New USCG fast response cutter delivered

USCGC Maurice Jester
USCGC Maurice Jester
USCGC Maurice Jester

The Coast Guard recently accepted delivery of the new fast response cutter Maurice Jester at the Bollinger shipyard in Key West, Fl.

The new Sentinel-class cutter is the 178th vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 52nd fast response cutter (FRC) delivered under the current program.

The USCG’s Sentinel-class cutters are 153 feet long and powered by 2 TIER II diesel engines rated at 5,760 bhp, with fixed rather than controllable-pitch propellers that improve their top speed from 23.8 to over 28 knots.

With crews of 22-24 personnel, they are armed with a Mk38 stabilized, remotely-operated 25mm chain gun that can fire accurately from a pitching ship, and four crew-served .50-caliber machine guns. 

Designed for close in-shore work, the Sentinel-class cutters are built to ABS High-Speed Naval Craft Guide specifications with other modifications that include stern launch facilities for a rigid hulled inflatable boat, and reconfigured berthing spaces. 

Like the Service’s deepwater cutters, Sentinel-class vessels will carry a subset of the Deepwater C4ISR –  command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance – system.

The USCGC Maurice Jester is the third of six FRCs to be homeported in Sector Boston, which has responsibility for coastal safety, security, and environmental protection from the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border southward to Plymouth, Massachusetts out to 200 nm offshore. The new cutter is the third FRC to be homeported in Boston.

The Coast Guard has ordered 65 Fast Response Cutters to date. Fifty are currently in service – 13 in Florida; seven in Puerto Rico; six in Bahrain; four in California; three each in Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Texas and New Jersey; two each in Mississippi and North Carolina; and one in Massachusetts. Future FRC homeports will include Astoria, Or., and Kodiak and Seward, Ak. 

Maurice Jester, the new cutter’s namesake, was born in Virginia in 1889. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1917 as a surfman and by 1936 had been promoted to Chief Boatswain’s Mate. After the U.S. entered World War II, he was commissioned as a lieutenant and given command of the 160-foot, 350-ton USCGC Icarus, patrolling the U.S. Eastern Seaboard at the height of the U-boat threat to U.S. coastal shipping. 

Jester had been in command of Icarus for just a few months when, on May 9, 1942, the cutter’s sonar detected a submarine contact 26 miles off Cape Lookout, NC. It was the German submarine U-352.

Icarus deployed a depth charge pattern that forced the U-boat to the surface, where it was met with a hail of 20 mm, machine gun, and rifle fire that prevented the submarine’s crew from manning their guns. The sub’s crew abandoned ship and the cutter made a final attack that sent the doomed U-boat to the bottom.   

After rescuing the 33 surviving U-boat crewmembers, the Icarus made for the Charleston Navy Yard, where she turned them over to the Navy for processing as prisoners of war. Among those rescued was the U-352’s commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Hellmut Rathke. 

Jester, promoted to lieutenant commander following the sinking of the U-352, was awarded the Navy Cross, one of six Coast Guardsmen to receive the decoration during World War II. He retired from the Service and died in 1957 at age 68. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.