Decommissioning the 110s

File:USCGC Mustang (WPB-1310).jpg

Photo: USAF photo, USCGC MUSTANG (WPB 1310), underway at Port Valdez, Alaska, while providing harbor security during Exercise NORTHERN EDGE 2002.

The Coast Guard recently commissioned its eighth Webber Class Fast Response Cutter, and it has accepted the ninth. Since these are replacements for the 110 foot Island class, we should not be surprised that Island class cutters are being decommissioned.

This is the first I have heard about since the decommissioning of the 123 conversions: USCGC Bainbridge Island (WPB-1343).

The FY2015 budget provides for decommissioning eight 110s.

The Coast Guard plans on 58 Webber class, so presumably they would want to retain enough 110s to provide a total of 58 larger patrol craft with the 110s filling in until replaced by the new ships. It does not look like this will happen. Since the decommissioning of eight Island class as a result of the failure of the 123 conversion, there have been 41 Island class WPBs. Adding the Webber class WPCs currently commissioned that gives the Coast Guard a total of 49 large patrol craft. It appears the total will not exceed 49 at any time in the foreseeable future.

If 110s are decommissioned at the same rate Webber class are built, the number may stabilize at 49. If on the other hand the Coast Guard is unable to keep these older vessels going, the total is likely to drop. If that happen, as little as I like the idea of multiple crews, perhaps it is time to look at multi-crewing the Webber Class. .

52 thoughts on “Decommissioning the 110s

  1. really not liking that idea.. am not a fan of multiple crews at all. any ship I was on, I owned that plant if it broke my responsibility. my raft.

  2. As the FRC’s come online, maybe we can see if we can sell them to Iraq, Nigeria or the Philippines. The money we get from the sales can help finance the cost of the OPC or more FRC’s.

    • As has been pointed out to you repeatedly, we don’t make any profit when we transfer our ships to foreign countries. They are basically worn out. They are being transferred to nations that can’t afford or have the means for new build ships. They are transferred to bolster the defenses of countries friendly to us. No made is made from these transfers. If we sold worn out ships for profit, no country would be interested in them. Do you finally understand how these transfers work??

  3. Yes, let’s multi crew the Webber class WPBs. After all, that proved to be such a success when it was tried on the 82’s in the Eleventh District many years ago.

    • The Israeli Navy tried it and it failed, our Navy tried it with the MCMs and it failed, we tried it with the SES and it failed. Maybe someone will realize trying the same failed idea again and again won’t make it work.

      • The CG more or less does it in Bahrain with decent success. The Navy PCs in Bahrain…not so much. I think it’s a mindset issue more than anything. As bigsbigs1 said, “I owned that plant if it broke my responsibility. my raft.” It’s not that I support it but it can be done.

  4. What is the cost benefit of having multiple crews? How many more operational days of service can be squeezed in? Would not more running time require more maintenance as the cutters age?

    Remembering Alexander Hamilton’s constant mantra “with due consideration for costs” when it came to the first cutters may be appropriate. The Service has been notoriously cheap ever since.

  5. Please refer to the RANDS study the USCG commissioned after 9/11
    All of the 110s were supposed to be replaced by 2009. 5 years ago. ICGS was under a program wide contractual guaranty to make that happen. Since Deepwater was funded through this period they are contractually and legally responsible for that mission gap. As well as for all of the surface gaps to this point.
    Recently I was informed there is interest in to the guaranty and why it wasn’t used. I am hopeful that some action is taken on this soon. The contractors, the USCG and DHS are going to have to tell congress why they hid and did not use that guaranty.

      • As far as I know they are unaware of the guaranty.
        Having said that you are probably right.
        But when a tragedy hits they, the press, the USCG will all react and CYA.

  6. I agree with Bill Wells and Anonymouse. Multiple crewing will not save much (if any) money and will provide only marginal additional operational days.

    In fact, in the era of sequestration, I bet the numbers will fall below 49 and no multi-crewing in order to save that money.

    I also would be willing to bet that the ultimate number of FRCs will fall well below 58. (Sadly – I’m not advocating it. It just seems no one ever gets everything they want, especially in lean budget times.)

    • Multi crewing is BAD. It wears out ships must faster as routine maintenance and refits are put off in an effort to keep ships at sea. The Navy’s Spruance class DD’s were worn 10-15 years prematurely because of multi crewing.

      • Then explain how come Mutli crewing worked out well in the US Navy’s SSBN force and Royal Australian Navy’s Armidale class Patrol boats

      • The thing you are also forgetting, Nicky, is that the expenses of personnel far exceed the expense of operating plus amortizing out the cost of the boat plus increased tempo of repairs and maintenance. Also, when the boat is down, you’ve now idled two crews. (Unless you take that into consideration of your crew rotation, which then re-raises an earlier point that crews do not feel ownership or loyalty to their vessel, which has more maintenance consequences…) Crew costs, combined with accelerated wear and tear, will mean multi-crewing saves zero money, and the boats will just be worn out faster.

