“Sri Lankan CARAT 2023 Completed” –SeaWaves

USS Anchorage seen from Sri Lanka’s SLNS Gajabahu. CARAT 2023

SeaWaves Magazine reports,

“Taking part in the sea phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise 2023, SLNS Gajabahu and SLNS Samudura of the Sri Lanka Navy and ‘USS Anchorage’ of the U.S. Navy successfully conducted a series of naval exercises off Negombo on 22nd and 23rd January 2023.”

I had to point this out because both Sri Lankan ships mentioned are former US Coast Guard Cutters. SLNS Samudura is the former USCGC Courageous (WMEC-622) transferred to Sri Lanka in 2004 and SLNS Gajabahu is the former USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) transferred to Sri Lanka in 2018.

Former USCGC Courageous, now SLNS Samudura P621. Photo by Rehman Abubakr

SLNS Gajabahu (P626), SLNS Sayurala (P623) and SLNS Sindurala (P624) during 2022 Colombo Naval Exercise. SLNS Samudura (P261) also visible in the distance. Photo defence.lk

“Navy Wants Independence LCS in Bahrain for Mine Countermeasure Mission” –USNI / “Navy considers non-LCS option for mine countermeasures in 5th Fleet” –Defense News

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SOUTH CHINA SEA (Dec. 27, 2019) The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) receives fuel from the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) during a replenishment-at-sea. Gabrielle Giffords is on a rotational deployment to INDOPACOM, conducting operations, exercises and port visits throughout the region and working hull-to-hull with allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a free and open Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Nicholas J. Beihl/Released)

Two reports, one from US Naval Institute and one from Defense News. They appear to disagree, but they both were based on the same presentation. Really it is good news that both 5th and 7th Fleet want Independence class LCS. Trouble is, they don’t think they have enough to go around, if they are all based in San Diego, as they currently are. So, the Navy is looking at alternatives including forward basing or using other assets to provide the required Mine Counter Measures capability to 5th Fleet.

Their decision has potential consequences for Coast Guard forces’ efforts in the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone, Western Pacific IUU fisheries enforcement, and Southwest Asia.

The US Naval Institute report basically says the current plan is to supply 5th Fleet’s MCM requirement by using Independence class LCS operating from their base in San Diego, but they are looking at alternatives including forward basing or perhaps letting Freedom class LCS fill in.

The Defense News report tells us why the Navy wants an alternative solution.

The U.S. Navy is considering alternatives to deploying littoral combat ships to the Middle East for a mandatory mine countermeasures mission, hoping to instead maintain LCS deployments to the Western Pacific. (2)

“We’re trying to leverage that as much as we can and see how that fits into the mix,” he said. “There’s several different things going on, but right now I think the plan of record as it stands would be an Independence-variant MCM capability out there — but … we are working on several other options to see how we can fill that, and I personally think the answer is going to be something that is forward-deployed to Bahrain.” (Emphasis applied–Chuck)(2)

The Independence class (trimaran) LCSs in the Western Pacific are, or at least could be, helping to counter Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Once expected to go to the 5th Fleet/CENTCOM, the remaining Freedom class (mono-hull) LCSs are now expected to support 4th Fleet/SOUTHCOM including drug interdiction with embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Teams. If they are diverted to 5th Fleet to fill in, it could potentially hurt the drug interdiction effort.

An Alternative: As MCM can now be modularized, there appears to be less reason to have dedicated MCM ships or that all the elements have to be collocated on a single ship.

The service plans to buy 24 packages to equip 15 of the Independence-class LCS. That leaves nine mine countermeasure packages for potential use on “vessels of opportunity,” as Capt. Mike Egan, branch head for mine warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, said last May at the 2022 International Mine Warfare Technology Symposium of the Mine Warfare Association. (3)

The aviation components and the Uncrewed Surface Vessel and its mine hunting sonar could be operated from shore or from an Expedition Base Ship. The Lionfish Unmanned Underwater Vehicle is the Remos 300. It is relatively small.

