Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

(As we get into this, you may want to click on the photo to get an enlarged view.)

This Spring, the first two Webber class patrol craft are expected to go to Bahrain to start replacing the six 110 foot WPBs of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA).  Two more will join them in the Fall and the last two in 2022. Back in 2018, I speculated on what might be done to modify them for duty in this more dangerous area. Apparently the Coast Guard leadership has had a few ideas of their own.

We have some very shape observers among the readers of this blog.

First Andy provided the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) above and pointed out the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD, the gray device mounted near rail on the O-1 deck just this side of the port forward corner of the bridge) and the four round sensors a short way up the mast two on each side. I note these systems were not on the ship when it was handed over by Bollinger (photo below).

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, as delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Then Secundius identified the four round sensors on the mast as Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band Radar.

From the Company web site: “RPS-42 is an S-Band tactical hemispheric air surveillance radar system. It is a member of the non-rotating, solid-state, digital radar family Multi-mission Hemisphere Radar (MHR), developed by RADA Electronic Industries Ltd.
“The RPS-42 is a pulse Doppler, software-defined radar platform, that can detect, classify and track all types of aerial vehicles – including fighters, helicopters, UAVs, transport aircraft, etc. at tactical ranges. A single radar platform provides 90º azimuth coverage. Hemispheric coverage is achieved when four radars are employed as a system. Mobile or stationary, the system can be integrated with any C⁴I system and other radars and sensors. The software is able for On-the-Move (OTM) Operation. The radar can operate either as a stand-alone or as part of a large-scale surveillance system.
“The Antenna is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) based on Galliumnitrid (GaN) Amplifiers. Its diameter is 50.4 cm , the max width is 16.5 cm. (19.8″ x 6.5″ –Chuck)
“The achievable range for detection of the smallest drones (known as Nano UAV) is 3.5 km”

These radars use Galliumnitrid (GaN), the new technology in radar, that allows the AN/SPY-6 to significantly outperform the earlier AN/SPY-1 found on most Aegis equipped warships. (Reportedly a 3000% improvement)

You can get an appreciation of what this is about from this Popular Mechanics article. This Is the ATV-Mounted Jammer That Took Down an Iranian Drone.

There is more here: Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System [LMADIS] (

I’m only guessing, but I would think the FRC would also have the same or equivalent complementary equipment as the LMADIS, e.g. small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer (Photo below, I may be seeing the jammer–pictured below–located above and behind the port side RPS-42 radar arrays, visible between the radar arrays and the tripod legs). The cutters of this class are already normally equipped with electro-optic devices, both on the mast and on the Mk38 gun mount, which can provide a kinetic counter to UAVs.

Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer. From the company web site, “SNC’s Modi II is the most modern & highly-capable dismounted EMC system in the DOD inventory.”

This was probably what the Commandant was talking about, when he said that Coast Guard PATFORSWA had a counter UAS role in a recent interview.

I am thinking, this radar might also be used on some of our other cutters as well, perhaps the 210s and the six 270s to be FRAMed, to provide them better control of their helicopters on approach in bad weather. The 210s have no air search radar and the 270s will almost certainly lose the Mk92 fire control system which provides their only air search radar currently. Reportedly the radar has a range of up to 30km and an instrumented range of 50km at altitudes from 30ft to 30,000 feet. Apparently the Marines are also using it to direct fire for their short range air defense systems. which includes a 30mm gun and Stinger missiles.

Thanks to Andy and Secundius for kicking this off.

79 thoughts on “Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

  1. Wow, pretty impressive. So, other than watch the big game on the tele, what do we have for interceptions? After all, the opposition on the field has a pretty good arm. Their offensive game would be formidable for the varsity team. What’s the JV team got?

    • I’d say the Iranians are the JV opposition, a couple of leagues down from the Chinese, and the Cutters will not be there alone. I am still hoping there are more improvements we have not seen yet.

  2. Just shows how far Technology has progressed! The SPY-1 was introduced in 1973 and measured ~12′ “octagon” with a surface weight of ~13,030-lbs. and a supporting weight of ~131,584-lbs. Only to be miniaturized to a package size of RPS-42’s ~19.8″ x ~6.5″. One has to wonder how small the next AESA Radar system will be in 48-years hence. My Great Great Grandchildren will have their own working under the skin AESA implants…

  3. The RPS-42 makes sense for a RWS with triple to quadruple weapons like the Leonardo RiWP turret and rocket or Stinger missile pods.

    At least with RPS-42 fitted, the FRC can hopefully detect flyovers and any hostile UAVs, something that is a possibility in INDO-PACOM.

  4. I have a Coast Guard specific question. What is the gold material or paint they use on the masts? Its just one of the better looks out there, yet I assume it has a functional purpose.

  5. You can’t kill it if you can’t see it. These upgrades impressively address the seeing part.

    I have to believe, with the investments in sensors, the killing part is also being quietly examined.

    • Almost certainly had the soft kill capability and the 25 mm provides a hard kill capability, but would not be surprised to find they are equipped with Stinger. Still hoping to see a missile launcher hanging from the side of the Mk38.

