Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Coast Guard Modeling Logo

A Note on Classification

Cutters and Boats

The Revenue Cutter Service classified all of its vessels US Revenue Cutters (USRC)
The early Revenue Cutter Service had an interesting habit of naming cutters after cabinet members and then renaming them after a new administration took office.
This makes it interesting to trace cutter geneologies and pedegrees.

The Lighhthouse Service classified all of its vessels US Light House Tenders (USLHT)

From 1915 to 1920 the Coast Guard used the following classifications:
The largest cutters were Cruising Cutters
Medium sized cutters were Harbor Cutters.
The smallest cutters were Launches.

In 1920, the Harbor Cutters were reclassified as Inland Patrol Cutters.
Ships acquired from the Navy had "Coast Guard" added to their classification (Coast Guard Destroyer).

In 1941, the Coast Guard adopted the Navy classification system with W added.
Major cutters were Patrol Gunboats (WPG).
Medium cutters were Coastal Patrol Craft (WPC/WSC).
Small cutters were Patrol Boats (WPB).
All buoy tenders were WAGL.
All ice breakers were WAGB.
All ships acquired from the Navy had W inserted before their Navy classification. (WAT, WAVP, etc).
All vessels over 65' were considered "Cutters".
Vessels under 65 feet were classified as utility boats (UTB).
Self rightable vessels were classified as Motor Lifeboats (MLB).

In 1967 the Coast Guard established its own independent classification system.
Large cutters are High Endurance Cutters (WHEC).
Medium cutters are Medium Endurance Cutters (WMEC).
Small cutters are Patrol Boats (WPB).
Ocean going buoy tenders are WLB.
Coastal buoy tenders are WLM.
River buoy tenders are WLR.
Inland buoy tenders are WLI.
Inland consruction tenders are WLIC.
Ice breakers are WAGB.
All vessels over 65' are considered "Cutters".
Vessels under 65 feet are utility boats (UTB).
Self rightable vessels are Motor Lifeboats (MLB).

Aside from this formal classification system, most cutters have been traditionally refered to by their length.
The 378' WHECs are called 378s.
There are also 40s, 41s, 44s, 65s, 82s, 95s, 110s, 140s, 165s, 180s, 210s, etc.
One-of-a-kind cutters are referred to by name.
CGC Storis is Storis.

In 2008 the National Security Cutter Large (WNSL) joined the Fleet.
They are the Legends Class - named for legendary figures in CG history.
They are 418' but are not refered to by length.
They are called National Security Cutters.

The National Security Cutter Medium (WNSM) will shortly be in service.


From 1916 to 1962 the Coast Guard followed the US Navy classification scheme for aircraft - This system is well documented elsewhere.
After 1962, DoD went with a joint classification system and all classifications were changed to reflect this - This system is still in effect and is well documented elsewhere.