“Coast Guard Cutter Kimball returns home from expeditionary patrol in the Pacific” –D14 Press Release

Ships from the U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard conducted exercises near the Ogasawara Islands of Japan, Feb. 21, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball and Japan Coast Guard Ship Akitsushima, two of the respective services’ newest and most capable vessels, operated alongside helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to practice interdicting foreign vessels operating illegally inside Japanese waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball/Released)


Below is a news release from District 14 

united states coast guard 

News Release  

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230
After Hours: HawaiiPacific@uscg.mil
14th District online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Kimball returns home from expeditionary patrol in the Pacific

USCGC Kimball and Japan Coast Guard USCGC Kimball 

USCGC Kimball and USS Tulsa USCGC Kimball

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download a high-resolution version.

HONOLULU — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) returned to Honolulu Friday after completing an expeditionary patrol supporting Operation Blue Pacific, Op Rai Balang, and Op Aloha Shield in the Pacific.

During the 82 day patrol the cutter’s crew worked closely with partners and allied nations on numerous missions ranging from search and rescue to the prevention of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) while promoting stability and security throughout the region.

“I’m tremendously proud of my crew’s exceptional performance, especially considering how their dedication and teamwork allowed them to overcome the many challenges associated with operating by ourselves for long periods of time in remote locations and the difficulties created by the global pandemic,” said Capt. Holly Harrison, the Kimball’s commanding officer. “They adapted and overcame every obstacle and challenge put in their way with ease, exactly what you’d expect from our phenomenal Coast Guardsmen and women.”

One of the main goals of the 20,000 nautical-mile patrol was to assist the United States’ partners in the region with combating IUU.

Throughout the deployment the cutter’s crew worked closely with the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) during Op Rai Balang, a coordinated effort between partners in the region to combat IUU, while also enforcing Western and Central Fisheries Commission regulations on the high seas to protect the region’s fish stocks.

Fish stocks are a vital renewable resource for many nations in the Pacific. Because of the migratory nature of fish, efforts towards their conservation requires teamwork between the partner nations.

The multi-million-dollar IUU fishing industry represents a direct threat to the partners efforts to ensure these resources remain sustainable for years to come and throughout the patrol the crew of the Kimball worked with the governments of the Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Papau New Guinea to strengthen domain awareness and resource security within the nation’s economic exclusive zones.

During the patrol the crew queried 21 foreign fishing vessels, and boarded six generating vital information reports for the partners in their efforts to combat IUU.

“The National Security Cutters bring a capacity and capability into the Coast Guard which are truly game changing when it comes to curbing IUU in the Pacific,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Sibley, commander, Coast Guard 14th District. “Patrols such as the Kimball’s display these cutters ability to cover large swaths of the Pacific and support our partners in joint conservation efforts while contributing to the overall stability of the region.”

The Kimball is one of the Coast Guard’s newer 420-foot Legend-class National Security Cutter and boasts a wide array of modern capabilities helping the crew to complete their varied missions.

Throughout the patrol the crew utilized the cutter’s ability to deploy Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to collect observation reports on vessels of interest which were shared with Maritime Security Advisors and the FFA Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center.

The UAS was also utilized during both day and night searches for a missing mariner southwest of Guam displaying the versatility of the new technology and its potential in multiple types of missions.

Another key goal of the patrol was to increase interoperability between the Coast Guard and our partners in the region.

The Kimball’s crew participated in a number of exercises with partners in the region including training with a Royal Australian Navy Sea Dragon aircraft (Boeing P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft–Chuck) crew during the FFA Op Rai Balang, joint interdiction training with the Japan Coast Guard Ship Akitsushima, and an exercise with the USS Tulsa (LCS-16).

“Over the past 82-days, Kimball’s crew conducted joint operations with the Japanese Coast Guard, Royal Australian Navy, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, and U.S. Navy.” said Harrison. “In each operation, we were thoroughly impressed with our partners’ professionalism, skill, and commitment to Oceania and regional security.”

“US-Taiwan coast guard partner to blunt potential Chinese invasion” –Washington Examiner

Taiwan Coast Guard cutter KAOSHIUNG

MSN and Washington Examiner report on a new agreement between the US and Taiwanese Coast Guard. Despite the flashy headline the Coast Guard is not going to protect Taiwan from invasion by the PRC. It is really a lot more like the network of working arrangements we have with other countries, but China, of course, objected. 

When I googled the agreement to find out more, the number of reports of China’s fury over the agreement, like this one: China denounces US-Taiwan coast guard cooperation agreement (yahoo.com), far outnumbered reports of the agreement itself. Getting China spun up is its own reward.