Part of the Navy’s planned family of systems, Lionfish’s main role will be intelligence gathering with the Navy’s expeditionary mine countermeasures company. As its name suggests, the SUUV is only 150 pounds and requires just a few sailors to deploy it. It will be based on HII’s Remus 300, a “man-portable UUV” that is “designed for modularity… [and] can be reconfigured with a range of sensors and payloads to meet mission requirements,” according to a statement the company published last year when announcing the government of New Zealand had ordered four UUVs. (4)

It could be operated from shore, from Expeditionary MCM Company RHIBs, or from Webber class WPBs.

More Reading: Good article on the state of US Navy Mine Warfare here.

Naval Strike Missile: Incidentally, there is affirmation that the Freedom class LCS, in addition to the Independence class LCS, will be equipped with Naval Strike Missile. From the USNI post,

“As of right now, the Navy still plans to put the Naval Strike Missile on the remaining Freedom-class hulls, Rear Adm. Fred Pyle, the director of surface warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N96), told reporters.” (1)

Sources: 

  1. Navy Wants Independence LCS in Bahrain for Mine Countermeasure Mission
  2. Navy considers non-LCS option for mine countermeasures in 5th Fleet
  3. Navy Mine Warfare Teeters Between Present, Future
  4. Navy moving ahead with HII for small UUV program

“Global Piracy Incidents Fall to Lowest Level in Decades” –gCaptain

USCGC Mohawk sails alongside a Nigerian navy ship in the Atlantic Ocean, Aug. 22, 2022. Mohawk was on deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Africa area of operations. (Jessica Fontenette/U.S. Coast Guard)

gCaptain reports,

“Incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery attacks last year fell to the lowest recorded level in almost three decades…”

While incidents are up in Southeast Asia, there has been a notable drop in incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, where the Coast Guard has been actively engaged in capacity building.

“The Gulf of Guinea saw a continued and much needed reduction is attributed to an overall decrease of pirate activity, with the number of incidents falling from 35 in 2021 to 19 in 2022.”

Off Somalia there has been both a sustained counterpiracy effort and allied patrols to interdict arms bound for rebels in Yemen.

“For a fourth year in row, there were no incidents of piracy or armed robbery by Somali-based pirates…”

 

“U.S. Building Advanced Over-The-Horizon Radar On Palau” –The Drive

The Republic of Palau on a map of the Pacific. Credit: Encyclopaedia Britannica/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Drive reports,

“Progress is being made on the deployment of a new long-range over-the-horizon radar system for the U.S. Air Force that will be stationed on the Pacific island of Palau. The news comes as the Pentagon’s push to drastically beef up both its offensive and defensive capabilities in the Western Pacific gains steam.

With ranges of hundreds to well over a thousand miles, these radar systems are critical early warning and cuing systems. This will make them a high priority target for early elimination in any potential conflict with China.

Keeping Chinese fishing vessels outside Palau’s EEZ would eliminate one potential delivery systems for hostile Special Operations Forces that might be tasked with eliminating the radar or the systems intended to protect it. It would also protect Palau’s fishing industry.

Doing their part to protect this essential asset is certainly something for the Coast Guard to keep in mind. This might justify basing additional Coast Guard resources in Guam–UAS, WPCs, C-27s?

“U.S. Coast Guard leverages aviation workhorse to overcome challenges in cutter logistics in Oceania” –Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

The crew USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) visit Ulithi Atoll on Oct. 31, 2022, the first time a fast response cutter visited the atoll and delivered 20 boxes of supplies, 50 personal floatation devices, and sporting equipment donated by the cutter crew, the extended U.S. Coast Guard Guam family, Ulithi Falalop Community Action Program, Guam Island Girl Power Foundation, and Ayuda Foundation. Ulithi was a central U.S. staging area during World War II, and home to a U.S. Coast Guard Loran-C communications station from 1944 to 1965 before operations relocated to Yap and ultimately shuttered in 1987. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Zena Suzuki)

Below is a press release that highlights some changes in the way the Coast Guard is operating in the Western Pacific, the employment of Webber class Fast Response Cutters for long periods at great distances from homeport and the much greater reach of the J model C-130s.  

