87 Footer Patrols SE Alaska

There is an interesting news release by the 13th District reporting, in part:

“The crew of the Cutter Terrapin completed a 37-day patrol to Southeast Alaska during which they protected living marine resources, safeguarded lives at sea and enhanced maritime security across the region.

“The crew of the Terrapin supplemented Coast Guard Sector Juneau’s response cutter requirements during the transition period between the homeport shifts of the 110-foot Patrol Boats Naushon and Chandeleur and the 2017 arrival of new Fast Response Cutters, the John McCormick and the Bailey Barco.”

Nice to see that they will be getting Webber class WPCs relatively soon. We knew they were coming. Should be an notable improvement over the 110s that were always a bit too thin skinned to operate freely up there.

Eagle to be Re-Engined

MarineLink is reporting BMT has been awarded a contract to provide support for a planned re-powering of the Barque Eagle.

The $1.5M (approx.) project involves engineering, design, supply and logistics support to install a new MTU 8V4000 engine, ZF gearbox, propeller, automation system and other related components.

Reportedly the work will be done at the Coast Guard Yard, 2017-18.

You can view the specs for an MTU 8V4000 engine here (pdf):

With 1340 HP it should be a substantial upgrade over Elmer that powered her when I was a cadet. My guess is should be good for at least 13 knots.

Polar Icebreaker Operational Requirements Document, Industry Version

ice-breakers-540688_1280

If you would like to take a look at the Operational Requirements Document (ORD) for the proposed polar icebreaker (PIB in the document), you can find it here (pdf). (Sorry I did not publish this earlier.)

The bad news is that it does not look like it will be fully operational until 2028.

I”1.3.1 Initial Operational Capability Date: The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) date is anticipated to occur during or before FY-2026. IOC is defined as the delivery of the vessel. ”

1.3.2 Coast Guard Support Date The Coast Guard Support Date (CGSD) is the formal transition from CG-932 to Surface Forces Logistics Center Product Line (SFLC PL) and is anticipated to occur during or before FY-2028.”

1.4 Full Operational Capability Date: The Full Operational Capability (FOC) date occurs upon the successful completion of operational testing and evaluation and is anticipated to occur during or before FY-2028.

Here are the basics. I have cherry picked the list. There are many more requirements, but I think these are the most significant:

