Taking the “Search” Out of Search and Rescue

To address the limitations of the current communications system, the National Distress and Response System (NDRS), the Coast Guard has implemented a major systems acquisition program entitled Rescue 21.

By harnessing global positioning and cutting-edge communications technology, Rescue 21 enables the Coast Guard to perform all missions with greater agility and efficiency. The new system will close 88 known coverage gaps in coastal areas of the United States, enhancing the safety of life at sea. The system’s expanded system frequency capacity enables greater coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as other federal, state and local agencies and first responders.

When completed, this vital major systems acquisition will provide an updated, leading-edge Very High Frequency – Frequency Modulated (VHF-FM) communications system, replacing the National Distress Response System installed and deployed during the 1970s. Rescue 21 will cover coastline, navigable rivers and waterways in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Puerto Rico. By replacing outdated legacy technology with a fully integrated system, Rescue 21 provides the Coast Guard with upgraded tools and technology to protect the nation’s coasts and rescue mariners at sea.

Rescue 21 -- How it works...

Rescue 21 will replace a wide range of aging, obsolete radio communications equipment to include:

  • Consoles at Coast Guard Sectors and Stations.
  •  All remote transceiver sites (antenna towers), as well as the network connecting them to the facilities above.

General Dynamics C4 Systems of Scottsdale, AZ, has been hired as the production contractor to replace the Coast Guard’s outdated system in the Contiguous 48 States and Hawaii. Due to the unique logistical and operational needs in Alaska, the Coast Guard has assumed the role of system integrator for deployment to sectors in Alaska. In August 2007, the Coast Guard commissioned the Rescue 21 Project Resident Office Alaska to spearhead the efforts.

A quantum leap forward

Rescue 21 revolutionizes how the Coast Guard uses command, control, and communications for all missions within the coastal zone. The system:

  • where feasible, incorporates direction-finding equipment to improve locating mariners in distress
  • improves interoperability amongst federal, state, and local agencies
  • enhances clarity of distress calls
  • allows simultaneous channel monitoring
  • upgrades the playback and recording feature of distress calls
  • reduces coverage gaps for coastal communications and along navigable rivers and waterways
  • supports Digital Selective Calling for registered users
  • in the Contiguous 48 States, provides portable towers for restoration of communications during emergencies or natural disasters

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