Basing for Larger Patrol Cutters

W B Young asked,

“I was wondering if they are going to base these two WMSM in R.I., what base/homeport is losing ships to make up for this? What with 25 tentative WMSM replacing 28 current WMEC some homeport(s) were already going to be losing a currently based ship{s}”

Trying to answer this turned out to be a bit more than I wanted to put in just a comment. I am going to look at homeports for the larger patrol cutters, WHECs, WMECs, OPCs, and NSCs, breaking it down by district, as we move toward 36 large patrol cutters (11 NSCs and 25 OPCs).

Keep in mind these changes will not happen quickly. First OPC is not expected to be delivered until 2022 and then only one per year through 2028. Then only two per year, so we are looking at #25 arriving in 2037.

TRENDS:

There are some trends that seem to be playing out here:

  • Fisheries, Alien Migrant interdiction, and D7 drug interdiction are increasingly being done by Webber class WPCs.
  • Ships of a class are increasingly being based in groups of three or more for better support.
  • 210s are being moved South where they are closer to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific drug interdiction areas and where the weather is less demanding.

LOOKING BACK:Β 

When I looked at homeports in 2015:

  • There were six large cutters in CGD1, three in Portsmouth, NH/Kittery, ME (two 270s and one 210) and three 270s in Boston.
  • There were nine in D5, six 270s and three 210s.
  • Nine in D7, two NSCs, two 270s, and five 210s.
  • D8, two 210s
  • A total of 26 in LANTAREA
  • In PACAREA, 14 total, three NSCs, seven 378s, one 282, and three 210s (That is really 11 “high endurance cutters” (NSCs, 378s, and Alex Hailey, rated a WMEC but really an HEC) and three 210s).

WHAT WE HAVE NOW

Currently we have 38 large patrol ships, already down two:

  • D1, five 270s
  • D5, Total of eight, six 270s and two 210s
  • D7, no change, Total of nine, two NSCs, two 270s, and five 210s
  • D8, Four 210s
  • LANTAREA total 26
  • PACAREA total twelve, six NSCs, two 378, one 282, three 210s

The LANT total has not changed, but D1 and D5 have each donated a 210 to D8.

PACAREA is down two ships. One from D11 and one from D13.

What we know about the future:

The last two 378s, both in PACAREA, will not last much longer.

Three more Bertholf class NSCs are going to be based in D7 at Charleston. As unlikely as it may seem, this is actually closer to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone than San Diego.

The First two OPCs will go to San Pedro. The second pair will go to Kodiak. The third pair will go to D1 in Newport, RI.

What will happen to Alex Haley when the two OPCs arrive in Kodiak is not clear, but there is a good chance it has more life in it than many of the 210s. It is newer and more capable than any of them. In many ways it is close to a SLEPed 270. Hopefully it will be kept on.

Six 270s will undergo life extension program renovations. My presumptions are that,

  • These will probably last about a year, but hopefully less for later ship after we acquire some experience.
  • We will do only one at a time,
  • That the crew that brings it to be renovated will be reassigned, and
  • That a new crew will be assigned, much as if it were new construction.
  • After renovation it is likely that the ship will be assigned to a new homeport.

These renovations will need to start relatively soon. We need to complete the project by 2027, if we are going to get at least 10 years service out of all six before the 25th OPC is completed in 2037. (Wonder if perhaps we can install more powerful engines to get a bit more speed.)

The four OPCs going to PACAREA are really replacing four WHECs not WMECs. There used to be 10 WHECs on the West coast. When the two Webber class currently planned to be homeported in Astoria arrive, they may effectively start to replace the West Coast 210s in PACAREA.

PURE SPECULATION:Β 

This is what I think we will see, as all the WHECs and WMECs disappear and we are left with eleven NSCs and 25 OPCs.

We will certainly see homeport changes as the healthier ships are moved to ports vacated by those being decommissioned.

