“South Korea will deliver two decommissioned Haeuri-Class patrol vessels to Ecuador’s coastguard” –Navy Recognition

One of 22 South Korean Coast Guard Haeuri (type A) patrol vessel (Picture source: Korean Internet)

NavyRecognition reports that South Korea will be transferring two S. Korean Coast Guard vessels to the Ecuadorian Coast Guard.

The vessels are Haeuri patrol vessels, PC302 and PC303. According to my “Combat Fleets of the World,” they entered service in Dec 1990 and 1991 respectfully, so they are coming up on 29 and 30 years old. They are 55.5 meter or 182′ in length overall (53.7 between perpendiculars), have a 7.4 meter or 24.3′ beam, and a draft of 2.48 meters or just over 8′. Displacement is 300 tons light and 460 tons full load. They have a pair of MTU 16V396 diesels for a total of 4,392 HP and a speed of 19 knots, and a range of 2,100 nmi at 15 knots. Crew is four officers and 35 enlisted. Armament is a 20mm Vulcan Gatling gun and four .50 cal. (From what I have found, these ships may look a bit different from the photo above, which was included with the story. A photo of PC301 from Combat Fleets shows a vessel with a lattice mast, stack, and no boat or crane on the stern.)

The Ecuador’s Coast Guard currently has a pair of 50 meter Damen patrol vessels and four Damen Stan 2600 vessels similar to the 87 foot Marine Protector Class.

Since Ecuador’s EEZ is in the Eastern Pacific Drug transit zone, there is a good chance the US Coast Guard may interact with these vessels.

“The Long Blue Line: Jim Evans–veteran of the World War II’s Greenland Patrol and Cutter Northland”

Colorized black and white photo from 1942, showing newly enlisted recruit Jim Evans in his dress whites. (Courtesy of the Evans Family)

Don’t overlook this story from the Coast Guard Compass.

“The Long Blue Line: Jim Evans–veteran of the World War II’s Greenland Patrol and Cutter Northland”

Yes, its the story of just one of thousands of young men who left home to serve their country in the Coast Guard, but it is also the story of current service members who honor those who went before. My compliments to the author, Dennis Branson, and the captain and crew of Northland.

“US’s only heavy icebreaker returns home following 123-day Antarctic Treaty inspection and resupply mission” –News Release

Below is a news release. The unusual part of this, is that Polar Star was involve in inspection of foreign stations in Antarctica. These are the first such inspections since 2012. I certainly doubt there are any problems with the Italian and South Korean stations. Perhaps the Chinese presence bears watching. It is not that I expect they will find a military base, but it would not be surprising to find “dual use” facilities. Systems that could support both scientific activity and possible future military use. This was the way they started on their South China Sea artificial islands. I don’t think we can expect the current treaty to stay in place forever. 

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
Office: (510) 437-3375
After Hours: (510) 816-1700
Pacific Area online newsroom

US’s only heavy icebreaker returns home following 123-day Antarctic Treaty inspection and resupply mission

Rear Adm. Jack Vogt, commander of the 13th Coast Guard district, welcomes the crew of USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) at Base Seattle, Wednesday, March 25. The nation's only heavy icebreaker, during Operation Deep Freeze 2020 the Polar Star created a path through 451.1 nautical miles of ice up to 6 feet thick so that provisioning vessels could reach McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Michael Clark)
USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) returns to homeport of Seattle A crewmember aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10) supervises as mooring lines are passed to the pier on Base Seattle, Wednesday, March 25. The Polar Star crew completed a 4-month deployment to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Michael Clark) Rear Adm. Jack Vogt, commander of the 13th Coast Guard district, welcomes the crew of USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) at Base Seattle, Wednesday, March 25. The nation's only heavy icebreaker, during Operation Deep Freeze 2020 the Polar Star created a path through 451.1 nautical miles of ice up to 6 feet thick so that provisioning vessels could reach McMurdo Station, Antarctica. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Michael Clark)

SEATTLE — The 150-member crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star returned Wednesday to their homeport of Seattle following a 123-day deployment to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze.

This mission marks the Polar Star’s 23rd journey to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze, an annual joint military service mission to resupply the United States Antarctic stations, in support of the National Science Foundation – the lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program.  This year also marks the 63rd iteration of the annual operation.

The Polar Star crew departed Seattle on Nov. 27, 2019, for their sixth deployment in as many years and traveled more than 26,350 miles through the North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans.

In the Southern Ocean, the crew travelled through nearly 500 miles of pack ice and broke through 23 miles of fast ice in order to create a nearly 18-square-mile navigable channel to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.  Because of the efforts of the Polar Star crew, two resupply vessels and one tanker travelled to McMurdo Station unescorted in order to refuel and resupply U.S. Antarctic stations.