    • You use a very poor example to push multi crewing, the Armidale class patrol boats are practically new, the oldest have been in service for less than 10 years, the newer ones only a few years. Lets see what kind of shape they are in 10-15 years from now. It’s also a sure thing that they aren’t run as hard as ours are. The SSBN’s despite multi crewing never have maintenance and refits deferred. They are too valuable. Surface vessels that use multi crewing are usually “run into the ground” just to keep them at sea. The Spruance class DD’s and Perry class are a classic example of the results. You’ve never served or been to sea so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

      • The SSBNs are actually not multi-crewed. Crewmwmbers are assigned to Blue/Gold crews and stay on the same boat with the same crew their entire tour. What the CG tried and wants to do again with the NSCs is have sailors pop from ship to ship like airdales do…thus no sense of ownership of whatever platform they happen to be “operating” that patrol.

        The success of the SSBN Blue/Gold crew concept is used by many as a red herring (like the CG tried to with the NSC program) as an “example” of how multi-crewing will work.

      • Thanks for the correction, I suspected that Nick didn’t really understand the crew rotations for subs, I didn’t want to comment too much on the SSBN’s since I’m not in the Navy and certainly not a bubblehead. Nick comes here and pretends to know how the Coast Guard works based on surfing the internet. He doesn’t really understand or process the info he finds on the internet. When he’s corrected by those that do know, he refuses to learn and goes on repeating the same things in other threads. He is in love with every foreign navy and seems to think that they do things better than we do and operate better designs than our Navy or Coast Guard could develop on their own(lets keep the LCS out of this discussion). Multi-crewing is bad, and it continues to be repeated despite the wear and tear on ships. Minimal manning is another disaster.

    • Also I don’t know where you get your information, unless you just make it up. Despite the class as a whole being only between 6 to 9 years old they are already experiencing a rash of problems. They won’t even last 10 more years if they continue using multi crewing.

  7. did two pb’s including commissioning the matinicus.( not bad for a maine boy to be on a boat named matinicus) while the mat was a cool boat, it would never stand up to the punishment, year after year that an 82 could. wasn’t built to. they were designed to last roughly 15 years. 82’s went into their thirties and are still serving navies and cg’s around the world. don’t see 110’s doing that.

    • You bring up an interesting issue. When commercial shipping standards, rather than military survival standards, are used as the basis for designing ships and boats, a secondary effect is that general ruggedness (and therefore longevity) are lost. Someone should divide the number of operational days of a 30 year career of a ruggedly-built, more-expensive boat and compare that to 15 years’ operational days of a cheaper “commercial standards” boat…

      Build ships and boats to last an expected life of 60 years, and you might get 40 years out of them with multi-crewing (with an assumption of ~30% downtime for maintenance and repairs).

  8. nicky, hate to tell you, but when we actually sell a vessel to a foreign gov. there is little profit involved. some times they are free. we are trying to pump up our neighbors who are nice to us or tow our party line. don’t think that is bad, even as a lib. we “sold” the philipenes two 378’s. may even have lost money on the deal but it props up a weak ally in the pacific, who needs it.

  9. one more time nick. the armidales are being beat to death. nobodies fault just too much mission. we’ve all been there. plus all aluminum may be fine for a 55′, not a boat that is going to take a serious pounding every freakin day. i’ll shut my pie hole now.

  10. The Coast Guard has had some experience with rotating crews including the 110s in SouthWest Asia.

    If you read my proposal you will see it includes maintaining stable crews for relatively long periods.

    The Coast Guard is still apparently planning on implementing a straight “Crew Rotation Concept” for the NSCs and ultimately also apparently the OPCs. Count me as skeptical.

    • Chuck,

      Hate to say it, but the CG really doesn’t “rotate” crews on the WPBs assigned to PATFORSWA – at least not through my time in the Gulf (2011-2012). Personnel dealing with the cutters are assigned to one of the 6 hulls, the “7th crew,” or the PATFORSWA shoreside command. While it may once have been a full crew’s worth of individual augmentees, the “7th Crew” is presently made up of a backup CO, XO, Engineer Petty Officer, and cook – those billets with which a cutter can’t get underway without. These personnel move from hull to hull over the course of their tour to cover for other members taking their two-week R&R leave.

      The only real “rotation” that we’ve done with 110’s (at least recently) was the “High-Tempo, High-Maintenance” (HTHM) program with the ships in D7. I was never onboard a HTHM cutter and can’t speak for how well the concept did or didn’t work, but my understanding was that it was a stop-gap measure to account for the ophours lost by the failure of the 123′ WPBs.

  11. We are going about this the wrong way. Every firehouse in America has a spare truck in the house, to provide coverage when the primary truck is down. In the same light, each Sector should have a spare PB to rotate in when PBs are down for docksides, drydocks et al.

  12. Stand by for my constant harp. This is why Coast Guard history is so badly needed. No one has looked at the Vietnam 82s as an example. There were no multiple crews but there was the designation of a “spare” boat crew. These were used in a piecemeal fashion as individual replacements for those going on R&R, sick call and such. The crews remained fairly stable. I am sure multiple crewing would have not worked in Vietnam. The problem was what would the 156 people per division do when on the spare list? Sounds like trouble to me.

