USCG taps Austal for $3.3 billion offshore patrol cutter project

American shipbuilding company Austal USA has been awarded a contract with a potential value of $3.3 billion for the detailed design and construction of up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs) for the US Coast Guard (USCG). 

Austal USA

The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detailed design and long-lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for the production of up to 11 OPCs in total.

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 US Navy’s auxiliary floating drydock medium (AFDM).

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“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,” the statement reads.

In 2019, the US Coast Guard revised the OPC acquisition strategy to mitigate the emergent cost and schedule risk by establishing a new, full and open competition for OPCs five and through 15, designated as Stage 2 of the overall program. A request for proposal was released in January 2021 for OPC Stage 2 detailed design and production.

Austal USA was chosen to construct the OPC using its ship manufacturing processes and production methods that incorporate lean manufacturing principles, modular construction, and moving assembly lines in the company’s 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 missions,” Austal USA President Rusty Murdaugh said. “

The 109-meter 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.

Furthermore, the cutters will also support Arctic objectives by helping regulate and protect emerging commerce and energy exploration in Alaska.

To remind, Austal USA is currently constructing the US 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.

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