The US Naval Institute Proceedings has a short article about the history of a concept that originated in the Coast Guard more than 20 years ago.
Seemed like a good idea at the time. Still does, but not a lot has come of it. A good idea that has languished due to various parts laziness, inertia, fear, jealousy, and arrogance.
If this is ever going to happen, it will require Congress to push the idea.
An important first step would be to include Coast Guard ships in annual count of “Battle Force” ships that the Navy puts out. It currently includes unarmed MSC ships, including ocean going tugs, so National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters would not be out of place.
It’s all chest-puffing until bullets start flying and assets are needed…
That is why I’ve always hated the concept of “built for, but not with.” By the time it’s installed, ships will be at the bottom. Then, when equipped ships are sent out with inexperienced operators more ships go to the bottom.
Somebody should break down the costs of equipping and compare that to a new destroyer… Let’s see, 11-12 NSCs + 25-ish OPCs + 3 medium WAGBs = 39-40 ships. So that’s 80 triple TTs, 40 TacTAS (or equivalents), 40 undersea warfare system and consoles, and 140-ish Sonar Techs. Bet that adds up to less than a destroyer… It would be nice to see CIWS replaced with SeaRAM too.
I don’t understand why the National Security Cutters, Offshore Patrol Cutters and Polar Ice Breakers are not included in National Battle Force ship count. Including the normal mission sets done every day by the man and women of our Coast Gurard along our coastline, they are also routinely called upon to deploy internationally in support DOD Combatant Commanders, not unlike a navy frigate or destroyer.
I agree with you Bill, I too hated the concept of “built for, but not with.” . All CG Cutter should be commissioned with the full capablilties to go in “arms way” if called upon, especially in the near-peer environment we now live in. I’d love to see all the NSC’s upgraded with Mk 41 VLS or the Exls and towed ASW sonar suite. Same goes for the OPC’s as they are being build.
They are not used, because they truly do not have great capabilities in the national defense area.
The NSCs will certainly be used as frigates; however, without something more, they are really just a helicopter carrier with very mild ability to protect escorted ships with CIWS, ECM, and RBOC/Nulka. An LCS is better armed, and that’s just sad…
NSCs could carry a full ASW suite of their own, which gives extra capability when used with the helo, and capability if there is no helo (bad weather, maintenance, casualty, etc.).
SeaRAM would give longer-range & more precise AShM defense, plus short range anti-air and boat swarm protection (although, that last one should be the 57mm gun’s forte).
I’m not a big fan of VLS for Cutters. It’s a space hog (below decks) and the mission shouldn’t need it. A couple quad packs of NSM would be helpful and simple/compact to install. Long and medium range air defense would be other vessels’ (or friendly air) responsibility.
The two additions (ASW suite & weapons plus NSM) would make NSCs darn good deployable combat ships, which could contribute significantly to Navy forward missions.
The OPCs should be similarly equipped and used to escort merchant ships (and probably MSC ships forward) and protect approaches to CONUS major ports. FRCs will have to get in on this action too, but that’s something beyond a “National Fleet” discussion.
If CRS would run the numbers, I’m sure Congress would say: “you mean we could count 40 CG Cutters as frigates by spending one destroyer’s worth of money?” (This is also why the USN is not interested in counting Cutters – it dilutes their funding.)
There is another consideration in the question of “built for but not with.” The Navy is finding the US does not have enough shipyard capacity to complete normal peacetime maintenance on time. In wartime we would also have damaged ships to repair. We are unlikely to be able to do major upgrades in a timely fashion.
My thoughts on arming the OPCs are here. https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2016/09/29/what-might-a-wartime-opc-weapons-fit-look-like/
We could certainly do something similar for the NSCs.
The Mk 41 vls is not a space hog if the platform is designed with weight and space to accommodate it, which the NSCs are. Sixteen vls cells (armed with 32 ESSM Bk II, 4 ASROC, 4 LRASM), along with the addtion of SeaRam, towed ASW sonar suite and the existing ECM, RBOC/Nulka and combat suite would turn the NSC’s into a true escort frigate at the cost of less than one new FFGX.
My point is if the ship can accommodate the MK 41 then by all means install it. It provide an unmatched flexibility and capabiitily into all warfare domains. This is why the CG should be lobbying Congress for the Navy to fund these upgrades on the NSCs and the Navy should response with “what a great idea…….let’s make it so”.
I agree it would provide flexibility. That’s a double-edged sword, though. I see the NSCs and OPCs role as more escorts, than offensive. The Navy has zero escorts at this time. China and Russia are certainly going to utilize sub warfare in any conflict. NSCs and OPCs will certainly be looked at for this role.
The build standard the NSCs were built to, was not full warship armor, compartmentation, systems, thus, my opinion is that it is a disservice to push them into very high risk warfare roles (like offensive strike with Tomahawk or Harpoon/follow-on). I also do not see a heavy independent air defense need, as they will either be with Aegis ships, or in a position where air forces are available. The biggest advantage would be for quad-packed ESSM, as that would significantly enhance AShM defense for any convoy/merchants being escorted…
While the NSCs had design and space allocation for Mk. 41s, it IS in fact a space hog. The tactical length is 22’+ long and the strike length is 25’+ long. That’s going to penetrate and effect 3 decks. They are also over 10’ wide, so on a ship with a 40’ beam, that’s a quarter the width of the ship. Add in routing for air, electrical, environmental, and especially the water consumption and drainage, and it becomes clear that if a ship is not designed around AND built around them, the Mk.41 is not an easy retrofit, even with reserved space and deck strengthening to handle it. I predict the NSCs will never be fitted with Mk.41, even if a war breaks out and they are deployed.
My understanding is that the VLS the NSCs were designed for were twelve Mk56. The Mk 56 are smaller than the Mk41 and can us twin packed ESSM rather than quad packed as in Mk41 launchers. That would give 24 ESSM.
The air treat convoy escorts are likely to face are anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) from submarines. Fortunately they probably would not launch an overwhelming large number of ASCMs so 24 ESSMs is probably adequate.