The New Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutter: Filling Out the USCG Patrol Boat Gap


A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at entrances to our ports,
might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of our laws.

(Alexander Hamilton, 1787)

The Author with USCG Commander Thad Allen (Credit: SLD, April 9th, 2010)
The Author with USCG Commander Thad Allen During the Keel Laying Ceremony For The USCGC Bernard C. Webber  (Credit: SLD, April 9th, 2010)

By Rear Admiral Ed Gilbert USCG, Retired

The Coast Guard was conceived in 1787, when Alexander Hamilton, later to be America’s first secretary of the treasury, wrote in a Federalist Paper “a few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at entrances to our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of our laws.”

The Fast Response Cutter (FRC), a new generation of Coast Guard patrol boats, will continue the Coast Guard’s long history of protecting America’s citizens, assets and interests at home and abroad. The FRC will have the official class designation as the “Sentinel” class. They will be named after Coast Guard enlisted heroes.

The Coast Guard has a long history of using patrol boats for mission execution going back at least to anti rum-running patrols. Coast Guard patrol boats were prominent during the Normandy invasion rescuing many of those who failed to make it to Normandy on their first attempt.

A new 95 foot class was added during the height of the cold war to protect our harbors and ports from potential smuggling of nuclear or other dangerous weapons by sea. Another new class of 82 foot boats was added in the early 1960’s, and 27 of them were sent to Viet Nam in 1965 for offshore in inland river patrols. I was skipper for one of each of these classes of boats here and in Viet Nam; these were and are great opportunities for young officers and senior enlisted members for command in the Coast Guard.

The New Sentinel  FRC: Extensive Range and Full C4ISR Interagency Interoperability
The Sentinel Class patrol boat project will deliver vital capability to the Coast Guard, helping to meet the service’s need for additional patrol boats. The current patrol boat gap hinders the Coast Guard’s ability to successfully and efficiently complete all potential missions, and this critical FRC acquisition will help address these identified needs. The Sentinel Class patrol boat will be 154 feet long, capable of speeds of 28 plus knots, armed with one stabilized, remotely-operated 25mm chain gun and four crew-served .50 caliber machine guns, and crew capabilities to accommodate a dual gender crew of  22 people. It will be able to perform independently for a minimum of 5 days at sea, and be underway for 2,500 hours per year. The C4ISR systems on the Sentinel Class patrol boat will be fully interoperable with not only the Coast Guard’s existing and future assets, but partners in the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and first responder communities.

Quote Admiral Gilbert

The Coast Guard selected a “parent-craft” design for the Sentinel Class patrol boat, to ensure that the operating force receives new patrol boats, capable of performing the required missions, as quickly as possible. The Coast Guard coined the term “parent craft” to describe the use of an existing ship design that has successfully performed equivalent missions.

In a full and open competition, and an assessment of the most competitive designs put forth by industry in responses to the Coast Guard’s June 2007 solicitation, Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport Louisiana won the contract. Previously Bollinger has provided more than 120 patrol boats for the Coast Guard (all the present inventory) and others for the FMS Program for Malta and Yemen.

The first Sentinel Class patrol boat will be delivered during the third quarter of 2011 to Coast Guard District 7 in Miami, supporting vital migrant and contraband interdiction missions conducted throughout the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Depending upon future budgets more than 50 boats could join the fleet eventually.

Artist Rendering of the Fast Response Cutter - Sentinel Class (Courtesy of Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.)
Artist Rendering of the Fast Response Cutter – Sentinel Class (Courtesy of Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.)

Remembering Bernard C. Webber (USCG Ret) 1928-2009
On April 9th, 2010, SLD representatives attended an impressive keel laying ceremony for the first boat of the class, the USCGC Bernard C. Webber, named after Petty Officer First Class Bernie Webber, who saved 32 lives in 1952 in one of the most famous and perilous rescues ever performed by the Coast Guard. The slideshow below displays the ceremony held in his honour and the introduction of the very first Fast Response Cutter in the Sentinel Class (the pictures 6 and 7 display respectively a speech done by Boysie Bollinger, surrounded by Senator Vitter, Governor Jindal, Admiral Allen and Senator Landrieu, and a speech made by Pattie Hamilton, daughter of Bernard C. Webber).

[slidepress gallery=’sentinel’]


*** Posted on April 16th, 2010