The first of the Hamilton-class 378 foot high endurance cutters, USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715) was laid down in January of 1965, launched in December of that same year, and entered commissioned service with the USCG in February of 1967. The last of the class, USCGC Midgett (WHEC-726) was commissioned in March of 1972. There are 12 cutters in this class, and all were constructed at the Avondale Shipyards in Louisiana. The Hamilton-class cutters are the largest vessels in service with the Coast Guard, with the exception of the 420-foot Healy-class icebreaker. Between 1985 and 1992 all Hamilton-class cutters underwent FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) which entailed the upgrading and standardization of the ship's propulsion systems, the replacement of the original 5"/38 gun and Mk 56 fire control system with a more modern Mk 75 3"/62 cannon and Mk 92 fire control system, and the replacement of the SPS-29 air search radar with the SPS-40 air search radar. In addition, the flight deck and hangar were modified to accommodate an HH-60J Jayhawk SAR helicopter. In addition, during the FRAM refit several units were equipped with Harpoon ASM launchers and a single Mk 15 Phalanx 20mm CIWS (close in weapon system), with all ships eventually having the CIWS installed by 1993. To improve the Hamilton's ASW capabilities, SQR-4 and SQR-17 sonobouy signal receivers and passive signal processing systems, while the ship's defenses were augmented with the addition of a SRBOC (super rapid blooming overhead chaff) launcher. In late 1993 it was decided to refocus the ship's mission on more traditional Coast Guard duties and all ASW, sonar, missiles were removed. This refit was accomplished by 1994. In addition, the original Mk 67 20mm cannons were replaced by improved Mk 38 25mm cannons. Currently all 12 members of the class are in active service, with 2 assigned to the Atlantic Ocean, and 10 assigned to the Pacific Ocean.
The Hamiltons are 378 feet long, have a beam of 43 feet, and draw 20 feet of water. Their displacement is 3,050 tons at full load and their compliment is 19 officers and 148 enlisted. They have a top speed of 29 knots (gas turbine engaged.) Operating on the diesel engines, the Hamiltons have a cruising speed of 11 knots and a range of 14,000 miles. Under turbine power the cutter has a 2,400 mile range at 29 knots. The Hamilton-class cutters are capable of embarking either a single HH-65 Dolphin or HH-60J Jayhawk.
The Hamilton-class cutters are powered by a CODOG (Combined Diesel or Gas) system, featuring 2 Pratt & Whitney FT4A-6 gas turbines producing 36,000 horsepower, and 2 Fairbanks-Morse 38TD8-1/8-12 12-cylinder diesel engines, generating 7,000 horsepower. The ships are driven by twin controllable pitch screws, and each is equipped with a retractable 350 hp bow thruster.
In addition to UHF/VHF communications, the Hamilton-class cutters are equipped with a SPS-73 short-range I-band surface search and navigation radar.
Each Hamilton-class cutter is armed with a single Mk 75 3"/62 compact gun system as well as two Mk 38 25mm bushmaster cannons and one Mk 15 Phalanx 20mm CIWS system.