What is an Ideal Coast Guard Military Readiness Mission? We Provide the Truck and Driver, Navy Provides the Load

A US Marine Corps Logistics Vehicle System Replacement truck carrying a standard shipping container with a Navy logistics vessel in the background. The Navy is now working on a project to develop a containerized electronic warfare and electronic intelligence system that will work on various naval, air, and ground platforms. USMC / Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin

The US Coast Guard has had a long history of participation in almost every armed conflict the US Navy has engaged in. But there has always been a tension between peacetime economy and effectiveness and readiness for war.

Some military systems are essential for our peacetime missions, like minimal deck guns or muti-mode radars, we would probably have them, even if we had no wartime missions.

Some military equipment we would be unlikely to have, if we had no military missions, can enhance performance of peacetime missions, like data links and electronic warfare systems. These systems are welcome.

Then there are systems that would enhance our wartime effectiveness that have little or no utility in peacetime. If they require significant training and maintenance time, they can adversely effective peacetime economy and effectiveness. There is an argument to be made that these still offer good return on investment compared with making a similar investment in DOD assets, but diverting DHS assets to support DOD missions can be a hard sell.

Ideally, we would want Coast Guard assets to do their peacetime missions without having to think about wartime missions until mobilization, but when needed, DOD would quickly and easily add capabilities and trained operating personnel.

That is not always possible, but in some cases we might be able to come close to that.

The Danes showed how to make modular naval weapon and sensor systems with their SanFlex system. Now we regularly see announcement of some new modular system. Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and  here.

TRAPS containerized active/passive towed array from GeoSpectrum Technologies.

Towed sonars can be containerized, here, here, and here.

I even proposed a containerized weapon system.

What I think we need, after determining the most appropriate mission set for Coast Guard units is a determination of what:

  • must be permanently installed and operated by Coast Guard personnel at all times,
  • what can be quickly installed and operated in the event of a crisis, and
  • what can be added in the form of modular equipment maintained by the Navy and to be operated by Navy Reserve personnel upon mobilization.

A primary example of the latter would be an ASW helicopter. Unmanned systems also look like likely candidates for systems that could be quickly added to Coast Guard vessels.

Unmanned mine hunting and destruction equipment might be based on Coast Guard buoy tenders to allow them to look for mines in US waters, including those around Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. In fact the Navy is making some extra LCS Mine CounterMeasures (MCM) for ships of opportunity.

If the Navy wanted Coast Guard cutters to augment Navy ASW forces, a likely mission if we have a war with China, they could become useful units by the addition of a modular version of the Navy’s towed array sonar systems and assignment of experienced ASW personnel and an MH-60R aviation detachment. We would need to have identified where we would store torpedoes, sonobuoys, and other support equipment, but those spaces could have other uses in peacetime.

“AGM-179 JAGM: REPLACING THE LEGENDARY HELLFIRE MISSILE” –Sandboxx

U.S. Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252 equip a KC-130J Hercules with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christian Cortez)

Sandbox has a good overview of the Hellfire missile’s replacement, the AGM-179 JAGM (Joint Air Ground Missile–Despite the acronym, this missile will be used surface to surface and even surface to air, as well as air to surface.)

I have for a long time pointed to the Hellfire as a missile that could provide much needed firepower if any of our vessels, down to and including patrol boats, encounter a situation where they need to forcibly stop a vessel, regardless of size, with a near 100% prospect of success against small, fast highly maneuverable targets and at least some chance of success against large ships. All with minimal chance of collateral damage.

The post notes that the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire, the version used in vertical launchers as part of the anti-surface module on Littoral Combat Ships has been out of production since 2005, but the new missile will include the capabilities of the Longbow Hellfire as well as Semi-Active Laser Homing.

The Missile:

JAGM shares many components with the Hellfire. It has the same dimensions:

  • Length: 70″ (1,800mm)
  • Diameter: 7″ (180mm)
  • Weight: 180 pounds (49 kg)
  • Warhead: 20 pounds
  • Range: 8 km (almost 9,000 yards)

Launchers: 

There are a number of ways the missile could be integrated into the various cutter classes.

There are stand alone single round launchers.

Launch tubes could be attached to existing Mk38 gun mounts.

We could use small vertical launch systems.

Textron Systems’ CUSV with Surface Warfare payload including a Hellfire vertical launch system, the box in the center, at SAS 2019

These weapons will be made in huge numbers, thousands per year, and in the meantime, there are thousands of Hellfires in inventory that could meet our needs. This is a weapon based on the Hellfire’s history of success and with a promising long term future. It has a small foot print, and requires minimal maintenance and training while providing the punch of a 6″ naval gun. Range is expected to be extended to 16 km.

