Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America: Coast Guard Sea, Land, and Air Capabilities–House Subcommittee Hearing

 

The hearing recorded above was held 7 June. The original video was found here. That page also provides the chairman’s opening statement and links to the witnesses’ written statements that are also provided immediately below. The video does not actually start until time 4:30.

Below, you will find my outline of the highlights.

Witness List:

  • Vice Admiral Charles W. Ray, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Vice Admiral Sandra L. Stosz, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director, Acquisition Sourcing & Management Team, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony
  • Mr. John Acton, Chairman, Coast Guard Affairs Committee, Navy League of the United States | Written Testimony

The GAO’s written testimony is particularly comprehensive. They report that new assets (NSCs and FRCs) are not meeting planned availability. There have been an unexpected number of engine replacements. In the case of the National Security cutters it appears to me the down time was predictable, a normal part of introducing new ships and availability should return to planned levels as more ships join the fleet. The known defect, that when operating in waters 74 degrees or warmer, the NSCs cannot maintain maximum speed has apparently not been corrected. Max speed must be reduced two to four knots to allow adequate cooling.

Planning Documents:  The Congressional Representatives repeatedly complained that they were not getting an unsensored statement of the Coast Guard’s needs. It appears the Coast Guard is not being allowed provide this information. Rather it appears the GAO is telling the Coast Guard how much they will be getting and told to submit a budget that fits the predetermined amounts. Reportedly the Unfunded priorities list will be provided by the end of June. They also asked for the 5 year and 20 year plan (1h04:30). Coast Guard representatives were repeatedly told the Coast Guard does not say what they really need, that information provided by the Coast Guard is inadequate for the sub-committee to make decisions (1h48m).

It appears that the GAO continues to ask the Coast Guard to plan procurements based on historically low AC&I appropriations that were adequate for a time because of the sporadic character of Coast Guard ship building. They acknowledge that the current budget is not realistic. (43:45)

The Coast Guard is now consistent in requesting $2B in the AC&I annually and a 5% annual increase in its operating budget and that we need 5,000 additional active duty billets and 1,100 addtional reservists. There was a statement from one of the Representatives to the effect, We need you to fight for yourselves (1h50:30). The representatives were informed that the 5 year, 20 year plans and unfunded will be delivered together (1:56)

My opinion: we need a regularly revised Fleet Mix Study. That in turn should feed directly into a 30 year ship and aircraft procurement plan

Webber Class WPCs: The Coast Guard is reportedly pushing WPCs operations down as far as the coast of South America. (50:00) This confirms my earlier speculation that these ships would be operated in what had been WMEC roles. Six cutters for CENTCOM The representative confirmed that they had approved procurement of six Webber class requested by CENTCOM. Apparently their approval was in the form of the Coast Guard reauthorization bill which has still not been made law. Adm. Ray stated that these would be in addition to the 58 currently planned (9:30) and it is not clear how or when they would be funded. Adm Stosz indicated it was not certain six Webber class would be the Coast Guard’s choice in how to fill this requirement and the question required more study. (1h11)(1h41m).

Shore Facilities: Reportedly there is a $1.6B shore construction backlog. $700M shore facilities maintenance backlog. Some infrastructure improvements that directly support new operational platforms.are being accomplished under the platform programs (55:00) The representatives asked, why we have asked for only $10M if the total shore facilities backlog is $2.3B?(1h35)

Icebreakers: The possibility of leasing the commercial icebreaker Aiviq is still being considered. (1h27) The owners have offered a plan for Ice trials and the Coast Guard has said it would be interested in observing. (1h29:50)

Great Lakes Icebreaker: Rep. Lewis brought up icebreaker for Great Lakes.Adm Ray says for now we will address with the existing fleet. (1h00:30) Priority is still Polar Ice Breakers.

eLoran: There seems to be considerable interest in eLoran to deal with GPS vulnerabilities. (1:22) The Navy League representative supported the need. The Re-Authorization Bill directs Secretary of Transportation to initiate E-Loran testing. There was a clear anticipation that the Coast Guard would support implementation.

Coast Guard Health Care: Looks like the Coast Guard heath care records system which reverted to paper now may be able to piggy back on the VA’s conversion to the DOD system. (1h25)/(1h32:30) There is currently a major gap in funding for medical care of CG retirees

A Better Armed Coast Guard: Not that the Representatives were specific, but there was a statement, “We want to weaponize you.” (5:55) I think I heard essentially a second time as well. I’m not sure what that means.

