Fast Response Cutter / Navy MkVI Patrol Boat –Peter Ong

Today we have a guest author, Peter Ong. This is Peter’s sixth post on this blog, and he is now a regular contributor to Naval News. In this post, he reports a conversation with Coast Guard Cutter Forces about why the success of the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutter program has allowed  the Navy to cancel their MkVI patrol boat program that at one time was expected to produce 48 patrol boats.

The MkVI had only very austere galley and messing facilities, a Microwave and MREs. They were not expected to be underway more than 24 hours. The FRCs endurance, allowing days, rather than hours, on station to intercept drug and arms smugglers and their abilitiy to support counter UAS systems may be providing capabilities the MkVI simply could not have.

220822-A-KS490-1182 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 22, 2022) From the left, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144), USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Aug. 22. The cutters are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noah Martin)

When is a ship a boat and when is a boat a ship? When is an apple an orange and when is an orange an apple? Answer: they are not as these are two different and distinct things when it comes to comparing the warships of the U.S. Coast Guard to the MkVI patrol boats of the U.S. Navy.

A U.S. Navy Mark VI patrol boat with Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron TWO moves through the water prior to a live fire exercise in the Philippine Sea, Feb. 27, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Stephanie Murphy).

The U.S. Navy is divesting of their 12 in-service Mark VI Patrol Boats, which at the Surface Navy Association 2021, Major General Tracy King, USMC, Director, Expeditionary Warfare (N95) stated that the twelve Mark VIs “Were very expensive to maintain.” However, many critics and pundits of the Mark VIs’ early retirement cite that the Mark VIs still have a lot of life left in them and that their high speeds and heavy armament makes them an asset to special forces, Marines, and Navy SEALs. Mark VIs also perform capital ship escort screenings and contribute to Distributed Lethality and Distributed Maritime Operations by having a smaller vessel signature that might help U.S. Marines move around and slip ashore undetected.

In a phone interview on September 29, 2022 with United States Coast Guard (USCG) Captain John J. Driscoll, Office of Cutter Forces (CG-751), the U.S. Coast Guard captain made a comment about the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRC) substituting for the U.S. Navy’s Mark VI Patrol Boats in the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) region and other parts of the globe.

The U.S. Navy plans to replace the Mark VIs and the aging Patrol Coastal boats in the PATFORSWA region with USCG FRCs. When asked how the cutter fleet is integrated with the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense, the captain replied that the cutter fleet is built into different operational security plans within the U.S. Department of Defense, but these plans are not discussable.

Captain Driscoll said that the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutters and the Mark VI are different assets and have different capabilities. The 65 planned FRCs have much greater range and greater endurance (5 days, 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) and are designed to be on patrol 2,500 hours per year) than the U.S. Navy’s Mark VI Patrol Boats (750 nautical miles (860 mi; 1,390 km) at 25 knots; 690 nautical miles (790 mi; 1,280 km) at 30 knots).

The captain mentioned that the FRC is tremendously capable and different in how it integrates with the Department of Defense and one can’t make comparisons between the Navy’s Mark VI and the USCG’s Fast Response Cutters because the FRC is a commissioned warship of the United States with an assigned crew whereas the Mark VI is just a patrol boat—a ship versus a boat—the ship is larger. The FRC is 154-feet long (46.9 m) with a beam of 25-feet (7.6 m) whereas the Mark VI Patrol Boat is 84.8-feet (25.8 m) long with a beam of 20.5-feet (6.2 m).

Armament is about the same between the two vessels (a Mark 38 MOD 2 25mm autocannon forward with crew-served 12.7mm heavy machine guns and grenade launcher(s) aft) with the Mark VI sporting more armament (another potential Mark 38 25mm autocannon aft and potential crew-served 40mm automatic grenade launchers or 12.7mm heavy machine guns. Some PATFORSWA FRCs will receive the Mark 38 MOD 3 with a 7.62mm coaxial chaingun to the bow 25mm autocannon and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher).

