The Mellon’s Last Patrol, and the History of Coast Guard 378 ASW and Anti-Ship Missiles

USCGC Mellon seen here launching a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile in 1990.

I have a bone to pick with Pacific Area, public affairs (D11-DG-M-PACAREA-PA@uscg.mil). First I got a news release dated Friday, Jul 17, 2020 7:22 pm. Reading it I found what I thought were errors and emailed them with comments.

I wrote,

Just read the news release and there are some errors in this paragraph.

“In January of 1990, the Mellon was the first and only Coast Guard cutter to become fitted with an anti-ship missile. The cutter also received an anti-submarine warfare suite that included the AN/SQS-26 sonar and Mark 46 torpedoes. The suite and anti-ship missile served as proof of capability for all Coast Guard cutters; however, they were later removed due to budget constraints.”
Mellon may have been the only 378 to test fire a harpoon, but all the 378s were equipped to launch Harpoon.
The 378s were all built with an ASW suite that included the AN/SQS-38 sonar and Mk32 torpedo tubes for launching light weight ASW torpedoes, first the Mk44, then the Mk46.
The FRAM replaced the 5″/38 and Mk56 gun fire control system with the 76mm Mk75 gun and Mk92 fire control system, added the Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapon System), they received equipment to support the LAMPS I ASW helicopter and a collapsible hangar was added.
None of the 378s including Mellon were ever equipped with the AN/SQS-26 sonar.
The ASW equipment was removed after the Soviet Union collapsed which largely eliminated the submarine threat.
Three days later PACAREA sent out a revised news release dated Mon, Jul 20, 2020 9:41 am. You can see it repeated here. It included this revised paragraph:
“In January of 1990, the Mellon was the first of five Coast Guard cutters to become fitted with an anti-ship missile. The cutter also received an anti-submarine warfare suite that included the AN/SQS-38 sonar and Mark 46 torpedoes. The suite and anti-ship missile served as proof of capability for all Coast Guard cutters; however, they were later removed due to budget constraints.”
We have noted some tendency for the Coast Guard to be somewhat careless in preserving and telling its history, but this telling says that Mellon got her sonar and torpedoes at the same time she got her Harpoons and then quickly had them removed because it cost money. It ignores the fact that Mellon and the other eleven 378s had been equipped with sonar and torpedoes since they were built, beginning with Hamilton in 1967. For over 20 years these ships were part of the US response to the Soviet Union’s submarine threat. For over 20 years ASW training was part of their annual refresher training and it only stopped after the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to mark the end of the submarine threat.
USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715)

7 thoughts on “The Mellon’s Last Patrol, and the History of Coast Guard 378 ASW and Anti-Ship Missiles

  1. It is not relevant to Mellon’s story, but when I reported to the Academy in 1965, we had 36 cutters equipped with sonar and ASW torpedo tubes. They were far less capable than the new Navy frigates coming out at the time, but they had added a reserve to the Navy’s then much larger fleet–880 ships. The Coast Guard had maintained an ASW capability for 45 years after WWII. The Navy was 25 times the personnel of the Coast Guard. Now the Navy is only eight times larger than the Coast Guard, what we do in the near future may be much more important than what we did then.

  2. I’m suspicious the failure to recount history accurately has more to do with current politics, spending, and attitudes of those in charge.

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