Following another productive series of at-sea tests called Builder’s Trials, the Coast Guard’s assessment of the National Security Cutter project remains very positive. Builder’s Trials consisted of in-port tests of Bertholf, Feb. 6-7, and underway testing, Feb. 8-11, off Pascagoula, Miss.
The Coast Guard’s Silver Ancient Mariner, Senior Chief Christopher Kukla, was embarked for the entire trial. “It was quite apparent when embarking Bertholf that the ‘Old Guard’ era has obviously come and gone. Having sailed on almost every class of cutter in my career, this by far exceeded my wildest expectations. Crew berthing, handling of the ship, the way she rides, are all top notch. At 29 knots if you’re not outside the skin of the ship you wouldn’t even know you were underway. All I can say at this point is I am impressed almost to the point of being awe struck.”
The testing team included representatives from the Coast Guard, the US Navy and industry, including shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Ship Systems and Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors. During Builder’s Trials, the Coast Guard and industry representatives inspected and operated all of Bertholf’s installed systems —including the propulsion and electrical plants, auxiliary and damage control systems, Command Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems, combat systems, as well as evaluating Bertholf’s maneuverability and handling.
CAPT Pat Stadt, Prospective Commanding Officer of Bertholf, is pleased, "Bertholf continues to make me smile. Bigtime. All systems tested during these trials performed exceedingly well. As my Weapons Officer pointed out to me, we again made history for the Coast Guard yesterday by successfully firing the first rounds from a Coast Guard Block 1B CIWS and the first rounds from a 57mm from any US ship. These systems, along with their radar and optical guidance systems, make the NSC a well protected cutter, capable of precisely delivering ordnance on target. This cutter will not only be very compatible, but also an asset to a US Navy surface action group."
During a four hour, full-power trial of the propulsion system—including ship standardization trials and an official measured mile—the NSC more than achieved its 28-knot speed requirement.
The testing team launched and recovered a Sikorsky S-76C++ commercial helicopter on many occasions, as well as successfully launched and recovered the Short Range Prosecutor cutter boat from the side davit while underway, and the stern launch and recovery system while in port. The NSC’s stern launch and recovery system is being modified to accommodate the Long Range Interceptor over-the-horizon cutter boat. Builder’s Trials events have significantly validated design features and have mitigated remaining risks with the system.
The testing team crew completed all alignment and integration testing of Bertholf’s combat system, culminating in the successful firing of the Mk 15 20mm Close-In Weapon System and the Mk 110 57mm main battery—including stand-alone tests and testing as part of the integrated Mk 48 Gun Weapon System.
While underway, Bertholf comfortably accommodated hotel and messing services for the government and industry testing team of 250 personnel, which exceeded the NSC’s design crew complement of 148.
The next major event is Acceptance Trials, during which the shipbuilder will demonstrate to the Coast Guard and to the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) that Bertholf will meet all contractual requirements and is ready for delivery. Preparation for Acceptance Trials will require a concerted effort from the government and industry, including certification of all work to address discrepancies found during Builder’s Trials and Machinery Trials, and final compartment inspections and closure throughout the ship.
Although much work remains to be done, the Coast Guard commends industry’s efforts and notes the tireless efforts of numerous members of the government team —including the Program Manager’s Resident Office Gulf Coast, the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate and the Coast Guard Engineering and Logistics Center; the US Navy’s Supervisor of Shipbuilding and Salvage, Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Louisville and Port Hueneme Divisions, and L3 Communications.