A Reevaluation, Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell, Part 2

This is the second part of a reexamination of where critical ports are in the US and where the cutters that might be needed to protect them are homeported.

Consolidated Target and Homeport List:

I have reproduced this listing from part 1. It has been changed slightly to reflect the move of USCGC Seneca from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Again, we have 31 target ports or port complexes in bold  and 23 current or planned cutter homeports with the cutters in bold. In many cases a critical port is also a homeport for cutter(s).

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH –Naval Shipyard: 2×270 (908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)

CCGD5:

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/ 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC

CCGD7:

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913), 6xFRC (1107 to 1112)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8

  • Pensacola, FL–4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

CCGD11:

  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)

CCGD13:

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210 Plan to add two FRCs (Longview, WA is a significant port, but it is 66 miles up the Columbia River, so unlikely to be a target)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD14:

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/ Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

CCGD17:

  • Ketchikan, AK: 2xFRC (1121, 1122)
  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC Plan to add 2xOPC (917, 918)
  • Planned to be based in Alaska, ports have not been identified 4xFRC
  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

The Present and Future Coast Guard Fleet: 

Bertholf class National Security Cutters: 

These ships are only based in three ports, all three of these are potential target ports.

  • Charleston, SC two NSCs now, three additional planned
  • San Francisco Bay Complex, CA, four NSCs
  • Honolulu, HI, two NSCs

That might suggest that these ports are well protected, but as I have said, these ships don’t spend any time on standby, and when they are in port they are usually down hard.

Honolulu is also a Naval bases and has three Webber class WPCs assigned, so it is about as well protected as any port could be with our current equipment.

The Webber class WPCs:

As I have noted, currently the Webber class are potentially the most important asset for port protection.

Of the 31 potential target ports, these nine have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters assigned.

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

With four additional FRCs going to Alaska, I have to assume Anchorage, AK will be protected. Its geography protects it to a great extent. It is far up Cook Inlet. Kodiak’s position South of Cook Inlet pushes the US EEZ out, so it is much further than 200 miles from the edge of the EEZ to Anchorage. Homer, at the mouth of Cook Inlet, has been an Island class WPB in the past and may be a Webber class homeport in the future.

These seven potential target ports have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters homeported within 100 nautical miles, offering some degree of protection.

  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC (WPCs from Atlantic Beach)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port (WPCs from Miami)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage (WPCs from Galveston)
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal (WPCs from Galveston)
  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport (WPCs from San Pedro)

The following 14 potential target ports have no Webber class WPCs assigned or currently planned to be based within 100 nautical miles:

  • Bath, ME, –Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH–Naval Shipyard, currently homeport 2×270(908, 909)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Corpus Christi, TX#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Most likely future Webber Class Homeports: 47 of the planned 64 Webber class cutters have already been paired with their homeports as noted above (including six to go to Bahrain). Of the 17 remaining we know two will go to Astoria OR, and four will go to Alaska.  That leaves eleven to potentially protect other ports. Grouped two or three to a port, that means we will have no more than four or five additional Webber class homeports. In my view, the most likely additional ports are:

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH (also within 100 nmi of Boston and Bath, ME)
  • New London, CT (to protect sub base at Groton, CT might also protect the Long Island Sound approaches to Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Seattle, WA: 1xWHEC, Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Where we are naked: Potential target ports that likely will not have a Webber class within 100 nmiles:

  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/6×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

The Hudson River Complex is protected to some extent by geography, given the length of its approaches. WPCs at Cape May and New London would provide a degree of protection though both are a bit more than 100 nmi away.

The strong Navy presence in the Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA should provide a degree of protection. 

7th District has 8 of the 31 critical ports and 19 of the 58 Webber class homeported in the US (I understand they will get a 20th), but all are in three ports, Miami, San Juan, and Key West, which is not a critical port. Five ports have no Webber class within 100 nautical miles.

