RADM Eric Jones’ Comments on the U.S.C.G.’s D7 Operations and the Fast Response Cutter at Virtual SNA 2020 –by Peter Ong

Guest Author Peter Ong is back, to give us a taste of the 2020 Surface Navy Association comments from Seventh District Commander Eric Jones.

The surprise here for me, was that they are looking for a way to provide an airborne use of force package to support the Webber Class WPC. The system they need may have already been developed as a palletized system for the airframe the Coast Guard designates the HC-144. There are currently HC-144s based in Miami. 


“To be Battle-Ready is to always be ready.”—RADM Eric Jones (U.S.C.G.) at SNA 2020

 United States Coast Guard’s District Seven Operations and Assessment

At the Surface Navy Association 2020 (SNA 2020) in August 25, 2020, virtual due to COVID-19, RADM Eric Jones (U.S.C.G.), stressed Readiness and Responsiveness in his Question and Answer session on-screen with “Battle-Ready Cutters.”  He emphasized, “Battle-Ready Cutters are more than ships. They’re the right team; the right training; the right partnerships; the right authorities; the right technology,” said Jones. “Frankly, the right Force Package. Battle-Ready Cutters are greater than the sum of their parts to meet both National Security and Regional Demands across the full spectrum of military operations, law enforcement, environment response, and Humanitarian Assistance.”

U.S.C.G. Area of Operations District Seven covers waters around South Carolina,
Georgia, Florida, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico–Map: U.S.C.G. D7 Homepage
(Area in blue is part of District 8. District 7/8 boundary in the Gulf of Mexico extends 199 degrees true from the coastal boundary to the Mexican coast–Chuck)

RADM Jones is responsible for District Seven’s (D7) Atlantic Area of Operations that cover the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and the (Eastern–Chuck) Gulf of Mexico.  Headquarter in Miami, Florida, D7’s District details and operational duties include:

  • 8 million square miles with 18,000 miles of coastline from South Carolina to South America
  • Covers and patrols 34 foreign nations and territories
  • Interfaces with four Combatant Commands (COCOMs)
  • Has 3,600 Active Duty personnel
  • Has 745 Reservists
  • Has 173 Civilians
  • Has 4,400 Auxiliary personnel
  • Icebreaking excepted (not covered at SNA 2020)
  • Provides protection for Cape Canaveral rocket launches
  • Provides U.S. Navy Ballistic Missile Submarine protection, but that is outside the scope of the Rear Admiral’s discussion at Virtual SNA 2020
  • District 7 has aging Medium Endurance Cutters (WMEC) of the Famous-class and Reliance-class Cutters, and new FRCs. D7 possess the largest fleet of 19 Fast Response Cutters in the U.S. Coast Guard. (Soon to be 20 FRCs–Chuck)
  • Duties include combating the Drug War, pursuing and apprehending Human smugglers, Search and Rescue, and responding to disasters.”1

“We have several countries worried about the flow of weapons and bulk cash from the U.S.A. into their nations,” RADM Jones said. “That is where having SOUTHCOM [Southern Command] as a local and very strong partner helps.” Jones stated that in a given year, there are around 20 to 30 Coast Guard operations in the Caribbean.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, D7 Cutters conducted 1,200 ship boardings for illegal fishing inspections and issued numerous citations when many at-sea fishermen thought no one in the U.S. government was looking for, policing, or paying attention because of the pandemic and shelter-in-place Lockdown.

Coast Guard Cutters and crews are going 40, 50, and even 70 days at sea even with COVID.  “This is what it takes to remain Battle-Ready,” said Jones.

“District Seven Cutters and crew interdicted 1,500 migrants at the Southeastern region of the United States at sea [north of the Greater Antilles]. In addition, Cutters and crews also interdicted 116 migrants off of Florida, and over 500 migrants bound for Puerto Rico.”

RADM Jones said that SOUTHCOM was boosted in the past five months with an infused force of, “17 Coast Guard Cutters and 7 Navy ships with embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments, as well as four Allied ships in the Caribbean region, and continues to support ongoing U.S. government as well as internationally supported government operations, reducing the availability of illicit drugs and saving countless lives in the United States and throughout the region.”  The Allied ships in the region have Flight-Decks and are from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

RADM Jones continued, citing that the joint “Battle-Ready Coast Guard and Navy fleet in the Caribbean have interdicted 14 suspected smuggling vessels, seizing 6,200 kilograms of cocaine and 7,900 pounds of marijuana and detaining 47 suspected narco-traffickers.  In addition, this fleet has disrupted an additional 10,400 kilograms of cocaine and 6,400 pounds of marijuana.  All told, interdiction of these drugs has placed a $600 million dent in drug profits.”

USCGC Kathleen Moore (WPC-1109)

The U.S.C.G. Fast Response Cutter, Sentinel-class

According to the United States’ official Coast Guard website, “The fast response cutter is capable of deploying independently to conduct missions that include port, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense.”

Characteristics

  • Number Planned: 64
  • Length: 154 feet
  • Beam: 25 feet
  • Draft: 9 feet 6 inches
  • Displacement: 353 long tons
  • Maximum Speed: 28+ knots
  • Range: 2,500 nautical miles
  • Endurance: Five days
  • Crew: 24

Features

  • Enhanced response time with a minimum top speed of 28 knots
  • Ability to conduct missions on moderate seas up to transit speed for eight hours in all directions
  • Ability to survive in very rough seas up to loiter speed for eight hours in all directions
  • Armed with a stabilized 25-mm machine gun mount and four crew-served .50-caliber machine guns
  • Fully interoperable command and control systems with Coast Guard existing and future assets and with the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.”2

RADM Eric Jones was asked a question at Virtual SNA 2020 about his thoughts on the Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class (WPC) Fast Response Cutter (FRC) now that all 19 are in the D7 Area of Operations and mature with sailing and the FRC crews’ working experience.

“They’re fantastic assets. They’re very capable. But we/they do want to use them as interceptors and pouncers so we’re always looking for the best way to provide maritime patrol aircraft and intelligence to make sure that we got them in the right spot to intercept the cases as they come across. Very capable crew; it is not a 110 [110-foot Island Class patrol boat] . It has over twice the tonnage of a 110.  Its endurance is well beyond what a 110 can do. Far more comfortable for the crew and having that stern-launched small boat allows them to do intercepts.  And as we were discussing earlier, we’re looking for ways to provide airborne use-of-force at a similar Force Package to what you see in the deep Caribbean or Eastern Pacific to allow the AUF [Airborne Use of Force] to combine forces with the FRCs to successfully prosecute cases that move across the Central Caribbean from the north coast of Columbia and Venezuela to the south coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.”

—RADM Eric Jones (U.S.C.G.) at SNA 20203

References:

1 Informative slide about U.S.C.G. D7 Operations at RADM Eric Jones presentation at Virtual SNA 2020.

2 WPC-1101. U.S.C.G. Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter.  Referred from https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Programs/Surface-Programs/Fast-Response-Cutters/

3 RADM Eric Jones, U.S.C.G. at Virtual Surface Navy Association, August 25, 2020

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