The U.S. Coast Guard plans to take a major step toward making its Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) a reality.

As part of a competition to develop the new ship, the maritime service is evaluating bids submitted by industry in January in response to a September 2012 request for proposals. The Coast Guard expects to wrap up its assessment and award up to three design contracts to shipyards by the end of the current fiscal year, or Sept. 30.

“Source selection is in progress,” Coast Guard spokesman Eric Nagel told

The Coast Guard intends to narrow the field to one design in fiscal year 2016, take delivery of the first OPC in 2020, and ultimately buy a total of 25 cutters.

The OPC will replace the Coast Guard’s aging fleet of 210-foot and 270-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, “which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate and are, in many respects, technologically obsolete,” the Coast Guard says. The 14 smaller cutters were commissioned from 1964 to 1969, and the 13 larger ships were commissioned from 1983 to 1991.

The OPC “will feature increased range and endurance, more powerful weapons, a larger flight deck, and improved command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) equipment,” the Coast Guard says. “The OPC will accommodate aircraft and small boat operations in all weather.”

Companies vying for the contracts include Bollinger Shipyards, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, General Dynamics NASSCO, Huntington Ingalls, Marinette Marine, VT Halter Marine and Vigor Shipyards.

Most of the competitors declined to discuss their platforms. But Vigor said that its cutter would provide a large stable flight deck; a hangar that comfortably accommodates an H-65 helicopter with blades extended; an all-weather boat maintenance hangar; and a boat handling system that accommodates a variety of boats. Vigor is advertising several “ship design manager” job openings for the program.

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.