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

There are of course other considerations, but from the perspective of protecting ports we would be much better off redistributing all but three WPCs in Miami and three in San Juan to Charleston (which would also provide a degree of protection for Savannah), Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Tampa/St Pete. This would leave Key West without WPCs, but it does look like a good place for OPCs.

We would also have no Webber class within 100 miles of the Mississippi River Complex.

  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.

Fortunately it is protected to some extent by the long and relatively difficult passage up the Mississippi River before these ports can be reached. You are not likely to make it up the Mississippi with a ship without getting a pilot. Also Webber class at Pascagoula are only a little over 100 nautical miles from the mouth of the Mississippi.

HECs and MECs and OPCs, Oh My:

There are currently 29 WHECs/WMECs. They are to be replaced by 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Because of the nature of their operations and scheduling, they are unlikely to respond to a threat from their homeport, but they may be employed locally off shore for fisheries, drug, or Alien Migrant enforcement. Where will they be based?

We could say 25 ships divided among eight districts means three ships in seven districts and four in one. That might not be a bad way to start, but in all likelihood the OPCs will be distributed much as the one remaining WHEC and 28 WMECs are now, but some changes are likely because of tendencies observed of late.

  • There will be a tendency to base in groups, so at least two and preferably three or more will be based together.
  • There will be a tendency to move closer to the drug transit zones in order to shorten transit.
  • There may also be a tendency to put some additional emphasis on the Western Pacific.

Breaking it down by district even though they are Area assets, I will note how many in the district and what percentage of the current WHEC/WMEC fleet that constitutes.

CCGD1: 4 or 13.8%

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH 2×270(908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • (Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920))

CCGD5: 9 or 31%

  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)

CCGD7: 7 or 24.1%

  • Jacksonville complex, FL  Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913)
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8: 4 or 13.8%

  • Pensacola, FL– 4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)

CCGD13: 3 or 10.3%

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD17: 2 or 6.9%

  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC (Planned homeport for 2xOPC (917, 918))

If we distributed the 25 OPCs in the same proportion we would have:

  • D1: 3
  • D5: 8
  • D7: 6
  • D8: 3
  • D11: 0
  • D13: 3
  • D14: 0
  • D17: 2

But we already know that two OPCs will be based in San Pedro, they probably represent a movement Southward from D13, and there is a good possibility they will be joined by a third OPC.

In the same vain I think we will see one or two fewer OPCs in D5. They might go to D7, but there is also a possibility they could go to PAC Area.

This is what I think we will ultimately see, with destination of three OPCs much less certain. Possible locations for these three are in parenthesis. It is going to be a very long time (Late 2030s) before we see the last three, so much can change.

  • D1: 3 (we already know two are going to Newport, RI. Probably the third as well.)
  • D5: 6 (presumably all in Portsmouth)
  • D7: 6 (+1 or 2) (Most likely in Key West and St. Petersburg, possibly Mayport or Charleston)
  • D8: 3 (presumably in Pensacola)
  • D11: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to San Pedro, CA. Probably a third as well)
  • D13: 0 (+2) (If it happens, Port Angeles, WA)
  • D14: 0 (+2) (Honolulu)
  • D17: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to Kodiak. A third is less likely here.)

Historically the Coast Guard has based two thirds of its large cutters in Atlantic Area and one third in the Pacific Area. If that were to be the case, PAC Area should get six OPCs in addition to the six NSCs they have now, and LANT Area should have 19 OPCs in addition to the five NSCs currently planned.

If you look at the distribution of the US EEZ, I think there is a strong case for more ships in the Pacific.

  • Total US EEZ: 11,351,000 km2
  • East Coast EEZ: 915,763 km2
  • Gulf Coast EEZ: 707,832 km2
  • Puerto Rico EEZ: 177,685 km2
  • Total LANT Area EEZ: 1,801,280 km2 15.9%
  • Total PAC Area EEZ: 9,549,720 km 84.1%

With the increased emphasis on IUU and capacity building in the Western Pacific, we may see up to eight OPCs going to PAC AREA.

