Whiskey Wars End


MSN reports,

“Denmark and Canada have decided to formally end their “light-hearted” dispute that spanned over 50 years over an uninhabited Arctic island.”

Like King Solomon, they are going to split the baby.

“It was dubbed as “Whisky War” due to military ships visiting the island and planting flags and bottles of Canadian whiskey or Danish schnapps to mark their territory.”



The Modern War Institute at West Point published an article that suggests that NOAA ships can help provide presence in the Arctic and that this will contribute to the defense of the Homeland.

Looks like NOAA has about 16 active ships. None are very large and I don’t think any of them are ice rated.

Certainly, NOAA has business in the Arctic, understanding the oceans is an essential part of readiness for conflict, but I don’t see them as any sort of deterrant. On the other hand I don’t see Russia’s large number of icebreakers as adding significant additional threat to US or Canadian security. They simply need a lot of icebreakers to support their economic operations in the Arctic.

Which Arctic are we talking about?

For most of the world, the Arctic is the region North of the Arctic Circle. For some reason the US defines the Arctic as including the Bering Sea and the Aleutians. That does include some pretty cold territory but really, it is not the Arctic, and there is no reason the US Navy should not be operating surface ships there, but they don’t.

I am talking about the Arctic North of the Arctic circle.

What are the military threats to North America that might come across the Arctic Ocean?

While the Russian Arctic build-up threatens Norway, maybe Iceland, and perhaps Greenland, let’s consider only North America.

Much of the Russian build up in the Arctic is defensive, and this is understandable. They have a lot of assets in the Arctic. Much of their national income comes from the Russian Arctic.

There is absolutely no chance the Russians are going to attempt to land an army in the North American Arctic as an overland invasion. It would be too difficult to move and virtually impossibe to resupply. They would be under constant attack by US and Canadian Aircraft. As a Canadian Officer once noted, if Russia landed troops in the Canadian Arctic they would need to be rescued. The most we are likely to see from the Russian Army is Special Forces assaults on sensor and associated communication  systems in the Arctic.

The largest portion of the Russian Naval fleet (30-35%) is based in the Arctic, but not because it is intended to operate exclusively in the Arctic. Much of it is based there because they don’t have better choices. The Northern Fleet has their only relatively unrestricted access to the Atlantic. Even Northern Fleet units have to transit the Greenland-Iceland-UK (GIUK) Gap (or the English Channel) to make it into the Atlantic Sea Lanes, The Baltic Fleet is surrounded by potential adversaries and would have to exit through the Danish Straits. The Black Sea Fleet is bottled up behind the Turkish straits and even after exit would have to cross the Mediterranean and through the Straits of Gibralter.

Russian Submarines do operate under the ice and may launch missiles or conduct commando raids in the Arctic.

The serious threats that could come across the Arctic Ocean will be in the air or in space–aircraft and ballistic and cruise missiles including the new hypersonics.

Coast Guard icebreakers could have a role in facilitating deployment and continuing support of sensor systems in the Arctic.

Gray Zone threats to Sovereignty

The more probable near term threats to the US come in the form of Gray Zone Ops that are intended to reshape the World’s view of normal. We have seen this with China’s Nine Dash Line and their attempts to recast rights associated with the Exclusive Economic Zone.

It appears Russia is trying to do the same. We have seen it in the Black Sea, and we are likely to see it in the Arctic.

The extent of Russia’s continental shelf is as yet undecided, but their claims are expansive.

Looks like China intends to do some resource extraction and fishing in the Arctic and they have not been particularly respectful of the rights of others.

The US Coast Guard will need to do fisheries protection inside the US Arctic EEZ and the Canadian CG inside theirs. There are probably going to be opportunities for cooperation and synergy between the two coast guards in the high North.

With the increase in traffic as ice melts, NOAA probably needs to do a lot of oceanographic research and survey work in the Arctic, but they are probably going to need to either build their own icebreakers or ride Coast Guard icebreakers to do it.

“US, Iran in Tense Sea Incident; Tehran Preps New Centrifuges” –Military.Com

USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC-1142)

As part of a new report of harassment of a US warship by Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Forces, we get a belated report of an even closer incident that involve a Webber class cutter.

On March 4, three Guard ships had a tense encounter for over two hours with Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels as they traveled out of the Persian Gulf through the strait, the Navy said. In that incident, the Guard’s catamaran Shahid Nazeri came within 25 yards (22 meters) of the USCGC Robert Goldman, the Navy said.

