The U.S. Coast Guard formally accepted and introduced its new Response Boat-Medium and Rescue 21 advanced communications system during a ceremony held Monday at Coast Guard Sector Key West, here.

"We're thrilled at the capabilities these assets bring to our efforts," said Capt. Scott Buschman, Key West sector commander.  "Our men and women are excited to finally have the cutting edge in response boat and search and rescue communications."

The Response Boat - Medium is a new small-boat platform that offers increased speed and maneuverability over the service's aging 41-foot response boats, which it will eventually replace.·Enhanced maritime capabilities and technological advances such as water-jet propulsion, armrest integrated steering and trim controls, self-righting capability and improved crew accommodations all represent significant upgrades over the legacy 41-foot response boat platform.·· The first two Response Boats - Medium were delivered to Coast Guard Stations Little Creek, Va., and Cape Disappointment, Wash., earlier this year.

Rescue 21 is an advanced command, control and communications system that provides new, improved technology to mariners nationwide.· It is the backbone of the National Maritime Distress and Response System. As the marine version of 9-1-1, it facilitates better communication and interoperability in emergency situations.· With its advanced direction finding capabilities and increased range, Rescue 21 helps the Coast Guard ‘hear the call' and quickly respond to boaters in distress, as well as identify hoax distress calls made from land that can unnecessarily occupy Coast Guard assets and manpower.

Rescue 21 has already proven its worth and is being installed at Coast Guard Sectors nationwide. Earlier this year, the service used Rescue 21's remote operations capability to seamlessly maintain coverage and communication along the New Orleans coast during Hurricane Gustav and through the aftermath.· Today's acceptance formally brings those capabilities to Key West and increases total U.S. coastline covered by Rescue 21 to almost 23,000 miles.·Once the roll-out is complete, Rescue 21 will provide communications coverage along 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline.

"We're very pleased with these two projects," said Rear Adm. Gary Blore, assistant commandant for acquisition.· "Today's acceptance was made possible by the dedicated work of countless Coast Guard and industry personnel, as well as the unwavering leadership of our Commandant in directing acquisition process improvements, and the support of our Congress in making funding available."