Alternative Mission Set:

PAC Area has been very aggressive in the use of their resources for drug interdiction, sending FRCs down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones off Central and South America, but PAC AREA could have more cutter time for operations in the Western Pacific, without adding cutters, if LANT AREA took full responsibility for the Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort. There are good reasons, that might be desirable.

  • East Coast ships, particularly those based in the South East, are generally closer to the drug transit zone than PAC Area ships.
  • Forth Fleet is the Naval component commander for SOUTHCOM. Fourth Fleet is part of LANT Fleet and is headquartered in Mayport, Jacksonville, FL.  SOUTHCOM is located in Doral, FL, part of greater Miami.
  • LANT AREA is the Coast Guard counterpart of LANT Fleet and so should be the primary point of contact between Navy and Coast Guard for the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone.

US Navy Fleet Organization

The Missing Class–Response Boat, Large–the WPB replacement:

All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop a terrorist controlled vessel. Currently the Webber class WPCs seem to be the most likely craft to be in a position to take on that role, but in many scenarios they simply would not be up to the task. In addition we know that about half the critical ports or port complexes will have no Webber class homeported there so that they might respond most rapidly in the case of an attack.

We still need to replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. As we have discussed here and here, properly equipped, a vessel half the size of the Webber class could take on this job.

There were 74 Marine Protector class built. Wikipedia indicates there are 73 currently active and we know there is a proposal to decommission eight in the belief that their missions will be performed by Webber class and response boat, mediums. That would still leave 65.

Assuming we put two WPB replacements in position to protect each of the 31 critical ports, so that we could always have one either on standby or underway near by, it would only require 62. It the Webber class were better armed, and we only needed to protect those critical ports with no Webber class homported there, we would need no more than 34. If we also redistributed the D7 Webber class as suggested we would need only 26.

14 thoughts on “A Reevaluation, Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell, Part 2

  1. @Chuck: I think your assumptions, analysis, and conclusions are well-founded. One thing that worries me, and if I’m reading between the lines correctly, it appears to worry you too. There has been an ever-creeping slow decline in the number of assets. Let’s be blunt. This reduction is to save money, and the counter-point (excuse?) is that the newer assets are more capable, but at some point “quantity has a quality of its own.”

    Looking at operations from the bottom upwards, I think every coastal Sector should have their own pair of WPBCs (short for “87’ Replacement”). I would include Sector San Juan, plus for D17, 2 in SE Alaska, 2 in Homer, and 2 somewhere around Unalaska. That’s 54 boats. Then, I’d add an additional WPBC for each of the 31 critical ports you’ve identified. That raises the total to 85. I could even see home-porting 1 or two on Lake Michigan and/or Superior and maybe 1 in Detroit for the other Great Lakes. That gets us to 88.

    My point behind this is that, as you’ve eluded to, the Webbers are not always waiting around on standby protecting a small coastal/port area. They are frequently patrolling and often that is out quite far from a reasonable response time back to a port. With all the bipartisan support, now is the golden hour to get some assets in a realistic quantity to do the job. Of course, those assets also need the capability to do the job, but that we’ve discussed on other threads here at your blog.

    • Actually I think the planned force will be better than the force it is replacing, but of course it should be. But I also want to be realistic about its relationship to what is needed. Unfortunately the Coast Guard has not been good about identifying and reporting what it really needs. We did our last Fleet Mix study over a decade ago. Even then it really did not look at alternative platforms, e. g. cutter X, just the platforms we were already planning to build. We just cling to the “program of record” like it came down from God.

      We also do not seem to recognize the need to be able to forcibly stop merchant ships regardless of size, which is fundamental to Coast Guard missions.

      We also do not seem to be considering our mission in a near peer conflict which seems to be a very real possibility lately.