Nonetheless, one can see the huge difference in operational range. Furthermore, the success of the 65 planned Coast Guard FRCs eclipses the 12 Mark VI U.S. Navy Patrol Boats in terms of production numbers. Furthermore, the Mark VI is propelled by waterjets to 45 knots (52 mph; 83 km/h) whereas the FRC has propellers that drive it at 28+ knots. Repeated requests to the U.S. Navy asking for explanation on “[The Mark VIs are] very expensive to maintain” were not answered, but one can assume that it takes a lot of time, labor, and money to clean out the Mark VI’s waterjet intakes and impellers compared to the more easily accessible external shaft and propellers on the Fast Response Cutters when operating in littoral waters potentially teeming with flotsam and seaweed.

FRC range and endurance are important. Captain Driscoll stated that the FRCs are working in the Papua New Guinea and Indonesian region to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and are working with partner nations to address the competition for maritime resources.

As for possible up-arming of the FRCs with the Mark 38 MOD 4 30mm autocannon, that is a retrofit possibility, noted the captain, although the upcoming Polar Security Cutter (PSC) heavy icebreakers will receive the 30mm autocannons first, two on each PSC. Captain Driscoll mentioned that the 30mm autocannon is in the U.S. Navy acquisition system and that the USCG and U.S. Navy both decide on future cutter armament. Programmable and airbursting 30mm ammunition options are not discussable although if the U.S. Navy has the specialized and advanced 30mm ammunition in its inventory, the USCG can also use it depending on the cutter’s mission parameters.

The new Mark 38 Mod 4 30mm naval gun system on display on MSI Defence stand at Sea Air Space 2022. It can, in theory and with funding, be retrofitted aboard existing USCG cutters if agreed upon between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. Photo: NavalNews

Antarctic Support Ship “Almirante Saldanha” for Brazil

SeaWaves reports,

After research and studies conducted by the Brazilian Navy (MB), the future Antarctic Support Ship (NApAnt) had its name chosen: “Almirante Saldanha”. TheNApAntwill reduce the refueling time of the Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station (EACF), due to cranes with greater load and maneuverability, and will be better equipped for the launch of camps and will have greater autonomy to expand support for research.

The new ship will replace the Oceanographic Support Ship “Ary Rongel” and will have more modern technical resources such as the navigation and control system, which will allow closer approach of the ship to the beach for landing personnel and material, safely.

There is no indication that the ship is an icebreaker, but it will certainly be ice strengthened. According to Janes, the ship will be delivered in 2025 and,

“The ship will displace approximately 5,880 tonnes for a length of 93.9 m, a width of 18.5 m, a draught of 6 m, cruising speed of 12 kt, endurance of 70 days, and a crew of 95, including 26 researchers.”

This is the ship being replaced:

Oceanographic support vessel ‘Ary Rongel’. Marinha do Brasil picture

 

Maybe Another Reason to Look at APKWS

The VAMPIRE system can fit in almost any pickup or vehicle with a cargo bed. (Courtesy of L3Harris)

The Navy League’s on-line magazine, Seapower, reports,

BAE Systems completed additional ground-to-air test firings to prove the effectiveness of 70mm rockets guided by APKWS guidance kits against Class-2 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that weigh roughly 25-50 pounds and can travel at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, the company said in a Nov. 29 release…During the demonstration in Southern Arizona, five APKWS-guided counter-UAS rockets were fired from a containerized weapon system and destroyed all targets, including fast-moving drones.

APKWS  info.

“Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry Returns Home Following 7,000-Nautical-Mile Patrol in South Pacific” –Military.Com

From a previous patrol. The Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry conducts a patrol in and around American Samoa, covering 8,169 nautical miles. The crew sought to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific to protect the United States and our partner’s resource security and sovereignty. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the CGC Juniper)

Military.com reports,

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry returned home to Honolulu this week in time for holiday festivities following a 38-day expeditionary fishery patrol in the South Pacific.

