The Webber class WMECs

Since the Coast Guard chose to base six Webber class in each of three different ports (18 total in Miami, Key West, and San Juan), it has seemed apparent that the Webber class were more than “fast response cutters,” sitting in port waiting for an alarm to ring sending them rushing off to a SAR case. It seemed likely these little ships, more than twice as large as the Island class 110 foot WPBs, would be used for offshore patrols much like an MEC.

This is perhaps colored by my recollection of WMECs (and even WHECs) that had no helicopter facilities. There were at one time 165, 143, and even 125 foot WMECs.

Coast Guard Compass brings us confirmation of the offshore capability of these vessels. USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) has completed a mission to conduct operations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 2,200 miles from her homeport. She conducted fisheries enforcement and capacity building, and laid the foundations for future missions to the Central Pacific.

Coast Guard cutter crews visit and work in the exclusive economic zone of partner nations throughout the year to help exercise bilateral agreements protecting sovereignty and resources in the Pacific. The ability of the FRCs to patrol this region increases the number of Coast Guard assets capable of operating in the area. About 66 percent of the world’s tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific according to the National Fisheries Institute and fisheries are the primary economic driver in the Pacific, especially for small Pacific Island Nations. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing results in losses of more than an estimated 21 to 46 percent of catch representing a $1.5 billion revenue loss in the region according to the Marine Resource Assessment Group. This loss can have a direct effect on peace, governance and a continued American presence as transnational crime may supplant traditional fishing to fill voids created by economic declines. This threat is why a robust multilateral enforcement presence is crucial.

This is an area that has been seldom patrolled in the past. China is interested in replacing American influence with their own. It is an area we should not ignore. (see also)

Republic of the Marshall Island. Illustration by TUBS from Wikipedia

Beyond our obligation to other Pacific Island nations, 29.3% of the US EEZ is around Pacific islands beyond Alaska and Hawaii,  including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument which is larger than the entire Atlantic coast EEZ.

The eight day transit to and from the Marshall Islands was facilitated by USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) which transferred 8,000 gallons of fuel during two underway replenishments.

CCGD14 was in deed thinking outside the box, but maybe it will lead to other things. Webber class are already doing drug enforcement missions far South into the Caribbean. It appears, with a little support from larger vessels, the 18 District Seven Webber class ought to be able to continuously provide three FRCs in the Eastern Pacific.

Incidentally I am not suggesting a designation change. The WPC designation for the Webber class is the only one we have done since the start of the “Deepwater” program that makes any sense

 

 

11 thoughts on “The Webber class WMECs

  1. The requirement for a mother ship will make them less effective. Of course, what you propose here is what the 82s did in Vietnam. We refueled and watered several times from the WHECs or some Navy destroyer or cruiser.

  2. Typical Range for a WWII Destroyer Escort or Destroyer was ~5,500nmi. at ~15kts., but at 25 to 30kts. the range was reduced by HALF. Which required a lot of Refueling at Sea…

  3. According to Wiki range for the 82 footers was 577 miles at maximum sustained speed of 14.5 knots or 1271 miles at 10.7 knots economic speed, the Webber class should have a longer interval between replenishment.

    There are two limits, endurance and range. Endurance is reportedly five days. Range is reportedly 2,950 miles at 14 knots, that translates to almost nine days at cruising speed. Certainly we don’t want to run the ships down to empty, they might need to spend some time at full speed for an intercept, but since intercepts are intel driven, there should also be a lot loitering. I would expect that refueling would be needed every four or five days, about the same frequency as required for “endurance” replenishment.

    While they might use a buoytender, the supporting ships could be the ships we would normally have doing interdiction, NSCs, WHECs, or WMECs.

  4. A story on the arrival of the first Webber class to assigned to the 11th District (http://coastguardnews.com/coast-guards-first-california-based-fast-response-cutter-arrives-in-san-pedro/2018/08/11/) includes this information about where they are expected to operate.

    “This ship and the three other Fast Response Cutters bound for California will help strengthen our security and emergency response capabilities in the Pacific Southwest,” said Rear Adm. Peter Gautier, the 11th Coast Guard District commander. “Working with our partner agencies, we will continue to protect our global supply chain, disrupt the transnational criminal organizations that smuggle drugs and traffic humans into our nation, and keep our waterways safe and secure.”

    Three additional FRCs are scheduled to arrive and be commissioned by summer of 2019. While these ships will be based in San Pedro, they will operate throughout the 11th Coast Guard District, which includes all of California and international waters off of Mexico and Central America.

  5. We may be concentrating too hard on the deployment range and missing the point Chuck started off with. Once an FRC gets to Somoa or the Marshalls, etc., it’s range is sufficient for regional operations. Thus the Webbers are more like a cross between the 210s and a large patrol craft.

    They are ideal for places like the Caribbean, West coast of Central America, the US’es Pacific Ocean possessions, and Gulf of Mexico. This would open up availabilities of the OPC to do more advanced things like putting more of a “full-court press” on the drug traffickers by patrolling closer to source-nation borders along the East coast of Central America and North coast of South America. Putting more layers of pressure will certainly have an impact, especially combined with better technology for MDA.

    I’m not sure there’s a great necessity for deploying D7 FRCs to the West side of Central America with 4 of them in D11. Maybe an occasional deployment, but I’m guessing not 3 of them near continuously. Overall, with 16 FRCs in D7 and D11, I would guess about 5 would be actively patrolling at all times, with others on training, transit, availability, etc..

    I’m not sure the 87s or their replacements wouldn’t fit into this scheme. They patrol now, and it seems the Response Boats and MLBs are the ones to respond to SAR cases. How often does a far off-shore SAR case not handled by aircraft or a closer vessel thus requiring a WPB/WPC happen? Pretty rare I’m sure. I think the WPC will be the near off-shore component of the layered approach described above.

    • We know three Webber class are expected to go to Guam, and there is a 225 ft WLB there, as well, so this operation could be a prototype for fisheries enforcement in the Western Pacific.

    • I would be surprised if the replacement for the 87 footers is not larger, faster, and better armed. Gradually I think the Coast Guard will start taking the “homeland security” role more seriously. The gap between the Webber class and the boats smaller than the Marine Protector class is now much larger than it was when we selected the 87 footers to fill the gap between the 110s and the smaller response boats. The next WPB is likely to be something similar to the 110s and armed more like the Webber class.

  6. Pingback: Update on Coast Guard Acquisition Programs and Mission Balance and Effectiveness–Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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