This year’s operation required the construction of a temporary, modular mobile causeway to replace an ice pier, which disintegrated during Operation Deep Freeze 2018-2019.  The modular pier required a three-day construction period prior to the offload of supplies, followed by a three-day deconstruction period at the conclusion of the mission.

Three resupply ships required 23 days to offload 19.6 million pounds of cargo and 7.6 million gallons of fuel during this year’s operation, more than doubling the operation duration and capacity as previous years. Together, the three ships delivered enough fuel and critical supplies to sustain NSF operations throughout the year until Polar Star returns in 2021.

Among the cargo offloaded were construction materials for a five-year, $460 million Antarctica Infrastructure Modernization for Science (AIMS) project to recapitalize McMurdo Station, South Pole Station and other American outposts on the continent.  

Additionally, the Polar Star crew also supported a team of U.S. government officials from the U.S. Department of State, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coast Guard who conducted a five-day inspection of foreign research stations, installations and equipment in Antarctica.

The United States continues to promote Antarctica’s status as a continent reserved for peace and science in accordance with the provisions of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. The inspection serves to verify compliance with the Antarctic Treaty and its Environmental Protocol, including provisions prohibiting military measures and mining, as well as provisions promoting safe station operation and sound environmental practices.

The team inspected three stations: Mario Zucchelli (Italy), Jang Bogo (South Korea), and Inexpressible Island (China). This was the fifteenth inspection of foreign research stations by the United States in Antarctica and the first since 2012.

Inspections emphasize all of Antarctica is accessible to interested countries despite territorial claims and reinforce the importance of compliance with the Antarctic Treaty’s arms control provisions. The United States will present its report on the inspection at the next Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Helsinki, Finland, in May 2020.

“I am very proud of the tenacity of this Polar Star crew,” said Coast Guard Capt. Greg Stanclik, commanding officer of the Polar Star. “158 crew members earned the Antarctic Service Medal during Operation Deep Freeze 2020. The words inscribed on the back of the medal are Courage, Sacrifice and Devotion. Each and every one exhibited the courage to make this 123-day Antarctic voyage, sacrificed time away from their loved ones and devoted themselves to executing this nationally critical mission.”

Commissioned in 1976, the Polar Star is the United States’ only operational heavy icebreaker, capable of breaking ice up to 21 feet thick. Reserved for Operation Deep Freeze each year, the ship spends the winter breaking ice near Antarctica, and when the mission is complete, returns to dry dock in order to conduct critical maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next Operation Deep Freeze mission.

If a catastrophic event, such as getting stuck in the ice, were to happen to the Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) in the Arctic or to the Polar Star near Antarctica, the U.S. Coast Guard is left without a self-rescue capability.

By contrast, Russia currently operates more than 50 icebreakers – several of which are nuclear powered.

The Coast Guard has been the sole provider of the nation’s polar icebreaking capability since 1965 and is seeking to increase its icebreaking fleet with six new polar security cutters to ensure continued national presence and access to the Polar Regions.

In April 2019, the Coast Guard awarded VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Mississippi, a contract for the design and construction of the Coast Guard’s lead polar security cutter, which will also be homeported in Seattle. The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs.

“Replacing the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet is paramount,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area. “Our ability to clear a channel and allow for the resupply of the United States’ Antarctic stations is essential for continued national presence and influence on the continent.”

“Surface Warfare Should Adopt Commercial Training Standards” –USNI

Display of maritime traffic provided by AIS. Only vessels equipped with AIS are displayed, which excludes most fishing boats, pleasure craft, inland navigation and vessels less than 300 tons. Location: Dover Straits/English Channel. Author: fr:User:Pline

The March 2020 issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings magazine has an article suggesting that,

“…the Navy needs to revamp its training regime. One way to do that is to align training with International Maritime Organization (IMO)/U.S. Coast Guard training and certifications for merchant mariners. Coast Guard/IMO–approved officer in charge of a navigational watch and management-level training would give surface warfare officers the fundamentals in navigation and seamanship they need to run a ship more effectively.”

Interestingly the article talks about Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy (RAN), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps, and U.S. Army mariner training, but it doesn’t discuss U.S. Coast Guard officer training, even though it does discuss NOAA 19-week Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC) at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

I have been away too long to speak knowledgably about our current deck officer training. I’m pretty sure it has become more formalized since my own experience. Hopefully we meet the standards we expect of other mariners.

Explosive Boats –In Yemen, and a Look Back

Naval News reports on the continued threat of remotely controlled explosive motor boats to vessel traffic around Yemen. We have talked about this before, here, here, and here. Historically explosive boats have had some success even against heavily armed opponents.

