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Coast Guard Strategy Emphasizes Competition, Production Readiness in Cutter Boats Acquisition

Dec. 3, 2012

A cutter boat Over the Horizon (OTH)-IV underway. The Coast Guard is procuring two new classes of small boats for its cutters, including the OTH-IV and the Long Range Interceptor (LRI)-II. Both types will deploy aboard the National Security Cutters and some of the Coast Guard’s other ships. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard has emphasized competitive selection and producible designs in its efforts to recapitalize the cutter boat fleet. These important platforms extend their host ships’ reach and are on the forefront of the Coast Guard’s offshore missions, including law enforcement and search and rescue.

The cutter boats acquisition project is building two classes of craft, including the 35-foot Cutter Boat Long Range Interceptor II (CB-LRI-II), and the 26-foot Cutter Boat Over-the-Horizon IV (CB-OTH-IV). The project will equip each of the new 418-foot National Security Cutters (NSC) with two CB-OTH-IVs and one CB-LRI-II.

The CB-LRI-II is designed primarily for advanced interdiction operations, including intercepting illegal migrants. Powered by two marine diesel engines with waterjet propulsors, the LRI-II can reach a speed of more than 38 knots in calm sea. The boats have forward-facing, shock-absorbing seats for 15 persons. On June 4, 2012, the Coast Guard awarded MetalCraft Marine US of Cape Vincent, N.Y., a contract to build as many as 10 CB-LRI-II boats, including eight for the Coast Guard, two for other government agencies (such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Navy).

The CB-OTH-IV is designed primarily for counter-drug operations and is powered by a marine diesel engine with a water jet propulsor, capable of reaching speeds of more than 40knots in calm sea. The boats have fixed shock-absorbing seats for five persons, including boat crew and boarding team members, plus inboard seating for eight passengers. Earlier this year, the Coast Guard selected SAFE Boats International of Port Orchard, Wash., to build as many as 101 CB-OTH-IV boats.

Both classes of boats are designed to be launched and recovered via stern ramp and through traditional gantry crane and side davit boat interfaces.  Like the NSC, the Fast Response Cutter is equipped with stern launch capabilities, and the Coast Guard plans to test CB-OTH-IV operations with these new cutters in the near future.  The Coast Guard also is looking to test CB-OTH-IV operations aboard its legacy Medium Endurance Cutters (210-foot Reliance class and 270-foot Freedom class), which were not constructed with stern ramps.

Production Readiness

Although the mission drivers of the CB-LRI-II and the CB-OTH-IV differ, the Coast Guard applied similar acquisition strategies to both. Ken King, the Coast Guard’s project manager for in-service vessels, explained that both boats are derived from commercially available “parent craft,” a factor that helps to reduce risk by adapting proven designs that have been shown to be production-ready and capable of meeting performance specifications.

The CB-LRI-II is a version of MetalCraft Marine’s highly maneuverable and adaptable Sentry boats, which are in turn developed from a long line of Boston Whaler-type patrol boats in service with many agencies across the country and around the globe. While specifically designed to meet Coast Guard requirements, the CB-OTH-IV is based on SAFE Boats’ versatile center console design, which already has been proven in service with the Coast Guard and other local and federal agencies.

While selecting production-ready architecture was a major factor in the cutter boats acquisition strategy, another approach the Coast Guard has taken has been to work closely with vendors at their own facilities to ensure production readiness. Diane Burton, the assistant project manager for cutter boats, explained that “inspecting and testing as much as possible at the builder’s facility” has been a key lesson learned for the project.


Another feature of the new cutter boats acquisition has been the use of competitive procurements. Solicitations for both projects were structured as small-business set-asides, seeking input from vendors in the highly-competitive commercial craft marketplace.

The Coast Guard issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the CB-LRI-II in September 2011. Following a competitive selection process, the Service chose the MetalCraft design as the best balance of production readiness and features to meet Coast Guard requirements.

For the CB-OTH-IV, the Coast Guard issued an RFP in December 2010. The Service awarded contracts to four vendors for production of test boats that would be evaluated in a “boat-off.” Coast Guard and U.S. Navy experts put each boat through rigorous testing and evaluated each design’s performance at Norfolk, Va., (between February and March 2012) and San Diego (between March and April).  The second evaluation period included interface testing with the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf, the first NSC.

The cutter boats project has its origins in the Deepwater era, during which the Coast Guard set out to equip new ships with advanced boats, including the Long Range Interceptor (first generation) and Short Range Prosecutor (SRP). The service procured eight SRPs and one prototype LRI, mainly using these for interface testing aboard the NSCs.

For more information: Cutter Boats project page

Last Modified 12/21/2016