Coast Guard’s newest FRC brings its capabilities to Ketchikan

The Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick tests its speed while transiting to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick test the cutters speed while transiting to Ketchikan, Alaska.

Written by: Ensign Hailey Thompson

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick (WPC-1121) is the first fast response cutter to be stationed in Alaska after its crew completed the 6,200-mile journey from the shipyards of Louisiana to reach their homeport in Ketchikan.

The John McCormick is the first of six FRCs to be stationed in the Coast Guard 17th District and is an exceptional platform to perform southeast Alaska missions.

“It will be interesting, with this competent crew, to explore and define exactly what this FRC is capable of accomplishing in southeast Alaska,” said Lt. j.g. Joseph Petry, executive officer aboard the cutter John McCormick.

The 154-foot FRCs have surpassed their predecessors, the 110-foot patrol boats, in more than just length. FRCs are capable of transiting farther distances before needing to refuel with a range of 2,500 nautical miles. The fast response cutter class is aptly named, as the power plant of two 20-cylinder turbo charged engines provide propulsion resulting in sustained flank speeds of 28-plus knots. Additionally, FRCs are equipped with a 75-kilowatt bow thruster which provide for more precise steering in narrow channels and while conducting close-quarters operations.

Weapons systems capabilities on board the John McCormick are also significantly increased from those of previous patrol boats. In addition to four M2HB .50-calibre machine guns, the cutter is equipped with a forward mounted, remotely operated Bushmaster 25-mm chain-fed autocannon, capable of firing 225-rounds per minute at a range of up to 6,800 meters.

Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick crew launches their smallboat using the hydraulic gate.

Coast Guard Cutter John McCormick crew launches their smallboat using the hydraulic gate.

The stern of the John McCormick, like others in her class, is equipped with a hydraulic gate, through which the FRC may launch and recover its 26-foot small boat. This method of launch and recovery provides a more stable alternative to the crane and davit system used by the older 110-foot patrol boats and enables the FRC crews to operate the small boat and conduct missions in heightened environmental conditions.

The John McCormick and other cutters of its class are built with state-of-the-art command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, also known as C4ISR. The improved C4ISR capabilities enable FRCs to operate more independently while out at sea, simultaneously allowing them to serve as powerful communication and planning centers to help in their role as mission capable response vessels.

“It’s exciting because my crew has been through a lot of firsts; first FRC through the Panama Canal, first to the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, and first to the 17th District,” said Petry. “These ships will be critical in providing law enforcement, fisheries regulation, and search and rescue assistance to the maritime communities of Alaska.”

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