The U.S. Coast Guard and Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS) announced that preliminary design and final requirements work will commence immediately on the new Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program. This effort will lead to a new type of highly capable, cutting-edge, medium-endurance cutter. This accelerates the effort to launch the OPC by a full three years, compared to the Deepwater program's originally proposed schedule. This initial OPC contract assigned to ICGS establishes the critical first-step engineering efforts that will occur over the next 12 months. Northrop Grumman's Ship Systems sector has the lead on the OPC design effort with some of the contract going to their joint venture partner, Lockheed Martin, for co-development of engineering design and system integration. Each partner has been awarded a subcontract to begin the effort, the full share of which will be determined as a result of technical scoping and level of effort determination. "We are ready now to accelerate the design and production of this critical component of the Deepwater fleet,” said Dr. Philip A. Dur, chairman of the board of ICGS and president of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. The notional design of the OPC anticipates a 341-ft, vessel with capabilities and equipment similar to the Coast Guard's new National Security Cutter, a 421-ft. world-class cutter that is completing final design and is soon to commence construction. The final mission requirements and detail design of the OPC will be refined as a result of this contract, with additional funding available for follow-on contracts. With this accelerated contract, it is now expected that the first cutters could enter the Coast Guard fleet several years ahead of the original schedule date in 2012.