National Security Cutter

Legend-class National Security Cutters (NSC) are the flagships of the U.S. Coast Guard. They are the largest and most technologically advanced ships in the Coast Guard’s fleet, with capabilities for maritime homeland security, law enforcement and national security missions.

At sea, National Security Cutters are tasked with performing a wide variety of missions, including maritime security, environmental protection and drug interdiction.


NSC Facts

The National Security Cutter features enhanced capabilities that will allow the class to replace 12 aging 378‐foot Hamilton class high-endurance cutters that have been in service for 40 years. At 418 feet long, an NSC has a maximum speed of 28 knots and range of 12,000 nautical miles. The NSC features advanced command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment, as well as aviation support facilities and stern boat launch capability. Technological advancements will also allow a smaller crew to operate an NSC, reducing manpower requirements. A NSC also carries enough food and consumables to stay at sea for 60 days and has the ability to conduct vertical replenishment at sea and to refuel at sea in order to extend patrols.

A U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter is equipped with:

  • 6 .50 caliber machine guns
  • 1 MK 110 57 mm turret mounted gun
  • 3D air search radar
  • 2 level 1, class 1 aircraft hangers
  • A stern launch ramp for mission boats

NSC Design & Construction

Ingalls Shipbuilding is the sole builder of Legend Class National Security Cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard. The National Security Cutter is the first new design for the service in 20 years.Ingalls Shipbuilding builds National Security Cutters using highly pre-outfitted grand blocks over a three year construction span. Lessons learned during construction of the first ship in the class led to significant design and build strategy improvements, improved quality, reduced build time and increased savings for each ship.  .

The NSC program has matured in its serial production at Ingalls Shipbuilding since the contract was first awarded and construction began in 2004. The first five ships in the NSC class –USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750), USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751), USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752), USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) and USCGC James (WMSL 754) – have been delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard. NSC 6 Munro (WMSL 755), NSC 7 Kimball (WMSL 756) and NSC 8 Midgett (WMSL 757) are currently under construction. USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) is scheduled to be commissioned in 2017.

NSCs at Sea

The Legend-class National Security Cutter is excelling in fleet operations. The multi mission flexibility of this platform enables the ship and crew to fulfill any of the Coast Guards statutory missions from Humanitarian Aid to Law Enforcement and National Defense. The ship meets all current Coast Guard needs with room for growth.

The NSC has several features that enhance overall mission performance, including, CODAG propulsion for faster speeds, stern ramp launch and recovery for a combination of small boats 7 – 11 meters in length, and a very large flight deck with two hangars to accommodate helicopters or VUAVs.  Habitability was designed to provide the crew of 120 personnel with improved Quality of Life which includes stateroom berthing, lounges and fitness center.

History of U.S. Coast Guard Cutters

The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle

The history of U.S. Coast Guard cutters can be traced to the British Royal Customs Service which called their vessels cutters; a common name for a single-mast ship that carried between eight and 12 cannons.

The United States Revenue Marine was created shortly after the founding of the nation to collect import tariffs for the newly founded U.S. government. The idea was initiated by the Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in an address to Congress on August 4, 1790.

Ship construction began the next year, and U.S. Revenue Cutters Vigilant, Active, General Green, Massachusetts, Scammel, Argus, Virginia, Diligence, South Carolina, and Eagle were all launched from 1791 to 1793.

Cutters took part in some of the earliest naval battles in U.S. history. During the Quasi-War with France, USRC Pickering helped capture 10 French ships. During the War of 1812, USRC Jefferson captured the first British vessel. U.S. Coast Guard cutters have continued to serve in all U.S. conflicts including Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

The U.S. Coast Guard continues to refer to its largest ships as cutters, and today, a cutter is any Coast Guard vessel more than 65-feet long.

The Coast Guard’s national security responsibilities remain one of its most important functions. In times of peace it operates under the Department of Homeland Security, serving as the nation’s front-line agency for enforcing the nation’s laws at sea, protecting the marine environment and the nation’s coastline and ports, and saving lives. In times of war, or at the direction of the President, the Coast Guard serves as part of the Department of the Navy.

Ingalls Shipbuilding has a proud history building U.S. Coast Guard cutters. During the 1960s, Ingalls Shipbuilding in Avondale, LA, built the 12 ships in the Hamilton class of high endurance cutters. Ingalls Shipbuilding continues that tradition today with the Legend class National Security Cutters.


1790s: At the request of Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Congress creates the U.S. Revenue-Marine, a fleet of cutters to enforce tariff laws. The first ten cutters were launched by 1793. Until 1798 the Revenue-Marine was the United States’ only armed maritime service.

1798: During the Quasi-War with France from 1798 to 1801, the U.S. Navy was formed and the Revenue-Marine fought alongside it, capturing or assisting in the capture of 20 French ships. Ten of these were captured by USRC Pickering.

1860s: USRC Harriet Lane fired the first maritime shots of the American Civil War near Charleston Harbor on April 11, 1861. President Abraham Lincoln issued an order to the Secretary of the Treasury for cooperation by the cutters.

1898: During the Spanish-American War, cutters helped blockade Havana Harbor and fought alongside U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay.

1915: Congress formally added The U.S. Coast Guard as a military service under Title 14 on Jan. 28, 1915.

1917- 1939: Cutters serve as convoy escorts during World War I and as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Neutrality Patrol in 1939.

1941-1945: USCGC Icarus sinks the German U-352, capturing the first 33 prisoners of World War II in 1942. Signalman Douglas Munro posthumously earns the Medal of Honor evacuating Marines from Guadalcanal. USCGC Campbell, under the command of Cmdr. James A. Hirshfield engages numerous subs. Ninety-nine Coast Guard cutters and landing craft participated in the landings at Normandy, France.

1965: USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715), the first of 12 U.S. Coast Guard High Endurance Cutters, is built and launched on December 18, 1965, by Avondale Shipyard, now part of Ingalls Shipbuilding.

1967: Coast Guard transferred to Department of Transportation.

2003: President George W. Bush reassigns the Coast Guard from the Department of Transportation to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security.

2006-present: Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula christened the first Legend-Class National Security Cutter, USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) on Nov. 11, 2006. Commissioned Aug. 4, 2008, Bertholf has since been joined by USCGC Waesche (WMSL 751) and USCGC Stratton (WMSL 752). Ingalls has also begun construction on USCGC Hamilton (WMSL 753) ‘ USCGC James (WMSL 754), USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) and USCGC Kimball (WMSL 756).