What may be a game changing technique, is being developed that could provide a new role for the Coast Guard’s aviation arm in any future major near peer conflict.
Coast Guard Aircraft at War
During World War II, we all probably know that the Coast Guard surface forces had a strong record of augmenting the US Navy in anti-submarine warfare and amphibious assault operations.
Coast Guard aviation’s contribution was considerably less significant. They continued to do SAR and flew anti-submarine patrols. By the end of the war, there was at least one Coast Guard squadron dedicated to anti-submarine patrols, but while generally aircraft were more successful than surface vessels against submarines, sinking about 400 U-boats, more than half of all the U-boats destroyed during WWII, all Coast Guard submarine sinkings were done by surface vessels.
During the Vietnam war, when the Coast Guard deployed 82 foot patrol boats and High Endurance Cutters off the coast as part of Operation Market Time, and buoy tenders serviced aids in Vietnamese waters, the Coast Guard’s aviation contribution to the war was limited to exchange pilots serving with the DOD units. Coast Guard aircraft supported LORAN stations that were vital to the war effort, but I have not heard of any Coast Guard aircraft participating directly in the Vietnam War.
During the first Iraq War, I seem to recall some Coast Guard aircraft assisted TRANSCOM with logistics. In addition, Coast Guard HU-25s monitored pollution that resulted from Iraqi sabotage of Kuwaiti oil facilities.
Generally, Coast Guard aircraft have played little or no role in America’s wars. It is not too surprising since warplanes tend to be specialized.
That may be changing.
“Bomb Bay in Box”
The Air Force has been making rapid progress on a system that would allow cargo planes, including C-130s and perhaps C-27Js and C-144s to become cruise missile carriers. (An earlier test reported here.)
The system is roll-on/roll-off and requires no integration with the aircraft.
Interestingly the most recent test appears to have targeted a maritime target.
We certainly are not likely to see even Air Force transports doing this sort of thing routinely unless it is a truly big war or at least the desire is to launch a devastating number of missiles in single massive assault.
Surprisingly, Coast Guard aircraft might be seen as the best transports to do this sort of thing, since their Minotaur systems provide the possibility of updating targeting information with organic sensors and doing post attack battle damage assessment if the environment permits.
Coast Guard aircraft use becomes more likely if the conflict is worldwide, Air Force transports are otherwise engaged, and a nation, or nations, in the Western Hemisphere decides to take advantage of US distraction and attack an ally.
It might also happen, if there is a wartime decision to sink all hostile controlled shipping. (That might follow a warning to masters to intern the ships within a reasonable time period.)