As their SLEPs are completed, 270s will replace 210s in D7 and/or D8. Those 210 will then be decommissioned or moved to replace other 210s that are decommissioned. Will be interesting to see if we simply decommission a 210 whenever an OPC is commissioned, or will we do a sequence for the first few ships, commission an OPC, but wait until a 270 completes SLEP before decommissioning a 210. It would be a way to maximize cutter days. The SLEP is going to cost us some ship years.

First District will end up with four OPCs. All probably in Newport, RI. Boston and Kittery will probably loose all their large patrol cutters.

Fifth District will end up with six OPCs. All homeported close together in Virginia, in one or two locations.

Seventh District will, we know, have five NSCs in Charleston, I suspect five OPCs for a total of 10 ships. Currently D7 has large patrol cutters based in five ports: Charleston, Mayport, Cape Canaveral, Key West, and St. Petersburg. Likely only two or three will continue to host this class of ship. Charleston is a certainty. My guess is that Mayport and Cape Canaveral will loose their patrol Cutters. Key West and possibly St. Petersburg (less likely) will have OPCs. Charleston could host OPCs as well, which would probably mean none in St Pete.

The Eight District will have four OPCs, probably all in Pensacola.

The number of large cutters in PACAREA will soon drop to 10 but will ultimately work back to 12, a total of six NSCs and six OPCs. Where do those last two OPCs go? Best guess–to San Pedro for a total of four, but it could be two to San Diego (still close to San Pedro) or one each to San Pedro and Kodiak.

Eleventh District will end up eight, four NSCs and four OPCs.

Thirteenth District will end up with no large patrol cutters, but will host three Polar Security Cutters. Could be wrong. Those last two PACAREA OPCs could end up in D13.

Fourteenth District will have two NSCs.

Seventeenth District will have two OPCs.

Readers with rationale why my suppositions are wrong, please weigh in.

The crew of USCGC Kimball (WMSL 756) arrive in Honolulu for the first time Dec. 22, 2018. Known as the Legend-class, NSCs are designed to be the flagships of the Coast Guard’s fleet, capable of executing the most challenging national security missions, including support to U.S. combatant commanders. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

21 thoughts on “Basing for Larger Patrol Cutters

  1. Chuck, I don’t disagree with your assumptions, but one thing that kinda puzzles me, if I read you correctly, is replacing the two 210′ (Steadfast and Alert) homeported at Astoria w/ FRCs. The FRC’s have proved to be very capable boats and are great replacement for the 110′ but replacing 210′ with FRC especially in operations in the outer water of the Pacific Northwest seems questionable. Same goes for the “Active” homeported in Port Angleles.

    This just seems to provides more surpport for your idea of a need for Cutter-X…. or a need to build more OPC,

    Please correct me if my concerns are mistaken.

    • I may not have phased it properly. There are 12 large patrol ships assigned to PACAREA now and I think we will in the future. The future fleet will be more capable than the one we have now. So in one sense the 210s will be replaced by OPCs, but the FRCs will actually be doing the missions the 210s do now while the OPCs will be doing missions more akin to what the 378s used to do.

  2. Same or samliar number of large patrol ships (WMSL & WMSM) in PACAREA but probably operating out of some different home ports than currently.

    • Right now we already know where ten of the PACAREA ships are going. Four NSCs are in Alameda, two NSCs are in Honolulu, two OPCs are expected to go to San Pedro, and two OPCs are expected to go to Kodiak. The ports that will almost certainly loose ships are all in District 13. Warrenton, OR, (near Astoria) where we have two 210s, Port Angeles, WA, where we have one 210, and Seattle, WA, where we had two WHECs. Seattle still has one 378, which it will loose soon, and has the icebreakers as well.

  3. Hey Chuck,
    Another question that may lead to a very long answer.
    Was sort of curious on on how many people will be manning the OPCs. Only thing I could find was the info block on Wikipedia claiming 126 (with no rank breakdown). I’m assuming that will be the max number, like the 148 for the NSC, and not normal crew numbers.
    But, seems that the crewing will still be higher than for the 270 & 210. Along with the increased crew needed (and increased number of ships) for the Sentinels over the Islands, comes the real question:
    What is the Coast Guard going to change to man these ships?
    Sure, the reduction from 28 WMECs to 25 WMSMs will help. But, the 15 additional Sentinels over the Island numbers seems to eat away at those saved bodies. I know the transition from WHEC to WMSL saves some positions too. But, it does seem by the time the OPC’s start coming into service in real numbers, the Coast Guard might have crew required-to-actual service end strength problem.

