Editor’s note: This week is recognized as National Engineers Week by the National Society of Professional Engineers. Their goal is to promote what engineers do to improve our lives, make children aware of the roles engineers play in the world and increase public awareness. This blog post is written by Coast Guard engineers about Coast Guard engineering in honor of their contributions to our service.
Written by Coast Guard Engineers
Behind every Coast Guard mission is a dedicated team of engineers charged with keeping our aircraft, cutters, boats, and shore infrastructure both operational and technologically at the cutting edge. Coast Guard engineering as a whole encompasses several engineering disciplines to include: C4 (command, control, computer, and communications) engineering, electrical engineering, aeronautical engineering, civil engineering, and naval architecture and marine engineering, among others.
Coast Guard C4 and Electrical Engineers design, develop, test, and deploy a vast array of electronics systems and sensors, integrated navigation systems, and communications systems ranging in application from command centers and vessel traffic services to boats, cutters, and aircraft. C4 and Electrical Engineers at the Command Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology Service Center or C4ITSC enable the Coast Guard mission by providing high-quality and supportable products and services.
The end goal of any Coast Guard engineering project or product is to support and enable the ship drivers, aviators, and shore personnel to perform to the fullest extent any number of our 11 missions. Chief among them is our Search and Rescue mission set where the ability to accurately locate mariners in distress is paramount, but often the most difficult to determine. As a result, the Coast Guard implemented Rescue 21 as a replacement for the legacy National Distress and Response system. Managed and supported by C4ITSC engineers, Rescue 21 is a nationwide radio distress communications system that enables the Coast Guard to geo-locate the source of a distress broadcast with a high degree of accuracy by leveraging direction-finding technologies in each of the Rescue 21 towers. Rescue 21 currently provides 296,000 square nautical miles of radio coverage and is still expanding. Upon completion, the system will cover more than 95,000 miles of coastline and navigable waterways in the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico. Already, the Rescue 21 system has been a factor in more than 75,000 search and rescue cases where mariners in several of these cases were located and saved as a direct result of the integration of the direction finding capability in the system.
Aeronautical Engineers at the Aviation Logistics Center or ALC provide critical mission support to the entire aviation fleet by delivering depot level services such as the overhauling of aircraft, field repair teams for structural damage outside unit capabilities, supply item management, engineering technical support, procurement services for parts and services and project management of acquisitions.
One of the many outstanding Aeronautical Engineers at the ALC is Lt. Cmdr. Brad McNally. McNally has been working in the Short Range Recovery Product Line as the product line engineer for four years, responsible for providing technical support for 100 operational MH-65 helicopters at 18 Coast Guard Air Stations and overseeing the production of 84 MH-65D helicopters, the newest H65 variant. McNally has forecasted, investigated and identified solutions for poorly performing, obsolete, or unacceptable lead time components and purged defective and unapproved parts from inventory, removing top degraders to enable 54,000 MH-65 flight hours annually. He recognized the need to reduce maintenance labor hours and initiated the largest reliability study ever on the H65 which eliminated 30,000 annual maintenance labor hours of unnecessary inspections that increased overall fleet aircraft availability. McNally also implemented innovative alternatives to highly toxic paint and refrigerant normally required in overhaul and purged $4.6 million in stagnant parts requiring costly overhead and valuable storage space. McNally coordinated a comprehensive aircraft service life study that will allow extension of the MH-65 fleet for an additional 15 years. McNally is an aircraft commander in the MH-65 and has recently passed his Professional Engineer certification exams.
Integrating several engineering disciplines, a diverse team of engineers at the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center have devoted significant engineering rigor to developing novel command and control systems for monitoring would be oil spills in the arctic. One such methodology is the implementation of unmanned technologies for patrolling areas of interest without placing aircrews in harm’s way. Working hand in hand with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Coast Guard engineers successfully tested unmanned aerial system technology in the Arctic to monitor and track would be oil spills with advanced infrared and electro-optical imaging capabilities. Adding to the Coast Guard’s monitoring repertoire in the Arctic, Coast Guard engineers and researchers from the University of Cambridge tested an autonomous underwater vehicle to provide underwater imagery and map underlying ice ridges and topology. With obstacle avoidance radar and side scan sonar built in, the AUV functions much like an automatic, unmanned submarine that is capable of operating beneath the ice to map underlying ice ridges and topology.
Coast Guard Civil Engineers are charged with overseeing the entire shore facility capital asset portfolio valued at $7.4B. This includes the management of over 24,000 buildings and structures with an average age of 45 years and over 2000 sites spanning 92,000 acres. Civil Engineers manage the entire lifecycle including the environmental and energy stewardship of all Coast Guard shore facilities. Air stations, sectors and stations, bases and industrial facilities, housing, waterways, and training centers all fall under the Coast Guard Civil Engineer’s span of control.
The Shore Infrastructure Logistics Center is the civil engineering hub for the Coast Guard. Engineers within the SILC workforce develop configuration standards to acquire, support, update, and divest of shore facilities as required to support all Coast Guard mission areas. Currently SILC civil engineers are restoring critical Coast Guard facilities destroyed by Hurricane Sandy through the execution of over $270M in projects to enhance coastal storm resiliency and prepare the Coast Guard for climate change and sea level rise. SILC engineers also lead shore energy use reduction efforts mandated by law, regulation and executive orders which have resulted in a decreased consumption of nearly 500,000 MBTU over the past 2 fiscal years. SILC environmental engineers are on the forefront of enhancing the environmental stewardship of Coast Guard missions and operations. They are responsible for remediation of contaminated sites; maintaining regulatory compliance of the Coast Guard’s operations and integrating environmental sustainability through pollution prevention initiatives at shore units. In addition to their daily responsibilities, SILC engineers have taken a proactive role in their communities promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math or STEM education to youth through various events. Already, SILC engineers have participated in outreach activities reaching over 2,500 K-12 students across the country.
Coast Guard Naval Engineers turn mission requirements into steel on target. They develop the specification, oversee contractor development efforts, approve design work and interpret a broad range of standards to ensure the most capable ship or boat is delivered for the taxpayer dollar. Coast Guard naval engineers are currently overseeing some of the largest shipbuilding programs in Coast Guard history with the National Security Cutter, Fast Response Cutter, Response Boat Medium and the Offshore Patrol Cutter as well as some of the most highly automated machinery systems in the world.
Furthermore, Naval Engineers at the Surface Forces Logistics Center are responsible for the maintenance and alteration of existing Coast Guard boats and cutters. Day to day duties include responding to equipment casualties, locating or redesigning obsolete parts, providing operational guidance on safe to sail issues and numerous other activities to extend the service life of our aging assets providing the best value for the taxpayer.
Together, this multidisciplinary team of engineers enables the Coast Guard to perform its mission. Coast Guard Engineers are technical experts empowered with significant responsibility that often give back to their communities and promote STEM education amongst youth. Coast Guard Engineers are always ready, remaining at the leading edge of technology and standards while delivering expert support and customer service to enable first-class mission performance.