The 418-foot Bertholf is the first of eight deepwater cutters the Coast Guard has ordered from Northrop Grumman (NOC)
Ship Systems in Pascagoula Mississippi in the largest recapitalization effort in the service's history.
The cutters are designed to accommodate the Coast Guard's new multifaceted missions of providing homeland security, national defense and marine and environmental protection, Glenn said.
Northrop Grumman teamed with Lockheed Martin (LMT)
to develop the vessels in a multibillion dollar effort to replace the Coast Guard's aging fleet.
Taylor said outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reduced
the number of vessels in the Navy, threatening the viability of the nation's shipbuilding industry. He said Rumsfeld, who announced his resignation Wednesday shortly after it became apparent that Democrats had taken control of Congress
, cut the Navy fleet
by about 50 ships.
The Bertholf will be the Coast Guard's first new high-endurance cutter in 35 years, Glenn said. The service's last 378-foot high endurance cutter -- the USCGC Midgett -- was built at Northrop Grumman's Louisiana shipyard
in 1971, Glenn said.
Taylor said the current fleet is so old that it's becoming cost prohibitive to keep the vessels seaworthy.
The Bertholf will be able to launch and recover two rigid inflatable rescue boats and has a flight deck capable of accommodating manned and unmanned helicopters.
The vessel is named Bertholf in honor of the Coast Guard's first commandant, Ellsworth Price Bertholf. Bertholf helped implement the merger of the Revenue Cutter Service
and U.S. Life Saving Service
in 1915 under President Woodrow Wilson
. He chose Coast Guard as the name for the new agency.