Rising Sea Levels: There was concern expressed regarding rising sea level and how they might impact shore facilities (1h12:20)

WMEC Service Life Extension: The Coast Guard was given money several years ago to plan a service life extension program for 270. The Congress has not seen or heard any result and they questioned, why delay? (1:09) See fig. 4 on page 17 of the GAO’s written testimony

Operating Expenses: Replacement ships are costing more.(26:25)(50:55). This is becoming problematic without an increase in operating budget.

Changing the way we buy ships: Included in the Reauthorization Bill are changes in the way the Coast Guard can fund its shipbuilding, putting us on par with the Navy (5:50)

Cyber: Budget includes 70 additional billets. (19:45)  What are we doing for the ports? (1h13:45)

Inland Tender Fleet: Budget includes $!M to investigate alternatives. (52:30) (1h19)

It is remarkable that there seemed to be no sentiment that the Coast Guard budget should be cut, while there was considerable evidence the Representatives believe the Coast Guard is underfunded.

Metal Shark Builds WPBs for FMS

Metal Shark Illustration. RHIB pictured is 5.5 meters

NavyRecognition reports that Metal Shark has been awarded a contract

“…potentially worth upwards of $54 million, Metal Shark will build up to thirteen 85-foot Defiant-class welded aluminum cutters for the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and other United States partner nations. Additionally, Metal Shark will supply electro-optical infrared sensors, diagnostic equipment, in-country reactivation, crew familiarization, and test support to NCPV (Near Coastal Patrol Vessel–Chuck) operators.

That is only $4.154M/ boat. This looks an awful lot like a potential replacement for the Marine Protector class 87 foot WPBs, the first of which should be replaced in 2023. The Metal Shark boats are a version of Damen’s Stan Patrol 2606 design, so nominally 26 meters long and 6 meters of beam, but according to the Website, 87′ length overall with a beam of 19’6″. The Marine Protector Class were also a Damen 2600 series design, so the two classes share a great deal of DNA.

There is more information on the boats at the company website here. Unfortunately there appears to be no information on speed, range, or endurance. I would presume those characteristics would at least equal those of the Marine Protector class

Would not be surprised to see the Coast Guard personnel tasked with some training for the crews of these new patrol boats.

Hull Vane Claims Improved Performance

“Wake behind transom on patrol boat at 11 kn without Hull Vane® (left) and with Hull Vane® (right), leading to 25% lower fuel consumption”

NavyRecognition reports on Hull Vane’s presentation at the MAST-Asia 2017 Conference.

The new NSCs and FRCs are costing more to fuel than the ships they replace. The OPCs will almost certainly cost more in fuel than the 210s and 270s, they will be replacing. This should not be surprising. These ships are larger and have much greater installed horsepower. Since our operating budget has not been growing, the greater fuel used, as more of these ships come on line, is going to become a problem. Surely we will try to get increased operating funding, but in the mean time we need to work on operating more economically.

If we have not already evaluated this design modification, we probably should.

In addition to fuel savings, addtional side benefits are claimed.

While reducing the energy consumption is usually the main goal, the Hull Vane® has additional effects which are very desirable for naval ships. When a ship sails in waves, the Hull Vane® dampens the pitching and yawing motions, making helicopter landings safer and improving the performance of onboard systems and personnel. As the Hull Vane® reduces the stern wave, the propeller loading and the engine power for a given speed, the ship will also have a reduced acoustic (and visual) signature. On newbuild naval ships, the cost savings on engine power to reach a given speed are generally much higher than the cost of the Hull Vane. Retrofitting a Hull Vane® on existing naval ships typically has a payback period of one to three years.

We did discuss this innovation earlier. I am going reproduce comments from my previous post on this topic.

First a disclaimer: I am from the Hull Vane sales team and I have presented the paper at the FAST conference. You can download a copy of this paper on our website (www.hullvane.com) from the news section. That will clarify a lot.

Then to answer some of the comments here (and the email quoted, which is not from our team as far as I know):

1. The Hull Vane is very different from a trim tab, because it’s a hydrofoil. Actually the design is not so much speed-dependent, but hull-shape dependent. When it works, it works on quite a wide speed range, as long as the speed is high enough (Froude number in general above 0.2). On the Holland-Class, we achieve a positive result over the entire speed range (from 5 knots to 22 knots), but that’s in part because the Hull Vane allowed (and actually required) a reduction of the depth of the trim wedge which is currently installed.

2. The Hull Vane is a new and patented fuel saving device. Of course hydrofoils have been used before, but never on displacement vessels with the purpose of generating forward thrust and reducing the wavemaking resistance.

