The $10 million (if all options are exercised) Alaska Phase 2 contract to update the communications equipment and physical infrastructure for the US Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 Alaska system has been awarded to General Dynamics One Source, a joint venture of three General Dynamics companies: General Dynamics Information Technology, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems and General Dynamics C4 Systems.
The Coast Guard has said the "modified Rescue 21 system in Alaska will provide a more cost-effective and realistic search and rescue communications solution suitable for the state’s unique coastal operating environment. The modified system is heavily influenced by supportability, weather, environment, habitability, terrain, power and bandwidth issues particular to the state."
"The most notable difference between the modified system and the Rescue 21 system being deployed across the rest of the continental United States is in direction finding capability," the Coast Guard said, noting that, "Due to technical infeasibility no DF service will be implemented in Alaska. The Coast Guard will deploy new remote radio control console systems, VHF FM radios and Digital Selective Calling capability to the state’s two sectors.”
Rescue 21 replaces the National Distress and Response System, which has been in use since the 1970s. Rescue 21 Alaska, however, will enable the Coast Guard to continuously monitor digital selective calling and more accurately identify the location of callers in distress.
The Coast Guard identified more than 30 critical sites for Rescue 21 Alaska in the southeast portion of the state along the coastline and the Aleutian Islands. The sites include Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet,Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island, Shelikof Straight, Bristol Bay, Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Chain. The Coast Guard has scheduled all work in Alaska for completion by the end of 2017.
Many of the Rescue 21 Alaska sites are in remote and isolated locations where work crews will need to be transported by helicopter.
In its announcement Tuesday, General Dynamics said it will provide a comprehensive analysis to identify the most cost-effective path to update the existing radio equipment operating in the 30 locations for Rescue 21 Alaska. The contract also provides for the evaluation of the radio and communications towers and buildings at each site.
The analysis will include radios with various roles, including those that provide digital selective calling, the radio technology that mariners use in an emergency. Once upgraded, the radios will deliver improved clarity for voice calls as well as better use of the radio spectrum for more reliable and efficient communications. General Dynamics will also perform site surveys and tower structural analysis studies, produce engineering site design drawings and installation plans for radio equipment, as well as perform system operational verification testing.
“Working side by side with the Coast Guard, the General Dynamics team will take advantage of the most innovative technologies, combined with a strategic implementation plan to ensure the long-term effectiveness of this life-saving system,” said Vice President and General Manager Bill Weiss, who leads public safety initiatives for General Dynamics Mission Systems. “Rescue 21 Alaska operates in one of the most unpredictable maritime environments in the world, and being the prime contractor for the Rescue 21 Coastal System, we have an unparalleled depth of understanding of the system and the urgency of the US Coast Guard’s maritime search and rescue mission.”
General Dynamics originally developed and installed the Rescue 21 coastal system, which spans more than 215,000 square nautical miles of the nation’s eastern, western and Gulf coastlines (excluding Alaska), and around Guam and Puerto Rico.
The Rescue 21 coastal system also monitors and keeps track of public and commercial mariners navigating national waterways and the Great Lakes. Rescue 21 has enabled more than 80,000 search and rescue cases since the first Rescue 21 station became operational in 2003.
General Dynamics also maintains the Rescue 21 system’s hardware, software and facilities located in 32 Coast Guard sectors. Among the improvements are cyber-defense technologies that ‘harden’ the nationwide system from malware, viruses and other cyber threats.