This is doable, at modest cost, and the Navy should pay for most of it.

 

French Navy’s New SAR Helicopter, Looks Familiar

The first H160 helicopter for the French Navy. French Navy picture.

Naval News reports that the French Navy has recieved the first of six H160 helicopters. This is a bit larger successor to the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin, a variant of which is the USCG H-65. 

“169 H160M Guépards are foreseen to replace five types of helicopters in service with the French armed forces.”

These first few are not the fully militarized H160M versions. They are lightly upgraded civilian aircraft for use as SAR aircraft, including a Safran Euroflir 410 electro optical system and winching system. The aircraft are certified for night vision google use.

“ONR SCOUT Tests Tech for Monitoring Illicit Maritime Cargo” –Seapower

The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports,

 To improve capabilities for monitoring aircraft and vessels carrying illicit maritime cargo such as drugs, for longer periods of time and over greater distances, the Office of Naval Research-sponsored SCOUT initiative recently conducted a dynamic experimentation event at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia, at the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay.
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The goal of the event was to find creative solutions to pinpoint “dark targets” — aircraft or watercraft operating with little to no radio-frequency signatures — found in maritime operating areas covered by the Joint Interagency Task Force South, ONR said in a Sept. 19 release. It sought ways to use unmanned technologies to expand intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities beyond those of traditional maritime patrol aircraft such as the P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon.

Notably this includes aircraft as well as surface craft.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

“Thai Navy Buys Aerial Drones to Patrol Its Seas” –Marine Link

Elbit Systems 900. Photo from Wikipedia by Ronite

Another nation acquiring land based Unmanned Air Systems for Maritime patrol. This time it is Thailand. The system chosen, the Hermes 900, may look a lot like the MQ-9B. that I think is currently the most logical choice for the USCG, but it is much smaller, more like the MQ-1 Predator. The Wikipedia entry for the Hermes 900 appears to indicate the UAS does not yet have a “sense and avoid” system (see the entry for Switzerland).

“Mystery Drone Boat Washes Up Near Home Of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet” –The Drive

See the linked post for more photos

The Drive/The War Zone discusses reports of a possible suicide drone surface vessel. This looks more sophisticated than the unmanned explosive motor boats that were used by Yemen’ Houthi faction, possibly using satelite communications to allow it to be operated over much greater distance from the control station.

Visiting Fiji and other Pacific Islands

Naval News points out the apparent strong interest of many nations in West Pacific island nations, “Pacific Port Visits Show Regions Growing Importance: Expert.”

Certainly the Coast Guard has been calling on a these small island nations with significant regularity.

We are not the only ones visiting.

Type 071 LSD Wuzhishan of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) alongside in Nuku’alofa, Tonga with an Australian Canberra class LHD visible in the background. (Xinhua)

The post points to visits by USS Jackson (LCS-6), the UK’s HMS Spey (P-234), Japan’s JS Kirisame (DD-104) and India’s INS Satpura (F-48).

Somehow, I suspect of all these, the Webber class WPCs, like USCGC Oliver Henry’s recent deployment, are the most welcome, non-threatening, the right scale, not showing off, just trying to help.

“USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) concludes Operation Blue Pacific expeditionary patrol” –Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam and What It Says About Cutter X

The Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) accesses the mooring ball in Apra Harbor Sept. 18, 2022, following more than 16,000 nautical mile patrol through Oceania. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners. (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

Below is a press release marking the end of an unusual patrol. We have seen several earlier press releases.

This press release gives us a bit more insight into what it took to make the patrol possible.

The Crew:

Everything I had seen earlier indicated Webber class had a crew of 24, but we have this,

“,,,with a crew of 25 and a lieutenant commanding officer”

The crew was also augmented.

“Guam’s Maintenance Assistance Team/Asset Material Manager leveraged current personnel to fill billet gaps….The Oliver Henry, which has no intrinsic medical personnel, also brought several folks aboard, including a corpsman from the U.S. Navy and a linguist from the U.S. Marine Corps…”We had HS2 Edge from HSWL Juneau and HM3 Hardnett from Naval Hospital Guam, who provided a higher level of care on board as we transited over 8,000 nautical miles down Australia. We also brought Lance Cpl. Mabrie from Hawaii, our Korean linguist aboard…We also brought MK2 Blas and YN2 Blas from Guam, who provided extra help for maintenance, photography, and administration while we were underway.”