Feature Story

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

U.S. Coast Guard leverages aviation workhorse to overcome challenges in cutter logistics in Oceania

Group photo CGAS Barbers Point and CGFMSG EO FN200 offload from HC-130 Technical installs FN200 bottle  Frederick Hatch departs Guam for patrol

Editor’s Note: Click on the images above to view more or download high-resolution versions.

SANTA RITA, Guam — Guam is home to three 154-foot fast response cutters commissioned in 2021. These ships are built in Lockport, Louisiana. After initial workups, they sailed from Key West through the Panama Canal, more than 10,000 miles to Guam. In the time since the crews have stayed busy conducting the U.S. Coast Guard’s core missions in Micronesia and supporting our Blue Pacific partners.

The Operations Area

For many of the Nation’s fast response cutters, the transit to homeport from Key West is one of the most extended trips they make. Those stateside remain close to most essential services needed to maintain the vessels, designed to operate within 200 nautical miles of homeport. In the case of the Guam-based fleet, they routinely go more than 200 nautical miles to get to the operations area. U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam has one of the largest areas of responsibility of any sector at 1.9 million square miles. Like its other overseas counterparts, the region can be austere and presents unique challenges.

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam (CGFM/SG) differs. The USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) undertook a more than 6,000-mile expeditionary patrol south through Oceania with inaugural FRC port calls in Papua New Guinea and Australia. Their sister ship, the USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143), just concluded a similar patrol in support of Operations Rematau and Blue Pacific, the southeast of Guam. The patrol countered illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing off the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Nauru by enforcing regulatory schemes and individual countries’ sovereignty while strengthening partnerships through shiprider operations, subject matter exchanges, and community engagements.

“What often goes unsaid is the logistics piece enabling the operations,” said Chief Warrant Officer Manny Pangelinan, engineering officer for CGFM/SG. The Oliver Henry required a last-minute shipment of fuel injectors while underway, a package coordinated by the CGFM/SG logistics department with some support from the Surface Force Logistics Center in Baltimore. The package was shipped via a commercial carrier and met them in Australia.

But more oversized items and hazardous materials can present a more complex challenge. Guam is a strategic location, and as a U.S. territory, it is the first line of defense against regional competitors. Logistically, it is remote and depends on maritime cargo for most items. Nearly 90 percent of imports come through the Port of Guam, and travel by sea varies in cost and takes time. Commercial air freight requires less time but can be very expensive.

The Logistics Challenge

Each FRC has four bottles of compressed gas onboard as part of the fire suppression system. The current design of the FRCs uses FN200 powder and nitrogen gas. Over time these bottles lose nitrogen and need to be recharged, the same as any fire extinguisher. If an extinguisher or system loses its prime, it may malfunction and not adequately suppress a fire. Stateside servicing this equipment is a simple endeavor, but service providers in Guam still need to be created. To further complicate matters, if a local provider converted existing equipment to service this system, it could only be used on FN200 to prevent cross-contamination. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently the only FN200 client on the island.

As the Frederick Hatch prepared for their patrol, the crew noted one of the four bottles was borderline between yellow and red on its pressure. No one wants to be over a thousand miles from shore, with a fire, and risk a system malfunction. But how do you get a 277-pound replacement bottle, considered a hazardous material, shipped from the mainland United States to the territory of Guam? And how do you do it in time to meet the ship’s schedule and enable the crew to fulfill their mission requirements in Micronesia? You keep it in-house and leverage the naval aviation community.

Coast Guard Aviation in Oceania

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii conducts search and rescue, maritime domain awareness and surveillance, law enforcement, and cargo and transportation operations throughout Oceania. They are currently the only U.S. Coast Guard air station in the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District, with the next closest aviation unit in California. Still, from 1947 until 1972, they operated an air detachment in Guam known as Naval Air Station Agana to provide LORAN support for Western Pacific stations.

