Northrop Grumman Starts Construction On New Coast Guard Fleet

A cutting machine slices into a piece of steel that will eventually be part of a 421-foot ship. The ceremony marks a shining moment in Ingall's history.

Northrop Grumman Ship Systems President Phil Dur said "We are starting fabrication of our first Coast Guard Cutter with many, many more to follow. So we at Northrop Grumman Ship Systems are absolutely delighted".

The Maritime Security Cutter is also the first multi-mission Coast Guard vessel to be built in 25 years.

Rear Adm. Patrick Stillman with the U.S. Coast Guard said "Our ships generally speaking are old. Some are actually on Social Security. They would be eligible for that particular program. It's time to change that".

Expect a big change. The $250 million ship will be more powerful, can cruise at a maximum speed of 28 knots, and will come loaded with communications, computer and surveillance technology.

Dur said "This ship is going to bring high endurance, long range, good weapons capability. It will add outstanding communications, control, intelligence and reconnaissance to the Coast Guard effort".

The cutter also includes a launch and recovery area for inflatable boats and a flight deck for manned and unmanned aircraft. It promises to play a huge role, from rescuing stranded fishermen, to patrolling the waters as part of Homeland Security.

Stillman said "It is far more capable and ready to attend to the threats that terrorism now brings. It's truly a transformation of the Coast Guard. It modernizes it to a level that we frankly in the past just dreamed of".

Dream no more. The cutter should be ready to hit the water by 2007. The keel laying for the first cutter is scheduled for next April. The Pascagoula Shipyard expects to build seven more cutters in the future. The project is a partnership between Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.