DIY Fleet Mix Study

The Coast Guard has not published its “Fleet MIX Study” though we have had some indication of the results of an early iteration.  A GAO report gave us this:

Table 1: Alternative Fleet Mix Asset Quantities According to Coast Guard’s Phase 1
Fleet Mix Analysis, Surface/Aviation Platforms

————————Program of record/Fleet mix 1/Fleet mix 2/Fleet mix 3/Fleet mix 4 (objective)
NSC                                        8                        9                     9                       9                            9
OPC                                      25                      32                   43                    50                           57
FRC                                      58                      63                    75                   80                           91
HC-130                                22                      32                    35                   44                           44
HC-144                                36                      37                     38                  40                           65
HH-60                                 42                      80                    86                   99                         106
HH-65                                102                    140                    15                   188                         223
UAS, Land-Based              12                       19                     21                     21                           22
UAS, Cutter-Based            18                       15                     19                     19                           19
Source: December 2009 Coast Guard data.

Later, I looked at the requirement for large cutters based only on the size of the EEZ and continental shelf size that seemed to indicate we need a lot more emphasis in the Pacific.

In a comment on that post, “Desk Riding Cutterman” gave us his interpretation of the number of ships the Coast Guard needs on patrol for various missions “based on my personal ranking of each mission area and an assumption that our fleet is not limited by the proposal make by ICGS nearly 10 years ago.

Generally you have the following needs:

D1: 2.0 for SAR coverage
D5: 1.0 for LMR/SAR/PWCS
D7: 4.0 for Florida Straits and Windward Pass plus other threat areas and LMR enforcement
D8: 1.0 for LMR enforcement
D11: 0.5 for CONUS enforcement and Southern WOC fisheries
D13: 0.5 for CONUS enforcement and Northern WOC fisheries
D14: 1.0 for Western fisheries
D17: 2.0 for offshore SAR (1.0 during summer) and berring fisheries
1.0 for RIMPAC and High seas drift net operations with Asian partners
2.0 for DOD deployments (AFRICOM, CENTCOM, and PACCOM)
6.0 for JIATF (3.0 in each theater)

I’d like to open up a discussion to talk about this. If you don’t have an all inclusive answer that’s OK, but what are the important consideration?

  • What do we need?
  • What do we need to be doing we are not doing now?
  • Are there any excess capacity?
  • What are the consequences of inaction?
  • What are the missions? Priorities?
  • Do we need ice capable arctic patrol vessels? How many?
  • Icebreakers?
  • Asset types?
  • Aircraft numbers/mix/location appropriate?
  • Geographic distribution?
  • Tradeoffs? Numbers vs capabilities?


10 thoughts on “DIY Fleet Mix Study

  1. I think an important consideration here is these numbers don’t reflect the strategic importance of the artic and the requirement for heavy icebreakers and ice capable patrol vessels.

  2. I agree but that is a different fleet and there needs to be a separate fleet mix study to include tender, breakers, and artic assets. It isn’t realistic to build white hulled cutters with plants, guns, and sensors to operate in traditional theaters and at the same time outfit them with the cold weather capability, heavy construction, and big high torque/low speed engines. Also of consideration is the need for C2 systems designed to operate in the near polar regions where things like GPS and SAT comms become much less capable (line of sight). Also, we have agreements with Canada that would most likely keep use from arming them beyond 30MM weapons. What you would end up with is a cutter that is as big as an OPC but about as capable as a 210′ WMEC. It would really be like a pre-war 327′ with a flight deck. I think we would be better off looking to something like a long range version of the MACKINAW. We will need the ability to service summer ATON.

    In such a fleet mix we could look to reposition our D17 tenders south and use the ARTIC MAC’s as both D17 ATON platforms and enforcement platforms. Just some thoughts.

    • The fleet mix study I reference included both patrol vessels and aircraft. I don’t think they considered breakers, tenders, or arctic patrol vessels only because they did not have any acquisition plans for those within the planning horizon. If the plan is intended to identify future AC&I requirements, then they all need to be aggregated.

      The Navy is required to do a 30 year plan for ships and aircraft. That time horizon almost seems ludicrous, but maybe if the Coast Guard had been doing that, we would not be in the fix we are now.

      The mission mix for the Arctic Patrol Cutters is certainly a question. Will they also handle buoys and do AtoN construction like a modern Storis or should they be optimized for SAR and LE? Maybe all of the above or specialized ships?

      As far as I know there are no restrictions on weapons in the Arctic. There is the treaty between Canada and the US that Bill referred to that applies only to the Great Lakes and I believe there is a treaty that applies to Icebreakers going to the Antarctic that requires that they be open for inspection so you don’t put your best stuff or your code machines on them. None of these preclude arming and equipping cutters enforcing US laws in the US Arctic EEZ exactly as other cutters are. I seem to recall we already sent a 378 into the arctic for a short period.

  3. “Also, we have agreements with Canada that would most likely keep use from arming them beyond 30MM weapons.”

    I’m not familiar with an armament agreement for the arctic regions. I know of the 1817 Rush-Bagot Agreement for the Great Lakes and how that has been used and misused over the centuries. Besides, either party may pull out of it at any time.

    The pre-war 327s were better armed than the current NSCs.

    • “The pre-war 327s were better armed than the current NSCs.”

      Every time I see a photo of a NSC and its puny armament, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    • No, I’m comparing the armament of the NSC with its international contemporaries, and evaluating it for the mission.

      Yes, I understand that the US Navy is going to stop supporting the 76mm gun, but that gun is better suited for surface targets – the kind that the CG is most likely to encounter. The 57mm Bofors is a great AA weapon. Trouble is, Al Queda and the drug cartels don’t currently have an air force, nor are they likely to field one anytime soon.

      Let’s say that a group of terrorists have comandeered a large container vessel, and are headed for NY. Which gun is going to be more effective at shooting out the rudder/propulsion machinery of that ship?

      • Given the choice, I would have retained the 76 mm and upgraded it to the current 120 round per minute configuration (, but that is a Navy decision. Really neither weapon has a high probability of sinking or even stopping a large ship in a timely manner.

        Additionally, unless we have substantial notice, we are unlikely to have an MEC or larger ship in position to intercept. They are usually either deployed or in maintenance. I also have little faith that we could get help from DOD assets in time. (Anybody know of an MOU that DOD will keep anti-surface assets on standby that will answer a call from a Coast Guard duty officer in an emergency–don’t think so.)

        We need weapons on the smaller vessels, that are likely to be readily available, that can stop even a large ship. Those sorts of weapons exist. It is possible to put weapons with a relatively small foot print on even small cutters. But right now they are not in the US inventory.

  4. It may have been fortunate that the 327s were not as well armed as their Navy sisters Charleston and Erie which had four six inch guns and 16×1.1″ (28 mm). It made it easier to rearm them and fit them for convoy duty. One of the Navy ships was lost early in the war, the other was essentially unchanged during the four years of the war while the CG ships were first modified to make them escorts and then changed again to make them amphibious force flagships.

    Having extra weight moment available paid big dividends.

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