“US Navy Promises To Strengthen Merchant Marine And Coast Guard Partnerships” –gCaptain

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche (WMSL 751) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 203) while patrolling the Eastern Pacific Ocean, April 20, 2020. Waesche was deployed to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which included counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Dave Horning.

gCaptain reports,

“U.S. Navy Undersecretary Erik Raven spoke today at the opening ceremony of the US Navy League’s Sea Air Space conference in Maryland, emphasizing the importance of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) in naval planning and strategy.”

It’s always nice to be appreciated.

There is more of course. The Navy sees the Coast Guard as doing much of the peacetime housekeeping that Royal Navy gunboats did prior to WWI. If you want a rules-based international order, you have to have someone enforce the rules.

I get the feeling the Navy is glad they don’t have to do much IUU fisheries or Alien Migrant Interdiction. They only do enough drug interdiction to say they are doing something.

I am a bit perplexed by the degree of naval warfare equipment provided for the NSCs and OPCs by the Navy. They have spent a great deal of money equipping Coast Guard ships with sensors, communications and electronic warfare equipment, and defensive systems like Phalanx and the 57mm Mk 110. They take us 80 to 90% of the way to being useful warships. Cutters are adequately equipped to do something like the Market Time operation the Coast Guard participated in during the Vietnam war, but other than perhaps boarding merchant ships to help enforce a blockade, I don’t see that we have a mission in the most likely near peer conflict, a fight with China. We have defensive equipment, but the Chinese really would not have any reason to shoot at us, because we are not a threat.

Is there a classified plan to up arm Coast Guard cutters to turn them into viable and useful warships? The fact that NSCs have hosted Navy helicopters during the last two RIMPACs, an MH-60S in 2020 and an MH-60R in 2022, suggest they may be thinking about the question, but I don’t see any evidence there is such a plan.

From the end of WWII until the breakup of the Soviet Union, the most capable Coast Guard cutters had a recognized wartime role. They would escort the reinforcement convoys that would provide logistics support for US and Allied forces resisting a Soviet invasion. They were not the only escort vessels or the best equipped, but they had role.

That role was practiced and exercised.

There is a lot we could do to improve coordination with the Navy Reserve to provide a mobilization potential.

Perhaps equally importantly, the weapons the Coast Guard does have, do not allow our cutters to fully execute their peacetime duties.

Where are the weapons to quickly and reliably stop small fast highly maneuverable craft? The big cutters are not likely to be around. A 7.62mm machine gun on a Response Boat Medium or a .50 cal. on a WPB are inadequate. We might even be out-gunned. Even a 25mm on a FRC doesn’t provide much reassurance because it is a short-range weapon with limited penetrating power on a platform that can be outrun by many potential threats. Using any of the three weapons inside a US port presents a danger of collateral damage.

How is the Coast Guard supposed to forcibly stop a medium to large ship, with a crew that refuses to be stopped? Even the 57mm and 76mm guns are inadequate in the unlikely event a large cutter is in the area. In the more likely event only a WPB or WPC is in the area we are essentially helpless.


2 thoughts on ““US Navy Promises To Strengthen Merchant Marine And Coast Guard Partnerships” –gCaptain

  1. Chuck, The Navy is using the same weapons on their small combatants. The difference is that these smaller combatants are equipped with missiles and torpedos.

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