Below is a District 14 News Release. Not your typical WPC operation. 9300 nautical miles and 45 days away from home port. I was a bit surprised that it sounds like they did not board any of the fishing vessels they encountered, “We executed 19 observation reports on fishing vessels, 6 of which had not been previously contacted by the Coast Guard.” Perhaps there were no ship-riders aboard from the nations in whose waters they were sighted.
This might also have served as a dry run for the three Webber class WPCs that will be transiting to Guam. Presumably they took the opportunity to introduce this new type asset to representatives of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia and perhaps to the supporting Coast Guard staff in Guam. Notably there is no mention of transiting in company with a larger ship as happened in previous long range operations.
Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry returns to homeport after a 6 week patrol in Pacific
Editors’ Note: Click on images to download a high-resolution version.
HONOLULU — The Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) returns to homeport in Honolulu after a mission in the Pacific to curtail illegal fishing and increase maritime law enforcement self-sufficiency with international partners.
The crew of the Oliver Berry traveled in a first-of-its-kind round-trip patrol spanning from Sept. 12 to Oct. 27, 2020, from Hawaii to Guam, covering a distance of approximately 9,300 miles during their journey.
“Traveling just under 10,000 nautical miles, we (CGC Oliver Berry) operated further from our homeport than any other FRC to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in portions of Oceania,” said Ensign Michael Meisenger, weapons officer on the Oliver Berry.
The Oliver Berry collaborated with the governments of Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia strengthening maritime domain awareness and resource security within their Exclusive Economic Zones. An EEZ is an area of coastal water within a certain distance of a country’s coastline for which the country claims exclusive rights for drilling, fishing, and other economic ventures.
The Oliver Berry aided international enforcement efforts by sending observational reports and imagery to the Maritime Security Advisors and the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency, Regional Fisheries Surveillance Center, thereby increasing mission success and showcasing the Coast Guard’s unwavering commitment to partner nations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We worked to increase awareness of unlawful fishing operations in remote portions of the United States, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Federated States of Micronesia’s EEZs, and on the high seas,” said Meisenger. “We executed 19 observation reports on fishing vessels, 6 of which had not been previously contacted by the Coast Guard.”
Fast Response Cutters are equipped with new advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and boast greater range and endurance compared to their predecessor, the 110 foot Island-class patrol boats.
The FRCs represent the Coast Guard’s commitment to modernizing service assets and maintaining a strong presence and support for a free and open Indo-Pacific. Oceania covers an area of 3.3 million square miles and has a population of approximately 40 million people. Its melting pot of cultures depends on the living marine resources and maritime commerce to allow their people to thrive.
The Coast Guard combats illegal fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific to protect their resource security and sovereignty. Combating illegal fishing is part of promoting maritime governance and a rules-based international order that is essential to a free and open Oceania.
“We made great contributions to our partnerships and increasing maritime domain awareness,” said Meisenger. “As a crew, we could not be happier to be back home after a highly successful and trailblazing patrol.”
Looks like another nail in the coffin of the OPC program. If an FRC can do a 45 day patrol and transit on its own bottom across the Pacific why do I need to buy OPCs at 5 times the cost?
I remember seeing drawings on the USCGC Valiant (Pre-first Fram) listing the ship as WPC not WMEC. Except for the flight deck the Sentinels are like 210s lite.
Originally WMECs included 125 and 165 foot former WPCs and 143 foot tugs. The original concept for the ship that came out as the 210 was very much like the Webber class, but slower. At that time there was no EEZ and the territorial sea was 3 miles.
But the Coast Guard decided they wanted a helicopter deck as a lily pad to extend the range of the helicopters. They weren’t expected to keep helicopters aboard for any length of time.
The OPCs should be able to search a larger area. This might change if we get exceptionally capable small UAVs.
There is also the additional capabilities to provide more boarding parties, to have two boats in the water, and the ability of the airborne use of force helicopter to stop a vessel that might be faster than the ship or its boats.
There has been an indication that the Coast Guard is attempting to develop an air borne use of force capability to compliment the Webber class.
The other thing that the OPC has is better sea keeping. There is a reason we will soon have 20 FRCs in D7. Aside from the occasional hurricane the weather is generally relatively benign.
When I was in the Coast Guard, the USCGC Confidence was based in Kodiak. Well it is not based there any more. And their no other 210’s based or operating in the Gulf of Alaska. Why? Because they are too small for operations in Alaska.
The OPCs are better ocean-going vessels, and armed with a 57mm and 25mm cannon, should be a threat or a guardian to civilian shipping outside of combat boats and ships. Being all-covered, the OPCs should be able to weather the elements compared to the canopy FRCs.
I highly recommend that in doing such long-patrols that the USCG FRCs just have to increase their man-portable armament to include rocket launchers (AT-4s, Carl Gustavs, LAWs), semi-auto sniper guns (M110s or M-14 EBR), grenade launchers (Mikor MGL), SAWs, Stingers, and even Javelin ATGMs in an on-board locked arsenal safe. All these weapons can be found in the US Navy, US Army, and USMC arsenals (some even surplus like the M-14 EBR) and Coasties should be trained and equipped with them besides just small arms of shotguns, M4 carbines, and pistols. In an emergency, the FRCs can increase their firepower while maintaining the same FRC armament. Such armament upgrades should intrude and cost little while totally increasing lethality options. Even embarking a few Marines onboard might serve a useful purpose to handle these man-portable weapons. Of course this all depends on where the FRCs sail to.
The more lethal man-portable weapons could add better teeth and provide a form of higher explosive firepower and SHORADs that the FRCs lack. The FRCs should be on-watch 24/7 to prevent the FRCs becoming tempting targets for hijack.
If the USCG believes that its white hulls are all peaceful, and doesn’t want to up-arm with heavier Cutter armament, that doesn’t exclude the onboard armament that the Coasties’ hands handle. I say this because if Chinese militia fishing boats carry RPGs and 7.62mm guns, then the FRCs should have similar handheld armaments (just in case).
Finally, all FRCs, OPCs, and NSCs deployed overseas should have some form of Translator software for announcements in different languages. Even Siri or Google Translate might work in a non-Cyber environment.
But then again Bollinger Shipyards/Damen Group could being using could be using the FRC as a means to advertise the versatility of their product to any would be Nation State that can’t afford to purchase a larger vessel…
Plenty of better weapons could get tucked away in a box for a rainy day without literally being fangs out. Stinger, Javelins. Still, OPCs are designed to keep up with an amphibious assault group. Lot’s more potential. Still, this to me makes the case that the navy should consider a manned version of the MUSV they selected.
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