  • “The PIB will operate worldwide and will be exposed to extreme environmental conditions found in the Polar, Tropical, and Temperate regions. The PIB will experience ice up to large concentrations of multiyear consolidated pack ice with ridging, air temperatures ranging from -72 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) to 114°F, sea water temperatures ranging from 28.8°F to 87°F, wind speeds that can exceed 100 miles per hour (mph) (87 knots (kts)) and sea conditions up to sea state 8. …
  • “The PIB shall be capable of independently breaking through ice with a thickness > 6 ft (threshold) / > 8 ft (objective) at a continuous speed > 3 kts.
  • “The PIB shall be capable of independently breaking through ridged ice with a thickness of 21 ft.
  • “The PIB shall have a fully mission capable (in accordance with Table 20) cutter endurance per deployment without replenishment (subsistence and fuel) > 80 days underway (threshold) / > 90 days underway (objective).
  • “The PIB shall have the capability to exchange information (voice and data) with: USCG, DoD, DHS, NATO, DoS, NSF and NOAA.
  • “The PIB shall be capable of breaking a single-pass channel to a width of at least 83 ft.
  • “The PIB shall have a sustained speed of 15 kts.
  • “The PIB shall have a minimum range of 21,500 nautical miles at 12 kts in ice free waters
  • “The PIB shall have the capability of performing 3,300 Operational Hours (threshold) / 4,050 Operational Hours (objective) per year. (The USCG is currently transitioning from the use of DAFHP to Operational Hours as the metric for operational tempo. The threshold and objective figures contained in this requirement represent 185 and 225 DAFHP respectively.)
  • “The PIB shall be capable of delivering aviation fuels, diesel fuels, and potable water while underway from storage and service tanks to United States Navy (USN)/USCG/North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) vessels 240 feet or less in length in either astern tow or alongside
  • “The PIB shall be capable of receiving underway replenishment of fuel and water from USN/NATO/Allied Navy vessels, Military Sealift Command or other designated vessels.
  • “The PIB shall be able to pump aviation fuels, diesel fuels, and water to shore facilities, including U.S. Scientific Research Stations.
  • “The PIB shall have a designated topside cargo area capable of transporting (not simultaneously): 3.1.9.7.1 Three 9 ft x 35 ft buoys including associated buoy mooring equipment (or) 3.1.9.7.2 Six twenty foot equivalent units (TEU) with a maximum weight of 20 tons each.
  • AVIATION: “The PIB shall be able to hangar a total of two of any combination of the following aircraft: 3.1.10.2.1 USCG H-65 with blade-folding capability. 3.1.10.2.2 USCG/USN H-60 with blade-folding capability. 3.1.10.2.3 UAS (not to exceed the footprint of an USCG H-60 with blade folding capability). (plus  meet certification criteria for Level I, Class 1 aviation operations for those aircraft–Chuck) The PIB shall have the capability for an H-65 to be mechanically secured to the flight deck immediately after landing without the use of tie-down personnel. The PIB shall have the capability to support mobile mechanical traversing of the USCG/USN H-60. The PIB shall have the aviation fuel capacity to operate an H-60 for 250 flight hours with 24 flight hours of fuel capacity in service tanks. (also TACAN equipped–Chuck)
  • BOATS: The PIB shall have the capability to independently launch, recover, fuel, maintain and operate two assigned boats with over-the-horizon (OTH) capability. The PIB shall have the capability to launch, recover, fuel, maintain, and operate at least one assigned cargo landing boat capable of landing a minimum capacity of 4,500 pounds (e.g., people, cargo, and equipment). The PIB shall have the capability to launch and recover on both port and starboard sides.
  • The PIB shall have the capability to deliver, support, and recover one 8-person boarding team and their gear, trained and outfitted in accordance with the Maritime Law Enforcement Manual, COMDTINST M16247.1 (Series) via cutter boat operated by a boat crew in accordance with USCG policy.
  • The PIB shall have the capacity to tow astern a vessel not exceeding an equivalent displacement to that of the PIB. (Shouldn’t this say the ability to tow a vessel of equivalent tonnage to the PIB or perhaps some minimum?–Chuck)
  • The PIB shall have the capability to support a DIVEDET of 7 personnel and their equipment, in accordance with the USCG Diving Policies and Procedures Manual, COMDTINST M3150.1 (Series) and the USN Diving Manual, SS521-AG-PRO-010 (Series).
  • The PIB shall provide dedicated location(s) and reserved space, weight, power, hotel services, data network and phones to accommodate six 10 ft x 20 ft science vans that do not interfere with flight deck operations. (Shouldn’t this be 8x8x20 foot vans?–Chuck)
  • WEAPONS: The PIB shall have the capability to employ removable weaponry. The PIB shall have the ability to conduct disabling fire against surface targets.
  • The PIB shall have a heavy lift capability with a minimum capacity of 20 tons extending to at least one lift point 25 feet past the widest point of the ship’s beam on both the port and starboard side of the  ship.
  • The PIB shall provide messing, berthing, sanitary facilities, and workspaces for all permanently attached crewmembers and 50 embarked personnel. Includes DIVEDET and LEDET deployed with 20 person AVDET (if LEDET is embarked, SCIDET (Science) will remain ashore).
  • The PIB shall be capable of wintering over for a minimum of 210 days.
  • The PIB shall be designed to provide airspace management for organic aircraft operating in controlled and uncontrolled airspace by providing installed organic systems.

Additionally it should be able to conduct boat and helo operations to Sea State Four (8.2 feet/2.5 meters)

COMMENTS: I would like to offer some comments on the document.

CONTAINERS:

Inclusion of “dedicated location(s) and reserved space, weight, power, hotel services, data network and phones to accommodate six 10 ft x 20 ft science vans that do not interfere with flight deck operations.” (3.1.16.6 page 29) is promising. It offers an avenue to address emerging requirement or the need for capabilities that might might have been unrecognized. In addition to scientific support they might be used for humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, as holding cells, as class room space, for upgraded communications, accommodations, or medical facilities.

AVIATION:

If we are going to be able to operate, hangar, and service Navy H-60s, we also need to be able to store their associated weapons and equipment including sonobuoys and torpedoes. I suspect this means we will need more space (and perhaps specialized space) than required to support CG H-60s (which I doubt will ever deploy on the PIB anyway). The containerized mission modules might be one way to address this if the need arises.

WEAPONS:

Polar Icebreakers will undoubtedly go to Antarctica so the Antarctic Treaty will apply.  Contrary to what you may have heard, the treaty does not require that ships entering the area be unarmed, only that they be open to inspection. Article VII para. 3. “All areas of Antarctica, including all stations, installations and equipment within those areas, and all ships and aircraft at points of discharging or embarking cargoes or personnel in Antarctica, shall be open at all times to inspection by any observers designated in accordance with paragraph 1 of this Article.”