Today, the Barbers Point team operates four MH-65 Dolphin helicopters and four HC-130 Hercules airplanes. The Hercules airframes were recently upgraded from the H model to the J model. For Guam, this is significant. The J is more capable as a long-range surveillance aircraft providing heavy air transport and long-range maritime patrol capability. Each plane can serve as an on-scene command and control platform or as a surveillance platform with the means to detect, classify, and identify objects and share that information with operational forces. It also has “long legs.” Where the H crews needed to stop for fuel en route to Guam from Hawaii, the J could make the trip in one leg if necessary. This advantage matters when time is of the essence, particularly in search and rescue cases.

Capt. John Rivers, CGAS Barbers Point commanding officer, recently visited Guam. He met with the CGFM/SG team to discuss options for more aviation support to Western and Central Pacific operations. Those ideas include more hours of Hercules activity in this region and possible use of the Dolphin helicopters outside Hawaii.

The Workhorse

Regarding transporting equipment, the aircrew, particularly the loadmaster, has the final say on what goes aboard the plane. The Barbers Point team and the loadmaster were crucial to keeping the Frederick Hatch on schedule.

The team flew the HC-130 Hercules CG 2009 to Sacramento to pick up the shipment of fire bottles, then returned to Hawaii to rest and refuel. Subsequently, they flew to Majuro and landed in Guam on Nov. 9 at the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport. The CGFM/SG engineering team and environmental contractors met them to further transport the bottles to the pier.

All told, the movement cost flight hours and personnel time – but that is the nature of logistics. Per Commandant Instruction 7310.1V Reimbursable Standard Rates, the inside government rate for an HC-130J is $19,782 per hour. This includes Direct Costs like labor, employee benefits, fuel, maintenance, etc.; Support Costs: Costs allocated to a particular asset class for the support received from Coast Guard support activities, including but not limited to Area Commands, Districts, Sectors, Sector Field Offices, Bases, etc.; and General and Administrative: Costs allocated to a particular asset class to represent benefit received from Coast Guard general and administrative activities such as legal services, payroll processing, etc.

However, our aircrews make the most out of every flight, coupling logistics with other missions and training whenever possible. Flight crews must also fly a certain number of monthly hours to maintain currency and proficiency.

The personnel hours, in this case, include the coordination and research by the CGFM/SG Engineering Team to enable the technician from the fire services company to come out, install and certify the new bottle. The team kept the cost down by more than $16,000 by flying out one technician instead of two and doing all the manual labor of removing and replacing the existing bottle with the ship’s force. Transporting a 277-pound bottle across the pier, onto the cutter, and into the space with a tripod and chain fall in 90-degree heat with 90 percent humidity is quite an undertaking. According to Reimbursable Standard Rates, the inside government cost of a CWO2 is $79 per hour, a Chief Petty Officer is $71, and a Petty Officer 2nd Class is $55. Still, these personnel, like the aircrew, are salaried. The figures come into play if the Service seeks reimbursement from another branch or outside entity for services. The outside government rate is higher.

One might ask how to avoid this challenge in the future, as this won’t be the last time these bottles need to be recharged. One possible alternative was building a facility to support the maintenance of these systems in Guam to the tune of more than a million dollars. Ultimately, this option was deemed unrealistic. Instead of a new facility, the engineering team procured a larger bottle of FN200 and equipment to be kept onsite to recharge the FRCs’ systems. The team will do the heavy lifting and fly out a technician for the final assembly and certification. Two complete sets of bottles were procured at the same time. The first set came aboard the Hercules, and the second will come by cargo ship at a fee of just under $4,000. However, as of Christmas, the second set of bottles are still in transit and will take around 75 days total to arrive, emphasizing the importance of the Engineering Team’s efforts and choices.

Forecast

“This team continues to deliver on the Commandant’s mandate to be creative and innovative to craft solutions to the challenges we face as a service,” said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of CGFM/SG. “I am impressed by their commitment and resolve to consistently deliver superior engineering support, keeping us operational in a remote environment.”

