“Coast Guard Expedites ScanEagle ISR Services for National Security Cutters” –SEAPOWER

A small unmanned aircraft system operator recovers an sUAS (Scan Eagle–Chuck) after a flight from Coast Guard Cutter Stratton in the South China Sea Sept. 16, 2019. The sUAS is capable of flying for more than 20 hours and has a maximum speed of about 60 mph. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn.

The Navy Leagues Seapower web site is reporting that the Coast Guard will have Scan Eagle UAV systems installed on all currently operational National Security Cutters by the end of 2020, and in addition that the systems will be installed on the Offshore Patrol Cutters.

There is a lot of significant information in this report. 

Contractors still control the UAVs.

“Insitu installs the UAVs and their launch-and-recovery equipment and ground-control stations on board the ships, he said. Insitu sends four-person teams to deploy with each ship. They operate the entire system once on board. The teams are fully embedded with their ship’s crew.”

The sensor package.

“A standard pack-out for a deployment is three ScanEagle UAVs, he said. The sensor systems include and electro-optical/infrared camera, a laser pointer, a communication relay, an Automatic Identification System interrogator and Vidar (visual detection and ranging, a surface search capability).”

The increased search capability.

Currier said that before deployment of the ScanEagle the NSC had a scan of 35 miles either side of the ship with its organic sensors.

“With ScanEagle on board, for good parts of the day, you’re up to 75 miles either side of the ship as you’re moving through the sea space,” he said. “ScanEagle is a game-changer.”

“We’ve effectively doubled the search area of a national security cutter,” Tremain said. “We’re he only company flying with Vidar, and we’re surveilling up to 1,000 square miles of open ocean per flight hour, and we’re identifying greater than 90% of the targets.”

You might think these would not be much of an improvement over a ship based manned helicopter, but in fact the helicopter would probably not be air borne searching more than four hours a day, while three Scan Eagles could conceivably maintain a watch 24 hour a day. Additionally a helicopters sensors are probably not as effective as the VIDAR on the Scan Eagle.

Using these for search rather than the helicopter, also means less wear and tear on the helicopter, and that the helicopter is more likely to be available when it is really needed.

A New 30mm Round –Maybe a Reason to Upgrade the Mk38 Mounts

Military.com reports that Northrop Grumman is developing a proximity fuse for the 30mm gun that arms the San Antonio class LPDs and is part of the Surface Warfare module on the Littoral Combat Ship. The new round is being developed for use against drones, which are a difficult target to hit directly. It might also make the gun more effective against the small boat threat and should improve its chances against aircraft.

The Coast Guard also has an interest in being able to down drones, but this may also be of interest to the Coast Guard because it may provide the incentive needed to upgrade the guns used on Mk38 gun mounts, not just in the Coast Guard, but in the Navy as well. We have known for a long time that the 30mm round is much more effective than the 25mm round, but there has been no movement toward replacing the 25mm guns.

The Mk44 Bushmaster II, 30 mm chain gun is a derivative of the 25 mm M242 Bushmaster. They share a number of parts. All indications are that there would be no significant problem in replacing the M242 Bushmaster used in the Mk38 gun mounts with the more effective 30mm gun. The Mk38 gun mount is the primary armament of the 210 foot WMECs and Webber class Fast Response Cutters. It is expected to arm our Offshore Patrol Cutters and replace the 76mm on WMEC 270s that go through a planned Service Life Extension Program.

I really would rather see either the 50mm version of the Bushmaster III or the 40mm version of the Bushmaster II, but while none of these options are a complete answer to the Coast Guard’s need to be able to thwart a potential terrorist attack, any increase in projectile size allows both engagement at greater range and increases the probability of success against larger threats, while maintaining equal or better probability of success against smaller craft. The 30mm would be a significant improvement.

“Coast Guard MH-65 program moves into full rate production” –CG-9

This from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9):

Coast Guard MH-65 program moves into full rate production

H65

The Coast Guard MH-65 short range recovery helicopter program began full rate production of the MH-65E configuration in November 2019. CGNR 6522 was the first MH-65 to enter the composite shop phase in the program depot maintenance overhaul. U.S. Coast Guard photo.