Obviously we do not want to send the PIB down there mounting classified weapons. The document addresses this by saying, “The PIB shall have the capability to employ removable weaponry.” This might mean only .50 caliber machine guns like the Polar Class, but there is also an operational requirements in table 6 (PIB Activities, page 11) is “Stop/neutralize a vessel through the use of force continuum.” Notably this is in the group “Boarding Operations” rather than Defensive/Offensive Operations.

If  we are going to enforce US sovereignty and ” the ability to conduct disabling fire against surface targets” is not limited to surface targets powered by outboard motors, the ship will need something more. There is also a strong possibility that the target could outrun a 15 knot PIB so we either need to be able to do this at a distance, or using the ship’s boats or helicopters.

Ultimately all weapons are removable. In some cases, like missiles or torpedoes the launchers themselves may be unclassified as long as the weapon itself is not installed.

The LCS classes have incorporated removable weapons in their design with reconfigurable weapon stations. We might consider something similar for the PIB,

In wartime, if fighting is in the Arctic or Antarctic, the polar Icebreakers will be unique high value naval auxiliaries that may become critical to naval operations. They will need to be adequately protected. We might consider fitting them “for but not with” defensive weapons. A minimum of two Mk38 25 mm and two SeaRAM CIWS appears to be appropriate, while requiring a minimum impact on command and control and manning requirements.

Photos: A removable weapon system. The Mk46 Gun Weapons System. This is used in the LCS anti-surface mission module. The armor piercing, fin stabilized discrding sabot round would probably be effective as a disabling round against even large diesel engines. 

CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS

It is a pretty large document, running 89 pages total. The last 17 pages are appendices. Reportedly it was the product of a “46-member, 11-Agency Integrated Product Team (IPT)” There is a lot of detail, but there are also a lot of statements that are so nebulous as to be meaningless and as far as I can see do not contribute to an understanding of the requirements. This applies to most of the capabilities listed in Table 5 on page 9 and virtually all of the following,

  • “6 CRITICAL OPERATIONAL ISSUES Critical Operational Issues (COIs) are the operational effectiveness and operational suitability issues (not characteristics, parameters, or thresholds) that shall be examined during Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) to evaluate/assess the system’s capability to safely perform its mission.6.1 Operational Effectiveness COIs 6.1.1 Protection Response (PR) 6.1.1.1 Can the PIB perform USCG Emergent Response for Search and Rescue (SAR) and National Emergency Response Operations (NERO)?
  • 6.1.2 Law Enforcement Response (LER) 6.1.2.1 Can the PIB perform USCG Enforcement Response for Law Enforcement and Homeland Security?
  • 6.1.3 Surveillance and Reconnaissance (SR) 6.1.3.1 Can the PIB contribute to Maritime Domain Awareness?
  • 6.1.4 Defense Readiness (DR) 6.1.4.1 Can the PIB provide Defense Readiness to Combatant Commanders?
  • 6.1.5 Maintain Mobility (MM) 6.1.5.1 Can the PIB provide USCG services to maintain movement of vessels and equipment in civil and military maritime environments
  • 6.1.6 Transport (TRAN) 6.1.6.1 Can the PIB provide USCG organic transportation of people and equipment?
  • 6.1.7 Force Movement (FM) 6.1.7.1 Can the PIB be prepared for operational employment and move from ready locations to the intended area of operations?
  • 6.1.8 Information Management (IM) 6.1.8.1 Can the PIB perform Information Management in support of USCG Missions?
  • 6.1.9 Force Protection (FP) 6.1.9.1 Can the PIB provide Force Protection?”

Perhaps I have missed something or these will be clarified in the future.

“Latin American Navies Combat Illegal Fishing”–CIMSEC

CIMSEC has a short background article on the scope of, and reaction to, illegal fishing in Latin America.

You might recognize the ship pictured at the head of the CIMSEC post. It is one of a class we talked about earlier.

The post also talks about the sinking of a Chinese Fishing Vessel by an Argentine patrol vessel, an incident we also discussed here.

