“Coast Guard cutters begin Operation Aiga in Oceania” –D14

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper (WLB 201) return to Honolulu after completing a 45-day patrol in Oceania in support of Operation ‘Aiga, Oct. 1, 2021. The Juniper is a 225-foot Juniper-Class seagoing buoy tender home-ported in Honolulu, the crew is responsible for maintaining aids to navigation, performing maritime law enforcement, port, and coastal security, search and rescue and environmental protection. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Juniper)

Below is a D14 news release. These long distance/long duration operations pairing a buoy tender (WLB) and a Webber class WPC are getting to be fairly routine.

Buoy tenders are proving to be good PC tenders as well. This is a good demonstration of the multi-mission nature of Coast Guard buoy tenders and support for the contention that the buoy tender function should not be passed off to some other agency or outsourced.

Wonder if they might be able to support more than one patrol craft at a time?

(The photo in the news release below is of a different Juniper class WLB, USCGC Elm)

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific

Coast Guard cutters begin Operation Aiga in Oceania

 

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

HONOLULU — The crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Juniper (WLB 201) and Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) will aim to extend the Coast Guard’s at-sea enforcement presence in the region through a 40-day patrol.

“Aiga,” the Samoan word for family, is designed to integrate Coast Guard capabilities and operations with Pacific Island Country (PIC) partners in order to protect shared national interests, combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and strengthen maritime governance in Oceania.

“Responsible fisheries management is vital to the Pacific’s well-being, prosperity, and security,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Conway, the 14th District’s current operations officer. “The Coast Guard is an adaptable, responsive military force of maritime professionals whose broad legal authorities, capable assets, and expansive partnerships provide a persistent presence throughout our exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and on the high seas.”

IUU fishing operates outside the rules adopted at the national and international level. It threatens the ocean’s ecosystem, food security, and economic growth around the world by undercutting law-abiding fishermen and communities that depend on fish and fish products.

“An essential protein source for more than 40% of the world’s population, fish stocks are critical to maritime sovereignty and resource security of many nations,” said Cmdr. Christopher Jasnoch, the Juniper’s commanding officer.

As part of Operation Blue Pacific 2022, the crews of the Juniper and Joseph Gerczak will conduct information sharing activities to advance the U.S.’s bilateral and cultural relationships with Melanesia and Polynesia.

The Coast Guard regularly exercises bilateral shiprider agreements with partner nations. These agreements help to host foreign law enforcement personnel to better exercise their authority; closing any global maritime law enforcement gaps, improve cooperation, coordination, and interoperability.

Operation Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission Coast Guard endeavor seeking to promote maritime security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while also strengthening relationships with our partners in the region.

“To ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, the U.S. remains committed to strengthening regional alliances and enhancing emerging partnerships,” said Lt. Joseph Blinsky, Joseph Gerczak’s commanding officer. “Leading global deterrence efforts, the Coast Guard likewise remains committed to combating IUU fishing and our crews look forward to collaborating with PICs to better address this growing national security concern.”

“New Zealand, Australian Navies Deploy for Tongan Disaster Relief” –USNI

HMNZS Wellington. New Zealand Defence force photo

The US Naval Institute News service reports on the response by the Australian and New Zealand Navies to the tsunami that followed a recent underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga.

Both navies have sent Maritime Patrol Aircraft to survey the damage. New Zealand is taking the initiative to sortie ships even before they receive a request for assistance. Australia is preparing a ship to go.

New Zealand’s response it especially commendable in taking immediate action without waiting for a request for assistance.

Just as in the response to the 2021 earthquake in Haiti, it appears an Offshore Patrol Vessel will be the first ship on scene.

HMNZS Wellington (pictured above) was designed by VARD, same firm that did the design for the Offshore Patrol Cutter.  She is much smaller, but you can see a family resemblance. Photos of the other New Zealand ships mentioned in the below.

 HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) (Photo courtesy of Deck Cadet Natalie Dorsey) For an underway replenishment ship, this ship is unusual in that it is ice-strengthened. 

New Zealand Defence Force – The HMNZS CANTERBURY (L 421) off Samoa coastline

 

“MASTERING EXPEDITIONARY IUU FISHERIES ENFORCEMENT IN THE BAHAMAS” –CIMSEC

HMBS Nassau (P-61). Taken by Erick Perez on 5/26/2007. From Wikipedia commons.