The Coast Guard MH-65 short range recovery helicopter program began full rate production of the MH-65E configuration Nov. 21, 2019, with the transfer of CGNR 6522 to the Aviation Logistics Center (ALC) in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Two additional aircraft – CGNR 6514 and CGNR 6593– were transferred to the ALC production line in December 2019 and one – CGNR 6507 – was transferred in January 2020. The program is executing concurrent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) work and avionics upgrades for the MH-65E conversion on the entire fleet.

Full rate production means that the ALC will transition to producing MH-65Es at a rate of 22 aircraft per year.

The avionics upgrades include reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System; installation of a digital cockpit display system and an upgraded digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck with Common Avionics Architecture System, common with the Coast Guard H-60 medium range recovery helicopter and similar Department of Defense aircraft. Once the upgrades are complete, the helicopter is redesignated an MH-65E.

At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing SLEP activities to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

The avionics upgrades and SLEP are being completed at the same time to achieve schedule and cost efficiencies.

The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by fiscal year 2024.

For more information: MH-65 program page

“Coast Guard is Refining FY 2021 Funding Pitch” –USNI

The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice around the Russian-flagged tanker Renda 250 miles south of Nome Jan. 6, 2012. The Healy is the Coast Guard’s only currently operating polar icebreaker. The vessels are transiting through ice up to five-feet thick in this area. The 370-foot tanker Renda will have to go through more than 300 miles of sea ice to get to Nome, a city of about 3,500 people on the western Alaska coastline that did not get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm. If the delivery of diesel fuel and unleaded gasoline is not made, the city likely will run short of fuel supplies before another barge delivery can be made in spring. (AP Photo/US Coast Guard – Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis) NY112

The US Naval Institute news service based on comments by Vice Commandant Charles Ray, during the 2020 Surface Navy Association Symposium, reports that the Coast Guard is putting more emphasis on addressing long standing short falls in shore-side facilities. They are also attempting to improve communications with particular reference to communications in the Arctic.

The Arctic comms issue definitely caught the eye of commenters. Don’t overlook the comments.

China Maritime Safety Agency to Build 10,700 Ton Cutter

This is not the ship discussed here, but is similar in size.   Photo from http://defence-blog.com/news/photos-charge-of-the-10000-ton-china-coast-guard-cutter.html  

South China Morning Post reports that the China Maritime Safety Administration has started work on their largest cutter ever, 10,700 tons. That is more than twice the size of the National Security Cutters and if they are using light displacement as is frequently done in Asia, it may be three times as large.

At 165 metres (540 feet) long and 20.6 metres wide, the vessel will weigh in at 10,700 tonnes and be large enough to accommodate several types of helicopters. According to earlier reports it is expected to be completed by September next year.

China’s Maritime Safety Agency was the only one of five Chinese Maritime agencies that did coast guard type work, that was not incorporated into the China Coast Guard. Unlike the China Coast Guard, the Maritime Safety Agency is still a civilian agency. They have a fairly large fleet and their vessels are unarmed.

The Japanese and South Koreans also build large cutters, but not this large.

“U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army conduct first real world test of Advanced Battle Management System” in NorthCom –Navy Recognition

Coast Guardsmen secure communications equipment to a line to bring it aboard USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) in the Gulf of Mexico Dec. 16, 2019. The Navy used that equipment during the first demonstration of the Advanced Battle Management System, operators across the Air Force, Army, Navy and industry tested multiple real-time data sharing tools and technology in a homeland defense-based scenario enacted by U.S. Northern Command and enabled by Air Force senior leaders at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 16-18 (Picture source: U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Karissa Rodriguez)

There is good news and there is bad news.

NavyRecognition reports on an Homeland Defense exercise run by NorthCom using an Advanced Battle Management System.

A three-day-long exercise of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) tested technology being developed to enable the military’s developing concept called Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). When fully realized, senior leaders say JADC2 will be the backbone of operations and deterrence, allowing U.S. forces from all services as well as allies to orchestrate military operations across all domains, such as sea, land, air, space and cyber operations. The technology under development via ABMS enables this concept by simultaneously receiving, fusing and acting upon a vast array of data and information from each of these domains – all in an instant. The Air Force expects to receive around $185 million this fiscal year for this effort and intends to bolster these resources over the next five years, underscoring both its importance and potential.

