Sorry, I am Distracted

You may have noticed the blog hasn’t had any new content for several days.

I have been distracted and it will likely continue for another ten days or so.

My wife and I are celebrating our 50th anniversary. Things should get back to normal about the end of February.

“Malaysia taps American fund to convert transport planes for maritime surveillance role” –Defense News

A model of the PTDI CN-235 hybrid gunship-maritime patrol aircraft is on display at the 2020 Singapore Airshow. (Mike Yeo/Staff)

Defense News reports,

Malaysia will convert two Indonesian-built CN-235 transport aircraft into maritime patrol platforms using U.S. funding set aside for regional nations to improve maritime security, a top general confirmed.

Malaysian Armed Forces chief Gen. Affendi Buang said the plan is to convert three of the military’s seven PT Dirgantara Indonesia-made CN-235s into unarmed maritime surveillance aircraft.

Work will be carried out by PTDI’s facilities in Indonesia using funding from the Maritime Security Initiative.

Is there a USCG connection? Only that the CN-235 is also known as the HC-144 and the Coast Guard has 18 of them.

“COAST GUARD  Actions Needed to  Close Stations  Identified as  Overlapping and  Unnecessarily  Duplicative” –GAO

U.S. Coast Guard Station Shark River 28SEP14

The Federal Register /Vol. 85, No. 31/Friday, February 14, 2020/Notices reports that the Coast Guard is considering closing five stations and has asked for public comment. This is in response to GAO report 18-9, Oct. 2017,”COAST GUARD  Actions Needed to  Close Stations  Identified as  Overlapping and  Unnecessarily  Duplicative.”

Stations Oxford, MD; Fishers Island, NY; Shark River, NJ; Roosevelt Inlet, DE; and Salem, NJ have been identified for consolidation with neighboring stations.

“In October of 2017, the Government Accountability Office issued report GAO–18–9, titled ‘‘Actions Needed to Close Stations Identified as Overlapping and Unnecessarily Duplicative.’’ This GAO report recommended the consolidation of eighteen boat stations. Due to environmental and operational factors, the Coast Guard is not considering all eighteen boat stations identified in the GAO report for consolidation. Instead, we anticipate consolidating five stations, with implementation notionally scheduled for fiscal year 2021. These stations have been identified because there are other units nearby capable of responding to cases in these areas, and because these five stations respond to a low number of cases. We do not anticipate any adverse effect on Coast Guard response capability. We expect an improvement to the proficiency of boat operators as well as a less complicated response system. “

It is by no means certain that these five stations will be closed. The GAO report notes that the Coast Guard has a long history of failed attempts to close stations that appeared redundant.

The GAO noted that the Coast Guard has good criteria for determining which SAR boat stations should be closed, but that while it has some data based criteria for Air Stations it was not as rigorous as that for the small boat stations.

Actually looking at Figure 6: “Map of Coast Guard Helicopter Coverage as of August 2017” on page 24 of the GAO report, while there are areas of overlap off Washington State, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Delaware and over Lake Michigan, there are also apparent gaps between LA and San Franciso, at the Florida panhandle, and over Lake Superior.

When the Coast Guard gets its next generation aircraft, including, hopefully, products of the Future Vertical Lift program that is expected to double the range and speed of vertical takeoff aircraft, we are going to need to take a fresh look at the number and  location of Coast Guard Air Stations.

Credit BryMarConsulting for bringing this to my attention.

Well Done to D7 Public Affairs Detachment, Jacksonville

I see most Coast Guard new releases, but this one caught my eye, because of the use of links within the release. News papers are not the only users of these releases. When used by on-line news sources this is a real plus. It allows the readers to see what the USS  Shamal, an H-65, or a response boat, medium looks like. It highlighted the use of an EPIRB and made it easy to find out what one is.

Adding hyper-links takes more time, but it adds value. Well done, D-7 PA Detachment, Jacksonville.

Coast Guard, Navy rescues disabled fishing vessel after alert from distress signal

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 7th District PA Detachment Jacksonville
Contact: Coast Guard PA Detachment Jacksonville
Office: 904-714-7606/7607
After Hours: 305-318-1864
PA Detachment Jacksonville online newsroom

Coast Guard rescues disabled fishing vessel after alert from distress signal

Editor’s Note: Click on stock image to download the high-resolution version.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Coast Guard and Navy crews rescued four mariners Thursday on a disabled fishing vessel 55-miles east of Mayport.

The 37-foot fishing vessel “Fish Bone” notified the Coast Guard Wednesday via emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)it had become disabled due to machinery failure.