    • Against AI contrloled drones electronic defences wont work so what is the most cheap-eficient- efective way to shoot them down? CIWS, 57/76 mm guided munitions? lasers? imagine 100 drones are coming to you each wirh 25/50 kg of explosives….

      • I agree. If the FRCs and other USCG boats are to take over the role of the Navy’s PCs or MK VIs, then the USCG needs a small guided missile to catch Fast Attack Crafts because the FRC can’t go above 30 kts to chase down something skimming above 40+ kts.

        The small Interceptor boats in the Coast Guard can go 40+ its, but they’re not suited for Open Ocean distance travel for long. A missile is need to chase down any boat OTH or at speed faster than the FRC, OPC, and NSC, and the Lockheed JQL doesn’t drill into the deck and one can stack as many JQLs as there is free deck space.

        The “all gunboat-cutter” just has to go. Even SHORAD or APKWS can add so much benefit to the USCG.

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      • Even small aspects such as carrying a .50cal sniper rifle, M203 40mm grenade launcher, M240 SAW, M240 medium machine gun, or Milkor 40mm six-shot grenade launcher can aid the USCG in “up close and personal” hostile situations with small boats and during inspections without affecting the Cutter or incurring huge costs, in addition to keeping a low profile in terms of armament.

      • You know how difficult it is to hit a moving object moving in three axis of motion from a moving platform also moving in three axis of motion? Nearly impossible! Look at any YouTube video of a Mk.15 20mm Phalanx trying to hit a stationary object at sea, and see all the misses that are made by that Mk.15 CiWS. And the Mk.15 CiWS has one advantage that you don’t, it’s gyro stabilized…

      • Secundius—a “Show of Force” is still a show of force, and even visibly presenting sniper rifles and grenade launchers at the rail or bridge wing acts as a deterrent. A RPG on the other side doesn’t mean that it will hit a moving ship if fired, but it will gain respect as to what a RPG can do.

        If one wants to hit a moving ship from another moving ship, than the laser-guided round of the M3 or M4 Recoilless Rifle will hit since it’s laser rocket-guided (APKWS not mentioned here). But the USCG might see a 84mm RR as overkill.

        While the FRC doesn’t have a helicopter, these weapons can be used from a helicopter which is a hovering stable platform.

        The Mk 15 CIWS “brackets” the target in a line of bullets for the fast attack craft to sail through. In essence, the CIWS fires on the radar reflection it detects and fills that entire reflection with bullets if in auto-mode. I’m not going to say more about that because that can be considered sensitive operations.

      • I’m not against Up Gunning the “Webber’s”! Only conscious at to what it’s going to Up Gun with, that isn’t too heavy and doesn’t require a large footprint on either the Hull or Superstructure. Even if Mk.15 CiWS were to be installed the below deck footprint displacement of ~883.96 cubic feet. Which means something below deck has to be removed to accommodate the support module for the Mk.15 CiWS. And on a vessel the size of a “Webber”, ~883.96 cu.ft. is a sizeable dent…

      • I very much doubt that the USCG will ever mount these Missile Launcher in and/or or any “Webber” class or any other USCG vessel. The largest “Gun System” that a Webber is most likely to see mounted is probably a LM 40x255mm CTA, “IF” they mount one at all, which I also doubt,,,

  7. With the CG picking up the missions currently being performed by the PC’s, the CGs reluctance to more aggressively arm it’s cutters may change.

    I would not expect cutters everywhere to be bristling with weapons but FRCs, doing the work of PCs in high-threat areas are a likely candidate.

    One has to think there are discussions underway between the Navy and CG about transitioning the missions. The discussions would likely involve figuring out what the FRCs need to effectively do the mission.

    As the CG is very aware it’s role of White Hull diplomacy, I expect whatever will be done will be done quietly.

    • The easiest method, in my opinion, would be to increase and improve the personal armory of the Coastguard sailors with hand-held grenade launchers,sniper rifles, M3 or M4 Recoilless Rifles, AT-4 or LAW rockets, SAW or M240LWS portable machine guns, Stinger missiles, etc.

      I didn’t mean to mount these weapons on stands on the deck like a .50cal M2HB. I meant put them in the hands of the sailors as a better “Show of Force.”

      Yes, it would be very hard to hit a bobbing moving boat from a bobbing and moving boat. For that one needs laser-guided homing weapons and the easiest method would be to carry hand-held armaments. One example is Raytheon’s PIKE 40mm grenade munition that can fire from a M320 or Miktor MGL 6-shot (40mmx46mm) and home-in and hit at 2,000m (2,200 yards or 1.2 miles) when the target is properly lased. PIKE was test-fired twice around 2015…and came to nothing.

      Scroll down to see the photo of the Milktor MGL with six PIKE munitions sticking out and no barrel. Note the post date was October, 2015—SEVEN YEARS AGO!

      See, these problems are SOLVABLE if the USCG, USN, and USMC open their “Acquisition minds” more. Laser designators can be attached to the grenade launchers’ Picatinny Rails.

