Equipment of the United States Coast Guard

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The United States Coast Guard uses cutters and small boats on the water, and fixed- and rotary wing (helicopters) aircraft in the air. The Coast Guard employs various small arms including handguns, shotguns, rifles, and machine guns.


Originally, the Coast Guard used the term cutter in its traditional sense, as a type of small sailing ship. Today it officially uses the term for any vessel which has a permanently assigned crew and accommodations for the extended support of that crew, and includes only and all vessels of 65-foot (20 m) or more in length.[1]

Larger cutters (over 181 feet (55 m) in length) are controlled by Area Commands (Atlantic Area or Pacific Area). Smaller cutters come under control of District Commands. Cutters usually carry a motor surf boat and/or a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. Polar-class icebreakers (WAGB) carry an Arctic Survey Boat (ASB) and Landing Craft.

The Coast Guard formerly leased three 179-foot Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships from the U.S. Navy. All are homeported in Pascagoula, Mississippi. These vessels were used primarily for counterdrug patrols.[2][3][4] All have now been returned to the Navy.

Any Coast Guard crew with officers or petty officers assigned has law-enforcement authority (14 USC Sec. 89) and can conduct armed boardings.

378-foot High Endurance Cutter (WHEC) USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715), commissioned in 1967 (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)


A USCG HC-130 Hercules near Oahu

The Coast Guard operates about 210 aircraft. Fixed-wing aircraft (such as Lockheed HC-130 Hercules turboprops) operate from Air Stations on long-duration missions. Helicopters (Aérospatiale HH-65 Dolphin, Sikorsky HH-60J Jayhawk, and Agusta MH-68 Stingray) operate from Air Stations, Air Facilities, and flight-deck equipped cutters, and can rescue people or intercept smuggling vessels. Some special MH- designated helicopters are armed with guns and some are equipped with armor to protect against small arms fire.

The Coast Guard flies several aircraft types:

  • 2 Gulfstream C-37A aircraft as a VIP transport for high-ranking Coast Guard and Homeland Security officials.[11]
  • An unspecified number of RG-8A Condors (thought to be two).

The Coast Guard is planning to purchase 36 CASA CN-235 from Spanish aircraft manufacturer Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) for medium range search. As of 26 February 2008, 3 aircraft have been delivered for testing and integration with a further 5 planned.[12] During testing, one aircraft was pulled into active duty for the search of downed Air Force pilots, in which the aircraft demonstrated its capabilities.

The Coast Guard was to purchase the Bell Eagle Eye UAV as part of the Deepwater program, but this has been cancelled.[13]

In addition to regular Coast Guard aircraft, privately owned general aviation aircraft are used by Coast Guard Auxiliarists for patrols and search-and-rescue missions.


USCG 47-foot Motor Lifeboat escorting the Spirit of Ontario I Fast Ferry into the port of Rochester, New York on 2004-08-08
A Coast Guard 25-foot (8 m) Defender-class boat from Station Seattle enforces a security zone around a Washington State Ferry in Elliott Bay December 22, 2003.

The Coast Guard operates about 1,400 boats, defined as any vessel less than 65 feet (20 meters) in length, which generally operate near shore and on inland waterways. The most common is 41 feet (12.5 m) long, of which the Guard has more than 200; the shortest is 12 feet (4 m).

The Coast Guard boat fleet includes:

  • 52-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB): The Coast Guard currently has four of the 52-foot motor life boats, a craft designed from the ground up to serve in challenging surf conditions. All four craft are currently assigned to surf stations in the Pacific Northwest.
  • 47-foot Motor Life Boat (MLB): The Coast Guard's primary heavy-weather boat used for search and rescue as well as law enforcement and homeland security.[14]
  • 41-foot Utility Boat (UTB): A general purpose boat used for nearly all Coast Guard missions. (This boat is being replaced by the 45-foot Response Boat Medium.)[15]
  • Transportable Port Security Boat (TPSB): 25-foot (7.6 m) boat, based on the commercial version of the 25-foot (8 m) center-console Boston Whaler, suitable for work in inland waters, easily transportable by trailer. These are primarily used by Port Security Units for force protection in naval support areas abroad, as well as, ports of embarkation/debarkation in expeditionary areas. Most recently these boats and units were deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The durability, versatility, and mobility of these boats make them ideal for this type of operation.[16]
The Coast Guard planned to reduce the inventory of Boston Whalers because of the lack of interoperable spare parts. On Friday, July 13th, the General Services Administration approved the transfer of 10 Coast Guard boats to the Army in Iraq. The boats, 24-foot and 27-foot Boston Whalers with trailers, had an original acquisition cost of more than $800,000. The Army is looking for approximately 55 Riverine or Patrol style boats to conduct water interdiction, river denial and island clearance missions, troop transport and insertion on a regular basis; the Coast Guard is providing the Army with the Boston Whalers and one Ambar boat, a patrol type vessel.[17]
  • Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHI): a rigid-hulled inflatable boat, powered by a gasoline outboard motor or an inboard/outboard diesel engine. The RHI can be easily deployed from a cutter with a four-point bridle for davit lifting and lowering. The RHI's portability and ruggedness allow it to be used on many kinds of missions.
  • Response Boat-Small (Defender-Class): A high-speed boat, for a variety of missions, including search and rescue, port security and law enforcement duties. The original 25-foot boats built by SAFE Boats International (Secure All-around Flotation Equipped) of Port Orchard, Washington are being replaced by 29-foot boats built by Metal Shark Aluminum Boats, LLC of Jeanerette, LA.[19][20]
A U.S. Coast Guard RB-M underway during testing
  • 45-Foot Response Boat – Medium: The Coast Guard has signed a multi-year contract for 180 Response Boat – Medium (RB-M) boats that were delivered starting in 2008 to replace the 41′ UTB boats. These aluminum boats are 45 feet (13.7 m) in length, have twin diesel engines (total 1650 hp), are self-righting, have a four crew, six passenger capacity, are equippable with two .50 caliber machine guns, have an excellent fendering system, have a top speed of 42 knots (78 km/h), and are capable of towing a 100-ton vessel in eight-foot seas. The boats were built by Kvichak Marine Industries of Kent, Washington and Marinette Marine of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.[21][22]
  • There are a number of Special Purpose Crafts (SPC), as follows:[23] 18', 20' and 22' Airboats (SPC-AIR & SPC-Airboat),[24] 36' Boarding Team Delivery (SPD-BTD), 52' Heavy Weather (SPC-HWX), 33' Law Enforcement (SPC-LE),[25] 42' Near Shore Lifeboat (SPC-NSB), 24' Shallow Water (SPC-SW),[26]