    The normal patrols were four days but could extend to seven (this length meant bumming water and fuel from USN or USCG ships). The imports were from 12 to 48 hours depending on the schedule. Most were less than 24 hours. This went year round without thought of the weather. Underway time for these 82s was from 75% to 85%. This was took a huge toll on the engineering plant even if tenderly treated. Most of the actual patrol was done on one engine (alternating hours) at very slow 2.5 knot trolling speed. One or both of the generators ran all the time as did the air conditioning and what little electronics there were.

    The WPBs were about five years old when they went to Vietnam and had not been used roughly. The five years in Vietnam put about ten years of operational years on the WPBs and they were worn out by the time we turned them over to the Vietnamese despite local and major repairs and rehab. (Some of the WPBs went to Japan and Singapore for major work.).

    I do not believe that multiple crews would have helped. There are limits to how much stress the vessel and machinery can take.

    A historical analogy can be seen in the late 19th century steam cutters in their annual Alaska cruising. The normal months of operation were from April to early November. The crews were shipped for the cruise and only some returned for another. The cutter then spent from November to April refitting unless called out. They did have multiple crews, one for sailing and one for maintenance. However, the same officers and warrant officers were aboard the whole time to ensure continuity.

    • Thank you, Bill! I’m amazed that so few of our community are willing to find the “lessons learned” in our own history with patrol boats. I was a Skipper of a Coastal Search and Rescue Facility (COSARFAC), which was the fancy title for an 82 footer in the old 11th District. We had two full Crews worth of bodies, but not equivalents. One LTJG as CO, a BMC as XPO who was board-qualified to take her out on patrol, an MK1/MK2 pairing, etc. While we did get all of our maintenance done and with great pride with our 82, the number of operational hours on a hull and machinery plant can’t be magically cured by maintenance. We were underway two weeks of the month, on B-2 standby for a 3rd week, and either B-6 or C status the 4th week (alternating every other month). Too often, we were even pulled out of Charlie due to “emergent missions”. No matter what you did or how well you kept after your WPB with care and love, spending that much time beating back the seas lead to early decommissionings. We even had a “spare” 82 (the POINT CARREW) in D11 that was signed over to whichever CO had his own 82 in annual shipyard availability. Finally, HQ came out and started taking hull measurements. The COSARFAC boats’ hulls at the cutwaters and under the shafts had been worn alarmingly paper-thin and were all retired within a short period while the CARREW’s hull was almost as good as the day she was launched. It’s not about whether you have two crews/one boat, three crews for two boats, or whatever rotation you want to devise. Operational hours are operation hours and a hull’s hourglass empties as she makes way with a bone in her teeth.

  13. I haven’t had much to say, but I am very gratified by the discussion we have had on this topic. Frankly I am disappointed the Coast Guard leadership did not take the opportunity presented by the failure of the Deepwater contractors to distance themselves from the “Crew Rotation Concept.” And that further having failed to repudiate it, they did not attempt the concept on some existing class as a test that might have allowed them to confront the potential problems early and work out possible solutions or finally to demonstrate the difficulties and disadvantages.

    I do think it might be possible to get more than 185 op-days a year out of the ships, without loosing a sense of ownership, by providing augmented crews, generous leave and/or temporary duty ashore during deployments, and temporary reliefs for some billets where there is no depth or duplication of skill or responsibilities (CO/XO/HM/etc) rather than rotating entire crews, but we have not done the experimentation to determine its feasibility.

    • I understand the issue is old, my repetition is more than old etc. But that is what the contractors and the Commandants, present and past, want you to feel. The USCG sold out and let the contractors hurt the service and the country. $17B grew to $32B for LESS than was was GUARANTEED to happen. I understand that the concept of a guaranty is new to contracting. And many probably think I mean warranty etc. NO. There was that too. ICGS unconditionally guaranteed the USCG would meet the Deepwater mission performance requirements. they were paid to do that and came up woefully short. Mostly due to late ship deliveries. The men and women of the USCG should not have to continually make up for the cowardice of the Commandants. Look at the contract. The guaranty is there. To not at least try to make ICGS honor it is cowardice, unethical, immoral and when tragedy strikes. negligence if not manslaughter. You are putting people in unsafe boast that should have already been replaced. Haitian and Deepwater missions failed due to this. At some point lives will be lost.

  14. What’s the point and what does it have to do with the U.S. Coast Guard?? The Webber class is replacing the 110’s. What’s with your obsession with foreign boats?

  15. The Webber class is finalized, it IS the 110 replacement. End of story. Nothing from the Royal Thai Navy will be incorporated into the Webber class. Do actually believe that the Royal Thai Navy is more advance than the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard?

  16. Does anyone know what’s happened to the decommissioned 123’s? Finally scrapped? Still held in Baltimore as evidence on a court case? MATAGORDA had a phenomenal, though shortened career.

  17. From the German Navy blog, “Marine Forum”:
    “US Coast Guard ISLAND class patrol boat „Assateague“ (WPB 1337) decommissioned and placed on sales list in Guam”

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