“U.S. Coast Guard Is Helping Southeast Asians Protect Their Seas” –Foreign Policy

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia Sector Guam Commander Capt. Nicholas R. Simmons and the Honorable Joses R. Gallen, Secretary of Justice, Federated States of Micronesia, signed an expanded shiprider agreement allowing remote coordination of authorities, the first of its kind aboard the USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) in Guam, on Oct. 13, 2022. The agreement will enable to U.S to act on behalf of the FSM to combat illicit maritime activity and to strengthen international security operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Sara Muir)

Foreign Policy reports,

 “…the United States has increasingly looked to its Coast Guard as an option to assist regional states with their maritime challenges, advance security partnerships, and serve as a potent soft-power tool. As agencies focused primarily on law enforcement and safety, coast guards are perceived as an increasingly useful regional tool because they can assert national interests without being overtly militaristic and escalatory.”

The post is an excellent look at what the Coast Guard has been doing in the Western Pacific as well as the challenges of dealing with the tyranny of distance. There is not a lot here we have not heard, but there are several links to earlier documentation. This one is interesting, and we did not discuss it earlier, “Rebalance U.S. Coast Guard Cutters to Help Advance a ‘Free and Open’ Indo-Pacific.”

There is reference to the Medium Endurance Cutter to be deployed to the Western Pacific that may clarify its mission.

“The narratives surrounding these commitments have strongly focused on the deployment of Coast Guard cutters. One of the key announcements regarding the Coast Guard at the U.S.-ASEAN summit, for example, was that a Coast Guard vessel would be assigned to the region to operate as a “training platform,” providing multinational crewing opportunities and participating in cooperative maritime engagements.”

“U.S. Coast Guard, Guam Fire Department conduct rescue hoist training in Guam” –Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

Guam Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard members conduct rescue hoist training at Sella Bay Overlook in Guam on March 8, 2023. The exercise allowed the crews to assess the procedures each agency is familiar with and practice hoisting a rescue basket and a rescue swimmer from the aircraft. For the aircrew, it also served as an area familiarization to better understand the terrain and winds common on Guam’s southwest coast. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ethan Bray)

The news release below is surprising and raises some questions. A helicopter from Barbers Point, Hawaii conducts training with the Guam Fire Department. How did the Helicopter get there? There is currently no Coast Guard airstation in Guam. A Navy helicopter squadron provides SAR coverage for Guam, so what was the point? Is the Coast Guard going to establish an aviation facility of some kind in Guam?

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

U.S. Coast Guard, Guam Fire Department conduct rescue hoist training in Guam

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew deployed to Guam from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii flies patterns to assess winds and terrain before conducting rescue hoist training at Sella Bay Overlook in Guam on March 8, 2023. Members of the Guam Fire Department prepare to hike down from Sella Bay Overlook for rescue hoist training in Guam with a deployed MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Hawaii on March 8, 2023.  Guam Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard members conduct rescue hoist training at Sella Bay Overlook in Guam on March 8, 2023.  Guam Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard members conduct rescue hoist training at Sella Bay Overlook in Guam on March 8, 2023.

Editor’s Note: Click on the images above to view more or download high-resolution photos and b-roll videos.

SANTA RITA, Guam — Guam Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard members conducted rescue hoist training at Sella Bay Overlook in Guam on March 8, 2023.

“We appreciate the ongoing strong relationship with Guam Fire and are eager to bring any capability to bear that benefits the people of Guam and our partners,” said Capt. Nick Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “As the U.S. Coast Guard continues to adapt our approach to service in the region, we are working closely with U.S. Coast Guard District 14 and the team from the Air Station at Barbers Point to find the best ways to employ our aircrews and increase the amount of organic aviation support we have for search and rescue and law enforcement missions here.”

Eight members of GFD’s Battalion A worked with the aircrew of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter deployed to Guam from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii and personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam response department. Guam Fire Department crews execute the majority of on-land search and rescue operations. They also maintain the best capability for on-land response with a wealth of experience regarding the terrain and conditions.

