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Research, Development, Test and Evaluation: Project Spotlight
June 2011

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Western Rivers Preliminary Fleet Mix Analysis

At any given time, the Coast Guard RDT&E program is working on more than 80 projects that support the Coast Guard’s short, medium and long range requirements across all major missions.

Coast Guard Cutter Sangamon
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Sangamon, a Western River buoy tender, heads upstream on the Mississippi River near St. Louis.


The Western Rivers is a dynamic waterway with continually shifting navigational tracks.  The estimated annual waterborne import and export is 422 million tons, valued at over $57.3 billion. Due to high commerce volume, it is critical to support the Western River waterways with an agile buoy tender fleet to ensure economic security of the United States. 

Currently the average Coast Guard buoy tender is over 40 years old and is in poor condition for everyday operations. Their safety, supportability and habitability concerns place Coast Guard personnel at risk. The equipment is obsolete and beyond repair or costly to repair. The fleet pose environmental concerns and do not allow for mixed gender crews.


The Research & Development Center (RDC) provided an extensive report to the Coast Guard Aids to Navigation, Ice Breaker and Patrol Boat Capabilities Division. The report determined that due to high commerce volume and an outdated buoy tender fleet, the Western River mission demand by area of responsibility, logistical constraints and alternate Aids to Navigation strategies requires more assets to safely and effectively support operations. The RDC will provide further guidance in developing a preliminary mix of assets which will fulfill the mission requirements while minimizing total ownership costs.

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Last Modified 2/26/2016