Is the Fleet Shrinking?

Is the Fleet Shrinking?

I got curious and did a small survey of the fleet size using resources I had at hand (that’s why I used 1982 instead of the more logical 1980). So here is a comparison of the  fleet composition in 1982, 1990, 2000, and 2010 with some notes about the future. To make the information more meaningful, I have grouped the ships in categories by displacement and provided subtotals of all the ships in that category or larger. There is a more specific evaluation of patrol vessels near the bottom.  My sources are at the foot.

(note: loa is length over all.  tons (fl) is full load displacement)

Type         Class               loa    tons (fl)      1982    1990    2000    2010

WAGB     Healy              420    16,000          –           –             1           1
WAGB     Polar               399    12,087           2          2            2           2
WAGB     Glacier            310      8,449           1           –            –            –
——————————————————————————————————-
=> 8,000 tons                                                  3         2           3           3
——————————————————————————————————-
WAGB     Wind               269      6,515            2          –             –            –
WAGB     Mackinaw      290      5,252             1          1            1            –
WMSL     Bertholf          418      4,306              –          –            –            2
——————————————————————————————————-
=> 4,000 tons                                                6          3            4           5
——————————————————————————————————-
WAGB     Mackinaw      240      3,350            –           –            –            1
WHEC     Hamilton       378      3,050         12         12          12          12
WMEC     Alex Hailey   282       2,929           –            –            1            1
WHEC     Barnegat        311     2,800           1           –            –             –
WHEC     Hamilton       327      2,656            4          –            –             –
Aerostat  Gulf Sentry    193      2,140             –          3            –             –
WAGL     Juniper           225     2,000            –          –             5          16
——————————————————————————————————-
=> 2,000                                                      23        18          22         35
——————————————————————————————————-
WMEC    Storis               230    1,925              1          1            1             –
Aerostat  Atlantic S.        193    1,820              –          1            –             –
WIX         Eagle               295    1,784              1         1            1             1
WMEC    Bear                 270    1,780              2      10          13          13
Aerostat  Windw’d S.      193    1,770              –         1            –             –
WMEC    Diver                213    1,745              3        3            1             1
WMEC    Cherokee         205   1,731               5        3            –             –
WLB/WMEC/WAGO       180   1,025             31      31          15             –
WMEC    Active              210   1,007             16      16          16          14
——————————————————————————————————-
=> 1,000 tons                                               82     85         69          64
——————————————————————————————————-
WLM       Walnut           175     989                 1        1             –             –
WLM       Keeper           175    845                  –         –           11          14
WTGB     Katmai Bay    140    662                  6        9            9            9
WLV        Nantucket       128    607                 2         –            –              –
WLM       White Sumac  133    600                 7         6            1              –
WLM       Red Wood      157     512                5         5            –              –
——————————————————————————————————-
=> 500 tons                                               103      106        90          87
——————————————————————————————————-
WLIC       Pamlico          160    459                 4          4           4            4
WLR        Sumac           115    404                  1           1           –             –
WSES      Dorado          157    380                  1            –           –             –
WYTM    Apalachee       110    370                 9            –           –             –
WPC        Cyclone         179    370                  –            –           –             3
——————————————————————————————————-
=> 250 tons                                                 118         111       94          94
——————————————————————————————————-
WLR        Lantana          80    235                    1              1          –             –
WLR        Dogwood      114     230                  1              –          –             –
WLI         Buckthorn      100    188                   3              1         1              1
WLIC      Cosmos         100     178                  4              4          1              1
WLR       Kankakee         75     175                 –               –           2              2
WSES     Sea Hawk      110     160                 –               3           –              –
WPB       Island             110     160                 –             34         49           41
WLR       Gasconade       75     145                 9              9           9             9
WLR       Anvil                 75      145               10              9           8              1
WLR       Ouachita          65      139                 6              6           6              6
———————————————————————————————————–
=> 125 tons                                                 152         178         170         155
———————————————————————————————————–
Type       Class             loa    tons (fl)           1982       1990       2000       2010

(Note I did not include ferries or floating drydocks or any vessel under 125 tons full load.)