In the Fiscal Year 2022, the three Guam-based FRCs spent 324 days away from homeport, with 243 of those days physically underway conducting missions at sea. The other days away from homeport account for port calls, community engagements, and maintenance away from the home station. They worked 25 patrols throughout the region, enforcing the rule of law and strengthening partnerships. Guam’s sister sector in Honolulu also has three FRCs doing local and long-range missions. By comparison, they spent 202 days at sea for roughly the same number of patrols. This underscores the distances and demands Team Guam is covering.

“We have better platforms to help our crews get after the ever-growing mission demand here. But we must not lose sight of the demand on the crews and what is necessary to maintain our availability and effectiveness as a preferred partner in the region,” said Simmons. “That means putting steel on target, remaining flexible, and ensuring our crews have the support they need to succeed in a dynamic operational environment. I thank the CGAS Barbers Point team for ensuring our success and enabling the Frederick Hatch crew to work with our partners in Oceania and protect the Nation.”

This fire bottle transport is an excellent example of integrated logistics across the U.S. Coast Guard enterprise and innovation to find a timely cost-reasonable solution to keep the ship operational and on schedule. It is also a model for expanded Coast Guard aviation support to Guam.

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

“China Accused of Building on Unoccupied Reefs in South China Sea” –gCaptain

Satellite images obtained by Bloomberg News depict physical changes to a layered land feature at Sandy Cay between 2009 and 2021. Credit: Bloomberg

gCaptain reports,

China is building up several unoccupied land features in the South China Sea, according to Western officials, which they said was part of Beijing’s long-running effort to strengthen claims to disputed territory and potentially bolster its military presence in a region critical to global trade.

Apparently, China is not satisfied with the military outposts they have created in the South China Sea and are in the process of creating more. These actions may be taken by the Chinese both in support their systematic theft of EEZ resources from other nations and as support for a future blockade of Taiwan.

Certainly, these will be upgraded to military installations just as has been done with other artificial islands.

The nations whose EEZs are being violated by these activities have an opportunity to put a stop to it, while they are being done by fishing vessels, before there is a Chinese military presence, if they act quickly and aggressively to stop this illegal activity.

“Document: Office of Naval Intelligence’s Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, Coast Guard, Ship Identification Guide” –USNI

This Chinese Coast Guard ship is equipped with weapons believed to be 76-millimeter guns. © Kyodo

The US Naval Institute’s News Service reports the availability of a new document, “Office of Naval Intelligence’s Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, Coast Guard. and Government Maritime Forces 2022-2023 Recognition and Identification Guide.

You cannot actually read much of it on the USNI site, but you can download a copy here. You’ll need to expand it to read much of the information.

From a Coast Guard perspective, there are a couple things to note.

First is the sheer number of China Coast Guard cutters. China’s internationally recognized EEZ is less than 8.5% that of the US. Even if their expansive unrecognized claims were included, their total EEZ would be less than 20% that of the US. But according to the guide, they have over 200 cutters of 60 meters (197 feet) in length or greater (225 by my quick count). The US Coast Guard by comparison has 57: 37 patrol cutters, three icebreakers, 16 buoy tenders, and the barque Eagle.

Second, China has other agencies that apparently do coast guard work, that also have their own ships including the Sansha City Patrol, China, and the Maritime Safety Agency which, alone, has over 40 ships 60 meters or greater in length.

GLSDB, Perhaps a Low Cost, Containerized, Precision, Shore Bombardment and Anti-Ship Weapon / Maybe Taiwan Could Use It Too

The Drive reports on the possible provision of a weapon system to Ukraine, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB). (I am suggesting that we could launch it from ships, so Surface Launched might have been more appropriate).

This weapon might have a place as a replacement for the big guns that once provided Naval Gun Fire Support. It also has potential as an anti-ship weapon.

The system consists of a hybrid of a normally air launched, precision guided, winged bomb, the “small diameter bomb,” flung into the air by a rocket booster used in an early Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) munition, the M26.

