System 21 supports sea rescues

The US Coast Guard has begun using a command, control and communications system known as Rescue 21 for search and rescue, marine environmental protection and homeland security missions. General Dynamics C4 Systems was the prime contractor for development and deployment of the system, which is being used along the Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida coastlines.

Rescue 21’s advanced direction-finding capability allows operators to more accurately locate the source of a distress call and track down hoax calls. The system includes a network of towers to help reduce coverage gaps in coastal areas and ensure more calls get through to the Coast Guard.

Rescue 21 uses Disaster Recovery System (DRS), a fully autonomous, rapidly deployable emergency communications package. It provides voice and data connectivity if a man-made or natural disaster destroys the existing communications infrastructure. The DRS connects to the Coast Guard Data Network (CGDN+) via satellite communications.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted eight to 10 hurricanes in the Atlantic for 2006, at least half of which are expected to be the strength of Category Three storms.

“Rescue 21 has been accepted at an especially critical time of year in the Gulf States,” said Capt. Dan Abel, Rescue 21 project manager. “It provides vital technology to increase the capabilities of our Coast Guard crews at a vital time when summer search and rescue pace increases and tropical storms or hurricanes put mariners and coastal residents at risk.”

A $730 million acquisition project and the second largest within the Coast Guard, Rescue 21 will replace the Coast Guard’s aging National Distress and Response System, built during the 1970s. Once fully implemented, Rescue 21 will cover 95,000 miles of US coastline and inland waterways.