Still nearly a year away before his command will have the chance to begin to routinely operate the jewel of the Coast Guard’s new surface assets, Atlantic Area Commander Vice Adm. Robert Parker said the National Security Cutter (NSC) is a “great ship.”

Speaking at the annual Surface Navy Association conference on Thursday, Parker said one of the key characteristics of the NSC is its “great sea-keeping,” referring to its ability to launch and recover its helicopter and small boat assets in Sea State 5, which is considered rough conditions.

Coast Guard helicopter tied to flight deck of the National Security Cutter Stratton. Photo: Coast Guard
Coast Guard helicopter tied to flight deck of the National Security Cutter Stratton. Photo: Coast Guard

This is “one characteristic that we have long wanted and needed,” Parker said.

The Atlantic Area Command, based in Charleston, S.C., is scheduled to receive its first NSC later this year. A second NSC is slated to arrive at Charleston in 2015. So far, shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] has delivered three NSCs, all of which are homeported in Alameda, Calif.

Parker said that he has sailed on all three vessels.

The NSC is proving plenty capable, Parker said. While the ship is designed for 60- to 90-day patrol cycles, it has already performed one patrol that lasted more than 180 days, he said. The Coast Guard did this to get an understanding of what the forward logistics would be for extended operations and to see how the envelope of the vessel could be stretched.

Moreover, the C4ISR capabilities aboard the ship are “very helpful for us,” Parker said. He pointed to the ability of the ship to communicate with national command authorities, other governments and law enforcement agencies.

The berthing arrangement that easily accommodates mixed gender crews is also working well, Parker said.

The Coast Guard’s program of record calls for eight NSCs. In addition to the three ships delivered, another three are under construction. In the FY ’14 Omnibus Appropriations bill approved by Congress, construction funding for the seventh cutter is available as well as money to procure long-lead materials for the final ship.