Medium endurance cutter

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The Medium Endurance Cutter or WMEC is a type of United States Coast Guard Cutter mainly consisting of the 270-foot (82 m) Famous- and 210-foot (64 m) Reliance-class cutters. These larger cutters are under control of Area Commands (Atlantic Area or Pacific Area).[1] These cutters have adequate accommodations for crew to live on board[1] and can do 6 to 8 week patrols.[2]

Other ships in the WMEC classification are the 282-foot (86 m) USCGC Alex Haley, and the now-decommissioned 213-foot (65 m) USCGC Acushnet, and 230-foot (70 m) USCGC Storis,[3] and 205-foot (62 m) USCGC Tamaroa which began as the United States Navy Cherokee-class fleet tug USS Zuni launched in 1943.

There are 13 vessels in the Famous class, and 14 vessels still in active US service in the Reliance class. The Coast Guard plans to eventually phase out the vessels in both of these cutter classes and replace them with the Offshore Patrol Cutter as part of the Integrated Deepwater System Program.[4]


After World War II, the United States Coast Guard used the US Navy hull classification system. The large, sea-going cutters were classified primarily as Coast Guard gunboats (WPG), destroyer escorts (WDE), and seaplane tenders (WAVP). In 1965 the Coast Guard adopted its own designation system and these large cutters were then referred to as Coast Guard High Endurance Cutters (WHEC). The coastal cutters once known as Cruising Cutters, Second Class and then as Coast Guard patrol craft (WPC) were now Coast Guard Medium Endurance Cutters (WMEC)."[5]

Famous-class cutter[edit]

Famous class
Famous-class cutter USCGC Thetis (WMEC 910)
Famous-class cutter USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910)
Class overview
OperatorsUnited States Coast Guard
In commission1983–present
General characteristics
Displacement1,800 long tons (1,829 t)
Length270 ft (82 m)
Beam38 ft (12 m)
Draft14 ft 5 in (4.39 m)
Installed power2 × Caterpillar V12 diesel generators
Speed19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph)
Range9,900 nmi (18,300 km; 11,400 mi)
Complement100 (14 officers, 86 enlisted)
Sensors and
processing systems
  • FCS MK 92 Mod 1
  • SPS-78 Surface Search Radar
Electronic warfare
& decoys
AN/SLQ-32A(V)2 2 x Mark 36 SRBOC
  • 1 × OTO Melara Mark 75 76 mm/62 caliber naval gun
  • 2 × .50 caliber (12.7 mm) machine guns
Aviation facilitiesHelipad and hangar for HH-65 Dolphin or HH-60J Jayhawk

The Famous-class vessels have hull numbers in the range from WMEC-901 through WMEC-913. Entering service in the 1980s, the Famous-class cutters were designed as replacements for the 327-foot (100 m) Treasury-class cutters, and their mission profile emphasized law enforcement, particularly patrolling the newly established 200-mile (320 km) exclusive economic zone.[5]

The Coast Guard harvested weapons systems components from decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates to save money. Harvesting components from four decommissioned frigates resulted in more than $24 million in cost savings, which increased with parts from more decommissioned frigates. Equipment such as the Mark 75, 76 mm/62 caliber gun mounts, gun control panels, barrels, launchers, junction boxes, and other components from decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates were returned to service aboard Famous-class cutters in order to extend their service lives into the 2030s.[6]

Ships in class[edit]

The cutter USCGC Seneca in the Casco Bay in Falmouth, Maine. Chebeague and Little Chebeague Island are behind her.
Famous class
Hull number Name Status
WMEC-901 Bear Active
WMEC-902 Tampa Active
WMEC-903 Harriet Lane Active
WMEC-904 Northland Active
WMEC-905 Spencer Active
WMEC-906 Seneca Active
WMEC-907 Escanaba Active
WMEC-908 Tahoma Active
WMEC-909 Campbell Active
WMEC-910 Thetis Active
WMEC-911 Forward Active
WMEC-912 Legare Active
WMEC-913 Mohawk Active

Reliance-class cutter[edit]

Reliance class
Reliance-class cutter USCGC Reliance (WMEC-615)
Class overview
In commission1964–present
General characteristics
Displacement1,127.2 long tons (1,145 t) full load
  • 210 ft 6 in (64.16 m) LOA
  • 200 ft (61 m) LWL
Beam34 ft (10 m)
Draft10 ft 9 in (3.28 m)
Propulsion2 × 2,500 hp (1,864 kW) ALCO 251B diesel engines
Speed18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Aviation facilitiesHelipad

The Reliance-class vessels have hull numbers in the range from WMEC-615 through WMEC-630. Entering service between 1964 and 1969, the Reliance-class cutters were meant to replace the 125-foot (38 m) cutters of the Prohibition era and were the first major cutter replacement project since the 255-foot (78 m) Owasco-class cutters from World War II.[5]

The 210s (210-foot cutters) received upgrades and modifications (in a program named "Midlife Maintenance Availability" or MMA) during the 1986 through 1990 time period. The "A"-class cutters had their gas turbines removed, and all 210s had their stern transom exhaust systems replaced with a traditional stack. While this modification reduced the size of the flight deck, they were still more than capable of carrying out helicopter operations. Other modifications included enlarging the superstructure area, replacing the main armament, and increasing the fire-fighting capability of the cutters. The modifications cost approximately $20 million per cutter, well above their original cost of about $3.5 million each.[5]

Ships in class[edit]

Reliance class
Hull number Name Status
WMEC-615 Reliance Active
WMEC-616 Diligence Active
WMEC-617 Vigilant Active
WMEC-618 Active Active
WMEC-619 Confidence Active
WMEC-620 Resolute Active
WMEC-621 Valiant Active
WMEC-622 Courageous Decommissioned
WMEC-623 Steadfast Active
WMEC-624 Dauntless Active
WMEC-625 Venturous Active
WMEC-626 Dependable Active
WMEC-627 Vigorous Active
WMEC-628 Durable Decommissioned
WMEC-629 Decisive Decommissioned
WMEC-630 Alert Active

Courageous was decommissioned on 19 September 2001. She was transferred to the government of Sri Lanka on 24 June 2004 as SLNS Samudura (P-621).

Durable was decommissioned on 20 September 2001. In 2003 she was transferred to the Coast Guard of the Colombian Navy as ARC Valle del Cauca (PO-44).


  1. ^ a b "Aircraft, Boats, and Cutters". United States Coast Guard. Archived from the original on 2012-11-25. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  2. ^ "210' / 270' Medium Endurance Cutters". Archived from the original on 2014-10-30. Retrieved 2012-12-11.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ "Coast Guard Assets and Equipment". United States Coast Guard Reserve. Archived from the original on 2010-07-07. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  4. ^ "Coast Guard Modernization". United States Coast Guard. Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  5. ^ a b c d "WPC's & WMEC's: 1945-2000". United States Coast Guard. Archived from the original on 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2012-12-11.
  6. ^ U.S. Navy harvests decommissioned Frigates weapon systems for U.S. Coast Guard use Archived 2015-06-26 at the Wayback Machine -, 26 October 2014


USCGC Diligence (WMEC-616) in 1965. Note the lack of exhaust stacks and the exhaust ports at the waterline on the transom on the original design. Reliance class cutters would have stacks added during future overhauls.