Gulf Cooperative Council to Form Joint Coast Guard Command

DefenseNews is reporting the Gulf Cooperative Council has announced their intention to form a joint naval command to be called Maritime Security Group 81.

“The force, Attar said, is expected to mainly conduct naval interdiction missions, stopping illegal drugs and weapons shipment.

“’It will consist mainly of interdiction vessels and patrol vessels and will be more of a coast guard than a real blue water navy, I expect,’ he said.”

“…The announcement of the command was backed by US President Barack Obama who issued a directive to Congress to facilitate GCC defense article sales and defense services under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act.”

The USCG may be involved in at least three ways. (1) There may be sales through the Coast Guard’s Foreign Military Sales organization. (2) There may be training administered by Coast Guard teams. (3) The six WPCs still in the area, operate out of Bahrain, a council member, so USCG vessels may actually be incorporated in the organization in some way.

I also wonder if this might become a model for similar organizations in the South China Sea or the Caribbean.

Euronaval 2012 in Pictures–NavyRecognition

Our friend at NavyRecognition is preparing to cover the EuroNaval 2014 trade show, 27-31 Oct. In prep, he has linked to his coverage of the 2012 show. I’m not sure I ever referenced this, but it is a very complete photo essay. It includes 178 photos of the models and 56 of full size displays. The models include both concepts and completed ships including a number of Coast Guard sized patrol vessels (even the NSC). The full sized displays include a number of weapon systems, including some we have talked about here. It may be two years old but I think it is still worth a look.

Looking forward to the coverage of the 2014 show.

Time to Ditch the 57mm?

The MK46 Mod 1 weapon system fires a round during a live-fire qualification exercise aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD-18). US NAvy Photo

The MK46 Mod 1 weapon system fires a round during a live-fire qualification exercise aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD-18). US NAvy Photo

DefenseNews reports on the controversial decision to replace the planned installation of the 57mm Mk110 on the DDG-1000s with the smaller, lighter 30mm Mk46.

The remarks by the project manager in defense of the decision seem to raise questions regarding the Coast Guard’s choice of the 57mm Mk110.

640px-US_Navy_100622-N-7058E-161_The_littoral_combat_ship_USS_Freedom_(LCS_1)_fires_its_MK_110_57mm_gun_during_a_surface_gunnery_test
Photo: Mk110 57mm gun on USS Freedom (LCS-1) during surface gunnery test firing

The Mark 110 57mm gun, “was nowhere near meeting the requirements,” said Capt. Jim Downey, program manager for the DDG 1000 Zumwalt class.

In fact, Downey said, the 57mm gun — selected years ago for the DDG 1000 as a close-in weapon and in service as the primary gun for the littoral combat ship and Coast Guard national security cutters — is overrated.

“They were significantly over-modeled on the lethality,” he said. “The results of the actual live test-fire data was that the round was not as effective as modeled.”

For the DDG 1000’s particular requirements, however, Downey said the 30mm met more overall performance points than the 76mm or 57mm guns. All three guns were part of his program review, with the 30 coming in just ahead of the 76 and significantly ahead of the 57.

The program manager also contends the lighter weight of the Mk46 was not a consideration.

“That is absurd, the fact that we changed the guns for weights,” he said in a September interview. “The weight had zero, absolutely, 100 percent nothing to do with the decision on the guns.”

Still it is hard not to believe the choice was a result of a misguided, overly restricted decision criteria. Surely the criteria had to focus on effectiveness against swarms of small fast surface vessels, because the Mk46 has no AAW capability. Even this scenario has to be called into question because of the short effective range of the 30mm.

One retired senior surface warfare officer questioned the choice of the 30mm, which, he said, was effective only to about 2,200 yards.

“If they’re going to use the 30mm as the answer, they’re going to let some ships get in pretty close,” he said.

“When you look … at engaging swarm boats, [the 30mm] can’t even begin to engage effectively until they’re about a mile from the ship, and by then you’re in rocket-propelled grenade range,” the retired senior officer said. “The 57,” he added, “has an effective range of about two to three miles.”

Even if the criteria are flawed, the DDG-1000 program manager seems to know something about the 57mm that the Coast Guard does not. We probably should look at his team’s data.

As I have stated before, in order to minimize the probability that extemporized weapons could disable a cutter, the Coast Guard needs a standoff range of at least 4,000 yards so I cannot see how the 30mm is a good choice.

