Bit of Intel from the UK

The German Navy blog, Marine Forum, reports:

21 May, UNITED KINGDOM, Special Boat Service and Royal Navy commandos have been conducting covert underwater inspections of tankers transporting gas from the Middle East to Britain … growing fears that Al Qaeda or Islamic State terrorists might attach explosives to ships in the Middle East – and detonate them when they reach the UK.

Hearing: Coast Guard Requirements, Priorities, and Future Acquisition Plans (FY-2018)

 

May 18, the Commandant, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, addressed the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. The recorded testimony is above. It is fairly long (1h40m). The Commandant’s initial statement, following the introductions, begins at 8m40s and ends approximately minute 14.

The administration’s FY 2018 budget request was not available, but the Commandant was there to discuss future priorities, requirements, and programs. The Department Secretary, General Kelly, is expected to address the Subcommittee on May 24 at 3PM Eastern.

I will just mention a few of the items I thought significant.

Admiral Zukunft noted that Huntington Ingalls has begun cutting steel for NSC #9. Questioned about NSC#10, he said, if it were funded, the Coast Guard would of course use it, but that the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) is the Coast Guard’s #1 priority. His response, that another NSC would have an effect on long-range operating cost, seemed to suggest anticipated significantly lower operating costs for the OPC. Significantly, there has been no mention of reducing the OPC program by one ship to offset the addition of NSC #9. (There is already a strong push to build more NSCs, a bill to authorized a multi-year buy of three more.)

He contended that the Coast Guard has taken a harder hit, due to budget restrictions, than other armed services and would need 5% annual growth and at least $2B annually for Acquisitions, Construction, and Improvements (AC&I). Later he stated that this annual AC&I appropriation would included about $300M annually for shore facilities. He pointed to a need to restore 1100 Reserve Billets and add 5,000 active duty military billets while retaining current levels of Civilian staff.

Apparently the FY2918 budget will begin a program to replace 35 Inland tenders at an estimated cost of approximately $25M each ($875M total). (Even if, in the unlikely event, this program were funded in only five years, that would only average $175M/year, so it is not a big program, but one that should have begun at least a decade ago.)

Cyber security for ports was discussed. The Commandant sees the Coast Guard role as decimating best practices, rather than imposing regulation. We now have a cyber program of record–still very small, two CG Academy graduates going directly into the program. The fact that two billets is worth mentioning, is probably the best indication of how really small the program is. A much smaller pre-World War II Coast Guard probably had more people working on breaking German and Japanese codes. 

Marine Inspection was addressed. The Commandant noted the increased demand for Inspections because 6,000 tugs have been added to inspection program. He noted a need for more stringent oversight of 3rd party inspectors, who in some cases have not been as meticulous as they should have been. He also noted that the US flag merchant fleet, notably the MSC’s Afloat Prepositioning Fleet, will need replacement, which will also raise demand for marine inspectors.

The Commandant also voiced his support for the Jones Act. He noted, we only have three shipyards building Jones Act ships in the US, and their loss would be short-sighted.

There was much discussion about the Arctic and the Icebreaker Fleet. Looks like follow-on funding for icebreaker program (at least after the first) will have to come from CG AC&I rather than the Navy budget. This may be difficult, but it is the way it should be. The chair of committee expressed his reservations about attempting to fund such big-ticket items through the DHS budget. The Commandant stated that the Coast Guard is still considering the acquisition of the commercial Icebreaker Aiviq (but apparently they are doing it very slowly–the chairman of the committee seemed a bit irritated about this).

The committee members seemed to latch onto the idea that the USCG, rather than the Navy, would be responsible for enforcing US sovereignty in the Arctic (which by US definition includes the Aleutians), and seemed to be asking if the Coast Guard was prepared to fight the Russians and/or Chinese in the Arctic. The Commandant suggested instead, that our role was to provide presence in the pre-conflict phase in order assert US sovereignty. He acknowledged that the National Security Cutters are only armed defensively and are not suitable for conventional naval warfare against an enemy combatant.

The Commandant acknowledged that, at some point it may be desirable to arm Polar Icebreakers, meaning they should be built with space, weight, and power reservations for additional weapons.