Coast Guard 7th District Command Center watchstanders received the EPIRB distress signal at 6 p.m. and launched an Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew. The Dolphin crew immediately located the Fish Bone and confirmed the mariners aboard had no medical concerns. The USS Shamal, a Navy patrol boat in the area, diverted and put the vessel in tow until a Coast Guard Station Mayport 45-foot Response Boat–Medium crew transferred the tow.

The fishing vessel and crew were towed to Morning Star Marina in Mayport.

The mariners were reported to be in good condition.

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Coast Guard Budget in “A Budget for America’s Future, Fiscal Year 2021” and a small, unpleasant surprise

White House, South Side. Photo by MattWade from Wikipedia

Looking for information on the 2021 budget I came across “A Budget for America’s Future, Fiscal Year 2021” issued from the White House by the GAO. It covers the entire Federal budget. It is a 138 pages. It mentions the Coast Guard only three times. (No, I did not read the entire document, used the “control F” function to find them.) I have reproduced those parts below. The third was a bit of a surprise.

  1. In addition, the Budget includes $1.6 billion to continue the important work of modernizing the U.S. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft that patrol the Nation’s coastal borders. (page 6 or 10 of 138 in the pdf)
  2.  In addition, the Budget includes $1.6 billion to continue to modernize U.S. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft that patrol and provide life-saving rescue missions across the Nation’s coastal borders.  The Budget includes funding for a second polar icebreaker to ensure America is at the forefront of safeguarding uninterrupted, year round commercial activity, trade, and supply routes and confirming America’s leadership role in the Arctic and Antarctic. (page 56 or 60 of 138 in the pdf)
  3. Focuses on Sound Budgeting.  The Budget proposes to shift $215 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for the U.S. Coast Guard into the Department’s base budget.  This furthers the Administration’s goal of ensuring that the OCO request funds only temporary overseas warfighting operations and does not fund enduring operations “off budget.” (page 58 or 62 of 138 in the pdf)

The third entry caught my eye. I can only think of one significant “Overseas Contingency Operation,” PATFORSWA, which is funded by DOD. It sounds like DHS wants to terminate PATFORSWA. This might explain why the last two Webber class FRCs, which would have presumably gone to PATFORSWA, were not included in the FY2021 budget. 

Depending on your degree of cynicism, other possibilities are that DHS wants to increase the total budget that they control, or that they want make CG budget look bigger when it was really money we were getting already.

The on line edition of Seapower, the Navy League magazine’s, report on the budget included something that surprised me.

The 2021 budget also proposes $35.5 million to manage retirements of old assets, including the decommissioning of two Secretary-class high-endurance cutters, two Island-class patrol boats and eight Marine Protector-class patrol boats. (emphasis applied-Chuck)

Looks like we are starting to decommission the 87 foot WPBs without a replacement in sight. For at least the last five years, I have been saying we were going to need a replacement for these in the near future, here, here, here, but I was still surprised because I have seen nothing about a replacement.

“Coast Guard Budget Request Funds Two of Three Major Cutter Programs” –USNI

CARIBBEAN SEA, 09.04.2019, Courtesy Photo U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville

The Coast Guard Cutter James conducts Hurricane Dorian relief operations alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 6, 2019. During their 62-day counter-drug patrol, the James’ crew, along with members from Tactical Law Enforcement Team-South, Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, Cryptologic Direct Support Element and multiple partner agencies, contributed to the interdiction of 7 drug-smuggling vessels and were responsible for the seizure of more than 12,677 pounds of cocaine and 4,085 pounds of marijuana bound for the United States. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter James)

The US Naval Institute News Service reports that the FY2021 budget request for the Coast Guard includes requests for the second Polar Security Cutter and the third OPC along with long lead time items for the fourth, but does not include funds for additional FRC construction. Not mentioned, but that certainly also means no request for NSC #12.

62 FRCs have been funded through FY2020 and only 64 have been planned, so why not just request the last two? Stopping and then restarting production for two vessels in a future year would be wasteful and really stupid. This seems to be a game played every year. The administration asks for four and Congress funds six. Ask for two and Congress funds four. Guess this year, it may be, ask for none and Congress funds two or perhaps four. We have to wait and see.

NSC #12 is a child of Congress. The administration never asked for it, but Congress has already allocated over $100M for it. This year is decision time. Will it happen? Please pass the popcorn.

“Enhancing the Royal Navy’s batch II OPVs” –Save the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy is looking at how they might increase the lethality of their new River Class Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessels. Save the Royal Navy looks at how they might be upgraded. “Save the Royal Navy” describes itself as “an online campaign but not an organisation as such,” so not an official voice of the Royal Navy.

