The Coast Guard on Monday said that keel has been authenticated for its first Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), a key milestone in the program signaling the formal start of construction of the 360-foot medium endurance cutter.

The keel authentication on the Coast Guard Cutter Argus was done by Joey D’Isernia, president of OPC prime contractor Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG), and Capt. Andrew Meverden, commanding officer of Coast Guard Project Residence Office Panama City, Fla.

The laying of the keel was done on April 28 and followed by a day the beginning of steel cutting for the second OPC, the Chase. The Argus is scheduled to be delivered in 2022 and the Chase in 2023.

ESG said it has begun placing orders for long-lead time materials for the third OPC, the Ingham.

The Coast Guard plans to acquire 25 OPCs and is recompeting ESG’s construction contract beginning with the fifth ship. The OPCs will provide the majority of the Coast Guard’s offshore presence and will conduct a variety of missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, search and rescue, defense and other homeland operations.