3. The angle of attack is more a function of the buttock angle of the bottom plating than it is of the speed. That’s why having an adjustable Hull Vane (we looked at it) gives you a very marginal performance increase, while adding a lot of complexity (hydraulics, control mechanism, maintenance, etc.). The fixed Hull Vane works really well and is not more complex than bilge keels or a bulbous bow. The design is indeed complex and requires both know-how and accurate CFD simulations, taking into account both frictional and pressure drag. From our 12+ years of experience, we know how to get it right, but we also know that it’s very easy to get it wrong. There are ship types where we can’t achieve a positive result, but on patrol vessels and naval vessels, we have consistently achieved very good results.

4. Just like the rudders, and propellers, you indeed want to avoid marine growth, which has a more detrimental effect on appendages than on the main hull. There are solutions to this (coatings), and furthermore the Hull Vane is easily accessible for cleaning without drydocking. On the vessels sailing with the Hull Vane, marine growth has not been an issue.

5. Regarding our “limited abilities to accurately predict the flow field below and aft of a bluff transom vessel”, I completely disagree on that. Our parent company Van Oossanen Naval Architects has used CFD (Fine/Marine) for many years with excellent results, confirmed both by model tests and sea trial results. This includes the results we have obtained for the Hull Vane performance. For stuff like the Hull Vane, where viscous effects (and the thickness of the boundary layer) are important, we believe CFD to be more accurate than model tests.

6. The Hull Vane is not limited to “short fat frigate territory”. We have achieved good results also on the DTMB 5415, a slender destroyer hull shape released for research purposes. The performance is better however on the fuller-bodied and wider-transomed hull shapes like the typical US Coast Guard cutters, which we would very much like to do some work on.

To sum it up briefly, the Hull Vane is very comparable with the bulbous bow, although it looks totally different. If the bulbous bow hadn’t been applied as widely as it is, people would also find it hard to believe that it can reduce the resistance. The bulbous bow also requires careful design to work well and has a speed range in which it works well. One of the main advantages of the Hull Vane is that it also improves the seakeeping (reduced pitching, heaving, yawing and rolling). There’s a video on our website explaining the working principles very clearly. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Smugglers’ Boats Evolve

Very Slender Vessel (VSV). Guatemalan Ministry of Defense photo.

Popular Mechanics has a post on the way drug smuggling craft are evolving in an attempt to avoid detection. Specifically they have begun to use very slender hull forms for their self propelled semi-submersibles.

The post also has a link to perhaps the best collection of photos of smuggling craft I have ever seen.

Thanks to Peter O. for bringing this to my attention. 

Contract Award for FRC 39-44, Thoughts on Patrol Craft

Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco (WPC-1122) enters San Francisco Bay during the 6,200-mile trip from Key West, Florida, to its homeport in Ketchikan, Alaska, April 28, 2017. The cutter is the second fast response cutter based in Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Following is quoted verbatim news from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) Website.

Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Exercises Contract Option For FRCs 39-44

June 16, 2017

The Coast Guard awarded a $289 million contract option to Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana, June 9 for the production of six more fast response cutters (FRCs). This option award brings FRCs 39-44 under contract with Bollinger. The current FRC contract contains options for up to 58 cutters and is worth $1.5 billion if all options are exercised.

The Coast Guard is acquiring 58 FRCs to replace the 1980s-era Island-class 110-foot patrol boats. FRCs feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment; over-the-horizon cutter boat deployment to reach vessels of interest; and improved habitability and seakeeping. The cutters are designed for multiple missions, including drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense.

Twenty-two FRCs are in service, with six stationed in Miami; six in Key West, Florida; six in San Juan, Puerto Rico; two in Cape May, New Jersey; and two in Ketchikan, Alaska. Future FRC homeports include: Pascagoula, Mississippi; Atlantic Beach, North Carolina; San Pedro, California; and Honolulu.

Note a few things:

  1. While this is not the total cost of the vessel, the shipyard cost is less than $48.2M. As I recall this is a decrease from previous buys, reflecting the maturity of the program and the decision to order six at a time.
  2. This is presumably FY2017 money and it leaves 14 vessels for future funding. Both the previous and current administration have consistently requested four or fewer vessels be funded, but the Congress has been fairly consistent in funding six per year. It seems likely the remaining 14 will be funded over the next three years. If so all 58 will be fully funded by FY2020.
  3. Bollinger is delivering at a rate of five per year. We just commissioned #22, so we can expect the last of the currently planned 58 in FY2024.
  4. The first three of the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPB were commissioned in 1998. It was 26 years from the commissioning of the first 110 to the commissioning of the first Webber class WPC. If there is a similar 26 year span from the first 87 footer to the commissioning of the first of its replacement class, we should see that boat come on line in FY2024, just as Webber class construction is ending. To make that happen, we need to start market research and planning in FY2021, the year after the last WPC is funded or FY2022 at the latest.
  5. There is talk of building six additional WPCs to replace the six 110s currently in Bahrain. I’ll have more on this later.