The Oliver Berry’s crew conducted 12 fisheries boardings, identified 16 fishery and safety violations and completed 18 community relation events while sailing from Honolulu to Kiribati, Samoa, the kingdom of Tonga and American Samoa during the 7,000-nautical-mile patrol before returning to its homeport on Tuesday, according to a news release.

These extraordinary voyages by these little ships are becoming routine. Also an indication of how difficult it is to prosecute IUU.

“US gov’t pledges more capacity-building programs for PCG” –Manila Bulletin

Certainly this will involve more “capacity building” and possibly more equipment transfers, but, perhaps more importantly, the US is sharing intelligence with the Philippines and other SE Asian nations to enhance maritime domain awareness.

I hope this will be another step toward a law enforcement alliance, a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force, Pacific,” perhaps following the model of the “Combined Maritime Force” in SW Asia.

Thanks to Xavier Ng for bringing this to my attention. 

Another Gun/Missile Remote Weapon Station Suitable for Patrol Boats

Navy Recognition reports,

At Euronaval 2022, a naval defense exhibition that was held in Paris, French Company Nexter unveils the latest generation of its NARWHAL 20mm remote-controlled turret which is now armed with one 20mm automatic cannon and the MBDA’s AKERON guided missile launch pod.

I am not a fan of this particular system. I would like to see at least a 30mm gun, but it is more evidence of the practicality and desirability of combining small missiles with a gun mounted on a remote weapon station.

Would really like to see the Coast Guard push for an upgrade of their Mk38 gun mounts to incorportate either APKWS or Hellfire / JAGM.

USV Attacks on Sevastopol and Novorossiysk

I certainly applaud the exploits of the Ukrainian Navy in taking the fight to the Russians using innovative means, here and here, but let us look at this from the prospective of the defender.

Naval Blogger Cdr Salamander offers some thoughts on the lessons of the recent attack on the Russian Navy Base in Sevastopol, but I think he may be selling the Russians short, under estimating the effort they put forth and suggesting that we would have done much better.

Quite properly he puts the attack in a historical context and calls for the US to be ready for similar attacks on US assets in US ports, but I have to take issue with his apparent belief that the Russian did not attempt to prepare for this type of attack.

This is another demonstration that the military culture of Russia is broken. The human element in the Sevastopol was manifested in the complete lack of preparation for the attack in spite of the warnings so clearly provided in September.

The Russians have a history of their ships being attacked in port that goes back to at least the Russo-Japanese war when the Japanese opened the war with a torpedo attack on the Russian fleet inport in Port Author. The unpleasant experience was repeated in WWI and WWII. As a result they have a relatively robust coastal and harbor defense organization, maybe better than ours.

Grachonok class anti sabotage ship P-351 in Astrakhan. Photo credit Mil.Ru

The Russians have built a number of “anti-sabotour” boats that are equipped with DP-64 anti-sabotage grenade launchers and DP-65 remotely-controlled rocket grenade launcher system, a type of weapon I don’t believe we have in the US inventory. Reportedly there are ten of these anti-sabotour boats stationed in the Black Sea.

The Russians do not appear to have taken the most obvious and immediate steps to address this cheap, low-tech threat. They did not have significant barriers in place at the entrance to their harbors or around their ships’ berths. They did not have Sailors on watch with weapons at the ready.

Actually the Russians did have a physical barrier, probably a net. The shape of the bow, the shallow draft, and waterjet propulsion of the Ukrainian USVs may have allow them to jump the net.

The video above, taken by one of the attacking craft, shows an armed helicopter shooting at the craft. It seems likely this helicopter was there and airborne when the attack occured because it was part of a defense plan.

The Ukrainians applied the “quantity has a quality of its own” principle. I believe I saw a report that nine USVs were used in the attack. If only three ships were damaged, then it appears the Russians successfully countered 67% of the threat. Additionally the response might have resulted in the Ukrainians damaging easier targets, closer at hand, rather than the ones they had originally intended. From the Ukraininan point of view, the damage may have been less than they had expected or hoped for, nevertheless we see it as a success. Unfortunately for the defenders, anything less than 100% success is a failure.

