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U.S. Coast Guard pilot using tablet, seated in cockpit

U.S. Coast Guard is “Always Ready” with FirstNet

September 22, 2020

One of our nation’s oldest military branches and the nation’s premier maritime first responder, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) plays an essential role in maintaining the safety and security of our nation’s coasts, ports, and waterways. USCG professionals provide maritime support to communities in emergency situations, ensure safe and lawful commerce, interdict illegal drugs, protect the maritime environment, perform daring search and rescue (SAR) missions for those in distress, and place themselves on the front lines during hurricane season. The Coast Guard’s mission-ready workforce of more than 56,000 active duty, reserve, and civilian members tirelessly works to strengthen our nation and protect our communities. True to their motto, Semper Paratus, the USCG is always ready with FirstNet.

Enhancing Operations with FirstNet

As a subscriber to FirstNet, the USCG uses FirstNet services and capabilities for routine and special operations. To date, the USCG has equipped more than 1,300 pilots and aircrew across all aviation equipment types with FirstNet-enabled tablets for pre-flight planning and awareness purposes. USCG pilots support a wide range of missions—everything from law enforcement to catastrophic incident SAR to counter-drug operations.

While preparing for these missions, the pilots can receive information on their FirstNet-enabled tablets about weather, air traffic, and notices regarding airport capabilities. Using a suite of aviation planning apps, pilots can calculate aircraft performance, file flight plans, and complete other paperwork from the cockpit rather than an office. FirstNet connectivity has afforded the ability to make on-the-fly mission planning changes from the aircraft in seconds without having to walk back into the hangar to find a Wi-Fi signal.

USCG officials also use FirstNet to securely distribute mission-critical guidance, references, and policies, significantly enhancing operational efficiency and safety during both day-to-day operations as well as large-scale disaster responses. During hurricane rescue and recovery operations, Coast Guard pilots have mission-specific content (e.g., map overlays) and response planning resources automatically pushed to their Aviation Mobile Devices (AMDs) before they even arrive in the operating area. And thanks to FirstNet’s priority and preemption capabilities, along with the fleet of FirstNet deployables, updated information can still be sent to their AMDs even if the existing cellular infrastructure is congested or damaged due to the storm.

In addition to day-to-day operations, the USCG has successfully used FirstNet during major events and incidents, including SAR cases, Fleet Week events, and National Security Special Events such as the Super Bowl.

Exploring New Capabilities with FirstNet

The USCG is investigating operational uses of FirstNet to enhance near-shore operations. The USCG Research and Development Center is assessing the feasibility and effectiveness of using FirstNet for near-shore operations at USCG Sector Key West, Florida.  The three small boat stations at Key West, Marathon, and Islamorada have been using FirstNet’s Enhanced Push to Talk on small boats and Integrated Dispatch Console on shore at the stations as a supplement to their Rescue 21 LMR system to respond to the USCG’s various mission areas in our nation’s coastal areas.

In addition, the USCG is working to roll out FirstNet-enabled tablets to USCG inspectors who typically must carry numerous volumes of regulatory, statutory, and other references with them in order to perform their duties. Using the tablets, they will be able to access a web portal, access reference materials, and complete boarding forms that will then auto populate in the database repository. This is the first time USCG inspections will be done using an application on a tablet.

The FirstNet Authority is proud to support the USCG and all of our public safety partners by improving communications through an interoperable network, enhancing situational awareness, offering vital capacity, delivering actionable data, providing reliability and security, and driving innovation in life-saving public safety communications technologies. With FirstNet, first responders have reliable, resilient, and dedicated broadband for day-to-day operations and in any emergency.