U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Alex Major, an aviation survival technician, looks out across the South China Sea from within a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, April 22, 2019. (U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class LA Walker)

Coast Guard Cutters Once Carried Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles and They Could Again

When you mention the U.S. Coast Guard to someone, usually patrolling near America’s territorial waters, drug interdiction, and rescuing boaters come to mind, but the reality is that the Coastie’s mission ranges far from home and into some pretty nasty neighborhoods. At one time, this reality, combined with a very serious foe, resulted in some of the service’s most capable cutters being outfitted with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles. Fast forward to today, and we may be on the precipice of another similar sea-change for the service in terms of how heavily armed some of its ships become.

Coast Guard ships are deployed around the globe, from the volatile Persian Gulf to the disputed waters of the South China Sea to the very tense Taiwan Strait, to execute higher-end missions sometimes alongside their more heavily armed U.S. Navy counterparts. As so-called “great power competition” among peer state adversaries heats up, the Coast Guard is getting called on to fill more of these types of missions traditionally executed by Navy surface combatants.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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