NEWPORT, RI — Two Famous-class U.S. Coast Guard cutters whose keels were laid in Middletown in the 1980s are making their new base in Rhode Island, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed announced Friday.
The USCGC Tahoma (WMEC-908) and USCGC Campbell (WMEC 909) are now based out of Naval Station Newport, each with a crew of 100, and will bring a shore-based maintenance support team as well. The move is the result of Reed advocating for Newport to be the home of additional federal Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assets, Reed’s office noted in statement about the vessels’ new home.
To that end, Reed delivered federal funds to make pier improvements and infrastructure upgrades at NAVSTA Newport. He previously worked to secure $30 million in federal funding to build a new facility for the Coast Guard’s three Rhode Island-based buoy tenders and has secured an additional $100 million for infrastructure upgrades for the Coast Guard that are in the pipeline for the base.
“We have invested considerable federal assets in upgrading Naval Station Newport’s waterfront and I am making it my mission to help Rhode Island gain more ships and personnel,” said Reed.
Both vessels’ keels were laid at the now defunct Derecktor shipyard in Middletown, RI in 1983 (Tahoma) and 1984 (Campbell), according to Reed’s office.
The 270-foot medium-endurance cutters are part of the Famous-class of vessels that began service in the late 1980s. These are multi-mission capital assets that globally deploy for approximately 90 days at a time. While primarily under the command of Coast Guard Atlantic Area, they support District commanders, including Coast Guard District one, conducting search and rescue and fisheries enforcement off the coast of New England. They also support the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction and migrant interdiction missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Oceans.
Both cutters are equipped with sophisticated communication and navigation equipment and are armed with a 76mm deck gun and deploy with an embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Specifications include beam of 38 feet, draft of 14.5 feet, displacement of 1,800 tons and speed of 19.5 knots cruising. Propulsion is by twin turbo-charged ALCO V-18 diesel engines.
The Coast Guard has a considerable presence in Rhode Island, with about 300 active-duty personnel, 50 Reservists, and another 45 civilian employees. The Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling over 384 miles of Ocean State shoreline and has an annual operating budget in the state of about $58 million.
“Saving lives, stopping drug smugglers, supporting national security missions overseas, and keeping commerce flowing across the waves are all in a day’s work for the Coast Guard, and we are grateful for the unwavering dedication and professionalism of our Coast Guard members,” said Senator Reed. “The Coast Guard has an active presence here in Rhode Island, and we’re pleased to see it grow even stronger. We’ve made key federal investments and Rhode Island’s central location makes it an ideal place for Coast Guard resources.”
Currently, Newport is home to Coast Guard Cutters: CGC Oak, CGC Sycamore, and CGC Ida Lewis. In several years, these vessels will be joined by two brand new state of the art 360-foot Heritage-class vessels that are currently under construction in Florida. These multi-mission assets service aids-to-navigation, conduct search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, ports and waterways security, living marine resources, and defense and homeland security missions.
In addition to the Coast Guard, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Agency (NOAA) also homeports several research vessels in Rhode Island, and Senator Reed says he wants to bring more federal assets to the Ocean State.
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