      • My issue with the concept of: “these platforms are more capable; therefore we don’t need as many,” is that there are some inescapable truths, such as Murphy’s Law. There are going to be engineering casualties. Hulls are going to get damaged. Electronics/Wiring/Power systems are going to go down. Screws are going to get damaged or even lost… I adhere to the concept of “One is none; two is one; and three is better.” Thus, why I advocate 2 in every Sector and an extra at the high-risk/busy ports. No matter how “capable” the Cutter is, it doesn’t equal a fishing trawler when it’s tied up for repairs…

        Maybe the first, imperative criteria for the new WPBC is “reasonable cost; reasonable capability.” Make it affordable enough to buy 90 of them. To this end, AND to make them less desireable to pull away from the Sectors and put on other missions, build to the tasking, so expensive “extras” don’t drive up costs and make them “deployable.” These Cutters, along with Response Boats and MLBs (both of which lack the endurance of this Cutter) are the Sector’s primary assets, and, dare I say(?) Always Ready… The CG shouldn’t get sparkles in their eyes for fancy things, nor stare at the floor and be reluctant to ask for more when it comes to the WPBC program.

        The trouble with the Webber-class is they are too capable. They have now supplanted some WMEC missions, and this means that sometimes they are not “Patrol Boats,” rather “mini-ships,” deployed far from homeport for longish periods of time. Ultimately this is a good enhancement of interdiction capability, but it also results in there simply being no way to factor in the Webbers as covering a certain percentage of ports/Sectors in order to reduce the WPBC purchase.

      • With three ships in a port, the way Webber class are being based, we should be able to keep one underway, one in maintenance, and one in work-up/stand-by.

        If you have two you can only have one in maintenance and one stand-by/or responding, which is what I think the WPB replacement basing should be.

        The concentration of Webber class in D7 in only three ports with 6 or 7 in each, clearly shows they are more than “response cutters.” But that does not mean they don’t do missions for the Sectors as well. I just don’t see any reports of that happening.

        To me there is an irreducible minimum capability the WPBs and the Webber class should have. We are not there.

      • Where the concern is almost exclusively SAR for recreational boaters and/or fishing vessels. WPBs could be replaced by larger, longer ranged but relatively fast MLB. The British have several classes larger than the 47 footers that are at least as fast.

      • It would be interesting to know, say a percentage, of how the 154’s time is used: Cyclical maintenance, Major repairs, Work-up/Stand-by, Transit, Sector Operations/Patrol, and “deployed” (which would mostly be interdiction/WMEC-like missions). Even with having an accurate break-down, though, it would not guarantee a certain equivalent of WPBCs which could be foregone and still cover the mission.

        The trouble, in large part, as I see it, is the Areas being able to reach down and pluck the asset from Sector. This probably happens most of the time with warning, but it still deducts the asset. Also, with the way the 154s are deployed, not all sectors have them (which is of course why the 87s and future WPBC exist…). Out of the 31 critical ports, 21 have no Webbers stationed at them.

        There are other Sectors with no 154s at all. If they do not get the WPBC, they will have nothing but RB-M or -L to respond to a threat. I agree a couple sectors are very SAR heavy, but I can’t think of a single sector which doesn’t have some kind of LE need, even if it is merely fisheries enforcement which requires more than a response boat.

        The elephant in the room, though, as you said, is the CG still not recognizing a capability shortfall. Perhaps HQ has put all their eggs in the MDA basket, presuming a call to Northcom will get USAF or USN assets to physically engage the threat? If so, that’s a BIG assumption, and leaves our country in danger. (As you’ve talked about before, USN and USAF don’t have operational assets just sitting around waiting for a call either…) The CG, as a military branch and a significant member of DHS, really should be taking the lead on use of force, not hoping another branch or .50-cals and 25mms will take care of any/all threats out there… I would have hoped the CG would be better than most agencies who make changes only after a spectacular failure. “If it is predictable, it is preventable.”

      • Bill,

        The only information I have along that line is that the Webber class are expected to be used 2500 hours a year. That equates to at least 105 days a year. That is considerably more than the 110 foot island class which were, I believe, expected to operate 1500 hours per year. But with short days on departure and return, which will happen frequently, at 2500 hours per year it means we can expect three vessels to provide essentially one underway continuously. In addition of the three, one could be on call to respond to unplanned sector or district demands.