The two Peruvian patrol vessels seen launched in the post and in the YouTube video above, BAP Rio Cañete (PM-205) and BAP Rio Pativilca (PM-204), are according to a Google translation of this post,  55.3 meters (181 feet) long, 8.5 meters (28 feet) of beam, and a draft of 2.3 meters (7’7″). They have two diesels totaling 6690 HP for a 22 knot max speed, a range of 3600 miles at 14 knots. The crew is 25 with additional space for up to 14 additional boarding party members to man the two RHIBs carried in davits. They are expected to be armed with a Typhoon weapon system, similar to the Mk38 mod2 but with a 30mm gun plus two .50 cal. Their design is based on the South Korean Taegeuk class cutters.

How About a Coast Guard Sink-Ex?

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Are our weapons adequate for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security Mission? Let’s find out.

The Navy Times is reporting that the Navy will have an unusually large number of ships available for “Sink-Ex” exercises in 2017.

The SINKEX fleet grew from five ships last year to seven ships available in 2017, including four frigates, the landing ship tank Racine and two attack cargo ships.

According to the source document, the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan (pp 13/14), one of the stated purposes of a Sink-EX is weapons effectiveness evaluation. I think this might be a good opportunity for us to test out our weapons for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) mission. This mission implies we must have the ability to forcibly stop a ship, regardless of its size. A Sink-Ex could be an opportunity to answer once and for all the question “Is the Coast Guard adequately armed for the mission?”  Personally I don’t think so, and what little evidence we have seems to indicate that is the case.

The two attack cargo ships are Charleston class LKAs, the ex-Durham (LKA-114) and ex-St. Louis (LKA-116), built in the late ’60s. These are medium sized auxiliary ships, 9,000 tons light and 18,500 tons fully loaded, 576 feet (176 meters) in length. Structurally they are not much different from merchant ships of the period. Unfortunately they don’t have the big diesel engines found on modern merchant ships, and the are far smaller than many current merchant ships but they are still, in most respects, representative of the target set the Coast Guard should be interested in.

USS_Charleston_(LKA-113)

Photo: USS Charleston (LKA-113)

We have four gun systems that might be tested. .50 cal., 25 mm, 57 mm, and 76 mm. The 25 mm and 57 mm are particularly important as the .50 cal is probably too small and short ranged and the 76 mm is going out of service. Still, we should still attempt to include the 76 mm because if the 57 mm proves inadequate, our next question should be, “Would the 76 mm have been successful?” Testing the 25, 57, and 76 mm guns would require use of at least two ships, a 378 for both the 76 and 25 mm, and a Bertholf class for the 57 mm. (Alternately an LCS might provide the 57 mm, a Bear class the 76 mm, and a 110 or Webber class the 25 mm.)

1280px-USCG_Gallatin_Mk_75_firing

This could be a CG R&D project, but of course it would require Navy assistance, perhaps a joint project. Because our objective is to at least stop the target, rather than sink it, loss of power or steering would constitute a success. To determine if this is the case, we need information about what is happening inside the hull when the we get a hit. Will the round penetrate not only the hull but also critical systems, the loss of which would result in loss of power or control of the ship? Because it would probably be dangerous to go back on board the target after it has been shelled, the target would need to be instrumented with sensors and the results broadcast back. Aside from putting cameras inside the spaces, a technique might be to seal up and pressurize equipment like boilers, turbines, and steering gear and have them instrumented to detect any loss of pressure that would indicate a breach.

We would also want to conduct the exercise at a reasonable ranges. Since the real targets might be equipped with weapons that might be typically available to terrorist organizations, including anti-tank missiles and Soviet era antitank and anti-aircraft guns,that might target critical systems on the cutter, I believe the cutter should stand off at least 4000 yards, but for the 25 mm, we would probably need to close to 3,000 yards. A logical sequence might be,

  1. 378 closes to 3000 yards engages with 25 mm then withdraws
  2. NSC closes to 4,000 yards and engages, then withdraws
  3. 378 closes to 4,000 yards and engages.

We would also want to fire a reasonable number of rounds, probably about 150 rounds of 25 mm, about 100 rounds of 57 mm, and about 80 rounds of 76 mm, basically shoot enough to exhaust the ammunition normally carried on the mount.

Realistically this would have to be part of a larger Sink-Ex with more than one target, but it might be reasonable to allow the Coast Guard a day to try their systems against one of the targets before the other firing units come on scene.

Should our current systems prove not up to the task, we would also want to know the results for possible candidate systems, so we might ask that these candidate systems be used against the target as well. These might include, APKWS, Griffin, Hellfire, the 5″ gun, and the light weight torpedo. I don’t think it has ever been tried, but with the right depth settings, is it possible to hit a deep draft surface target with our current light weight torpedoes?

Let’s at least find out if we have a chance of succeeding in this mission. 

