The first-in-class National Security Cutter (NSC), CGC Bertholf (WMSL 750), recently conducted its first successful narcotics trafficking interdiction. On Wednesday, July 8, approximately 80 miles off the Guatemalan coast, Bertholf’s crew intercepted two drug smuggling boats, seized their narcotics cargo, and detained four suspected smugglers.
The interdiction exemplified the NSC’s advanced surveillance, communication, and interdiction capabilities. Alerted by a maritime patrol aircraft of the suspected smugglers, Bertholf’s crew dispatched an MH-65C Multi-mission Cutter Helicopter, enhanced by increased capability for Airborne Use of Force operations with weapons, sensors and advanced communications, to intercept the targets.
After observing the fleeing speedboats jettison contraband, the MH-65C marksman used a .50-calaber precision rifle to disable the engines of two speedboats and fired warning shots from a M240B 7.62mm medium machine gun at two other suspect speedboats. Bertholf’s multiple cutter boats completed the interception of the two damaged vessels, detained the suspects, and recovered a bale of cocaine for evidence.
The incident demonstrated the capabilities the NSC brings to the Coast Guard fleet. In contrast with legacy cutters, the 418-foot Legend-class cutters feature increased range and endurance (60–90 day patrol cycles); better sea keeping and higher transit speeds; multiple small boats; more powerful armament (57mm medium caliber deck gun and a 20mm Close-In Weapon System); a large flight deck and dual hangars for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles; chemical, biological and radiological environmental hazard detection and defense; and improved Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment.
The second NSC, Waesche (WMSL 751), is approximately 90 percent complete, the third NSC, Stratton (WMSL 752) is approximately 20 percent complete, and the Coast Guard has procured long lead time material for the fourth NSC, Hamilton (WMSL 753). When complete, the Legend-class will be comprised of eight National Security Cutters, which all bring new levels of capability to the fleet.
For more information on the National Security Cutter, please visit the project’s website at http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/NSC.