SIMSEC brings us a suggestion from a pair of Coast Guard officers that,

“… in order to achieve the Commandant’s vision for becoming the partner of choice, the Coast Guard only need look 50 miles east of Florida to the Bahamas. The Bahamas is an archipelagic nation beleaguered by competing fisheries claims, including some coming from U.S. commercial and recreational fishermen. It presents a ready-made test bed for partner building and enforcing fisheries violations without the tyranny of distance. It has the further benefit of strengthening partnerships with the nation that enjoys the closest maritime boundary to the United States outside of Mexico and Canada, and where Chinese economic influence is finding a foothold. It is an environment where small U.S. Coast Guard cutters or “patrol boats” are uniquely suited to sustained law enforcement operations in shallow littorals.”

While I find the proposal interesting, there are some issues that need to be considered.

First, unlike the island nations of the Western Pacific that are bound to US by the Compact of Free Association, we have no treaty obligations to the Bahamas and currently no enforcement authority in their waters.

Second, as a member of the Commonwealth Caribbean, I am sure the Bahamian Defense Force already has an on-going relationship with the Royal Navy. We would want to complement rather than replace that.

Third, our objective should be to strengthen Bahamian capability not, replace it. The Bahamian EEZ is 5.6% the size of that of the US. The Royal Bahamian Defense Force (RBDF) is essentially their Coast Guard. They have no army or air force. The RBDF reportedly has 1,600 members so it is about 3.6% the size of the active duty USCG. It is the largest navy in the Commonwealth Caribbean. The have ten patrol vessels:

The oldest and largest, HMBS Bahamas (P-60) and HMBS Nassau (P-61) (pictured above) were delivered in 1999. they are American made, 60.4 m (198 ft) in length, and capable of 24 knots. They are also equipped with a 25mm gun, four .50 caliber machine guns and a pair of RHIBs.

HMBS Rolly Gray (P424) a Damen Stan Patrol 4207

They have four of the very widely used Damen Stan Patrol 4207 (pictured above), used by 13 different coast guards and navies including the Canadian Coast Guard, Mexican Navy, and the UK Border Force. These are little sisters to the Webber class FRCs which are derived from the Damen Stan Patrol 4708 design. The 4207s are 42.8 m (140.4 ft) in length and are typically capable of about 26 knots.

HMBS Lignum Vitae (P 301) a Damen Stan Patrol 3007

They also have four Stan Patrol 3007 patrol boats that were delivered beginning in 2015. They are 30.93 meters (101’5″) in length, have a speed of at least 24 knots, and have a stern ramp for an RHIB.

In addition to three manned aircraft of three different types, two twin engine and one single engine, the RBDF has a fleet of 55 short and medium range UAS provided by the American firm Swift Tactical Systems.

There is certainly a lot we can do for them in terms of information sharing, training and joint exercises. Looks like they have a good basis for an effective force and the Coast Guard could benefit from a strong relationship with them. I gather we already have a good relationship with RBDF.

“Schultz: U.S. Coast Guard in ‘Prolific’ Shipbuilding Period” –USNI

Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, speaks at the Coast Guard Cutter Benjamin Dailey commissioning ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute reports on the Commandant’s remarks at the Surface Navy Association Symposium.

There did not seem to be any surprises. The Commandant’s messaging has been very consistent. He did spend some time discussing the Coast Guard growing role in international affairs.

“Well, I think we really play a key role in shaping the diction of global maritime security, global maritime safety, and I suspect navies around the world are recognizing that the language and purpose of coast guards are well supported to their interests and their sovereign interests. And that’s why we’re adapting our operations abroad,” Schultz said.

There was discussion about the recapitalization of the fleet, which the Commandant called the Coast Guard’s “largest shipbuilding period since World War II.” The cost of the contracts has been unprecedented and the 34 year time span from acceptance of the “Program of Record” in 2004 until its projected completion in 2038 must be some kind of record. The FRC program has certainly been a success, but aside from them, we have only delivered the nine National Security Cutters in the almost fourteen years since Bertholf was commissioned. This does not look that intense compared to the nine-year period from 1964 to 1972 when the Coast Guard commissioned 28 major ships–12 WHEC378s and 16 WMEC210s–along with 35 WPBs.