Achieving 100% success is not as easy as the referenced post seems to suggest. Crew served Ma Duce .50 cal. are not adequate weapons. If the Russians had had something like APKWS, in the right places, I doubt those ships would have been damaged.

An Observation on the Ukrainian Attack Craft: 

Since our first glimpse of these Ukrainian suicide drone boats, I have wondered about the “external ribs” as they are labeled above. Certainly they could be structural, but that seemed unlikely.

The most likely way to detect these craft at night is by their IR signature or seeing their wake. If the craft is pointed at you, those “ribs” might obstruct the view of the hot portions of the craft and its wake. They would also minimize light reflected from the inevitably wet top portion of the craft.

Image of the suspected Ukrainian USV circulating on Russian social media. Image via Naval News

Portugal to Build a New Type of Ship–UxS Carrier

The “plataforma naval multifuncional” (multifunctional naval platform). Portuguese Navy image.

It is not often an entirely new category of ship emerges, but this seems to be the case. Perhaps it was inevitable, but it looks like the Portuguese may be the first to make it happen–a specialized, built for purpose, unmanned systems mothership.

Wish the specs in the lower right above were readable. 

First heard about this ship from Cdr. Salamander. He has some interesting ideas about how such a ship could be used. It is part research ship, part disaster response vessel, and, significantly for the Coast Guard, part Offshore Patrol Vessel. There is more about the ship from Naval News. It is not particularly large, with a crew of about 90 and accommodations for another 100. The cost is reportedly about $100M US, much less than the cost of the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Judging by the size of the helicopter (reportedly an NH-90) on the model, it appears to be 100 to 110 meters (328-360 feet) in length, about the length of the OPC, maybe less. It must be pretty broad if that is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle on the deck. The Span of the Gray Eagle is 56 ft (17 m), but it just does not look like it is in scale. Maybe they have a European sourced UAS in mind. Beam looks to be about 20 to 22 meters based on my presumptions about the length, that is 66 to 72 feet. Those proportions are similar to those of the 6,615 ton Canadian Harry DeWolf class Arctic Offfshore Patrol Ship, 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in) long and a beam of 19 m (62 ft 4 in). By comparison, the beam of both the NSC and OPC is 16m or 54 feet.

The thing that makes this ship totally unique is the runway and ski-jump designed expressly for fixed wing unmanned air systems.

Artist rendering of MQ-9B STOL landing on a big-deck amphibious assault vessel. Photo: Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical.

What might make this very useful is the newly developed STOL version of the MQ-9B with shorter span, high lift, folding wings.

Not sure I like this particular design. It is not clear how many UAS and helicopters can be carrier or if there is hangar space. The island is unnecessarily thick and looks too far forward. No indication of speed or endurance. The speed in unlikely to exceed 20 knots, between 16 and 18 knots seems likely, but the concept is novel. Look forward to seeing the ship in final form.

Late Addition: 

After posting this on Facebook, I got some additional information. This is a Google translate from Portuguese. Thanks to Pedro Mateus.

MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM SHIP Lisbon, Portugal June 20, 2022 On June 20, 2022, the Portuguese Navy launched a tender limited by simplified prior qualification, via procedure no. of a Multipurpose Vessel/Platform (N-PM), with an execution period of up to 3 years (with delivery until December 2025), for a base price of 94.5 million Euros.

This Multipurpose Ship/Platform (N-PM) will have a total length, between perpendiculars, of 100 meters, a maximum beam (at flight deck level) of 20 meters and a maximum draft of 7.5 meters. It will follow STANAG 4154 (Ed 3) standards and will be able to maintain the operation of lowering and hoisting vessels in sea state 5 on the Douglas Scale. Its garrison will be composed of 1 commander, 7 officers, 8 sergeants and 29 soldiers, in a total of 45 elements. It has accommodation sized up to 28 officers, 30 sergeants and 32 enlisted men, for a total of 90 elements (in addition to the commander). It will be dimensioned for a range of 45 days at a cruising speed of 10 knots.

