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Onboard the newest Coast Guard flagship (photos)

The 418-foot Waesche, a Legend-class National Security Cutter, is designed to execute the most challenging maritime security, law enforcement, and national defense missions.

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CNET Reviews staff
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1 of 10 James Martin/CNET

National Security Cutter Waesche

The second of eight planned National Security Cutters was commissioned on Friday here in Alameda, Calif.

The 418-foot Waesche, a Legend-class National Security Cutter the U.S. Coast Guard says is its largest and most technically advanced vessel, is designed to improve operational readiness and enable better fulfillment of new multimission roles more effectively, with greater endurance and range, higher sustained transit speeds, and the flexibility to adapt to and support a range of objectives.

Designed in accordance with the Coast Guard's expanding roles, the Waesche also possesses a greater ability to launch and recover small boats, helicopters, and eventually unmanned aerial vehicles.

See also: Full Frame photos of the event.

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57mm gun

The Mk110 57mm gun is the Waesche's main offensive weapon, capable of firing 220 rounds per minute, essentially making it a (very) large-caliber machine gun.

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Helicopter Assist System

With larger flight decks than the previous class and the ability to accommodate most helicopters, Waesche is also the first major National Security Cutter to have a flight deck equipped with the cutting-edge Helicopter Assist System.

The assist system moves along the grooves on the flight deck, emerging from the bays on the left and right, and meets the landing helicopter.

Grabbing the helicopter, the assist system then pulls it back into the bay doors for stowing. The system is seen as being safer for operators while requiring fewer people on the flight deck during a landing.

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Helicopter Control Officer

Sitting in a booth overlooking the flight deck, the Helicopter Control Officer (HCO) manages the takeoff and landing of helicopters.

The rear-command post gives the HCO the ability to keep visual contact with an approaching helicopter while monitoring onboard computers assessing wind conditions. This is the first major cutter to implement the rear HCO post design.

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Marilla Waesche Pivonka

The Waesche is named after Admiral Russell Randolph Waesche, a legendary Coast Guard official who oversaw major changes to the U.S. military branch, following his service in World War I, including originating the Coast Guard Institute and Correspondence School, and developing plans to integrate the Coast Guard into the Navy, in the event of war.

Here, Waesche's granddaughter Marilla Waesche Pivonka tours the bridge during the commissioning ceremony in Alameda, Calif., on Friday.

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Bridge computers

Equipped with the state-of-the-art command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaisance (C4ISR) equipment, the Waesche is part of an interoperability objective designed to give the Coast Guard better collaborative interagency capabilities. Navigation data is shown on the main computer screens on the ship's bridge.

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Navigation tools

The "Quartermaster of the Watch" is responsible for all navigation of the ship. Although the routes are are plotted using computers and GPS, the Quartermaster is also always maintaining the ship's course on traditional paper maps laid out below the screens.
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Engine room data

Computers on the bridge monitor the conditions in the engine room, and report the status flooding and fire alarms. They maintain an ongoing analysis of power on board.
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Stern launch system

The Waesche is also the first major cutter to use a stern launch system, which enables it to easily load and unload ships.

A traditional boat launch deploys boats from the sides of the vessel, but the Stern Launch System gives the crew more flexibility to launch boats in more rough sea conditions.

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National Security Cutter

The crew stands at attention before more than 1,000 guests during the commissioning of the Waesche at a ceremony on Coast Guard Island on Friday.

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