USCGC Vindicator: From Spy Ship to Coast Guard Cutter

By Schrader, Richard K. | Sea Classics, November 2000 | Go to article overview

USCGC Vindicator: From Spy Ship to Coast Guard Cutter


Schrader, Richard K., Sea Classics


The unique program to transform six retired naval surveillance ships of the Stalwart-class (T-AGOS) into cutters was stymied by the vessel's inability to carry helicopters; its

sufficient speed, and budget restrictions.

Converting ex-Navy ships into US Coast Guard cutters can be a cost-efficient method of adding surface assets to the USCG inventory. But the conversions must prove suitable for the new missions at hand. The VINDICATOR is one example of how all went well and in record time to meet the challenge of surge conditions in the Caribbean.

USNS VINDICATOR

When in service with the Military Sealift Command, USNS VINDICATOR was one of the Ocean Surveillance Ships of the Stalwartclass (T-AGOS-1) assigned to hunting submarines and interdicting drug runners. Built by Tacoma Boatbuilding of Washington State, the 224-foot vessel displaced 2,262 tons and was propelled by diesel-electric power with twin shafts producing 1,600 shaft horsepower. The crew consisted of 15 Navy sailors and 18 civilians.

As an antisubmarine warfare platform, the Stalwart-class augmented the US Navy's ASW efforts by performing long-range patrols and towing the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) under the operational control of USN fleet commanders. Downsizing led to their decommissioning with most going on to other federal agencies and several being mothballed. Twin-hull ships of the Victorious-class (T-AGOS-19) and the Impeccable-class (T-AGOS23), better able to handle high seas, continue the mission.

USCGC VINDICATOR

VINDICATOR (T-ACTOS-3), retired from Naval service, was sent to the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay, Maryland, during the summer of 1993. It was determined that the ship could be adapted to serve as a cutter. When additional assets were needed in the Caribbean Sea, to rescue Haitians adrift on crowded boats, the call went out for VINDICATOR to be readied for service. On 13 May 1994, Adm. J. William Kime, Commandant of the Coast Guard at the time, issued the order to convert the ex-MSC ship into a cutter. She needed to be commissioned as soon as possible.

Rising to the occasion, personnel from the Coast Guard Yard, Supply Center Baltimore and Supply Center Curtis Bay immersed themselves in an all-out effort to complete the job. Workers poured over the vessel from bow to stern and keel to mastheads while others from the Team provided necessary equipment, gear, parts and items. Painters applied white and added the distinctive identification

markings in red and blue. …

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