ACERM–Another Light, Precise, Weapon to Hit Small Moving Targets

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81mm mortar used by the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era

It seems technology is making hitting small, fast, maneuverable targets with precision not only easier, but also cheaper.

We have talked before about the possibility of using small guided missiles (Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, or 70 mm guided rockets like APKWS) to allow the Coast Guard to engage small, fast, highly maneuverable threats, while minimizing the chances of collateral damage that accompany the use of unguided rounds from machineguns or auto cannon. Now there seems to be another alternative, and it even has a history of use by the Coast Guard, the 81 mm mortar.

Popular Mechanics reports the Marines will be getting a guided 81 mm round called ACERM (Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar) that will incorporate both a GPS, and potentially more importantly for the Coast Guard, a semi-active laser (SAL) guidance system that should provide a one meter circular error probability (CEP, that is 50% of the rounds will fall within one meter of where the laser is pointed). Additionally the round will have a range of about 18 kM, comparable to that of a 76 or 57 mm gun. Cost per round is expected to be about $10,000. That is more than the China Lake Spike, but range is much greater and the warhead is substantially larger.

The firecontrol computer/programmer is a two pound “Miniature Mission Setter,” in reality a rugged Android tablet.

ACERM

In addition to the Popular Mechanics post, I also found this power point presentation (pdf) that provides more detail.

The 81 mm mortars the Coast Guard used in the Vietnam era are all gone now, but they were hardly high tech, expensive, or difficult to produce.

Maybe we at least need the laser designator anyway:

Like some of the other systems considered, in addition to the mortar and mortar rounds, to use these effectively, we would need a laser designator. Based on a recent contract award, laser designators cost about $60,000 each.

Laser designators might be a good idea anyway. If we need to call in assistance from the Navy, Marine Corp, or particularly the Air Force or Army (who tend to be clueless about marine targets), one of the issues will be identifying the target, and a laser designator would be a good way to do that. Not only to identify the target, but also to show where we want them hit.

Limitations:

While the potential range of the 81mm mortar round may be over 18,000 yards, for our purposes, its effective range is probably limited by the range of the laser designator which can be further limited by atmospheric conditions like fog, rain, snow, smoke or sand storms (like might be encountered in the Persian Gulf). The Power Point brief does suggest that a small unmanned air system (sUAS) equipped with a designator, might be used to complement (and extend) the system.

Because this is a high angle weapon, with the projectile designed to strike the target in a vertical dive, and because the warhead uses “High Density Pre-Formed Fragments” that would presumably spread out horizontally, it probably would not be particularly effective against medium to large ships. It seems to be intended primarily as an antipersonnel weapon. The danger radius for fragments might even be an issue in some circumstances.

It is still a crew served weapon with the crew highly visible and exposed.

Advantages:

Unlike some missile in a box systems, this looks like a gun. It might have some deterrent value in some circumstances.

Reportedly it makes the 50 cal. mounted piggy back more accurate.

If we were in a situation like Market Time, where patrol boats might incidentally support troops ashore, this might be a good option.

Is it the “best” alternative?:

We have an array of possible systems to address the possibility of a maritime terrorist threats. Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, APKWS, the China Lake Spike, this smart 81 mm mortar round. All would probably be effective against smaller targets. None are likely to be fully effective against larger targets.

For the larger threats, I have been suggesting WPCs, and probably WPBs, be equipped with light weight torpedoes or even a variant of the anti-torpedo torpedo, to use as a ship stopper that could home on the target’s propellers,

LRASM might also be an alternative. Coordinating a long range LRASM strike is more complex and probably more expensive than the torpedo alternative. On the other hand, it would bring along with it a new naval wartime capability that would support the Navy’s “Distributed Lethality Initiative.”

We really need a set of capabilities that provide a high probability against any element of a spectrum of threats, because if any one element is not addressed, that is likely the element terrorists will select.

Australian Designed Catamaran Patrol Boat for Royal Thai Police

ThaiCatamaranPB_IncatCrowther

MarineLink reports the delivery of two locally built catamaran patrol boats to the Royal Thai Police, based on an earlier Australian designed vessel.

  • Length Overall: 86’ / 26.2m
  • Max Speed: 34 knots
  • Crew: 2 + 12

Actually these sound an awful lot like 19 new 26 meter ferries being built by Horizon Shipbuilding, Inc., Bayou La Batre, AL, and Metal Shark Aluminum Boats, Jeanerette, LA for New York City also designed by Incat Crowther.

InnatNYCferries