Support: It did require something beyond routine parts supply.

“Working with U.S. Coast Guard Base Honolulu ensured the short notice delivery of $100,000 in mission-critical parts to the ship while deployed.”

Lessons Learned: 

This patrol once again demonstrated that the Webber class are exceeding our expectations, but the lessons may be more generally applicable.

It demonstrated that a ship with a crew of less than 30, much less than half that of our smallest WMECs (75 for the Reliance class), can usefully deploy and perform almost anywhere on earth, limited only by the seaworthiness of the cutter. That is not to say that a larger crew does not provide greater resiliance and opportunities to train junior personnel, but it does provide a proven minimum crew for a similarly equipped cutter, regardless of size. To this size crew we can consider the benefits of adding additional personnel for increased redundancy, self-sufficiency, resilience, damage control, training of junior personnel and additional capabilities like operating helicopters, underway replenishment, additional sensors, boats, or weapons, etc.

I think it argues for a class of cutter sized between the Webber class and the Offshore Patrol Cutters that could increase the number of more seaworthy large cutters beyond the 36 planned. Cutters with greater endurance, two boats, a flight deck, and a hangar for helicopter and/or UAS. I think we could do all that, with a crew of 50 or less, Cutter X.

Families greet the crew of the Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) as they return to homeport in Apra Harbor Sept. 19, 2022, following a 43-day patrol across Oceania. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners. (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) concludes Operation Blue Pacific expeditionary patrol

Oliver Henry arrives to Apra Harbor Crew of Oliver Henry  Families greet Oliver Henry crew
 Oliver Henry at HMPNGS Tarangau School in Manus, Papua New Guinea Oliver Henry in Pohnpei Oliver Henry in Australia

Editor’s Note: Click on the images above to view or download more including b-roll video.

SANTA RITA, Guam — The Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) arrived at homeport in Guam, Sept. 19, following a patrol across Oceania.

“The crew of Oliver Henry just completed a 43-day historic patrol across Oceania, where we patrolled and visited ports in the Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. We also patrolled the exclusive economic zones of those countries and Solomon Islands during our time,” said Lt. Freddy Hofschneider, commanding officer of Oliver Henry. “Our trip was significant in that we validated the capability of the fast response cutters homeported here in Apra Harbor, Guam, showing what we can do to promote regional stability in terms of fisheries and continue to build a better relationship with our regional partners.

The crew conducted training, fisheries observations, community and key leader engagements, and a multilateral sail. They covered more than 16,000 nautical miles from Guam to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and returned with several stops in Papua New Guinea and one in the Federated States of Micronesia.

“The fact that we can take these 154-foot ships with a crew of 25 and a lieutenant commanding officer and push them so far over the horizon, even as far as Australia — which is what Oliver Henry just did — is an incredible capability for the region,” said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “I’m proud of the work the Oliver Henry did, the resiliency of the crew deployed for 43 days, and they pulled off a variety of firsts – like first-time port calls in a couple of places like Papua New Guinea and Australia. Even more than that, I am proud of the resilience of the families. Not just the families of Oliver Henry but all the families here to support them and our local community here in Guam.”

In Papua New Guinea, the crew spent time on Manus Island and Port Moresby. They visited HMPNGS Tarangau School, spent time in the community, and engaged with Papua New Guinea Defence Force and local officials.

In Cairns, they conducted engagements with Australian Defence and Home Affairs partners, the mayor of Cairns, and Cairns Regional Council representatives. They also took time to engage with the International Marine College. Upon departure, they participated in a multilateral formation sail with crews from Australia and Fiji as the other ships departed for Exercise Kakadu off Darwin.

During their stop in Pohnpei, Oliver Henry’s crew hosted the U.S. Embassy team and an FSM National Oceanic Resource Management Authority – Fisheries Compliance Division representative to cover patrol highlights and future opportunities. The Oliver Henry commanding officer visited the FSM National Police Maritime Wing headquarters to discuss multilateral efforts. Finally, members of the cutter’s engineering team conducted a subject matter expert exchange with the crew of FSS Palikir, the last active Pacific-class patrol boat, on shipboard repairs and preventative maintenance.

While not the most extended transit for these cutters, this patrol does emphasize the Service’s capability and willingness to project into the far reaches of Oceania. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains strong partnerships with the maritime forces in the region through extensive training and subject matter expert exchanges. The U.S. Coast Guard conducts routine deployments in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific seeks to strengthen partnerships and execute a mission to support maritime governance and the rule of law in the region.