By some measures, the totals have declined. Of course the polar ice breaker fleet is smaller, going from five ships to three. But virtually all of the difference is in the number of AtoN vessels. Hopefully this is due to better technology, reducing the need for ships to service aids.

If we consider only patrol vessels, including WPBs under 125 tons, at least in numbers, the patrol/SAR/LE portion of the fleet appears in at least as good a shape as in any of the previous years I looked at, largely due to the large number of 87 ft WPBs. The reservation is that we know that at the high end, among the over 1,000 ton ships, we already have serious problems because of the age of the 378s and 210s, and even before they are replaced, the 270s will be well overage too. The Coast Guard’s stated intention is to have only 33 ships in this high end group(8 NSCs and 25 OPCs). Despite the admittedly greater capability of the individual ships and the capability of the Webber class to possibly take up some of the slack (the Webbers are larger than some of the ships the 210s replaced), this is a reason for concern. Unfortunately, I expect we will experience a continued collapse of the readiness of these classes before they are replaced.

Type       Class              loa      tons (fl)      1982        1990        2000        2010        Future
———————————————————————————————————————————————-
WMSL   Bertholf           418     4,306            –              –                –              2                 8
WHEC   Hamilton         378     3,050          12           12             12            12                  –
WMEC   Alex Hailey      282     2,929            –             1                1              –                  –
WHEC   Barnegat         311     2,800            1             –                –              –                  –
WHEC   Hamilton         327     2,656             4            –                 –             –                   –
WMSM                                                          –             –                –              –                25
WMEC   Storis             230     1,925              1            1                1              –                  –
WMEC   Bear               270     1,780              2          10              13            13                 –
WMEC   Diver               213     1,745              3           3                1              1                 –
WMEC   Cherokee        205     1,731              5           3                 –             –                  –
WMEC   Balsam           180     1,025               3           3                3              –                  –
WMEC   Active             210     1,007             16         16              16            14                 –
———————————————————————————————————————————————-
Patrol Vessels  > 1,000 tons                           47        48              47            43              33
———————————————————————————————————————————————-
WSES     Dorado           157       380                1          –                 –               –                –
WPC       Cyclone          179       370                 –          –                 –              3                –
WPC       Webber          154       353                 –          –                 –                –             58
WSES     Sea Hawk       110       160                 –          3                 –                –               –
WPB       Island              110       160                 –         34             49              41               –
WPB       Cape                 95       105               26          4               –                 –               –
WPB       M. Protector      87         91                 –           –              15              71            71
WPB       Point                 82         67                53        53             21               –                –
———————————————————————————————————————————————-
Patrol Vessels and boats > 62.5 tons              127      142           132            158          162
———————————————————————————————————————————————–

(Does not include any of the 140,110, 65 foot tugs that might be considered part of the Patrol fleet)

Sources:
Janes’s Fighting Ships, 1982-83, Edited by Captain John Moore, RN, Jane’s Publishing Co., 1982
Combat Fleets of the World, 1990/1991,  Edited by Bernard Prezelin, Naval Institute Press, 1990
Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001, edited by A. D. Baker, III, Naval Institute Press, 2000
http://www.uscg.mil/datasheet/, and linked pages for current strength

15 thoughts on “Is the Fleet Shrinking?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Is the Fleet Shrinking? - CGBlog.org -- Topsy.com

  2. Chuck – thanks for a very concise and accurate snapshot of the sadly declining cutter fleet. The beancounters can rationalize it all they want, but the increase in cutters under 1000 tons simply won’t make up for the decrease in cutters over 1000 tons.

    For obvious reasons, the Coast Guard is currently downplaying the term “deepwater” as it applies to reconstituting the cutter fleet. However, once the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico recedes from the public view, “deepwater” is not an term I’d be anxious to apply to the afloat Coast Guard, once the major patrol cutter fleet drops from 47 to 33.

  3. I thought the Webber class minimum quantity was 58. As far as I know they aren’t done outlining the application of FRC’s – final numbers could be upwards of 90 for that platform.