The M26 was the first rocket developed for the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). It is spin-stabilized by 4 fins, has a range of 32 km (20 miles) and is armed with 644 bomblets, anti-personnel/anti-materiel grenades. These bomblets have fallen out of favor because the dud rate creates potential for collateral damage that may occur long after the conflict that prompted their use. To create the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb, the grenades are replaced by a Small Diameter Bomb.

Small Diameter Bombs:

There are four different “Small Diameter Bombs”:

“The bomb can use GPS/INS to guide itself into the general vicinity of a moving target during the initial search phase, with course correction updates provided using a Link 16 over UHF data link…The weapon is capable of fusing the information from the sensors to classify the target and can prioritize certain types of targets as desired when used in semi-autonomous mode.”

How does it compare to Naval Guns?:

These are small bombs, developed to increase the number of precision munitions an aircraft can carry in a single sortie. Four of these replace a single 2,000 pound bomb.

SDBs are small bombs but compared to most naval guns, they pack a pretty big punch. Because of their precision, the relatively small bomb is still adequate to destroy many targets including tanks, aircraft shelters, bunkers, and strong points.

 “Warhead penetration is 3 ft (1 m) of steel reinforced concrete under 3 ft of earth and the fuze has… selectable functions, including air burst and delayed options.”

The GBU-39’s 36 pound bursting charge is 50% larger than that of the last 8″ projectiles used by the US Navy and more than four and half times that of current 5″ projectiles. (The bursting charge in the 16″ High Cap projectiles fired by Iowa class battleships was only 153.6 lbs. (69.67 kg)).

Perhaps most importantly, this weapon out-ranges all existing naval guns with a range of 150 km / 81 nautical miles.

Why it will be difficult and expensive to shoot down:

Now anything can be shot down, from artillery and mortar rounds to ICBMs. Because these are glide bombs it might be assumed they would be easy to shoot down, but that is not necessarily the case. Their small size means they have a small radar cross section. Because they are a glide bomb, unlike aircraft or cruise missiles, they have little or no IR signature. That means they are not good targets for IR homing missile such as man portable air defense systems (MAPADS). Because the round is maneuverable, there may be opportunities to avoid heavy concentrations of AA.

It is probably going to require high quality AAW missiles to bring one of these down, meaning the cost exchange is likely to be favorable for the SDB. Being cheap they can be traded off against the more expensive missiles required to bring them down, depleting the enemies air defenses. That could result in making it safer for our manned aircraft.

Why not let Naval Air just drop the Small Diameter Bombs:

That is certainly an option, but if surface launched Small Diameter Bombs are available it can free aircraft for more demanding missions like air superiority and suppression of air defenses. Surface launched SDBs and aircraft could be complementary,

There is also the possibility that the carrier(s) may be called away or their flight deck might be damaged precluding air ops.

Where could we mount them?:

The video shows a six-tube launcher inside what is almost certainly a 20x8x8 foot container. That suggests that there are many options available including multiple launcher installations on Offshore Support Vessels, either manned or unmanned as well as many existing vessels.

As defensive weapons, the widespread use of 20x8x8 containers means that it is going to be very hard to single out those that mount these weapons. A “shell game” can make them very difficult to recognize and neutralize.

The Cost Exchange Ratio:

What makes these a game changer? It is the precision and range combined with its low price. The War in Ukraine has shown the rapid expenditure of munitions. There is a need for weapons with longer range and greater survivability, but they will cost much more. We cannot afford to expend weapons that cost millions on every target. There are times when it is necessary to expend an expensive weapon on a far less expensive target, but that can’t become the norm. We need weapons that can be produced in huge numbers at a reasonable cost.

Now About Taiwan:

If the Chinese are to invade Taiwan, it will be comparable in scope to the Normandy Invasion. The Chinese Navy can transport only a small percentage of the troops that would need to land on the first day of the invasion. They will need to mobilize a very large number of civilian craft including ferries and fishing boats to transport the number of troops that will be required.