By the time we expect to get the last OPC, the first NSC will be 30 years old. We need to change our mind set and that of Congress. If we are to maintain a fleet of 72 major ships, i.e. 36 Offshore Patrol Vessels, six icebreakers, and 30 seagoing and coastal buoy tenders, and I don’t think that is really enough, and we are to replace them in a timely fashion, building two ships a year needs to be the norm, not the exception.

We are not building at a high tempo; if anything, we are building too slow.

“From Chinese ambition to Saami tradition, an Arctic snapshot” –The Watch

A small-boat crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley medevacs a man from the Chinese research vessel Xue Long, 15 nautical miles from Nome, Alaska, in 2017

NORTHCOM’s on-line magazine, “The Watch,” reports on a conference on the Arctic. This is a follow-on to an earlier post.

The Watch report looks at China’s interests and roles in the Arctic and a perspective from a representative of indigenous peoples in the European Arctic.

Coyote Counter UAS

The Drive reports on tests of the Coyote Block 2 counter to Unmanned Air Systems (cUAS). This is apparently derived from the earlier Coyote Block 1 system. I may be guessing, but I presume they use the same controls and the Block 2’s launcher would be backwardly compatible.

These are specs for the earlier Block 1 as reported in Wikipedia:

  • Airspeed: 55 knots (102 km/h) cruise, 70 knots (130 km/h) kts dash
  • Deployment altitude (air launch): up to 30,000 feet (9,100 m) MSL (in non-icing conditions)
  • Comms range: 50 nautical miles (93 km) (May 2016); 70 nautical miles (130 km) (ground test October 2016)
  • Endurance: 1 hr+ @ cruise (May 2016); 2h (2017)
  • Weight: 13 pounds (5.9 kg)
  • Length: 36 inches (0.91 m) [20]
  • Wingspan: 58 inches (1.5 m)

The Block 2 appears to be similar in length and probably in weight, but it is a very different kind of loitering munition since it is jet powered.  Reportedly it is four times faster than the propeller driven Block 1 meaning capable of at least 220 knots and perhaps as much as 280 knots. The block 2 is also claimed to have a longer loiter time and to be more maneuverable. There is also a block 3 version.

“Raytheon announced in August 2021 that a demonstration of the Block 3 in an air intercept test had used a non-kinetic warhead to defeat a swarm of 10 drones. This type of payload reduces potential collateral damage and enables the variant to be recovered and reused.”

The Coyote Block 2 is not a possible future system, it has already been cleared for foreign military sales and,

“According to the company, Raytheon expects to achieve full-rate production of Coyote Block 2 in 2020.”

Iranians and their proxies appear to be stepping up the use of UAS. Breaking Defense reports,

“What is different… is a dramatic uptick in the UAV activity in the region, both in terms of their capability, their profiles, and the density of activity,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said.

The July 2021 fatal UAS attack on the M/V Mercer Street provides ample evidence that defenses like the Coyote Block 2 are needed to protect shipping in the 5th Fleet Operating Area.

Having seen the upgrades to the Webber class FRCs going to PATFORSWA, it may be that they are being fitted with essentially the same systems as the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System. If that is the case, they may be equipped with the Coyote counter UAS system.

I also have to wonder if such a system could provide a close in weapon system to intercept at least sub-sonic cruise missiles. As a self-defense system, it would not have to be as fast as the incoming missile, it would just have to affect an intercept at some distance from the targeted ship.

Presumably these might also be useful against swarming fast attack craft.

Updated: “U.S. Coast Guard Provides Information On The Offshore Patrol Cutter” –Naval News

OPC “Placemat,” Notice planned delivery has slipped considerably from 2021 to 2023. 

Naval News and writer Peter Ong bring us an update on the status of the Offshore Patrol Cutter Program.

I did not see any particular surprises, but there may be a hint of how the 30mm Mk38 Mod4 is viewed in this question and answer.

Naval News: Will the Mark 38 MOD2 be changed out now that the US Navy is planning for Mark 38 MOD4s with 30mm?