This is not the first time a cutter has had a run-in with this particular IRGC vessel.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Catamaran Shahid Nazeri

“NUWC & USCG Evaluate Underwater Threat Detection” –SeaWaves

Atlantic Ocean (May 5, 2005) – Members of SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team Two (SDVT-2) prepare to launch one of the team’s SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV) from the back of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) on a training exercise. The SDVs are used to carry Navy SEALs from a submerged submarine to enemy targets while staying underwater and undetected. SDVT-2 is stationed at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., and conducts operations throughout the Atlantic, Southern, and European command areas of responsibility. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle (RELEASED)

SeaWaves reports,

Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s Argus Expeditionary Maritime Defense System team recently partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center to evaluate capabilities that could aid the Coast Guard’s detection efforts, particularly with counter-unmanned undersea vehicle missions.

Italian Manned Torpedo. Photographed 1998, Submarine Museum, Gosport.

Countering Unmanned Underwater Vehicles is perhaps a new area of interest for the Coast Guard, but underwater threats to shoreside facilities and harbors are not new. The most successful of the threat organizations was Italy’s 10th Assault Vehicle Flotilla, Decima Flottiglia MAS. They used a variety of surface and subsurface craft, including the one pictured above, in more than a dozen operations, to sank or damaged five warships (totalling 72,000 tons) and 20 merchant ships (totalling 130,000 GRT). These included the Heavy Cruiser HMS York (lost after being wrecked and run aground to keep her from sinking) and severe damage to battleships HMS Valiant (out of service for seven months) and HMS Queen Elizabeth (out of service for a year and a half).

There are lots of successor organizations out there including all of the “axis of evil” usual suspects. After all, swimmer delivery vehicles are a lot easier to build than submarines and diver propulsion devices are available commercially.

The increased challenge presented by UUVs is that they may be harder to detect, and once you identify a threat, how do you eliminate it?

2 United States Marines Cpt.Lawrence R Gentile and Ssgt Robert Romito Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) with a Diver Propulsion Vehicle, or Device (DPD).

Croatian R-2M submersible, Photo by Ex13 via Wikipedia, 2010

Manned torpedo used by the Argentine Navy, especially built for operations in cold waters. Photo by DagosNavy via Wikipedia, 25 February 2010

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention. 

“USCG Report: Small Cutters Prove They Can Patrol a Big Ocean” –Marine Link

We have noted before, that the Coast Guard is using Webber class WPCs more like Medium Endurance Cutters than like “Fast Response Cutters” here, here, and here. No where have their capabilities been pushed harder than in the 14th District in the Central and Western Pacific.

Increased illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in US and neighboring island EEZs, US obligations under the Compact of Free Association, and desire to avoid the destruction of fisheries resources essential to the properity of the region has resulted in a need to push these little ships into remote areas of the Pacific.

Marine Link has a report about the use of Webber class FRCs for long distance patrols in the Western Pacific. This is a particularly good report in that it records not only the successes, but also the limitations that worry the crews on these demanding deployments.

Food and Fuel are major concerns

The nominal range for the Webber class WPCs is 2500 nautical miles (nmi) at 14 knots. Attempting to stretch that range requires some compromises. Fuel margins have proven adequate, but they are thin and running engines at their most economical speed takes a toll. The need to minimize fuel consumption to make the great distancces requires running the engines at low RPM,

Sabatini said that the lower speed poses some other problems for the engines. “The diesels are really designed to operate at higher RPMs. When we were going for a week to ten days at a relatively slow speed, the carbon isn’t getting blown out. So, I was worried about that build up, and concerned about replacing injectors at a high rate than normal.”

It also means that almost any diversion, weather avoidance, or even adverse weather will cut into that margin.

The nominal endurance is five days. As built there is simply not enough storage space for food.

“We had extra freezers and reefers on the bridge and out of the mezzanine deck.”

I presume the mezzanine deck is the clear area between the bridge and the Mk38 gun mount that is marked for vertical replenishment. When I got to tour the Bailey Barco (WPC-1122) while it was enroute to Alaska, there was a lot of gear stowed on deck in that area. Apparently that worked, but I can imagine situations where the seas might wash some gear stowed there over the side.

I have also heard that the on-board laundery facilities are inadequate for prolonged patrols.

So far, most of these long Webber class deployments seem to have been accompanied by a larger cutter, but I got the impression from the post that that may be changing since the Webber class have proven their ability to make the voyages unsupported.