        We do expect at least four additional critical ports to be covered by Webber class WPCs as more are competed. We could have four more ports covered by redistributing 7th District WPCs. That would get us up to 18, leaving 13 unguarded. That is where the minimum 26 number for WPCs comes from.

        I think we have to recognize that an armed response to terrorist attack has to be a priority mission that is considered in the allocation of resources, that is trained for, and tested periodically.

        That is not to say WPBs could not be used for SAR cases if they remained reasonably close to the port they are assigned to protect, say 40-50 miles depending on speed. These WPB replacements don’t have to have any more range than the existing 87 footers (900 nautical miles or 1700 km), but I would hope they are faster. That would not only allow a faster response to terrorist attack, it would also allow greater flexibility in there employment as SAR assets without compromising their readiness to respond to an attack.

      • Agreed. I doubt the District 7 154s would be redistributed, though. It appears the clustering is with the certain intent to employ them throughout the Carribbean and Southern Gulf of Mexico, thus, I would look at 32 as the minimum number, based on your criteria of 2 per port. I’d rather see three, due to the volume of traffic in and around these ports. It might take more than one to search, identify, and locate a threat, or there might be a Murphy’s Law casualty during the mission, requiring a back-up. That would make a minimum of 48. Considering the Sectors which have an over-abundance of Webbers, like San Juan, Miami, and Key West, and considering they are on the list of high-volume ports, I’d come down from my earlier-proposed number of 88 to around 79-80, as ideal… Seems that was the program size of the 87s originally, wasn’t it? Was the intent behind purchasing more 154s than the 110s they replaced to reduce the number of 87’-replacements? If so, I can only believe that has been negatively impacted by the clustering and tasking of many 154s on what has traditionally been WMEC missions. That would leave the situation back at a one-for-one replacement of the 87s…

      • @Bill, originally 74 Marine Protector class.

        Supposedly there was no intent to replace Marine Protector Class with Webber class. It was supposed to be 90 cutters (12 WHECs, 29 WMECs, and 49 Island class WPBs) replaced by 91 new ones (8 NSCs, 25 OPCs, and 58 FRCs). No mention of 87 footers.

        If it was a priority, if we encountered a situation where there were no operational WPBs or WPCs in or near a critical port the logical response would be to have one of the patrolling WPCs move to a position near the port entrance. I don’t think we could justify three WPBs per port just to maintain a ready response.

        The 87 foot WPBs were widely distributed, with many being single vessels in very small ports. In at least some of those cases replacement by ready RB,Ms and Webber class patrolling offshore for more distant SAR makes sense.

  2. We’ve been hitting the 87’-replacement question hard, but this thread also has a lot to do with larger Cutter home-porting. In your post about the Forbes article, you noted:

    “So at the end of 1991, the year the last 270 was delivered, we had 47 WHECs and WMECs (12 x 378s, 13 x 270s, 16 x 210s and 6 WWII vintage ships). By the time the first NSC came out, we were down to 41 (12 x 378s, 1 x283, 13 x 270s, 14 x 210s and 1 WWII vintage ship). We are currently at 37 (8 x NSCs, 1 x 378s, 1 x283, 13 x 270s, 14 x 210s) and working toward 36 (11 NSCs and 25 OPCs). I suspect we will the the number drop below that before the OPC program is complete.”

    You spoke in our discussion above about having a “minimum number” of WPBs. Do you have a “minimum number” of Large Cutters? After spelling out quite well in this post about home-port assignments, what do you see as the appropriate numbers? Build the 12th NSC? Add more NSCs or increase the OPC buy? I found it very interesting in the Forbes article that the author discussed the CG becoming more geo-political as well as implying a need to take a stronger view of the Homeland Security mission…

    I’d like to hope the 3 medium icebreakers will be more Arctic Patrol Cutters, so take that into consideration too – I could see Alex Haley (and the unreplaced Acushnet & Storis) being accounted for in those Medium Icebreakers. So, assuming the Arctic Patrol Cutter becomes a reality, that will replace 3 of the “former 47,” making the gap 8 large cutters. Does the WMEC-like missions of the FRCs make up for that difference?