These are effectively the UK’s WMECs. They do fisheries, SAR, and drug enforcement, but they are looking to use them for a bit more. They have the three River class Batch I OPVs to do fisheries around the home turf, so they plan to use most of these in the overseas territories or providing presence in distant theaters of operation. One is currently deployed to the South Atlantic operating out of the Falklands and a second is tasked with operations upholding UK interests in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Western North Atlantic. It is likely one will go to Gibraltar and another to the SW Asia/Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean Area.

Compared to our own WMECs, the River Class Batch IIs are bigger and faster than the Bear class.

  • 2000 tons vs 1800 tons
  • 297′ (90.5 meters) vs 270′
  • 24 knots vs 19.5 knots

But they are equipped more like a 210. They have no helicopter hangar and only a single 30mm gun in an optionally manned remote weapon station while the Bear class has a 76mm gun and radar fire control system and they have nothing like the Bear class’s SLQ-32 and decoy systems.

“Save the Royal Navy” considers upgrade packages that were labeled, in order of increasing complexity, “OPV Plus”, “OPV Max”, and “Corvette”.

“OPV Plus” includes a container based rotary wing UAS like the Schiebel Camcopter S100, two 30mm guns, a BAE Bofors 40mm/70 Mk4 with a possible fire control upgrades, and Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

“OPV Max” includes a collapsible hanger for an Agusta/Westland AW-159 Wildcat helicopter, two 30mm guns, added Martlet LMM (Light Multirole Missile) to the 30mm mounts, and a BAE Bofors 57mm Mk110 and associated fire control system, but for some reason lost the LRAD.

“Corvette” traded the hangar for Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM) and exchanged a RHIB for an armed Unmanned Surface Vessel. In addition to two 30mm guns with LMM Martlet missiles, and a BAE Bofors 57mm Mk110 and associated fire control system, it also adds an enlarged operations room (CIC), decoy launchers, and a multirole Artisan 3D radar.

Its easy to understand why upgrades might be in order when you consider some of the duties that these ships might be called upon to perform.
These ships will often be far from any backup. They might be escorting Russian warships through UK EEZ; facing off against Argentine OPVs in the South Atlantic or Spanish OPVs in Gibraltar’s EEZ. And of course operating in areas where the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Navy may be encountered is likely to raise your pulse rate. Not that shooting is expected, but it is a lot easier to stand your ground or perhaps intimidate the other guy if you have the weapons to back up your position.
I have always thought that the requirement to be able to land and refuel the very large Merlin helicopter (max gross weight 14,600 kg or 32,187 lb), that seemed to preclude a hangar was a poor choice. Having a helicopter aboard at all times, particularly an armed aircraft, could help the ship with both peacetime and wartime missions.
The 30mm gun is a close relative of the 25mm found on USCG cutters, but we know that it is more effective. Having more than one seems a good idea. If a helicopter hangar is added, they could have one on the roof of the hangar that could bear directly aft. That means they could have as many as four, one forward, one aft, and one on each bridge wing. They could put up to three guns on a target.
The Martlet LMM probably should be added to whatever 30 mm guns are mounted. It could make these ships much more lethal inside 5,000 yards.
I like the 40mm70 MK4. It could function to some degree as a counter to ASCMs, but I doubt the improvement is sufficient to justify replacing a 30mm/Martlet LMM combination considering it would require introducing a second gun, second ammunition, a fire control system, and additional training.  Being able to bear three 30mm and 15 Martlet LMM on a target would be very effective against a single target if within range. The combination could be useful against swarming boats as well. In the Straits of Hormuz, I would still worry about IRGC torpedo and missile boats that could engage from longer range, but the armed Wildcat helicopter with Martlet LMM should be effective against them.
The case for the 57mm is much more convincing than that for the 40mm, given the smart projectiles that are being developed for it.
The author seems unenthusiastic about the corvette option, and since adding anti-ship cruise missiles would likely mean no helo hangar, and an armed USV replacing an RHIB needed for peacetime duties, I can understand his reservations. On the other hand, if they fail to add a hangar, being prepared to add ASCMs, quickly might be wise. We have already seen this done to a Thai OPV built to an earlier version of this design.
There is some indication that the Thais will attempt to sell their version of this design to the Philippines.

Royal Thai Navy’s second offshore patrol vessel based on the River class, HTMS Prachuap Khiri Khan (OPV 552) constructed by Bangkok Dock Ltd and poised for induction into service. Note RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles fitted. Photo: http://thaidefense-news.blogspot.com/2019/07/blog-post_31.html