Medical Facilities

The lack of any onboard medical assistance is also worrysome. The report notes this as a danger to the crewmembers, but it also means the ship is not well equipped to provide medical assistance if required in a SAR case. The possible distance from shoreside medical facilities may also mean they would have to maintain a 10 knot economical speed rather than being able to go to speed to the nearest shore facility.

The Future

That the Webber class have proven capable of doing these missions comes as a pleasant surprise because they would not normally be our first choice for covering these great distances. What might we do to make these missions less challenging?

We might base some of the OPCs in the Hawaii or Guam. This may be possible specifically because the Webber class have proven capable of performing missions previously handled by Atlantic Area WMECs. That is probably desirable in the long term, but there is a more immediate solution. Base two, or preferably three, Webber class in American Samoa.

A base in Pago Pago, American Samoa would make unneccessary any routine transits longer than the nominal five day endurance and more than 2000 nmi that are now required to reach parts of the US EEZ and Western Pacific Island nations. A base in Pago Pago would put these ships within less than five days and less than 1500 nmi of Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu (1260 nmi), Tarawa (1373 nmi) and New Caladonia (1416 nmi).

“Atlantic Area visits Coast Guard World War II heroes in Belgium” –LANTAREA News Release

Coast Guard manned Destroyer Escort USS Menges, victim of a German Acoustic Homing Torpedo, May, 1944

Just passing this along.

Atlantic Area visits Coast Guard World War II heroes in Belgium

Walking the field Touring Ardennes Cemetery and viewing the European campaign Rendering honors at Ardennes AS Elaman 

Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.

NEUPRé, Belgium — Vice Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, and Command Master Chief Jeremy DeMello, also of Atlantic Area, with Capt. Gretchen Bailey, the new commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Activities Europe, visited the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium on Monday.

Lunday and DeMello were in Europe to oversee the transfer of command of Activities Europe from Capt. Ryan Manning to Bailey.

“Command Master Chief DeMello and I were joined by Capt. Gretchen Bailey, the new commanding officer of Activities Europe, as we rendered honors at the gravesite of Seaman Apprentice Woodrow Elaman, U.S. Coast Guard at Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium,” said Lunday. “Our Coast Guard men and women have proudly served our Nation in every war and conflict since the creation of these United States. Woodrow Elaman was from Tennessee and joined the Service in Kentucky. Even far from home all these years later, the history of his heroic sacrifice inspires us. As we visited his final resting place, we will always remember his sacrifice as part of our history and ethos.”

On May 3, 1944, the USS Menges (DE-320), an Edsall-class destroyer, was just over 15 miles astern of a convoy chasing a radar contact when it was hit at 0118 hours by a G7es acoustic torpedo from U-371. The explosion was so violent it destroyed the aft third of the ship, killing 31 men and wounding 25.

Elaman was the most junior casualty of the torpedo attack. He arrived at the Ardennes Cemetery after his death for identification. Due to the efforts of the cemetery’s identification team, his family and friends back home were given the gift of knowing where their loved one rested–a small but meaningful solace that so many others in the war never had. We thank the American Battle Monuments Commission for hosting us and their work in looking after our heroes and returning them home when appropriate.

Although nearly eight decades have passed since Woodrow Elaman lost his life in service in the Mediterranean, his shipmates have not forgotten him. U.S. Coast Guard Activities Europe members, based in the Netherlands, frequently visit. Created to help re-establish merchant shipping in Europe at the end of the Second World War, Activities Europe conducts vessel inspections, incident investigations, and international port security engagements in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

On the heels of the 78th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings, June 6, it is humbling to pay our respects to the legacy of our members and their sacrifices. These actions are a legacy that lives on in our adaptability and resilience. We delivered mission excellence on D-Day as Coast Guardsmen alongside our sister services, planning the invasion, crewing the assault transport ships, and driving the LSTs seen famously in photos from Omaha Beach.

The American Battle Monuments Commission is an independent agency of the United States government that administers, operates, and maintains permanent U.S. military cemeteries, memorials, and monuments primarily outside the United States.

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area and its units conduct operations around the globe, emphasizing the region from the Rocky Mountains to the Middle East. The Area is responsible for deploying U.S. Coast Guard forces to protect the homeland and mariners, supporting surge operations in crisis, building enduring relationships with regional partners, synchronizing efforts, and augmenting combatant commanders.

“Ukraine Claims Strike on Russian Naval Tug with Harpoon Missiles Supplied By West” –gCaptain

I have seen several reports that Ukraine claims to have sunk a Russian vessel here and here. and here, using Harpoon missiles transferred from Denmark.

