The Hamilton-class cutter was the largest class of vessel in the United States Coast Guard until replaced by the Legend-class cutter, aside from the Polar-class icebreaker. The hull classification symbol is prefixed WHEC. The cutters are called the Hamilton class after their lead ship, or the "Secretary class" because most of the vessels in the class were named for former Secretaries of the Treasury (with the exception of the "Hero-class cutters" Jarvis, Munro and Midgett).
USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715), lead ship of the Hamilton class
|Preceded by||Treasury-class cutter|
|Succeeded by||Legend-class cutter|
|In commission||1965 – present|
|Active||12 (2 United States, 2 Bangladesh, 2 Nigeria, 3 Philippines, 1 Sri Lanka, 2 Vietnam)|
|Type||High endurance cutter|
|Displacement||3,250 metric tons|
|Length||378 ft (115 m)|
|Beam||43 ft (13 m)|
|Draft||15 ft (4.6 m)|
|Speed||29 kn (54 km/h; 33 mph)|
|Range||14,000 nmi (26,000 km; 16,000 mi)|
|Complement||167 and can carry up to 186|
|Sensors and |
|Electronic warfare |
|2 × MK 36 SRBOC launcher system|
|Aircraft carried||1 × MH-65 Helicopter|
|Aviation facilities||Flight deck and Hangar|
The Hamilton-class cutters were designed to be a highly versatile platform capable of performing various operations, including maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, oceanographic research, and defense operations. Because of their endurance and capabilities, the Hamilton-class cutters commonly deployed with Carrier Battle Groups. They were built with a welded steel hull and aluminum superstructure. The Hamilton-class cutters' hull was designed with a V cross section, and through tank testing the hull was expected to survive and stay afloat longer after suffering damage. They are powered by a Combined Diesel or Gas (CODOG) system consisting of two diesel engines and two gas turbines, and have controllable-pitch propellers, they were the first U.S. military vessels with combination diesel or gas turbine operation. Equipped with a helicopter flight deck, retractable hangar, and the facilities to support helicopter deployment.
The Hamilton-class cutters were designed and built during the Cold War, due to this they were originally equipped for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), with the capability to find, track and destroy enemy submarines. When constructed, they were armed with a 5"/38 naval gun, two 81 mm mortars, two .50 caliber machine guns, two MK 10 Hedgehogs, two MK 32 torpedo tube systems, and Nixie torpedo countermeasures. During the 1980s and 1990s the cutters were modernized under the Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization (FRAM) program. The FRAM program replaced the 5"/38 gun with the MK 75 76 mm naval gun, upgraded the MK 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes to Mod 7, installed MK 36 SRBOC launchers and the AN/SLQ-32 electronic warfare suite, and upgraded the cutters' sonar and their air and surface search radars. During the modernization of the cutters the U.S. Navy saw the program as a low cost and easy way to use the cutters as a valuable force multiplier with trained crews that could be called upon during war. After the completion of FRAM, a joint Navy/USCG board decided further upgrades to the cutters' armament would be implemented, including the installation of Harpoon anti-ship missiles and a MK 15 Phalanx CIWS. The Harpoon anti-ship missiles were fitted to multiple cutters of the class but only one cutter, the USCGC Mellon, ever fired a Harpoon missile (in January 1990). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the joint Navy/USCG board decided there was no military threat to require the installation of anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine weapons on board cutters, and subsequently removed the weapons. After the removal of the ASW weapons, the Coast Guard installed MK 38 25 mm chain guns on both sides of each cutter. Currently the Hamilton-class cutters are equipped with the Coast Guard's SeaWatch command and control system, which combines navigational, tactical, surveillance and communications into one situational awareness picture, replacing the cutters' outdated Shipboard Command and Control System. Missile defense is handled by the MK 36 launchers and the Phalanx CIWS.
The 378-foot WHEC cutter program which created the Hamilton class was initiated in the 1960s. The Hamilton-class cutters were intended to fulfill both the peacetime and wartime requirements of the Coast Guard. Construction at Avondale Shipyards on the lead ship, the Hamilton, began in the 1960s and the cutter was commissioned on March 18, 1967. Originally the Coast Guard planned to build 36 Hamilton-class cutters, but due to the termination of the ocean stations program they reduced the number of planned cutters to 12.