“Our partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard on Guam has expanded dramatically over the years. The increase in U.S. Coast Guard assets assigned to Guam extends our potential for positive outcomes in search and rescue missions benefiting our island community,” said Battalion Chief Roderick Meno, GFD rescue commander. “The opportunity to train together provided an avenue to test capabilities and share best practices. The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter’s availability gives us another valuable resource to conduct the diverse array of missions we perform here on Guam.”

The training allowed the crews to assess the procedures each agency is familiar with and practice hoisting a rescue basket and a rescue swimmer from the aircraft. For the aircrew, it also served as an area familiarization to better understand the terrain and winds common on Guam’s southwest coast. This training occurred near the location of a recent case of a missing hiker, a common place for foot traffic. The trail quickly descends from the trailhead into the jungle with steep ravines and many trip hazards, and it is very hot whether people are under tree cover or exposed to the sun. The conditions may easily overcome inexperienced hikers.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter is a short-range recovery helicopter used by the crew to perform search and rescue, law enforcement, and homeland security missions. It is certified for all-weather and night-time operations, except for icy conditions, and it routinely deploys aboard certified cutters providing manned airborne surveillance and interdiction capabilities. The airframe was first added to the Coast Guard inventory in 1984 and has undergone several upgrades.

In recent memory, these operations mark the first deployment of a Dolphin helicopter crew to Guam. The District 14 assigned aircraft are primarily used as a search and rescue platform in the Main Hawaiian Islands and as an augment aboard major cutters on deployment to extend their range for search and rescue, law enforcement, and surveillance while at sea. The aircrews frequently participate in community relations events and subject matter exchanges to build awareness for service capabilities and encourage interest in the aviation career field.

“This asset is not a replacement for any other agency but another resource to help us accomplish our missions and serve the people of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands,” said Simmons. “They are currently here on a six-week deployment as we field test the feasibility of their operating here in a greater capacity. This approach is an innovative way to employ aircrews in the Indo-Pacific for increased presence and value. We hope to get them out here more frequently and are pleased to have the support of the Air Station and the District 14 command.”

The operations have precedent. In 1947 the service established a Coast Guard air detachment consisting of one PBY-6A Catalina, an amphibious aircraft, and crew at the Naval Air Station in Agana, Guam, to provide aerial logistics support for LORAN stations in the southern Marianas and Western Caroline Islands. The Catalina was well suited to operations in the islands, able to haul cargo but also land in the shallow lagoons and offload to skiffs. The primary mission of the air detachment was to resupply the Marianas section LORAN stations, although they did assist in search and rescue missions when needed. The need for Coast Guard air support decreased as the LORAN mission shifted over time and commercial aviation services became more readily available. The Coast Guard air detachment, by then called an air station, was disestablished in 1972.

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam comprises nearly 300 personnel throughout the response, prevention, administrative, and logistics departments supporting the Joint Rescue Sub-Center, three fast response cutters, a small boat station, and a marine safety detachment in Saipan. The unit provides a significant portion of the U.S. Coast Guard’s enduring regional presence serving the people of the Pacific by conducting our six major operational mission programs: maritime law enforcement, maritime response, maritime prevention, marine transportation system management, maritime security operations, and defense operations.

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. 

“U.S. Coast Guard delivers 4,500 lbs of supplies to Federated States of Micronesia atolls” –U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

Ulithi Atoll north anchorage and Sorlen Island, late 1944.

Coast Guard out there doing good work. I added the photo above to show how important Ulithi was as an advanced base during WWII.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam

U.S. Coast Guard delivers 4,500 lbs of supplies to Federated States of Micronesia atolls

The crew of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) loads more than 4,500 pounds of donations from the Ayuda Foundation bound for Yap State The crew of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) loads more than 4,500 pounds of donations from the Ayuda Foundation bound for Yap State Petty Officer 1st Class Ikaia Ruiz looks out to Falalop Island, Woleai, on the small boat’s first approach
USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) crew offload donated supplies in Falalop Island, Ulithi Petty Officer 2nd Class Van Dinter-Frydemberg troubleshooting a faulty marine radio in Falalop Island, Woleai, Prospective U.S. Coast Guard recruits on Falalop Island, Ulithi,

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

SANTA RITA, Guam — The crew of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) returned to Guam on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, following a week-long deployment to the Federated States of Micronesia countering illegal fishing and strengthening partnerships with the local island communities of several Yap outer island atolls, part of the ongoing Operation Rematau.