Again based on the Google search, the agreement received a surprising amount of attention in India with reports like this: US, Taiwan sign coast guard deal to Counter China – Times of India (indiatimes.com)

There was a surprising twist in that Palau seems to have been played a part in this. Taiwan hints at Coast Guard alliance with U.S., Palau (globalsecurity.org)

(With the help of Non-Governmental Organizations, we seem to be working toward an internationally shared system for tracking fishing activity and hopefully detecting Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported fishing that would benefit nations like Palau, one of the 15 nations that still recognize Taiwan.)

The Chinese have sought to isolate Taiwan in every way possible way so any kind of contact sets them off.

Meanwhile, China’s claim of sovereignty over most of the South China Sea has its routes in a claim made by the Nationalist Chinese government shortly after WWII, that Taiwan still supports. That puts them at odds with other nations including Japan. 

A water cannon battle between Taiwanese and Japanese Coast Guard vessels.

Coast Guard Exercises with Bahrain Navy and Coast Guard

Royal Bahrain Naval Force fast attack craft RBNS Abdul Rahman Al-Fadel (P 22), Bahrain Coast Guard response boats Hawar 5 and Hawar 4, U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72), patrol coastal ships USS Squall (PC 7) and USS Hurricane (PC 3), U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Adak (WBP 1333) and two Mark VI patrol boats operate information during exercise Neon Defender in the Persian Gulf. (Picture source: US Navy)

Navy Recognition reports on a joint US/Bahrain exercise that included USCGC Adak and a Coast Guard Maritime Engagement team

Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAS, the Northrop Grumman Firebird

The Coast Guard has long talked about the need for a Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) land based unmanned aircraft. I have assumed the most likely contender was the MQ-9B, but it looks like there may be another contender, an Optionally Manned aircraft developed by Burt Rutan‘s Scaled Composites. This is the Northrop Grumman Firebird.

Airforce-Technology.com reports that during a recent almost 9,000 mile series of demonstration flights that,

“During the flight tests concluded in Florida, the Northrop team conducted a series of ‘manned maritime operational events’.

“These events comprised a four-sensor package that included two high-definition electro-optical/infra-red EO/IR sensors, a maritime configured multi-spectral sensor for small target detection, as well as an automatic identification system (AIS) receiver.”

I don’t think this maritime demonstration would have been for the Navy, since they are already committed to the jet powered MQ-4C Triton.

Apparently the Firebird is already in service with an unspecified Federal Agency. I would guess this is probably a DHS agency.

I was a bit surprised to see that the aircraft is powered by a typical general aviation aircraft engine, the Lycoming TO-540. That means it uses AvGas rather than the fuel typically used by Coast Guard turbine powered aircraft, but it also means that the fuel is available at virtually every airport and its maintenance is familiar to thousands of aircraft mechanics all over the world.

“Aviation upgrades night vision goggles” –MyCG

Below is a story from MyCG. Will the surface forces also get this upgrade?

Aviation upgrades night vision goggles

By Lt. Cmdr. Kyle Russell, MyCG Contributor

View through current ANVIS-9
View through white phosphorus AN/AVS-9

Coast Guard aviation is following the lead of the Department of Defense (DoD), and investing in more capable night vision goggles (NVG) for the fleet. These NVGs will increase the capabilities of our crews as they perform all night missions, especially the aviation use of force mission at HITRON, the rotary wing air intercept mission in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and shipboard deployments. 

The AN/AVS-9 white phosphor night vision goggles (WP-NVG) are a recent upgrade to the current generation of the ANVIS-9 NVG platform Coast Guard aircrews currently use. WP-NVG improvements consist of an improved image intensifier tube and is fully interchangeable with the legacy image intensifier tubes in current USCG aviation NVGs. This new technology provides improved resolution and a substantially higher figure of merit (FOM) (line pairs per millimeter x signal-to noise ratio) than the current ANVIS-9 system.  

The U.S. Army’s Aviation Research Lab (USAARL) and the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command Flight Test Squadron conducted extensive testing on WP-NVGs based on demand from special operations aviation communities for improved night vision systems and the overwhelming justification stems from user surveys indicating increased resolution, comfort, and ability to identify objects.

Additional testing conducted by Coast Guard crews agreed with the DoD testers which ultimately led to the recapitalization of the fleet. The Aviation Logistics Center Engineering Services Division is currently managing the rollout efforts for the WP-NVGs and as of mid-March, 11 units have received new intensifier tubes, with a priority being given to rotary wing assets.  The fleet transition is estimated to be complete in the fall of 2021. 

“CMF: French Navy, CTF-150 make 5 drugs seizures in 6 days” –NavalToday.Com

NavalToday reported,

“French Marine Nationale ships have achieved five seizures of illicit drugs in just six days, whilst participating in a counter-narcotics focused operation under the command of Combined Maritime Forces’ (CMF) Canadian-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.”

Drug interdiction in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility. PATFORSWA probably had something to do with this. Information about CTF 150 here.