Brian Olexy: The OPC program includes each cutter receiving one MK 38 MOD 3 with 7.62 mm co-axial gun. There is no plan at this time to change to a MK 38 MOD 4d for UAS operations. (emphasis applied–Chuck)

My immediate reaction was–what did the gun have to do with UAS operations? There was nothing about UAS in the question. Then I recognized a possible connection. The 30mm has a demonstrated counter-UAS capability using air burst ammunition that the 25mm does not have. The response may reflect the author’s comments that were not recounted in the post, or it may be that the Coast Guard has recognized the use of the 30mm as a counter UAS weapon.


UPDATE: I was contacted by the author and informed that an error had occurred in the publication of his story and that the correct quotation included no reference to UAS. It should have read.

7. Will the Mark 38 MOD2 be changed out now that the US Navy is planning for Mark 38 MOD4s with 30mm?

A. The OPC program includes each cutter receiving one MK 38 MOD 3 with 7.62 mm co-axial gun. There is no plan at this time to change to a MK 38 MOD 4. 

“JUST IN: No Room to Accelerate Icebreaker Program, Coast Guard Chief Says” –National Defense

Photo of a model of Halter Marine’s Polar Security Cutter seen at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition have surfaced. Photo credit Chris Cavas.

National Defense reports,

“The commandant of the Coast Guard dashed hopes Jan. 12 that a much needed new icebreaker will be delivered any sooner than 2025.”

The projected delivery has already slipped a year to May 2025, but the Commandant’s remarks did not sound confident that there will be no further delays.

“The goal right now would be to continue to work with the Navy integrated project office, continue to work with the shipbuilder, finish up the complex detail design [work] and start cutting steel here in ’22,” Schultz said. “If we stay on that track line … I am guardedly optimistic we will take delivery of that ship in ‘25 and be off to the races.”

We are putting a lot on the crew of Polar Sea. They have been having extended yard periods away from home port every year. So far, they have met repeated challenges to keep the old girl running, but we cannot really expect our luck to hold.

“BAE Systems Delivers 50th Mk 110 Gun For U.S. Naval Operations” –Naval News

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton fires its MK 110 during a gunnery exercise in the Bering Sea April 28, 2021. Routine training and live-fire exercises provide opportunities to evaluate and improve procedures, test capabilities and maintain proficiency. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy Ensign Molly Dolan.

Naval News reports BAE has delivered their 50th 57 Mk110 gun system for use on US warships. In this case, that gun will go to a US Coast Guard Cutter, almost certainly OPC #3 or #4. Significantly the first US Mk110 installation was on USCGC Bertholf, commissioned Coast Guard Day, 2008, three months before the first Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom (now already decommission).

Fifty guns is really not a lot compared to the number of Oto Melara 76mm or the 5″ Mk 45, but it is on a lot of ships, and the fact that it is expected to equip 20 new FFGs and 25 OPCs in addition to, still yet to be delivered NSCs and LCSs, seems to guarantee long term US Navy interest in the system. Current plans call for a total of 87 ships equipped with the Mk110, 51 Navy and 36 Coast Guard (excluding the first four LCS which are being decommissioned).

We are seeing that interest in development of the ALaMO and MAD-FIRES rounds.

I still think, because of the Coast Guard’s missions and the lack of alternative anti-surface weapons on cutters, that our large cutter should have 5″ Mk45 weapon systems (even if only recycled 5″/54s).  After all, any improvements you could make to a 57mm round, you could also make to a 5″ (127mm) round, but it is encouraging to see new more capable and more accurate rounds being developed for the gun we do have.

“On the front lines against China, the US Coast Guard is taking on missions the US Navy can’t do” –Business Insider

US Coast Guard cutter Munro transits the Taiwan Strait with US Navy destroyer USS Kidd in August. US Navy

Business Insider reports on the increasing demand signal for Coast Guard assets in the Western Pacific and the necessary balancing act that results. They sum it up this way.

  • The US military has turned more of its attention to the Pacific amid competition with China.
  • The Coast Guard has been key, conducting missions other services aren’t equipped or allowed to do.
  • But it already has worldwide commitments, and higher demand in the Pacific could tax its resources.

None of this should come as a surprise to regular readers here, but it is a nice overview and there are some beautiful photos.

Perhaps more importantly these realities are being brought to a general audience.

Thanks to Mike B. for bringing this to my attention.