During the Vietnam War multiple Hamilton-class cutters supported Operation Market Time. The cutters patrolled the South Vietnamese coastline, boarded and inspected suspected North Vietnamese and Viet Cong vessels, conducted naval gunfire support missions, and provided medical assistance to Vietnamese civilians. Throughout their service cutters would also participate in other conflicts and military operations such as Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Vigilant Sentinel, Operation Deny Flight, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Beginning in the 1980s and ending in 1992, the entire class was modernized through the FRAM program. The program included updates and changes to the cutters weapons, sensors, addition of a helicopter hangar, engine overhauls, and improved habitability.
In March 2007, cutters Hamilton and Sherman intercepted the Panamanian-flagged fishing vessel Gatun in international waters and were able to recover 20 metric tons (20 long tons) of cocaine, with an estimated street value of $600 million retail. The seizure was the largest at-sea drug bust in US history.
Ships in class (by final homeport)Edit
|Ship Name||Hull No.||Builder||Laid down||Launched||Commissioned||Decommissioned||Fate|
|Douglas Munro||WHEC-724||Avondale Shipyards||18 February 1970||5 December 1970||27 September 1971||24 April 2021||Earmarked for transfer to the Vietnam Coast Guard upon decommissioning in the future (unconfirmed)|
|Boutwell||WHEC-719||12 December 1966||17 June 1967||24 June 1968||16 March 2016||Transferred to the Philippine Navy on 21 July 2016 as BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17)|
|Chase||WHEC-718||26 October 1966||20 May 1967||11 March 1968||29 March 2011||Transferred to Nigerian Navy on 13 May 2011 as the NNS Thunder (F90)|
|Hamilton||WHEC-715||January 1965||December 18, 1965||March 18, 1967||March 28, 2011||Transferred to the Philippine Navy 13 May 2011 as BRP Gregorio del Pilar (FF-15)|
|Jarvis||WHEC-725||9 September 1970||24 April 1971||4 August 1972||2 October 2012||Transferred to the Bangladesh Navy on 23 May 2013 as BNS Somudra Joy|
|Rush||WHEC-723||23 October 1967||16 November 1968||3 July 1969||3 February 2015||Transferred to the Bangladesh Navy on 6 May 2015 as BNS Somudra Avijan|
|Morgenthau||WHEC-722||17 July 1967||10 February 1968||10 March 1969||18 April 2017||Transferred to Vietnam Coast Guard on 25 May 2017 as CSB 8020|
|Sherman||WHEC-720||January 25, 1967||September 3, 1968||23 August 1968||March 29, 2018||Transferred to the Sri Lanka Navy on 27 August 2018, recommissioned 6 June 2019 as SLNS Gajabahu (P626)|
|Dallas||WHEC-716||7 February 1966||1 October 1966||11 March 1968||30 March 2012||Transferred to the Philippine Navy on 22 May 2012 as BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16)|
|Gallatin||WHEC-721||17 April 1967||18 November 1967||20 December 1968||31 March 2014||Transferred to Nigerian Navy on 7 May 2014 as NNS Okpabana (F93)|
|Mellon||WHEC-717||25 July 1966||11 February 1967||9 January 1968||20 August 2020||Earmarked for transfer to Bahrain's Royal Naval Force|
|John Midgett||WHEC-726||5 April 1971||4 September 1971||17 March 1972||2020||Transferred to Vietnam Coast Guard on 1 June 2021 as CSB 8021|
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Morgenthau was the first U.S. Coast Guard cutter to deploy to the Persian Gulf. Participating in Operation Vigilant Sentinel,
- "Guardians of the Gulf: A History of Coast Guard Combat Operations in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2002-2004" (PDF). media.defense.gov. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- "Coast Guard Seizes 43,000 Pounds of Cocaine". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- Mazumdar, Mrityunjoy (4 June 2013). "Former Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis Transferred to Growing Bangladesh Navy". defensemedianetwork.com. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
- ‘Somudra Avijan’ handed over to Bangladesh Navy Archived July 22, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
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- 378-foot (115 m) High Endurance Cutter Fact Sheet
- GlobalSecurity.org overview
- Next Navy ship to be named after Corregidor hero
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