Heavy Cruiser, HMS York, run aground by her own crew to prevent her sinking, after being struck by two explosive motor boats (Italian: barchini esplosivi) of the Italian Regia Marina assault Flotilla, Decima Flottiglia MAS, Souda Bay, Crete, 26 March, 1941.

There was, of course, the suicide attack on USS Cole.

The semi-submersible ship M/V Blue Marlin carrying damaged USS Cole. 31 October 2000. U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Leland Comer.

As I have noted before, remote controlled attacks could be planned and carried out relatively easily using readily available remote control devices and remote viewing systems in wide spread use.

Will we see these threats emerge in the US, or perhaps in the Persian Gulf where they might be encountered by PATFORSWA?

Any number of platforms might be used as the basis for this type of threat from shrimp boats to jet skis. It would be advantageous to the attacker, if they could blend in with local traffic.

Off shore, in SW Asia, the Houthi typically control the attack boat from another boat, within line of sight radio range of the remote controlled boat, but in a US harbor it might be controlled from shore.

If the threat is against a moving target, soft kill systems designed to counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) should be equally effective, but they might not work against a threat targeting a fixed point like a moored vessel. Hard kill systems might work as a defense, but it raises the question, how close do you want to get, since the operator could presumably detonate the charge at any time? Success with a 7.62mm machine gun might require a lucky shot to take out a critical component.

Explosive motor boat of the type used by the Israeli Navy in the Independence War, in the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa, Israel. Possibly an Italian MTM (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato). Photo from Wikipedia Commons. User:Bukvoed.

How to handle this sort of threat is squarely in the Coast Guard’s “Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security” mission wheelhouse. Hopefully we are putting some thought into it.

“The Long Blue Line: 100 years ago–Coast Guard opens Air Station #1 at Morehead City”

Aerial photo of an HS-2l airborne with crew member occupying forward cockpit. (Navy History & Heritage Command)

There is an interesting bit of Coast Guard history over at the Coast Guard Compass web site concerning the Coast Guard’s rocky start in aviation. “The Long Blue Line: 100 years ago–Coast Guard opens Air Station #1 at Morehead City

I have added a link to this on my “Heritage” page.

“Coast Guard Awards Nine Contracts for Offshore Patrol Cutter Industry Studies” –CG-9

Interest in building follow-on Offshore Patrol Cutters is definitely alive and well. The Acquisitions Directorate, CG-9, has issued nine contracts for industry studies. All these contracts went to shipbuilder. I have reproduced their report below. Hopefully this will lead to a better and more producible design. 

The Coast Guard announced the award of nine Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) industry studies contracts March 20, 2020. These awards support the Coast Guard’s strategy to mitigate OPC program risk and complete the program of record by establishing a new, fair and open competitive environment to complete the OPC program of record. Industry studies contracts were awarded to:

  • Austal USA, LLC of Mobile, Alabama: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million total potential value)
  • Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million total potential value)
  • Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC of Lockport, Louisiana: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million potential value)
  • Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. of Panama City, Florida: $1.1 million base award ($1.2 million potential value)
  • Fincantieri Marinette Marine of Marinette, Wisconsin: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million total potential value)
  • General Dynamics/NASSCO of San Diego, California: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million total potential value)
  • Huntington Ingalls, Inc. of Pascagoula, Mississippi: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million total potential value)
  • Philly Shipyard, Inc. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $2.0 million base award ($3.0 million total potential value)
  • VT Halter Marine Inc. of Pascagoula, Mississippi: $2.0 million base award ($2.9 million total potential value)

Under their respective contracts, the awardees will assess OPC design and technical data, provided by the Coast Guard, and the program’s construction approach. Based on their analyses, the awardees will recommend to the Coast Guard potential strategies and approaches for the follow-on detail design and construction (DD&C). The awardees will also discuss how they would prepare the OPC functional design for production. The awardees may also identify possible design or systems revisions that would be advantageous to the program if implemented, with strategies to ensure those revisions are properly managed.

The Coast Guard will use the industry studies results to further inform its follow-on acquisition strategy and promote a robust competitive environment for the DD&C award. Participation in industry studies is not a pre-requisite for submitting a DD&C proposal.

The OPCs will replace the service’s aging medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate. The OPCs will bridge the capabilities of the national security cutters, which patrol the open ocean, and the fast response cutters, which serve closer to shore.

The current OPC DD&C contract is for up to four hulls. The contract was adjusted as part of a request made by the incumbent, Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG), for extraordinary relief under the authority of Public Law 85-804 was granted by the Department of Homeland Security. The request was a result of devastation caused when Hurricane Michael – a Category 5 storm – made landfall in Panama City, Florida, on October 10, 2018. Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage to the ESG’s shipyard and the Panama City region.

For more information: Offshore Patrol Cutter program page