Still, if the 30mm more effective than the 57mm in the anti-surface mission, perhaps it is time to reconsider the choice of primary weapons for the OPCs? Should we go back to the 76mm or perhaps consider the 5″. Or should we dispense with a medium caliber gun entirely in favor of small guided missiles, with perhaps a weight/space/moment reservation for later installation if we become engaged in a prolonged major conflict?

The Coast Guard must also consider countering small fast surface craft but only in small numbers, with the likely complication that they would likely attempt to avoid the cutter rather than closing the range to attack it, and for that I believe small guided missiles are a better choice than any gun.

Earlier we talked about how the OPC might be designed for wartime, but built for peacetime. Recently I have come to believe the peacetime weapons outfit of virtually all cutters, WPC (perhaps WPB) and above, should include a stabilized heavy machinegun mount like the Mk38, some small precision guided weapons (like SeaGriffin, Hellfire, or Brimstone), and light weight anti-surface torpedoes (not to say they should not have other systems). This would allow all these cutters to fire warning shots (with the Mk38), destroy small, fast targets (using the guided weapons), and immobilize even large ships from outside the effective range of extemporized weapons (using the torpedoes). Right now, I don’t believe there is a light weight torpedo with an anti-surface capability in the US inventory, so we need some other system to provide this capability, until we can get the Navy to provide an appropriate torpedo, and we need to have it on relatively small cutters because when the need is recognized the NSCs and OPCs are not likely to be available.

improvised weapons
Photo: Extemporized weapons–actually a Chinese test

More Weapon Options

Video: Hellfire launch from a 52 foot Combat Boat 90.

Previously we have talked about several guided weapons with potential for use by the Coast Guard for stopping small fast craft that might be used for a terrorist attack, while minimizing the chances of collateral damage. These included guided 70mm rockets (there are actually several different similar adaptations of the 70mm Hydra including, BAE’s APKWS, Lockheed’s DAGR, and Raytheon TALON), in addition to larger SeaGriffin, Hellfire, and Brimstone missiles, but we have not talked much about launchers, with minor exceptions.

Our friend at ThinkDefence recently did a post about the Brimstone missile, “Dual Mode Brimstone Greatest Hits,” and speculated on additional ways it might be used. He showed a number of launchers and I realized, perhaps it was time to show some of the alternatives with the purpose of showing that these systems are not that large, and would have relatively little impact on the ships.

In fact some of these launchers are quite small.

Protectorw70mmRocket

Photo: KongsbergSeaProtector gun mount with 70mm rocket launchers

Lockheed has a land based pedestal launcher that handles both Hellfire and 70mm rockets. For our purposes it would probably have to be “marineized” but the size looks reasonable.

Raytheon has demonstrated their version of the guided Hydra 70mm rocket using a standard rocket pod of the type commonly used on helicopters mounted on a remotely controlled weapon station.
LAU-68launcherTALONmissile
Photo: Raytheon TALON 70mm guided rocket fired from LAU-68 launcher

Most of these launchers look to be like those used on aircraft. It is not clear that the weapons could be mounted and left for months or years until needed. The weapons might have to be stored elsewhere and mounted only when use is anticipated. On the other hand, the launcher used for the SeaGriffin as recently mounted on Navy Cyclone Class PCs looks to be suitable for long term storage.

121211-N-HW977-692

We have heard that the Navy tested vertical launching the Hellfire on a 65 foot boat, simulating an LCS, and that they expect to mount vertically launched Hellfires on the LCS. Hopefully this will be a good option for cutters as well, with the capability of holding the missiles at the ready for long periods.

UK Builds Cutter X

OPV infographic
Photo: https://navynews.co.uk/archive/news/item/11615, Click to enlarge

(Note the helicopter in the illustration may make the ship appear smaller than it really is because the helicopter, a Merlin, is actually quite large, with a max. take off weight approximately 50% than an H-60.)

The Royal Navy blog, NavyNews, has announced the start of work on the first of three new 90 meter (295 foot) OPVs.

These are closely related to the three ships built for Trinidad and Tobago that I had suggested the Coast Guard might buy or lease, that ultimately went to Brazil as the Amazonas class after the original buyer refused to accept them.

At a total cost of 348M pounds ($558.8M or an average of $186M each) they cost a bit more than I had hoped for Cutter X ($175M), and quite a bit more than the cost of the three built for Trinidad and Tabago ($80M each). Still these are very close to what the Coast Guard could build as Cutter X.

The planned crew (34) is smaller than I would have expected.

Still they represent some very capable patrol vessels that the Coast Guard may have an opportunity to work with in the Caribbean.