It looks like this exercise was viewed primarily a counter to the possibility of a cruise missile attack. but interestingly it included an Army HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) unit equipped with a mobile surface to surface missile launcher. I presume in light of the nature of the exercise they would have been shooting at a maritime surface target.

The problem with this exercise is that other than delivering a piece of equipment as depicted in the photo above, it appears the Coast Guard played no part in the exercise. If there is a maritime surface threat to the United States, what is the most likely agent to detect it–the USCG. US Navy presence along the US Coast is extremely limited. Significant armed US Navy surface warships are based in the US in only five major port complexes, Pearl Harbor, Puget Sound, San Diego, Mayport, and Chesapeake Bay. Other than training and transit, they spend almost no time underway in US waters.

This looks like an attempt allow a coordinated response to an attack on the US using all available assets. The fact that this is, to say the least, difficult has lead me to believe the Coast Guard should be independently capable of responding to unconventional maritime threats. Even a common operational picture will not guarantee success. Defense assets are not always based within range for timely action. Most Air Force and Army pilots have no training in recognizing various ships types, so even if they arrive on scene, with appropriate ordnance, they may not know which ships is hostile. Giving Coast Guard units laser designators to identify the target and even point to where the target should be struck, might help. In any case, the Coast Guard needs to be included in access to any “Advanced Battle Management System” “Joint All Domain Command and Control” that is expected to defend the US.

“Guardian” (General Atomic MQ-9) –DmitryShulgin

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

Dmitry Shulgin reports on the recent demonstration of the Maritime version of General Atomic’s MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Air System and its “Detect and Avoid” system held in Greece for European Defense Officials.

The Coast Guard has had a notional requirement for shore based Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) that goes back at least to the beginnings of the Deepwater program, two decades ago.

The most significant block to the wide spread use of UAS has been fear of mid air collisions with manned aircraft, because they could not “See and Avoid.” The General Atomic claims they have solved this problem with a Detect And Avoid (DAA) system.

The DAA system consists of an air-to-air radar integrated with Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). The DAA system enables safe flight of an MQ-9 in civil airspace, and can even detect air traffic that is not actively transmitting its position.

The Coast Guard has yet to procure a land based long duration UAS for Maritime Domain Awareness. Congress has been pushing the Coast Guard to pursue this capability. There have been some tentative steps, here and  here. It appears there are now off the shelf options.

“Currently GA-ASI aircraft systems support the Italian Air Force, the UK Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, and the Spanish Air Force. The Ministry of Defence for the Netherlands has selected MQ-9 for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, and the Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to negotiate the acquisition of GA-ASI’s MQ-9B. In early December, the Australian Government announced selection of MQ-9B for the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003. GA-ASI RPAS are operated by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NASA.”

The equipment included in the Guardian version of the MQ-9 is impressive, in addition to High-Definition/Full-Motion Video Optical and Infrared sensors, it includes Raytheon’s SeaVue multi-mode, maritime surface-search radar that is claimed to provide continuous tracking of maritime targets and correlation of Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitters with radar detections and an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) mode that facilitates classification of vessels which are beyond optical sensor range.

For the demonstration, GA-ASI partnered with SES, a leading satellite communications (SATCOM) operator and managed services provider, with over 70 satellites in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). SES provided the GEO satellite connectivity that enabled the MQ-9 to operate securely with a high capacity datalink, enabling real-time transmission of sensor data from the aircraft, and extending its effective operational range far beyond that of «line-of-sight» datalinks.

Meanwhile, the Navy is supposed to be deploying a fleet of MQ-4C Triton UAS to complement their new P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. Some will be based in Mayport, NAS Point Mugu, Hawaii, and Guam. If their “Board Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS)” system provides comprehensive coverage of the US EEZ and the drug transit zones, and if they share their information with the Coast Guard, maybe we don’t need our own assets, I have my doubts. If not, perhaps it is time for a Request for Proposal?