The tugboat, identified as the Vasiliy Bekh by Odesa region’s governor, had been transporting soldiers, weapons and ammunition to the Russian-occupied Zmiinyi (Snake) Island in the Black Sea, the Ukrainian navy said.

Reportedly the vessel had been equipped with a TOR AAW missile system. that theoretically could have defended the vessel from an ASCM attack.

According to Wikipedia, Zmiinyi (Snake) Island is well within Harpoon range of the Ukrainian coast.

The nearest coastal location to the island is Kubanskyi Island on the Ukrainian part of the Danube Delta, located 35 km (22 mi) away between the Bystroe Channel and Skhidnyi Channel…The closest Ukrainian city is Vylkove, 50 km (31 mi); however, there also is a port Ust-Dunaisk, 44 km (27 mi) away from the island.

“Lockheed may repurpose its Joint Air-to-Ground Missile for air defense” –Defense News

I have suggested numerous times that the Hellfire missile and its replacement the JASM (Joint Air to Surface Missile) could give even small cutters an effective weapon to counter small, fast, highly maneuverable surface threats and might even be effective to a degree against larger vessel threats.

But before it can be mounted on cutters, the missile and an appropriate launcher have to be in the Navy Department inventory, since all Coast Guard heavy weapons come from the Navy Department.

The Navy and Marine Corps have or will have these missiles in their inventory. They are used from helicopters. The Navy is also already using surface launched Longbow Hellfire missiles as part of the Anti-Surface mission module being used on Littoral Combat Ship. There was a recent test of the missile launched by an Independence class LCS against land targets.

PACIFIC OCEAN (May, 12, 2022) – An AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile launches from the Surface-To-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) aboard Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8). The missile exercise was the first proof of concept launch of the Longbow Hellfire missile against land-based target. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Samuel Hardgrove)

These missiles are produced in large numbers. In 2019 it was reported,

“Lockheed is increasing production of Hellfire missiles, weapons widely associated with drone strikes, from 7,000 per year to about 11,000 per year, CEO Marillyn Hewson said in May.”

From the Coast Guard perspective, the missing element is a launcher suitable for patrol boats and particularly for the numerous Webber class.

Greater range and an AAW/counter UAS capability could prompt mounting the weapon on a wider variety of Navy and Marine platforms including unmanned surface vessels and the Light Amphibious Warship.

Increased range would certainly be welcomed. There are several similar non-US systems that offer greater range than the current approximate 8 km range of surface launched Hellfire and JASM. 16 km is very close to the maximum range of the 57mm Mk110 and the 76mm Mk75 guns and well beyond their effective range.

JAGM is too heavy to replace Stinger as a man portable system, but as a potential replacement for vehicle mounted Stinger missiles, JASM potentially provides much greater range than the Stinger and is a more versatile weapon.

The Marines are fielding MADIS (Marine Air Defense Integrated System) which currently includes a remote weapon station armed with a 30mm cannon, a 7.62 mm machine gun and Stinger short range anti-air missiles. If JASM should replace the Stinger it would give these small vehicles, not only more range against air targets but also an additional anti-surface/anti-armor capability. The combination of greater range and an additional anti-surface capability might be an incentive.

We may see JASM in the service of the Navy or Marine Corps on Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV). We have already seen a launcher on a USV.

In 2020 Lockheed circulated a proposal for a four round vertical launch system that included an illustration of a 16 missile launch system in a 4×4 configuration mounted on a Navy MkVI patrol boat.

The JAGM Quad Launcher (JQL) leverages technology from Lockheed Martin’s existing Vertical Launch System (VLS) designs, which include the popular Mk 41 VLS found on numerous warships in the U.S. Navy and other navies around the world. It also uses the same Launcher Electronics Assembly (LEA) from the M299 launcher, a four-rail design for helicopters most commonly associated with the AH-64 Apache. All of this combined with an open-architecture Launcher Management Assembly (LMA) designed to help speed up the integration of updated hardware and software as time goes on to improve the JQL’s capabilities and add new functionality.

The system illustrated as applicable to a “Multi-Mission Surface Combatant” appears to be a replacement for the 24 round launch system currently being deployed on LCS but could house 32 missile.

Perhaps the way we may see these systems more widely mounted would be by mounting the missiles alongside the gun on the new 30mm Mk38 Mod4 mount.

JASM could provide Coast Guard vessels as small as patrol boats, with a much more accurate, more powerful, and longer ranged response to the need to be able to forcibly stop vessels both small and large, while also providing counter UAS, a degree of anti-aircraft protection, and should it ever be required, a naval fire support ashore capability.