A Little More on the Offshore Patrol Cutter

OPC "Placemat"

OPC “Placemat”

MarineLink has a story on the OPC, and it includes a bit more detail, and it raises some questions. I’ve also seen a couple of stories about how they will be equipped that will be referred to below.

There is this:

“Zukunft’s budget suggests at least one cutter, or an immediate separate order, will be arctic capable, and Vard and Canadian engineering consultancy BMT Fleet are already understood to be working on project documents for a Canadian “arctic offshore patrol ship” of Vard 7 100 type.”

VARD 7-100 ICE, the Canadian AOPS

VARD 7-100 ICE, the Canadian AOPS

Vard actually has two designs designated “7-100,” an offshore patrol vessel (pdf) very similar to the OPC and the 7-100 ICE. Apparently, it is the 7-100 ICE they are referring to here. The VARD 7-100 ICE (pdf) is also known as the Canadian Navy’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS). Does that mean the Coast Guard is looking at the Canadian AOPS as a possible Arctic Patrol Vessel, perhaps filling the role of one or two of the three medium icebreaker? They do have power similar to the old Wind class icebreakers.

We also have this indication the standard OPCs are still expected to patrol the Arctic. (Var refers to the OPC as the Vard 7 110.)

“…the Vard 7 110’s will also patrol the “increasingly accessible Arctic”, a theatre which might require a more closed superstructure, more akin to the Vard 7 100.”

The Vard 7 100 ICE has its ground tackle below the foc’sle deck to protect it from freezing. Perhaps that is what this means. This has also been done on some European Frigates.

Then there is this little bit of speculation about who will build follow on ships”

“Owned by the Italian state via Fintecna, Fincantieri doubled after its acquisition of Vard to become the fourth largest shipbuilder in the world and the largest in the Med. As we wrote these words, Financtieri’s Trieste-based minds were making a friendly offer for the 44 percent of Vard they don’t own. It’s worth noting that in January 2009, Fincantieri bought Manitowoc Marine Group and its two yards in Wisconsin, including the Marinette Marine that built the first Freedom Class littoral combat ship. So, Eastern, it seems, has a rival and a friend in Fincantieri, another maker of mid-sized vessels for the U.S. Navy. So, who knows what may be next from U.S. military-industrial strategists keen to share financial resources with capable NATO allies while also creating jobs at home. For now, all eyes will be on those remaining OPVs.

They are pointing out that there may be competition for the follow on contract. That is good for the Coast Guard.

I would also point out that it also means Marinette might make modified OPCs for the Navy, if the Navy ever realizes that the LCS is not going to make a very good “small surface combatant.”

Northrop Grumman Corporation reports they have been awarded a contract for the design of the C4ISR and machinery control systems (MCS).

“The systems being supplied include integrated bridge systems, command and control consoles, navigation and combat data distribution systems, ship-wide computer network systems, machinery control systems and propulsion control systems

“Included in the design phase of the OPC program is a MCS land-based test facility, as well as a C4ISR test and integration facility, both of which will be located in Charlottesville. Additional work will be conducted at company facilities in San Diego, and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Northrop Grumman will also provide key C4ISR and MCS integration roles during production testing and shipboard trials to be held in Panama City, Florida.”

MarineLog identified the engines to be used.

Each 360 foot-long vessel will be powered by two FM-MAN 16V 28/33D diesel engines, each rated at 9,763 bhp at 1,000 rpm.

We have consistently seen the speed quoted as 22.5 knots sustained or 22 or more. I suspect they are being conservative. With almost 20,000 HP, the ship ought to make 24 or even 25 knots, in all but the most adverse conditions of load and bottom fouling.

I would have preferred the 20,000 KW (26820 HP) engines advertised for the VARD 7 1000 which would have assured 25 knots, but it’s not bad. If the 7 110 follows the pattern of the 7 100 OPV, than there will be hybrid propulsion, with electric motors on the shaft in addition to geared diesel drive from the main engines. For a cruising speed of 14 knots, that would require two electric motors of about 1,500 HP each.

 “In order to provide fuel efficiency and greater range, this vessel is powered by CODELAD (combined diesel and electric) which allows for instantaneous changeover.”

This would make a lot of sense, in that in addition to the fuel economy benefits it would improve the ships survivability. It could lose both main diesel engines and still have propulsion.

9 thoughts on “A Little More on the Offshore Patrol Cutter

  1. OTOH the OPC seems to me to ideal as a dual-service ship platform which the USN could sign up for but where the money in the SCN? I’ll believe the USN is interested in Any OPV much less an ice-capable one WHEN I see a fund line in the DOD budget. You seen that?

    I am sure you will see and hear congresional types from FLA and MICH talking the up the idea of the Navy buying small combatants. But until the Navy staff generates a rqmt, which then gets put in the Navy budget the only way in is mark-ups and other shady deals.

    Don’t hold your breath. Another good idea lost ..

  2. “Zukunft’s budget suggests at least one cutter, or an immediate separate order, will be arctic capable..”

    What, exactly, about the budget suggests that? The fact that it is a lot of money? Define “arctic capable”. I can take an NSC up into the Arctic in the summer (which has been done) when it is ice free, does that mean she is “Arctic Capable”?

    If the OPC was going to have actual design features that “hardened” her for service in the ice, I think we’d be hearing about in more than just the budget. Just because a 4 year old CONOPS says she will operate in the Arctic doesn’t mean she has anything special about her to do that.

    I’d love to be proven wrong here. Can anyone to find an actual requirement for OPC that says she will be hardened to operate in the ice more than a typical cutter is?

    • Yes, I hope 22+ sustained translates to 24 knots maximum in all but the most unfavorable conditions.

      Realistically, at least some convoys (if instituted) would be as slow as 12-13 knots. During WWII many were 5-7 knots. Much less need to maneuver around and among the ships escorted now, but if you stop to pick up survivors, you still have to be able to catch up and regain your position as quickly as possible.

    • If assigned to an ARG, those ships are capable of 22 to 24 knots and being larger, they are less effected by adverse sea conditions. Still unlikely they would transit at more than 20 knots and probably less. There are a number of allied amphibs that are slower.

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