“Opinion: Coast Guard Budget Reductions Puts U.S. at Risk”–USNI

The US Naval Institute has a nice opinion piece by a retired Navy Rear Admiral, advocating restoration of funding cut from the Coast Guard budget over the last few years, and not incidentally greater number of National Security Cutters (NSC) to replace the High Endurance Cutters.

This is not the Admiral’s first editorial advocating for the Coast Guard. Whatever his affiliation, his opinions are on point, and I would really like to see the Congress add a ninth NSC to the budget

Russia’s Plans for an Arctic Coast Guard

Photo: Russian Coast Guard Project 97P Border Patrol Vessel Volga (#183). The Russian Coast Guard is part of the Border Guard Service of Russia. This photo was taken by the crew of the USCGC Boutwell in Petropavlovsk, Russia during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in September 2007.

As is widely known Russia has plans to greatly expand use of the “Northern Sea Route,” the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific via the Arctic Ocean near Russia. To make this economical they are planning to greatly expand the presence of their Coast Guard in the Arctic. This includes a new class of ships.

“Efforts to build up an Arctic Coast Guard force have been ongoing since at least 2011, when the Federal Security Service (FSB) — the successor to the KGB, which oversees the Coast Guard and Border Guard services — ordered its first of a planned six “Ocean” patrol ships. The vessels, small ships with a displacement of 2,700 tons, are nevertheless built to withstand icy Arctic conditions.

The lead ship, known as “Polyarnaya Zvezda,” or North Star, has been completed and is undergoing final preparations for regular service in Kronstadt, near St. Petersburg. Two additional Ocean ships, known in Russia by their “Project 22100” designation, are under construction, and should be ready by 2019.

“Plans for new Arctic Coast Guard ships won’t stop with the completion of the Project 22100 class, according to Mikhail Barabanov, a naval expert at the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST).

“‘Construction is planned for several larger Coast Guard patrol ships with a displacement of 6,000 to 7,000 tons,’ Barabanov said, adding that the ships will double as icebreakers. Several design bureaus are now competing for tenders to design the ships, he said.

“The Coast Guard is also expanding its infrastructure along the Arctic frontier with a chain of 10 Coast Guard stations. These stations will be used to launch search and rescue operations if ships run into trouble.”

The Project 22100 ships sound a bit like the Offshore Patrol Cutters. Specs found here indicated a displacement of 2700 tons, length of 91.8 meters/301.2 feet, beam of 14.8 meters/48.6 feet, speed of 20 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, a crew of 41, and an armament of one 76mm and two 14.5mm, and accommodations for a Ka-27 (a 12,000kg/26,455 pound helicopter). The German Navy blog Marine Forum reported on 10 October that first of class “POLYARNAYA ZVEZDA completes four days of sea trials in the Gulf of Finland.” The next two ships are not expected to be commissioned until 2019.

Document Alert: “Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress”


The US Naval Institute News Service has provided access to a report to Congress, “Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background and Issues for Congress,”by Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, September 25, 2015.

I am repeating here the last two paragraphs of the Summary. I think they explain quite clearly the sad state of our icebreaker fleet.

“On September 1, 2015, the White House issued a fact sheet in conjunction with a visit to Alaska by President Obama indicating that the Administration, in its own internal planning, had at some point over the past two years deferred procurement of a new polar icebreaker to FY2022, but that this has now been changed to FY2020. The newly announced procurement date of FY2020 is a two-year acceleration from the previously unpublicized date of FY2022, and a two-year deferral from the FY2018 date implied in the FY2013 and FY2014 budget submissions. The fact sheet states that the Administration will also “begin planning for construction of additional icebreakers” beyond the one that the Administration proposes to procure in FY2020.
“A polar icebreaker procured in FY2020 might enter service in 2024 or 2025. Polar Star has been refurbished and reentered service in December 2012 for an intended period of 7 to 10 years—a period that will end between December 2019 and December 2022. Consequently unless the service life of Polar Star is further extended (or unless Polar Sea is repaired and returned to service), there will be a period of perhaps two to six years during which the United States will have no operational heavy polar icebreakers. The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Administration’s plans for sustaining and modernizing the polar icebreaking fleet.”

Ramblings on the Russian Naval Attack on Syria

You have probably heard that Four Russian naval vessels based in the Caspian Sea have launched 26 missiles against targets in Syria. This attack demonstrates a capability similar to that of the US Tomahawk missile.

What you might not realize is how small the Russians ships that launched the attack really were. While the US surface vessels equipped with Tomahawk are Burke class destroyers and Ticonderoga class cruisers of 8,000 to 10,000 tons, the Russian operation involved only a one small frigate and three small corvettes. The corvettes were smaller than a 210, and the frigate was less than two thirds the size of a 378. All four were considerably smaller than the projected Offshore Patrol Cutter. All four together displace only slightly more than a single Bertholf class.

The largest ship, Dagestan, is a Gepard class light frigate or large corvette, 1,930 tons (full load), 102.14 m (335.1 ft) in length overall, 13.09 m (42.9 ft) of beam, with eight Kalibr (SS-N-27) anti-surface missiles, SA-N-4 AAW missiles, a 76.2 mm gun, two six barreled 30 mm guns, four 533 mm (21″) heavy weight torpedo tubes, and an RBU-6000 ASW  rocket launcher.

The other three, Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich, Veliky Ustyug, were Buyan-M class corvettes, displacing 950 tons full load, with a maximum speed of 25 knots, armed with Kalibr (SS-N-27) anti-surface missiles, 100-mm and 30-mm guns, and Igla-1M air defense missiles.

While the US Navy has begun talking about distributed lethality, the Russians are practicing it.

Certainly the Coast Guard is not going to arm their ships like this in peacetime, but we might want to keep the possibility in mind if things start to go south.


Navy Chooses Longbow Hellfire

Lockheed Martin animation of Hellfire employment from an LCS

The US Naval Institute Proceedings is reporting that Navy has committed to selection of the Longbow Hellfire as an interim missile to arm the Littoral Combat Ships.

“For the LCS deployment, a single Longbow Hellfire launcher with a 24-missile capacity will be integrated with the LCS SSMM, which will be part of one of three weapon stations. Navy officials point out that Longbow Hellfire integration for the LCS SSMM will require only software modifications; no changes to the missile hardware or to the Army launcher or gas-containment system will be needed.

“In selecting the Longbow Hellfire, the Navy also will be able to draw from an available inventory of thousands of missiles already stockpiled for the Army, avoiding the need to spend money on new production.

“Navy officials emphasize that the Longbow Hellfire meets the requirement of the LCS Capabilities Description Document for a standoff-engagement capability for fast inshore attack craft.  An “increment 3” of the SSMM, while still going through modifications, now is expected to be ready to deploy aboard LCSs with the Longbow Hellfire in 2017.”

As we have discussed before, this weapon system seems like a good one for arming cutters against the possibility of an attack by highly maneuverable, high speed craft. In quantity the missiles might also be effective against larger targets.

It is likely the Coast Guard could add this capability at relatively low cost, if they made a case for it. As noted there are already large stocks of the missile. It seems likely that these weapons will be replaced on the LCSs before all the Offshore Patrol Cutters are complete. There are likely to be large numbers of Hellfire considered semi-obsolescent as they are replaced by the JAGM.