    And looking at the FRC specs, crew size aside, the platform more closely reflects a 210 than the ship it is replacing. More HP in the diesel plant than a 378 and expensive as all get out. Interesting platform. Not sure it’s worth the $$ at 60M+ (90M likely out the door), but it’s certainly interesting.

  4. Chuck, Very informative. The situation seems less bad than I felt it was at first. Good to look at your hard data for a realty check. Still bad, but not as bad as I felt. Add in the implementation issues with the deepwater program and it is even more problematic, though it looks like the numbers are still there (just with more OTS designs rather than purpose-designed for the CG).

    My big concern, too, is the larger patrol assets. WHEC/NSC and WMEC/OPC numbers are really cut — 30% by my calculations. I agree with anonymous – that’s going to make “deepwater” sort of a misnomer…

  5. Sorry Anon, You are right, final number is supposed to be 58 Webber class. I’ll correct it.

    Hopefully the FRCs will turn out to be very useful ships. As I noted, they are bigger that some of the ships the 210s replaced, specifically 125s and 165 B-class, which at the end of their lives were classed as WMECs.

    They don’t have helos of their own, but perhaps teaming two with a NSC, they could block a considerable area.

    I understand as the quantity goes up the price will go down to about $44M each.

  6. So, next step. What would you say if our fairy godmother/father in Congress came to you and ask what do we do to fix this? What do you say.

    My feeling:
    –go ahead and decommission three 378s, keep the crews in tact, and multi-crew the remaining HECs. If it is such a great idea, why aren’t we doing it now?
    –If ships appear to have some life left in them, hold off on decommissioning. We can be sure that some we did not plan on decommissioning “right now” are going to have some catastrophic failures.
    –Accelerate the production of the NSC. Add a ninth NSC in case multi-crewing works and negotiate an option for three more if it doesn’t.
    –Build three modified Mackinaws for operation in the 17th District including the Arctic. This might help the icebreaker problem as well as the patrol ship problem, and we will probably need to do some AtoN in the Artic too. Give them a helo deck on the stern and at least a couple of the 25 mm Mk38 mod 2s to protect our sovereignty from irate Canadians.
    –the OPC program should be able to start producing ships in six years instead of nine.

    That will give us four to seven additional ships and speed up the replacement of the antiques that are now holding the line.

    • Multi-crewing isn’t the answer, unless we want to wear out the NSC class faster than planned. The Service needs to make a solid business case for replacing the 378’s and the MEC’s with NSC’s and OPC’s on a one for one basis.

      Modified Mackinaws for the Arctic/Bering Sea is an excellent idea.

      • The plan has been to multi-crew the NSCs all along, that is why only 8 to replace twelve. I have my doubts, but better to find out sooner than later. The idea was three ships and four crews in each home port, that is why we should have at least nine.

  7. And while we are at it, let’s not forget we will need replacements for the Polar Class, the 140s, the WLICs, and probably some other “shallow water” projects as well.

  8. Pingback: Daily Summary for July 11 2010 : Coast Guard Digest

  9. Looking forward to smaller budgets (in real if not nominal terms), reducing the fleet tonnage while increasing numbers seems like a smart decision. You show in increase in patrol vessels from 174 in 1982 to 195 in the “future.” With multi-crewing, hopefully a smaller number of deepwater boats will be able to cover our existing deepwater commitments, while increased smaller boats will help fill gaps closer to shore and in the Caribbean.

    However, an educated opinion on this change in strategy requires specific knowledge of deepwater vs littoral operational requirements and the ability of our current versus future fleet constructions to fill them. Just counting vessels is only a fraction of the picture.

  10. Almost all the Inland/River tenders and nearly everyone of the WLICs are as old or older than the 210s and 378s. There were plans to upgrade them many years ago but it wasn’t high enough on the priority list. The fresh water the WLRs operate in does slow hull corrosion but crew habitability issues and barge equipment are relatively old. Lets hope someone is keeping an eye on this fleet as well.

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  12. Pingback: How We Got in This Mess-A Short History of CG Shipbuilding | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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