      • Looking at the larger geopolitical issues we are facing in the pacific. I think it would be a good idea for the USCG to base an FRC at America Samoa and two to three OPC’s in Guam. It would cover the pacific and keep China in check.

  4. Yes looking at the larger geopolitical issue we are facing in the pacific, what about moving two of the NSC from Alameda to Guam or possilby Australia. That would shorten their transit time and provide more time on patrol. Our Marines have a infantry battalion and air element on a rotational deployment statioined in Darwin and the Australia Government are upgrading the Darwin Navy Base to host US Navy Warships. Just throwing out some thoughts.

    ://www.stripes.com/australia-investing-715-million-in-northern-port-that-hosts-us-navy-warships-1.610761

    • From the Coast Guard perspective, as long as we are not at war, Guam is probably a better location. LCSs are sometimes based at Singapore. It might also be possible to rotate cutters through there.

  5. Wouldn’t Honolulu be closer to Eastern Pacific transit zones than either San Diego or Charleston?

    And I bet the 3 β€œMedium Icebreakers” go to Kodiak to replace Haley, Storis, and Acushnet (or actually the interim OPCs which are going there for now).

    • This sort of question is answerable with information on line. I checked distance to Tepre Terminal, a port in Ecuador. Distance from Honolulu was 4781 nautical miles, from Long Beach 3005 miles, and from Charleston 2079 using the Panama Canal.

  6. Thanks for this.. I generally agree with the numbers per district, but wonder if strategic thinking will influence the basing a bit more. For example there could be a strong push for the First District to continue to place a pair of large cutters up in Kittery, reducing Newport of a single pair, due to the importance of Bath. For similar strategic protection I’m wondering if Mayport will have a priority over St. Pete due to Jacksonville Naval Complex. But continuing with that logic there seems to be some strategic weakness in the Pacific. Ideally there would be 4 OPCs in San Pedro due to the size of Naval Station San Diego, but that leaves the submarines and dry dock facilities up in Naval Station Kitsap lacking. As such I’m thinking we will mostly likely see 2 OPCs in the Thirteenth District, perhaps Port Angeles, at the expense of San Pedro.

    • @Cokolman, I really think any force protection or harbor defense requirement falls on the WPCs and WPBs. Right now, that really means Webber class WPCs until we get more capable WPBs. The larger ships are either far from their homeports or down hard 99% of the time. They are underway near their homeports only during transit to or from somewhere else. That is why I advocate better armament for WPCs and WPBs. We still have 17 Webber class that are to be delivered that are not paired with any particular home port yet. (List here, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentinel-class_cutter) Two we know are going to Astoria, and four more will go to Alaska. So that is still 11 to go to other ports not yet identified. Additional areas where I would like to see these go include New England , Hudson River Complex, San Francisco Bay, and Puget Sound.

      Locations where there is a lot of surface navy assets should be able to defend themselves.

      • Wasn’t thinking about guard boats close to port, but patrol and force protection response for the commercial sea lanes outside of critical strategic harbors. But your right, I didn’t consider the typical large cutter deployment which will place any OPCs far from homport. Based on that I understand your thinking about no large cutters in Kittery and Mayport… Although thinking beyond that I do wonder your thoughts on if 2 large cutters up on Alaska and none in the Thirteenth District is enough for northwest waters fisheries enforcement. Also if increased focus on Arctic waters security with drive more security patrol tasking.

      • I don’t see 17th District based OPCs coming down to patrol 13th District waters. More likely the San Pedro based ships will come North, but expect most of the fisheries patrols in the 13th to be done by Webber class.

        Ultimately hope we end up with more than 25 OPCs. If we got eight OPCs in PACAREA, would be logical to have three in San Pedro and probably three based somewhere in Puget Sound.

        Would really like to see some in Guam, but seems unlikely to happen.

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