dilluns, 16 d’abril de 2012

Coast Guard launches new fast-response cutter*



MIAMI — The Coast Guard officially brought the new fast-response cutter to operational status as the first ship in that class was commissioned April 14 in Miami, Fla.

The cutter Bernard C. Webber was put in service by its crew of 21 Coast Guardsmen. It will be commanded by Lt. Cmdr. Herb Eggert, who has been working on the fast-response cutter program since the service first started designing the ship in the mid-2000s.

The event — long traditional in the sea services — was held at the Port of Miami with senior city and government and service officials in attendance.

The day started with an ominous tone with rain and overcast skies. The sun began to fight it’s way through the cloud cover during the ceremony.

The ship is named for former the late Chief Warrant Officer Bernard C. Weber. In fact, the entire class of fast-response cutters will be named for the Coast Guard’s enlisted heroes.

Webber was a first class boatswain’s mate assigned to the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., on May 9, 1952, when the 503-foot tanker S.S. Pendleton broke in half off Cape Cod from 60-foot seas and 70-knot winds. Webber and a crew of three Coast Guardsmen braved the elements to cross a sand bar to reach the sinking ship and saved 32 of the 33-man crew. All four were awarded the Coast Guard’s Gold Lifesaving Medal.

With the legacy of Webber in mind, the crew brought the ship to life in the shadows of the large ocean liners and commercial vessels that normally come from Miami’s seaport.

The $88 million, 154-foot Webber is bigger and far more advanced than the older island patrol boats which have been in service since the mid-1980s. Service leaders make no bones about the fact the new addition is badly needed because of well-documented maintenance problems with the aging 110-foot cutters this class of ship will replace.

“I do love that new cutter smell,” said Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Robert J. Papp. “We just don’t get too much of that new cutter smell in our service as our recapitalization is moving slow — much too slow — and that’s what makes today so significant to the Coast Guard as we finally have our new patrol boat.”

Along with engine breakdowns, Papp said the current class of patrol boats have technology that is “half a century old, in some cases. A lot of the living conditions on those older cutters just aren’t what we want our young patriots who step aboard to serve their country to live in.”

But in the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, all that is changing, now according to Rear Adm. William D. Baumgartner, commander of the Miami-based district.

“It’s a major step forward from the 110-foot that it replaces,” Baumgartner said. “It’s got more speed and range as that significantly helps our ability to do our missions here in the Seventh District.”

He said the Webber — 44-feet longer than its predecessor and with a hull designed to give the vessel better “seakeeping ability,” Coast Guard’s parlance for saying the ship can handle rough seas and still stay on station and be effective — will significantly expand the patrol capability in his district.

The Webber’s crew quarters are light years ahead of its predecessors, and has four .50-caliber machine guns and a remote-operated 25mm gyroscope-stabilized chain gun located on the ship’s bow for protection.
Baumgartner says the new class of ship will “expand the footprint” of the service not only with the range of the vessel, which can stay out nearly a month without resupply, but also the state of the art electronic suite that can communicate with other U.S. law-enforcement agencies and vessels as well as being sophisticated to operate easily with U.S. and other country’s naval vessels.

“It’s a huge capability for a ship of this size,” Baumghartner said. “It’s a significant game-changer for us in reliability and ability to accomplish our missions.”

Webber will spend the next few months in Miami. It arrived Feb. 9 from Lockport, La.’s Bollinger Shipyard, where all of the fast-response cutters are being constructed.

Baumgartner says the plan now is that a new cutter will arrive in Miami about every 90 days.

“The first six will be home-ported in Miami and they’ll operate throughout the Seventh District, wherever we need them,” he said. “After that, the plan is to put the next six in Key West, Fla., and the six after that will base out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.”

* Notícia publicada a Navy Times. Tot i no ser tant coneguda com la Navy, la US Coast Guard és un servei altament qualificat i amb una història impressionant. Celebrem la posada en servei d'una nova nau.

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