The N-PM shall comprise a set of aviation facilities including, among others, a flight deck (a ski-jump runway, a spot for helicopter operation, with lighting system, GPI, etc.), hangar for a helicopter (with support for hydraulic maintenance stations, overhead crane, technical lighting, etc.) and a hangar for unmanned aircraft. In terms of organic helicopter, it should support the Lynx MK95A and NH90 aircraft (either in “spot” or in hangar) and EH101 (“spot”). The flight deck must allow the operation of different types of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as “drones” (Ogassa OGS42, Tekever AR3, etc.), as well as all the support required for vertical refueling operations (VERTREP).

Within the scope of semi-rigid vessels, the N-PM will have 3 vessels: a vessel with
SOLAS (“Safety of Life at Sea”) certification for operation as “Fast
Rescue Boat”, with a power of not less than 250 hp; and two non-cooperative approach vessels, with capacity for 8 equipped soldiers, with a maximum speed of 35 knots or higher and a minimum autonomy of 60 nautical miles, for inspection missions , policing, combating drug trafficking, assault and support for a small embarked force.

Following the good practices and installation and operation recommendations of the “Alliance of European Research Fleets” (EUROFLEET), in terms of support systems for scientific research, the N-PM will be designed to be able to operate subsurface Unmanned Vehicles (VENTs) and remotely operated vehicles – “Remotely Operated Vehicle” (ROV). It will have a sensor pavilion (“drop keel”) for the installation of scientific and acoustic sensors; a large volume “Rosette” CTD system (for deep water sampling, with probe capable of operating up to 6,000 m); an MVP system, “Moving Vessel Profiler”, capable of operating up to 700 meters deep with the ship sailing at 8 knots; an “Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler” (ADCP); a “Global Acoustic Positioning System” (GAPS), capable of operating up to 4,000 meters deep. In addition to these organic systems, the N-PM will have the capacity and integration for several other non-organic systems (Piston Corer – Calypso, Vibrocorer, Box Corer, Multi Corer, etc.) as well as all operating and support winches.

Under an integrated architecture of command and control, platform management, and digital information processing and management systems, this N-PM will have a set of navigation systems (IBS, DDU, TACAN, Secure GPS, etc.), with navigation radar surveillance systems, combined warning radar (ARPA capability, “Automatic Radar Plotting Aid” and IMO certification; ECM and Anti-Jamming) and IFF/W-AIS identification systems, as well as underwater surveillance systems (bathythermograph; support for XBT/XSV probe used in the Navy (XBT4, XBT5, XBT7 and MK-8 XBT/XSV) or CTD type probes). In terms of external communications, it will have, among others, satellite communication systems SATCOM and MILSATCOM, GMDSS, submarine telephone, SART, EPIRB and ICCS.

In terms of armament, the N-PM will be equipped, at least, with 4 “softmounts” for a Browning M2 .50 heavy machine gun, with a firing range limiter and respective accessories, and a base, with ballistic protection for the Browning part and respective operator; and with 2 pieces of Hotchkiss salvo. The N-PM will be equipped with magazines and armories capable of storing various portable weapons, ammunition, pyrotechnic material and demolition material and respective detonators.

Technical drawing and 3D model via the Portuguese Navy Ships Directorate
Editing and composition by “Espada & Escudo”

“Putin touts Russia’s ‘Arctic power’ with launch of nuclear icebreakers”

Launch ceremony for the nuclear-powered icebreaker "Yakutia" in Saint Petersburg

Launch ceremony for the nuclear-powered icebreaker “Yakutia” in St. Petersburg

Some news from MSN about two new Russian nuclear powered icebreakers, one launch, one “flag raising,” and a reference to a real monster,

Putin said a super-powerful nuclear 209-metre icebreaker known as “Rossiya”, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break through ice four metres thick.