      • Or a drone or UAV can act as the laser designator for the PIKE 40mm for OTH targeting instead of solely depending on the grenade launcher’s attached AN/PEQ-15.

        According to the thread, the PIKE 40mm was canceled because it was part of the Army’s Objective Individual Crew Weapon (OICW) Program. But no one said that it didn’t work properly.

      • Come again, “OTH” capabilities!/? How does a range of ~2,000-meters make it OTH capable…

  8. Why doesn’t the Coast Guard gift the retiring 110 cutters to Bahrain and the UAE and get them started in a regional cooperative Coast Guard tasked with escort, defense, and law enforcement. Our Coast Guard assets are better served closer to home. Gunboat diplomacy is not in our creed:

    I am proud to be a United States Coast Guardsman.

    I revere that long line of expert seamen who by their devotion to duty and sacrifice of self have made it possible for me to be a member of a service honored and respected, in peace and in war, throughout the world.

    I never, by word or deed, will bring reproach upon the fair name of my service, nor permit others to do so unchallenged.

    I will cheerfully and willingly obey all lawful orders.

    I will always be on time to relieve, and shall endeavor to do more, rather than less, than my share.

    I will always be at my station, alert and attending to my duties.

    I shall, so far as I am able, bring to my seniors solutions, not problems.

    I shall live joyously, but always with due regard for the rights and privileges of others.

    I shall endeavor to be a model citizen in the community in which I live.

    I shall sell life dearly to an enemy of my country, but give it freely to rescue those in peril.

    With God’s help, I shall endeavor to be one of His noblest Works…


    • If by this, “Our Coast Guard assets are better served closer to home. Gunboat diplomacy is not in our creed:” you mean we should not have Coast Guard units outside US waters, you might remember the Coast Guard song, Semper Paratus”:

      From Aztec Shore to Arctic Zone,
      To Europe and Far East,
      The Flag is carried by our ships
      In times of war and peace

      If you look at the tri-service strategy it is clear the Coast Guard will continue to do capacity building will counter gray zone aggression all over the world.

      But you can take heart that that is still only a small part of what we do.

    • It would seem to me that the USCG could acquire these vessels which are purpose built for the mission that has relegated to the sea service. With a mission range of 700 miles, at cruise, these assets could be utilized not only in the Persian Gulf, but also the Western Pacific.

      • Only IF the US Senate let them! The US Congress has final say as to what the USCG or any other branch of service is allow to have and operate…

      • Good point John. The same thought occurred to me.

        The one red flag there is the comment that the Mk VIs are very expensive to maintain.

        I don’t know how real that it is a concern.

  9. The NAVY sats the MK VI is expensive to operate, yet provides no details. It’s powered by the venerable MTU 16V2000 M92 so parts are no problem.

    One thing is for certain, The MK VI would give the FRC competition for the Ugliest Thing Afloat award.

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  13. I see they also opted for the 7.62 co-axial MG mounted in a pod on the port-side end of the elevation axis shaft of the Mk.38, Mod.3. Probably a consideration for a very short range kinetic weapon which is stabilized and remotely operated when the LRAD is insufficient… (There’s a youtube video showing the use of good hearing protection making LRAD much less effective.)

    My biggest wonder is what is going to replace ~10 USN Cyclones and Mk.VI boats in the Persian Gulf. Surely not 2 LCSes… Meanwhile, as the Cyclone numbers dwindle, the CG will be the only small boat force present. That increased OpTempo does not bode well for crews, equipment, mechanicals, and hulls.

    • Isn’t the Mk.52 7.62×51 Nato Chain Gun standard on the Mk.38 Mod.3? As far as I know the only other option is the Mk.19 40 AGL, when the M242 25mm is mounted on the Mk.96 Gun Mount and not the Mk.38…

      • Yes, the coaxial 7.62mm is standard on the FRCs equipped with the later mods of the 25mm Mk38.

        I am not a fan of the Mk19, 40mm grenade launcher. muzzle velocity is very low, so hitting a moving target is very difficult. It is good for laying down suppressive fire against masses of infantry out in the open, but not the best for a moving point target.

      • I was only trying to understand what other alternative gun and/or other weapon system options for the Mk.38 he was alluding to, because I’m not aware of any testing having been done with the M2 .50BMG as a possible alternative option…

      • His reference being

        “I see they opted for the 7.62 co-axial MG mounted in a pod on the port-side end of the elevation axis shaft of the Mk.38, Mod.3. Probably a consideration for a [very short range] kinetic weapon”!

        As though there was an alternative weapon that could have been mounted instead with a longer reach…

      • The other option being no coaxial weapon at all. If you do a google search of FRC and Mk.38, you’ll see *extremely* few photos showing anything other than the stub of the elevation shaft sticking out of the mount. I believe the 7.62 gun is not only the only option, but a fairly rare option. I can see where, in the Persian Gulf, it’s highly useful while coming alongside vessels…

      • The Mk.38 Mod.3 comes with a Co-axial MG, the Mod.1 and 2 don’t. The Article is about the Mod.3…

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