64' Screening Vessel (SPC-SV), 38' Training Boat (SPC-TB),[27] 39' Tactical Training Boat (SPC-TTR)

Small arms

Model Image Caliber Type Origin Details
M9 M9-pistolet.jpg 9mm Pistol  Italy Limited service
P229R-DAK SIG SAUER P229R DAK (2011).jpg .40 S&W Pistol   Switzerland Standard service pistol
Assault Rifles
M16A2 M16a2-final.png 5.56×45mm NATO Assault rifle  United States
M4 M4 PEO Soldier.jpg 5.56×45mm NATO Carbine  United States The Deployable Operations Group also employs the Mk 18 upper receiver[28]
M870P Maritime Safety & Security Team (MSST) 91106.jpg 12-gauge Shotgun  United States
Machine Guns
M240 150px 7.62×51mm NATO General purpose machine gun  United States M240B variant is employed aboard surface vessels while the M240H is used aboard the MH-60 Jayhawk and MH-65 Dolphin helicopters
Browning M2HB Machine gun M2 1.jpg .50 BMG Heavy machine gun  United States Mounted on vessels
Precision Rifles
M14 PEO M14 EBR.jpg 7.62×51mm NATO, Designated marksman rifle  United States Variant of the M14 service rifle fitted with the Mk 14 Enhanced Battle Rifle stock
Mk 11 150px 7.62×51mm NATO Sniper rifle  United States Used by the Deployable Operations Group[28]
M107 M107 1.jpg .50 BMG Anti-materiel rifle, sniper rifle  United States Used for Airborne Use of Force (AUF) missions
Grenade-Based Weapons
M203 M203 1.jpg 40mm Grenade launcher  United States Single-shot underbarrel grenade launcher[29]


Rescue 21 Logo.

Coast Guard radio stations cover a wide geographical area using very high frequency and high frequency radios. There are eight major radio stations covering long-range transmissions and an extensive network of VHF radio stations along the nation's coastline and inland rivers.

The current communication system is being replaced by Rescue 21. Rescue 21 is an advanced maritime command, control, and communications (C3) system.

The OMEGA navigation system and the LORAN-C transmitters outside the USA were run until 1994 also by the United States Coast Guard, and LORAN-C transmitters within the US were decommissioned on June 1, 2010, with the exception of 5 CONUS LORAN-C stations that continue to be manned due to international agreements.

See also


  1. USCG Regulations. Chapter 10. Accessed 11 December 2006.
  2. PA3 Brian Leshak, "CG Leases Navy Ships, Fights Drug War". Coast Guard Magazine 2/2006, pp. 32–33.
  3. WPC Fact Sheet
  4. Naval Vessel Register
  5. "Northrop Grumman to Supply Polar Ice Breaker Navigation Support for U.S. Coast Guard". October 20, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Our Opinion: Shipbuilding issues should be solved". The Mississippi Press. July 23, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-07-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. HH-60J Jayhawk at
  8. Air Forces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire: Key Publishing Ltd. March 2013. p. 31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "EADS North America Delivers 15th HC-144A Ocean Sentry to U.S. Coast Guard". June 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Airbus Group, Inc. delivers U.S. Coast Guard with its 16th HC-144A Ocean Sentry Aircraft". January 22, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. [1] at
  12. EADS CASA’s HC-144A finds a downed pilot during its maiden SAR mission in U.S. Coast Guard service
  13. Bell Eagle Eye HV-911 on the USCG official Web site
  17. U.S. General Service Administration. "Boats Transferred to Iraq". Accessed September 4, 2007.
  21. U.S. Coast Guard press release 2007-06-28
  23. USDHS, USCG, Boat Management Manual: COMDTINST M16114.4B
  28. 28.0 28.1 Joint Service Small Arms Systems Annual Symposium - 20 May 2008
  29. PA2 John Edwards and PA1 Kimberly Smith, PADET Atlantic City. "Learning to Shoot All Over Again". Coast Guard Magazine, Issue 2, 2006, pp. 4–19.