Photo Credit: HMAS Broome (ACPB 90) in Darwin Harbor, 12 May, 2010, by “Radagast3”
The Coast Guard is planning on multi-crewing the new large cutters, both NSCs and OPCs. In fact the latest authorization requires the Coast Guard to show that it can get 220 op-days out of each of the National Security Cutters, as the Coast Guard (and Integrated Coast Guard Systems) has said the they would. Neither the Coast Guard or the Navy has a lot of experience with this, although the Navy has had some sucess multi-crewing mine warfare ships. The Australians have been doing it for several years. Still their results are anything but clear.
Like the US, Australia has a problem with Illegal immigration. Their primary asset for Migrant Interdiction Operations (MIO) are a class of 14 patrol boats similar in size to our own Fast Response Cutters (FRC). They are a bit longer and beamer, but are built of aluminum and substantially lighter at 270 vs 353 tons. The armament and crew size are also similar. Rather than a single boat on a stern ramp they have two RHIBs on davits aft.
The vessels and their crews are organized into four division, three of four vessels and six crews and one of two vessels and three crews.
These little ships of the Armidale class are relatively new, with the first entering service in 2005 and the newest in 2008. (Their specifications are here.) Even so they have developed problems in service that has been blamed on both the heavy usage they have gotten as the illegal immigration problem has gotten much worse than anticipated and on their essentially commercial specifications.
Apparently the demanding usage has resulted in cracks in several of the vessels including restricting the first of class to less demanding training missions.
This problem came to the public’s attention in August. Since then it has apparently gotten worse.
Some speculate that the defects have been due to the use of commercial specifications. That the specification would have been alright for a vessel that could choose to avoid bad weather, but were not sufficient for a vessel that’s mission would entail going into bad weather to conduct search and rescue operations.
The other explanation is that because of the high tempo of operations, there has not been sufficient time for maintenance.
The Australian Navy has minimized the impact and significance of the cracking.