If the Taiwanese are to stop the invasion, they are going to have to sink a very large number of craft as they transit the Taiwan Strait. (The Strait is 130km wide at its narrowest point.) Most of these craft will be relatively small and have little or no self-defense capability.

Using the GBU-53B, with its tri-mode seeker, the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb appears ideal for this purpose. Given the bombs, the Taiwanese could probably quickly devise an even longer-range booster and launcher.

“A third of New Zealand’s Navy ships are docked over lack of crew” –Defense News

Coast Guard Day in the South Pacific. The command from USCGC Walnut (WLB 205) conduct an exchange with peers on HMNZS Otago (P148) discussing mission, challenges and comparing shipboard life in the region while off Samoa Aug. 4, 2019. The Walnut and Otago crews are in the region combating illegal fishing, a part of promoting maritime governance and a rules based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Photo courtesy HMNZ Navy Lt. Samuel Murray/Released)

Defense News reports,

“Three of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s nine ships are now docked at the Devonport naval base indefinitely, due to insufficient personnel.”

Recruiting problems for the US have been in the news, but it is not uncommon. US Coast Guardsmen are helping to man Royal Navy frigates. Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force is having trouble recruiting. US Navy ships are frequently shorthanded.

HMNZS Wellington first arrival into Devonport Naval Base

What struck me about the story was the choice of ships laid up. New Zealand has chosen to lay up three of its four patrol vessels, retaining only one of the least capable. The New Zealand Navy is small, and it does coast guard tasks as well as national defense. The entire fleet consist of nine ships:

  • Two 3,600 ton frigates, crew of 178 each
  • Two 1,900 ton Offshore Patrol Vessels, similar to WMECs, crew of 49 each (both Otago and Wellington pictured above are laid up)
  • Two 340 ton Inshore Patrol Vessels, similar to Webber class WPCs, crew of 24 each (HMNZS Hawea pictured below is laid up)
  • One 9,000 ton multirole vessel, a transport, with a crew of 53
  • One 5,741 ton hydrographic and diver support vessel, with a crew of 39
  • One 26,000 ton ice-strengthened underway replenishment ship, with a crew of 75

Inshore patrol boat HMNZS Hawea (P3571) entering Otago Harbour, New Zealand, Aug. 2009. Photo credit: Benchill

New Zealand has been helpful to neighboring Pacific island nations in regard to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing and disaster response. Hopefully they will continue in this role, perhaps using their multipurpose vessel and/or their underway replenishment ship which also provide unique capabilities.

“Navy to establish additional unmanned task forces inspired by Task Force 59” –Defense Scoop

GULF OF AQABA (Feb. 13, 2022) The U.S. Coast Guard Sentinel-class cutter USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) sails near a U.S sail drone explorer during the International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express (IMX) 2022, Feb. 13, 2022. IMX/CE 2022 is the largest multinational training event in the Middle East, involving more than 60 nations and international organizations committed to enhancing partnerships and interoperability to strengthen maritime security and stability. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. DeAndre Dawkins)

Defense Scoop reports:

“The Navy plans to stand up additional unmanned task forces around the globe modeled after Task Force 59 in the Middle East, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told reporters Saturday…“We’ve demonstrated with Task Force 59 how much more we can do with these unmanned vehicles — as long as they’re closely integrated together in a [command and control] node that, you know, connects to our manned surface vehicles. And there’s been a lot of experimentation, it’s going to continue aggressively. And we’re going to start translating that to other regions of the world as well,” Del Toro said during a media roundtable at the Reagan National Defense Forum.”

The report goes on to mention 4th Fleet and Oceana specifically, both regions of intense interest to the Coast Guard in regard to drug interdiction and Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing respectively.

This could be a big boost to our Maritime Domain Awareness. In the Eastern Pacific Drug Transit Zone we might need uncrewed surface vessels with passive acoustic sensors since the targets of interest are poor targets for radar and optical sensors. That could lead to practical experience that could improve our ASW capability.