SOUTHCOM CG PATRON

WPC Kathleen_Moore

SouthCom, actually two SouthComs in a row, and the Commandant have noted that while they have excellent intelligence on drug smugglers in the transit zone, they simply do not have adequate numbers of vessels to respond.  (Here, here, and here) There were never enough, but after decommissioning the Perry class frigates, the Navy’s contribution appears to have declined significantly. The Coast Guard seems to have upped their game, possibly more than making up for the Navy’s absence, but still–not enough ships.

There may be a way at least partially address this problem.

We now have 16 Webber class WPCs in three homeports in the Seventh District, six in Miami, six in Key West, and four, soon to be six, in Puerto Rico. These may be “Fast Response Cutters,” but clearly they are not all sitting in homeport waiting for SAR cases. These are law enforcement assets and they are meant to patrol. Could we perhaps, maintain as many as four in the Eastern Pacific by rotating cutters from the 7th District to fill this role in the transit zone? Obviously, it is not impossible, since the Navy is sending their similar sized Cyclone class PCs to the Eastern Pacific, but what would it take to make it work well?

Obviously they would need additional fuel and supplies while deployed. There is a good chance between Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica, we could find a port willing to host these little white ships.

Aside from “beans and black oil” they might also need some administrative, maintenance, or medical support.

The Navy might make itself useful here by providing a simple MSC manned support vessel that could be as basic as an Offshore Support Vessel loaded with containerized offices and logistical support to provide support that the port cannot. The Navy has already chartered a number of ships of this type and could charter another.

We could start this small. First study the results of the Navy’s Cyclone class deployment. Then send a single ship from say Miami, a month later we get a second ship from Key West. Let them figure out what they need and how the problems they will inevitably encounter can be solved.

Because they cannot embark a helicopter, they will need a complementary fixed wing support, but this is already being done at least to some extent.

Once we get to a total of 18 Webber class in these three home ports, we could keep four ships assigned to SouthCom by sending two ships each month and rotating them back after two months. Seventh district would still four ships assigned to each home port, which would mean that even if two are down for maintenance they would still have two for SAR and local law enforcement.

 

 

7 thoughts on “SOUTHCOM CG PATRON

  1. Why do we need to ask the Navy anything about this? We’ve had 110s on continuous deployment to CENTCOM for 13 years now. We’ve deployed our own Cyclone class PCs to the EPAC and CARIB until we returned them to the Navy. Also we deployed our 110s to the CARIB for six months back in 2013. If we wanted to deploy our 154s to JIATF then we’d just do it without much fanfare. Instead we are using them to support AMIO & counter drug ops in the approaches to PR/DR (Sector San Juan), we’ve been doing that since we first got WEBBER. In addition we are supporting the Florida Straits. The real benefit of the FRC is that they have enough capability and migrant carrying capacity that we don’t need as many MECs patrolling the SFLS and DR/PR approaches. That in turn frees up the larger cutters for offshore operations. Our program of record for the PCs is enough to support the coastal missions. If we want/need more offshore capacity then we need more NSCs and OPCs.

    • I expected the Webber Class to be used more like MECs than the PBs. They are actually larger than the 125s and 165s that the 210s replaced, and they were rated WMECs at one time.

      The Commandant has talked about wanting to establish a PATRON similar to the one currently working out of Bahrain in the transit zone.

      • Size isn’t the only thing that matters, look at their ROC & POE. The 154s weren’t built to do downrange operations, they can only carry the fuel and food for a week. Also, keep in mind that the 110s in PATFORSWA have been modified to increase the crew size. Of course we could operate them in deployed squadrons but it would take modifications and crew augments.

        In some ways they can be used more like MECs than PBs which is what I said before. They can almost completely eliminate the need for MECs doing the migrant mission. That frees up the MECs that typically support the southern Sectors for AMIO to do offshore operations.

        The concept of setting up CD PATRONs is not a new concept. The 110s initially operated under a squadron command during the CHECKMATE era of the drug war. Then the CG decided the squadron ADCON/OPCON staffs were too costly and the PBs starting working for the Sectors & Districts directly. The PATRON flag is still hanging on the D7 enforcement office’s wall in Miami.

        However, you are correct that some of the 210 mission will be absorbed by the FRC. NSC/OPC/FRC fleet mix is 9/25/58=92. That compares with the WHEC/WMEC/WPB fleet of 12/32/49=93 (including the Storis, Acushnet, Courageous, and Durable). Hull-for-hull three OPCs will fill slots from the WHECs and 10 FRCs will fill slots from the WMECs.

        A PATFORSWA-style option in the EPAC could be a good option since the transit time is an issue. Instead of looking to the Navy for advise, we should use the lessons learned from dual-crewing the 110s during the High Tempo High Maintenance program. We’d have to buy extra crews and pay for the extra maintenance. I’d don’t know really how much it would cost since the FRC’s OE and personnel costs are so much higher than the 110s. Some back of the napkin assumptions leads me to believe that rolling dual-crewing in the EPAC for a 4 cutter squadron probably would cost something north of $25M a year on top of the normal costs. For that amount of cash you can keep 1-2 more MECs/OPCs on patrol in the same area so is it really that big a win? A flight deck, crew depth, sea keeping, and two boats makes a big difference when doing down range drug ops. There is a big difference between the daily churn of many short boardings and 1-3 day CD boardings. Crew depth and on station persistence is so important.

      • Piero, you are making too much of my suggestion to use the Navy’s Cyclone experience, It is only that it is a similar sized ship, with a similar mission, and it has been in the area recently. I did not expect us to ignore the Coast Guard’s own experience.

        The crew rotation concept is of course supposed to make the make eight NSCs equal 12 WHECs and the 25 OPCs equal the 32 WMECs.

        The crews of the Webber class are already augmenedt to approximately the size of those of the PATFORSWA 110s with two extra officers routinely assigned. They already have twice the crew of the 82 footers of Coast Guard Squadron ONE, and they did an incredible number of boardings under stressful conditions, so they may not need much, if any additional.

        We don’t have to have everything figured out before we start, and nothing is irreversible. This is an area where we can experiment a little and learn a lot.

  2. In today’s world, operational rqmts come From the COCOMs and then goes to the services. So since SOUTHCOM obviously has the rqmts, and will presumalbly get OM&N funds to pay for a support ship, things may well happen?
    The key in the above discussion is Not just to put assets in the AOR, but to Keep ships and cutters ON-STATION so that the drugies and enemies do not slip throught the cracks. Both the USN and USCG suffer from a RTB Return to Base mentality too much IMHO.
    BTW as a metric, MSC could provide a small chartered OSV type support ship for about $25k per day.

  3. Why not put some of that PATRON staff and relief crewmembers on a mothership aka station ship to help the cutters while On station?

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