USCG Island class

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(PD) Photo: Michael Anderson / USCG
United States Coast Guard Island class Cutter Chandeleur, one of the unmodified 110 foot vessels.
(PD) Photo: Jonathan McCool / USCG
USCG Matagorda, the first Island class cutter to be modernized. The yellow rails on the stern enclose the rear launching ramp. A door covers its opening, where the ship's name can be seen.

The United States Coast Guard Island class of cutters included approximately five dozen vessels. As originally built these vessels were crewed with sixteen personnel, were armed with a 25mm autocannon, and were capable of speeds of approximately thirty knots.

Following al-Qaeda's attacks on September 11, 2001, a plan called "Project Deepwater" was to modernize and re-equip the Coast Guard's fleet. The Island class cutters were to be lengthened from 110 to 123 feet.

The crew accommodation were to be modernized to comply with a new policy for all cutters to accommodate crews of mixed sex.

The lengthening added a stern launching ramp designed so the vessels could launch and retrieve a water-jet propelled rigid-hull inflatable Short Range Prosecutor high speed pursuit boat, without coming to a halt first.

Initially the first eight vessels to be modernized were described as a success. But later it emerged that the lengthened stern were structurally unsound, and the converted vessels were unseaworthy.[1][2][3] The conversion had also gone several multiples over-budget. In 2007 the Coast Guard took over direct control of the Deepwater Program from the Prime Contractor. All current 123' cutters are now still in commission, but out of service.[4]

Forty-nine of the original Island class vessels remain in active service. The unmodified vessels still have to come to a halt to launch a boat.