(I am all for keeping open the option of arming our icebreakers, so that they can defend themselves and do their part, if there is a conflict in a polar region, but there did not seem to be recognition among the Congression Representatives, that an Arctic conflict is most likely to be determined by submarines and aircraft. The icebreakers’ role is likely to be primarily logistical.)

The Commandant apparently does expect that there may be disagreements with regard to the extent of the US authority over certain areas of the Arctic.

In discussing the need for land based Unmanned Air Systems, there was a curious note at minute 40 about go-fast boats going south. Where are they going?

Alien Migrant Interdiction (AMIO). We have gone for seven weeks without a single Cuban Migrant being interdicted. This is because of the end of Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy. This has allowed reallocation of resources to drug interdiction South of Cuba and human trafficking from the Bahamas

A Congressional Representative, from Texas pointed out there is no CG presence on the Rio Grande River, in spite of it being an international waterway. There was no mention of it, but perhaps he was thinking of the Falcon Lake incident in 2010 when an American was allegedly shot in the head by Mexican drug runners. Maybe something we should reconsider.

The Commandant promised the CG would have an unfunded priority list for FY2018.

Russian Icebreaker Development

Project 10510 Leader class

NavyRecognition reports on Russian icebreaker development. They have a diverse and very impressive program. Not content with the Arctika class nuclear powered icebreakers, they are now expecting to build even bigger icebreakers, the Project 10510 Leader class.

The Iceberg Design Bureau also is developing the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker of the Project 10510 Leader class. According to Ryzhkov, “its power is 120MW and its maximum ice-breaking capability equals 4.3 m, and if ice is 2 m thick, the ship can lead convoys at a speed of more than 11 knots, thus ensuring cost-effective traffic via the Northern Sea Route.”

120 MW, that is about 160,000 HP. That is about twice as powerful as the Polar Star.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this post.

It is important to remember that most of these program are for the development of the Arctic for Economic purposes. That is not to say the Russians could not turn them to military purposes, but the Russians have ample reason to see them, not so much as military assets, but as economic necessities.

Balance of Power, 2030

Found this graphic on the US Naval Institute Blog.

Considering that the US Navy is spread all over the globe, with responsibilities in the Atlantic as well the Pacific, while the Chinese Navy will be concentrated in the Western Pacific, far from American Naval bases with the exception of a small number of units in Guam, Japan, and possibly Singapore, the Chinese Navy is likely  to enjoy a considerable local advantage, particularly early in any conflict.

In peacetime, it takes three CONUS based ships to maintain one in the Western Pacific. That would improve in wartime, but the Chinese would always have an advantage. Not to mention Chinese land based air and missiles.

Is there anything the Coast Guard can do to mitigate the coming imbalance in the Western Pacific?

It could be worse if US vs both China and Russia.

ISIS Threat to Russian Ships in Turkish Straits

File:Latrans-Turkey location Marmara Region.svg

Illustration: Turkey with the Straits and Sea of Marmara area in red, by “The Emirr.” Dardanelles to West of the Sea of Marmara and Bosphorus to the East. 

Following from the German Navy blog, Marine Forum, 16 May,

“After Turkish intelligence learned of Islamic State plans for attacks on Russian warships from ashore, Turkish authorities have beefed up security along the Turkish Straits and augmented escorts by Turkish Coast Guard.”

A number of the Russian Navy transits carry supplies to the Syrian Government Forces and Russian forces operating in Syria.

Coast Guard Year in Review–US Naval Institute Proceedings

USCGC Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA

The US Naval Institute has made their annual review of Coast Guard activities available to the general public. You can read it here.

While it is not “news,” I was a little surprised, considering the audience, that there was no mention of the continued forward deployment of Coast Guard Patrol Forces South West Asia, PATFORSWA, and their six Island class patrol boats stationed in Bahrain.

I had seen most of this information in various places before, but there was one tidbit in the report I had not heard before,

“The Stratton deployed for the entire RIMPAC exercise with an embarked Navy H-60 Seahawk and aviation detachment. Successfully completing this deployment was a significant milestone. It was the first extended Navy aviation deployment on board a U.S. Coast Guard cutter…”

Now did we have magazine and storage for their weapons, ammunition, and expendables? Not clear if this was the Romeo (ASW) or Sierra (General Purpose/ASuW) version of H-60.

You might want to check out other articles here.