    • Bill, wish I could answer that, but really we need much more information than I have.

      This goes back to the Coast Guard not doing long term planning. Or if they do it they don’t make it public.

      No update of the Fleet mix study.
      No 30 year ship building/refurbishment/retirement plan.

      Navy does this sort of thing every year. We need to do it at least every 4 years. Before the new Commandant takes command, the outgoing Commandant needs to give him his best estimate of what we will need in the future.

      The Fleet mix study was done well over a decade ago and it is quoted in every Congressional Research Service Cutter procurement report (https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R42567), even though one of its basic assumptions, that the large cutters would use the “Crew Rotation, Concept” has been thrown out (fortunately). That study indicated that to meet all of our statutory obligations we needed 157 vessels (9 NSC, 57 OPCs, and 91 FRCs). To address gaps in mission areas that would still be at “very high risk” using the “Program of Record” would require a total of 104 vessels (9 NSCs, 32 OPCs, and 63 FRCs (plus 6 more to go to Bahrain for PATFORSWA)).

      Eliminating the Crew Rotation Concept means that fewer cutter would be available (in theory) so we might need more assets. On the other hand, I think FRCs are doing some of the missions they expected OPCs to do and a WPB replacement would probably do some of the missions the “Fast Response Cutters” were expected to do.

      I think we can be relatively sure we need more large ships than provided in the program of record. The OPC program needs to be accelerated and perhaps extended or perhaps augmented by a Cutter X program.

      • Thanks for the link. I read it a long time ago, but the updates were helpful, and some of the original data, I had forgot.

        As far as the NSC goes, I found it interesting that the “ideal” number of 9 NSCs *with* the crew rotation concept (230 Cutter days) would result in 2070 Cutter days. With 11 NSCs *without* the crew rotation concept, they are getting 185 Cutter days, thus totaling 2035 Cutter days. This makes me feel better about not getting the twelfth NSC. On the other hand, the note that Indo-Pacific Command was turned down a Cutter due to insufficient Cutter availability makes me think your point of changing demands/mission profiles would mean that twelfth NSC would be a useful addition, particularly in PacArea.

        I also see what Alan means about keeping the FRC program going. The objective number of 91 FRCs is FAR from where the program of record puts the CG, and since this year or next appears to be the end of funding requests by the CG, it appears the President and/or Congress are going to need to make a decision about continuing the production without CG direct request… I also wonder, because of the complete absence of discussing the 87’ or its replacement, if that 91 objective number meant to represent replacing the 110s AND 87s with just FRCs? If we add your “minimum number” of 26 87’-replacements to the POR 58 FRCs, we get 84, which is mighty close to 91… The complete lack of discussion of the 87’ replacement makes one wonder…

        The last thing I found interesting was the dichotomy between the PSC and OPC programs. They are the CG’s two most important programs, yet, due to limits in funding, the decision at HQs is to gut the OPC funding, resulting in acquisition at a snail’s pace, in order to fund the PSC… All with the background of the WMECs growing to 50-60 years old before getting replaced! Doesn’t *sound* like a very high priority, does it…?? The Icebreakers and WMECs both coming to a critical point simultaneously is an anomaly (albeit predictable, but that was the malfeasance of prior HQs) which can only be addressed two ways: Congress bumping funding for a couple years, or sharp cut in operations for a decade or two.

      • The first OPCs are going to the Pacific can do just about anything a NSC can do. But on the other hand the delay in completion of the OPC is another reason to continue with the NSCs. Plus the cost difference is not as great as it was supposed to be. And we need a third NSC in Hawaii to complete the set.

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