“FORCE MAJEURE: CHINA’S COAST GUARD LAW IN CONTEXT” –Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

This Chinese coast guard ship is equipped with weapons believed to be 76-millimeter guns. © Kyodo

The Asia Transparency Initiative looks at China’s recent changes to their laws regarding use of deadly force by their Coast Guard, comparing it to the US and other regional coast guards.

Really the issue is not the authorities themselves, but rather China’s views of what is theirs and what is illegal, which deviate sharply from those of the international community.

 “Articles 20 and 21 are worrying not because they authorize unique powers for the CCG, but because they suggest a readiness to make use of those powers across all waters China claims within its jurisdiction. China makes a vast but purposely ambiguous claim to jurisdiction over almost the entire South and East China Seas. Based on those claims, Article 20 could easily be interpreted as authorizing the CCG to dismantle not only foreign outposts on the Spratlys, but even floating platforms and artificial islands in the reefs and open waters of its neighbors’ EEZs. And Article 21 could likewise authorize the CCG to expel Southeast Asian law enforcement, military, and other government vessels from their own EEZs. These authorities could be used to justify the use of force in the increasingly frequent standoffs between Chinese and Southeast Asian government vessels over oil and gas, fishing, and survey activity across the South China Sea.”

The analysis also suggests that use of force restrictions on the Philippine Coast Guard are unusually tight.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention.

Updated: “Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement” –CRS, 31 March, 2021

The Congressional Research Service has again updated their report on Coast Guard cutter procurement. (The link will always take you to the most recent edition of the report.) I have reproduced the summary in full below. I have applied emphasis by “bolding” some parts, but first some comments. 

As you will see below, the Congress is still keeping the option of NSC#12 open, and, in fact, they are asking the Coast Guard if there isn’t justification for it. 

“The Committee is disappointed that the Coast Guard has not officially conveyed to the Committee a determination on whether a twelfth NSC is required…” (Explanatory Statement, p. 25) “The Coast Guard is encouraged to officially convey a determination to the Committees as to whether a 12th vessel is needed.” (Conference, p. 25)

With the expansion of the Coast Guard’s support for distant missions, and the delays in the delivery of the OPCs, looks like we could make a good case for NSC#12.

Congress has asked for a reevaluation of our needs, 

SEC. 9422 (re. Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020, p. 26). Report on fast response cutters, offshore patrol cutters, and national security cutters.
(a) In general.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commandant shall submit to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives a report on the combination of Fast Response Cutters, Offshore Patrol Cutters, and National Security Cutters necessary to carry out Coast Guard missions. 
(b) Elements.—The report required by subsection (a) shall include—
(1) an updated cost estimate for each type of cutter described in such subsection; and (2) a cost estimate for a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility outfitted to manage data in a manner equivalent to the National Security Cutter Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities.

So far I have heard nothing to indicate the Coast Guard has complied with this request, which was enacted into law 92 days ago. This report and the determination of the requirement for NSC#12 may be tied up in DHS.

I assume the “…cost estimate for a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility outfitted to manage data in a manner equivalent to the National Security Cutter Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities” refers to adding this capability to the Offshore Patrol Cutter. 


The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requested a total of $597 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs; Congress provided a total of $837 million for FY2021, with the additional $240 million being for the FRC program.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2021 has fully funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. In FY2020, Congress provided $100.5 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 12th NSC, so as to preserve the option of procuring a 12th NSC while the Coast Guard evaluates its future needs. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requested $31 million in procurement funding for activities within the NSC program; this request did not include further funding for a 12th NSC. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget also proposed a rescission of $70 million of the $100.5 million that Congress provided for a 12th NSC, with the intent of reprogramming that funding to the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program; Congress did not approve this request. Nine NSCs have entered service; the ninth was commissioned into service on March 19, 2021.

OPCs are to be less expensive and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC and PSC programs as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requested $546 million in procurement funding for
the third OPC, LLTM for the fourth, and other program costs. On October 11, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which the Coast Guard is a part, announced that DHS had granted extraordinary contractual relief to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL, the builder of the first four OPCs, under P.L. 85-804 as amended (50 U.S.C. 1431-1435), a law that authorizes certain federal agencies to provide certain types of extraordinary relief to contractors who are encountering difficulties in the performance of federal contracts or subcontracts relating to national defense. The Coast Guard is holding a full and open competition for a new contract to build OPCs 5 through 15. On January 29, 2021, the Coast
Guard released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for this Stage 2 contract, as it is called. Responses to the RFP are due by May 28, 2021. The Coast Guard plans to award the Stage 2 contract in the second quarter of FY2022. 

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 64 have been funded through FY2021, including four in FY2021. Six of the 64 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the 58-ship POR quantity for the program, which relates to domestic operations. Forty of the 64 have been commissioned into service, and three others have been accepted by the Coast Guard and are awaiting commissioning. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requested $20 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request did not include funding for any additional FRCs.

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, was delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)