This patrol was possible thanks to vital shoreside support for logistics and an augmented crew. Guam’s Maintenance Assistance Team/Asset Material Manager leveraged current personnel to fill billet gaps. Working with U.S. Coast Guard Base Honolulu ensured the short notice delivery of $100,000 in mission-critical parts to the ship while deployed. The Oliver Henry, which has no intrinsic medical personnel, also brought several folks aboard, including a corpsman from the U.S. Navy and a linguist from the U.S. Marine Corps.

“We had HS2 Edge from HSWL Juneau and HM3 Hardnett from Naval Hospital Guam, who provided a higher level of care on board as we transited over 8,000 nautical miles down Australia. We also brought Lance Cpl. Mabrie from Hawaii, our Korean linguist aboard, doing sighting reports inside of other countries’ EEZs and high seas pockets,” said Lt. j.g. Marissa Marsh, executive officer on Oliver Henry. “We also brought MK2 Blas and YN2 Blas from Guam, who provided extra help for maintenance, photography, and administration while we were underway. It felt like they’d been here since day one, and the crew enjoyed the extra help; they had a good time sailing with us.”

The Oliver Henry is the 40th Sentinel-class fast response cutter. The ship was commissioned along with its sister ships, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) and Frederick Hatch (1143), in Guam in July 2021. These cutters are a vital part of the U.S. Coast Guard’s enduring regional presence serving the people of the Pacific by conducting 10 of the Service’s 11 statutory missions with a focus on search and rescue, defense readiness, living marine resources protection, and ensuring commerce through marine safety and ports, waterways, and coastal security.

For more U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam news, visit us on DVIDS or subscribe! You can also visit us on Facebook at @USCGForcesMicronesia.

“Turkish Dearsan Lays Keel Of First Of Two OPVs For Nigeria” –Naval News

Rendering of HE OPV-76 vessels (Screenshot from Dearsan video–via Naval News)

Naval News reports,

Turkish Dearsan Shipyard laid the keel of the first of two high-endurance offshore patrol vessels (HE OPV 76) for the Nigerian Navy during a ceremony held at Dearsan’s facilities in Istanbul on September 16, 2022.

Turkey is becoming an increasingly capable and respected arms supplier and shipbuilder.

With a population of over 218 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the sixth most populous in the world.

The Nigerian Navy and Coast Guard has an eclectic fleet sourced from the US, Europe, China, and Israel, along with some locally built small craft. They currently operates two of the former USCG 378 foot high endurance cutters which are their largest fully operational ships. Reportedly they also have four former USCG 180 foot buoy tenders and 15 USCG type “Defender class” Response Boat, Small.

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

Nigeria’s territorial sea and EEZ is relatiely small, less than 2% that of the US, but their marine environment is complex with a history of piracy and smuggling, with many countries in and around the Gulf of Guinea complicating jurisdiction.

The New OPVs:

We talked about these ships earlier.

There have been some, mostly minor changes in the specs:

The reported displacement is likely to be light displacement since, these ships are considerably larger than the 1,127 ton full load Reliance class and nearly as large as the 1,800 ton Bear class. Given their range, they don’t carry a lot of fuel, so I would expect about 1,500 tons full load.

The armament is lighter than initially reported (earlier reports indicated 76mm + 40mm +  MBDA Simbad RC systems for Mistral short range surface to air missiles). The electronics also appear to have been simplified. This was probably a cost saving measure, but the ships remain better armed than most OPVs of comparable size, in that they have two medium caliber guns rather than just one, probably a good idea. The provision for at least three, probably four, electro optic devices mounted on the weapon stations mean they are particularly well provided for in this respect.

Back view of the HE OPV-76 rendering while conducting helo ops (Screenshot from Dearsan video–via Naval News)

We see an illustration of what the stern of the ship looks like. No hangar is provided.

There might be an issue with the boat handling arrangement. Boats are visible under the flight deck, but neither davits nor stern ramps are really visible. Looks like stanchions and the centerline support at the transom preclude a single centerline boat launch ramp like the NSCs have.

Twin launch ramps also appear unlikely. There no visible ramp doors, and the RHIBs we can see do not appear to be on an incline.

Arms might extend outward from under the flight deck to act as davits. If that is the case, with the boats so far aft of the center of pitch, there may be difficulties when the ship is pitching. That may require them to seek a heading that will minimize pitch, just as cutters with stern ramps do, when the boat returns to the cutter, but with the boats being suspended during launch and recovery, they would also want to minimize roll.