Cutters of the United States Coast Guard include: Icebreaker, High Endurance Cutter, Polar Class Icebreaker, Patrol Boat, Fast Response Cutter, Inland Construction Tender, River Buoy Tender, Training Barque Eagle, Seagoing Buoy Tender and the Medium Endurance Cutter. The U.S. Coast Guard has used cutters on the seas since the 1790s. Initially, the Coast Guard had a fleet of 10 cutters, but now operates many more, in addition to boats and airplanes.
Cutters are one of two classes of vessels the Coast Guard uses to patrol seas; the other is boats. Cutters are distinguished from boats in their length, which exceeds 65 feet and may reach more than 180 feet. Cutters are also designed for offshore excursions and have the resources to hold crew and cargo. These vessels are usually equipped with a smaller motorboat on board, and sometimes an inflatable boat, too, which can deploy if necessary. Icebreakers, which are cutters that operate in northern seas, carry Arctic Survey Boats, or ASBs, and Landing Craft.
Sometimes cutters resemble boats, but bear the distinct code "USCGC." They have permanent crews, and can travel great distances. Although cutters are part of the U.S. Coast Guard's identity, they originated in Great Britain. There, the term "cutter" referred to all sea vessels with a mast, bowsprit, square yard and topsail and either two jibs or a jib and staysail. Cutters served general transportation services in Britain, but were assigned the duty of enforcing customs laws in the U.S. Coast Guard.