard’s
modernization plan to largely replace aging legacy craft
creates an opportunity for the sea service to field technological advances that greatly enhance the capability
and capacity of the fleet.
“Unmanned aerial systems [UASs] represent one of
these advances, which greatly amplify the aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the Coast
Guard at reasonable cost and with little disruption to
space requirements and other cutter operations,” he said.
The service currently has no UAS capability, but getting some, and figuring out the C4ISR capabilities, could
be trying and costly.
“The Coast Guard should strive to field this level
of UAS ISR capability on the NSC in the immediate
time frame, while also continuing to pursue the vertical UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] program for
longer term if it provides a greater ISR capability,”
The Coast Guard strives to keep C4ISR systems
across the fleet updated with the latest technology
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Special Correspondent
The Coast Guard’s modernization efforts include making sure cutters across the fleet — old and new — have up-to-date command,
control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment.
; C4ISR equipment needs to be changed and updated every five
to seven years.
; The Coast Guard is implementing a new information assurance
process that will strengthen cyber security for the C4ISR equipment on its newest cutters.
; The Offshore Patrol Cutter and polar icebreaker programs will
present C4ISR system challenges, but the service plans to use
proven equipment for them that will work efficiently with Coast
Guard missions and not “reinvent the wheel.”