CIMSEC brings us a report on Argentina’s efforts to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.
The former L’Adroit and her three new construction ice-strengthened half-sisters are central to the story. I have long thought these ships epitomized a very disciplined approach to the design of an Offshore Patrol Vessel. Defense capabilities aside, they have everything you need in an OPV and nothing you don’t. They are the best example of my Cutter X concept. They are fast enough at 21 knots. They have enough seaworthiness and endurance (7,000-8,000 nmi at 12 knots). They have a helicopter deck and hangar. They have the boats they need. They have a small crew (30) but can accommodate 60.
That is not to say adding additional capabilities for defense does not make sense, but in affect they constitute a baseline for an OPV. When you start adding capabilities you could say, what is the cost/benefit compared to this baseline?
The post also includes an interesting proposal,
“Regional cooperation is vital to solving this security challenge, which can be achieved by modernizing the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Tratado Interamericano de Asistencia Recíproca: TIAR) into a 21st-century agreement that is also tasked with combating IUU fishing.”
Well it’s a different design, that’s for sure. I do agree with you though, Chuck, that they are the best example of your Cutter X concept. In fact, they almost make too much sense. Certainly, the range, speed and facilities are all there. These could easily be replacements for the 210’s but the OPC is an upgrade from that. I’m sure for a USCG use case, we would arm them a little more (I hope) and I think our manning would be more than 30 as well. To me, it is a patrol boat on steroids that would be beneficial to have. Just as long as it’s not at the expense of the OPC.
The fact is, even with 25 OPCs we are not going to have enough ships to do our statutory missions. So, no I would not like to see these replace OPCs on a one for one basis, but if we could trade a few OPCs for a greater number of something similar on a two for one or perhaps even a three for one basis, it might be a better solution. It displaces more than four times that of a Webber class FRC, but only a third as much as the OPC.
Of course, I would also like to see them better armed. L’Adroit was equipped with a multimode radar, and an optronic system. It would not be hard to equip a Coast Guard counterpart with Navy furnished multimode radar, optronic firecontrol, a 57mm Mk110, and perhaps eight cell launchers for Naval Strike Missile (though we might not have all eight mounted).
Here’s an idea that I thought of. Purchase a smaller number of these, let’s just say 10-15 and we could use them in the Caribbean for missions there. That would certainly free up resources for longer range missions like the NSC’s are doing now. I’m not sure what the expectations are for the OPC but there is a trend toward longer mission and more days away from homeport. The Caribbean op area is close, relatively small and parols tend to be on the shorter side. The only downside to this would be where would we find pier space and resources to put these new ships?
@Matt, yes, we have different regions with wildly different climates and typical sea states. The OPCs should do well in the 17th District (Alaska). But the much smaller 210s have been effective in the Caribbean and even Eastern Pacific. The 270s work pretty well in the waters off New England but not so well in the 17th District. Basically, what we a building now are all large cutters that are designed for the 17th District, very long legs and great sea keeping. That means they can work anywhere, but maybe we would benefit from having more cutters even if some might be individually less capable of dealing with severe weather.
Rather than cells for NSM, how about a SeaRAM launcher? Could be used against smaller boats and aircraft, plus providing antimissile defense. Then maybe equip with bolt-on canisters for NSM.
It is complicating the design, but a small narrow deckhouse forward of the bridge might elevate a SeaRAM launcher above the 57mm and keep it relatively dry while still allowing NSM launchers on either side of the additional deck house.
We could not put SeaRAM on top of the hangar as would normally be the practice, because the bridge sits on top of the hangar. That is part of the beauty of the design.
I like looking at it as a 2 for 1 or 3 to 1 option discussion. Based on what we are actually paying for an OPC, we could be looking at a Spanish BAM, Dutch Holland, or even an OPV of the Sa’ar 6 Braunschweigs. And that looks a lot like what we thought we might be getting in OPC to begin with. Want a dark horse candidate? River Batch II would fit inside the 3:1 area. Except I really don’t trust BAE.
It is really hard to reliably compare costs with foreign programs. They breakdown costs differently.
The Holland class is almost as large as the OPC and the BAM, with modification was the Bath Ironworks candidate for the OPC program. The Sa’ar 6 is a great little corvette, but the range is very short.
We have to have it built in the US under current law. Typically for the same sort of ships, price is proportional to displacement. That is why I think we might be able to build something like L’Adroit in the US for something approaching one third the cost of the 4500 ton OPC.
There are number of 80-90 meter OPVs out there, including the two Fassmer designs (https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2014/04/13/three-nations-share-german-opv-design/), the River Batch II (but it does not have a hangar, although it probably could), and two Lurssen designs including the OPV the Australians are buying (https://chuckhillscgblog.net/2017/11/25/australia-selects-opv-design/), but L’Adroit has the lightest displacement, a bit less than the 82 meter WMEC270s.
Something like the L’Adroit OPV would be great for the District 14. You can put something like the L’Adroit OPV in Guam and American Samoa to patrol those waters. Heck, even the OPV-80-class offshore patrol vessel that Columbia and Chile operate would be great for D14 and especially for Sector Guam.
The last of the class is conducting sea trials with expected delivery in April. The program is being completed very quickly. https://www.bairdmaritime.com/work-boat-world/maritime-security-world/naval/ships-naval/sea-trials-completed-for-argentine-navys-final-kership-class-opv/