The United States Coast Guard announced Tuesday the launch of its third Sentinel-class, Fast Response Cutter, the William Flores, at Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, La.
“The Coast Guard’s new Fast Response Cutters are national assets, unique to the United States and uniquely equipped to respond to all threats and all events in times of crisis,” said Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, chief of media relations for the U.S. Coast Guard. “The Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters will be capable of speeds in excess of 28 knots and operating in seas up to 18-feet. Armed with a 25-mm chain gun and four, .50 caliber machine guns, the speed, stability and firepower of the Fast Response Cutter deliver tremendous lifesaving, law enforcement and homeland security capabilities in the same package. Like the Island-class patrol boats the Fast Response Cutters replace, the fleet of 58 Sentinel-class cutters will serve as the workhorses of America’s littoral, maritime fleet.”
The vessel was named after Seaman Apprentice William Flores, who posthumously received the Coast Guard Medal, the service’s highest award for heroism not involving combat, for his role in the Jan. 28, 1980 collision between the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn and the tanker Capricorn. Flores and another crewmember threw life jackets to their shipmates who had jumped into the water. Later, when his companion abandoned ship as the Blackthorn began to submerge, Flores, who was less than a year out of boot camp, remained behind and used his belt to strap open the life jacket locker door, allowing additional life jackets to float to the surface. Even after most crewmembers abandoned ship, the 19-year-old Flores remained aboard Blackthorn to assist trapped shipmates and to comfort those who were injured and disoriented. Seaman Apprentice William Ray “Billy” Flores and 22 other Coast Guardsmen perished as the Blackthorn capsized and sank near the entrance of Tampa Bay, Fla. Twenty seven of his shipmates survived.
After commissioning, the William Flores will be homeported in Miami, with a crew of 24 to conduct alien migrant interdiction operations, port, waterways and coastal security patrols, search and rescue and national defense missions.
Named for enlisted Coast Guard heroes, the Fast Response Cutters have an overall length of 154 feet, a beam of 26 feet and are capable of speeds in excess of 28 knots. The Fast Response Cutter also features a stern launch ramp for rapid and safe deployment of its 7.9-meter small boat. The William Flores is scheduled to be delivered and commissioned in 2012.