During the patrol, the crew supported partners in the Federated States of Micronesia, completing four port calls and four community relations events. They also provided underway training opportunities for eight members assigned to temporary duty on the ship. They enhanced the ongoing U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy partnership, embarking two medical personnel from U.S. Naval Hospital Guam.

Partnering with the Ayuda Foundation, the Oliver Henry crew onloaded more than 4,500 lbs. of supplies generously donated by local businesses and community members in Guam for future transport to remote islands in Ulithi and Woleai atolls. Donated supplies included educational material, clothing, kitchenware, fishing gear, toys, shelf-stable meals, interior paint, marine-grade orange paint, marine fiberglass repair kits, and water pumps. Water pumps were specifically requested to divert standing water from the airfield on Falalop Island, Woleai, to nearby taro fields to facilitate uninterrupted flight services from mainland Yap.

Oliver Henry’s first stop was Ulithi Atoll, the second time a fast response cutter visited the atoll. 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. During the visit, the Oliver Henry crew met with community members on the islands of Mogmog and Falalop and participated in a friendly basketball game with Outer Islands High School students in Falalop, Ulithi.

Their second stop was Woleai Atoll, which marked the first-ever visit by a fast response cutter to this remote atoll. Ten five-gallon buckets of orange paint were delivered to Woleai and will be further distributed to the outer islands for use on skiffs and small vessels. The Orange Paint Initiative seeks to improve the visibility of small vessels by making their hulls more visible, which is vital to responders in search and rescue instances. In addition to offloading donated supplies and meeting with community members, the Oliver Henry crew also rendered assistance by troubleshooting issues with a solar power supply unit and marine radio communications equipment. Further, the Oliver Henry crew also deployed an aerial drone to capture imagery of infrastructure on the principal island of Falalop, Woleai.

“Nothing is more heartwarming for the crew than to experience what we just completed during our visits to Ulithi and Woleai. It was evident the island communities reciprocated these feelings,” said Lt. Freddy Hofschneider, commanding officer of Oliver Henry. “They welcomed us with smiles, flower leis, and open arms, and we truly enjoyed their hospitality. Transporting supplies to these remote atolls is nothing new for the Coast Guard, and we are honored to join in on the tradition spanning several decades for Guam-based Coast Guard cutter crews. We thank the Ayuda Foundation for spearheading donation collection efforts and look forward to continued opportunities to strengthen relationships with our brothers and sisters across Micronesia in a manner that supports their way of life.”

The Oliver Henry is the 40th 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutter named for Oliver T. Henry, Jr., an enlisted African American Coast Guard member first to break the color barrier of a then-segregated Service. During World War II, Henry served under Lt. Cmdr. Carlton Skinner. The latter became the first civilian Governor of Guam and played a critical role in developing the Organic Act in 1950. Henry blazed a trail for minorities in the U.S. military as he climbed from enlisted ranks while serving on ten Coast Guard cutters, finally retiring as a chief warrant officer in 1966.

Operation Rematau is how U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam supports the overarching Coast Guard endeavor Operation Blue Pacific to promote security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania. Rematau means people of the deep sea. It recognizes the wisdom of the Pacific Island Forum leaders in that securing the future requires long-term vision and a carefully considered regional strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Op Rematau reinforces U.S. commitment to working together to advance Pacific regionalism based on the Blue Pacific narrative. This action supports U.S. national security objectives, bolstering regional maritime governance and 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 or Instagram at @USCGForcesMicronesia or Twitter @USCGFMSG. 

“Philippine Coast Guard Set For Personnel Boost” –Naval News

BRP Teresa Magbanua during sea trials off Japan (Photo: Philippine Coast Guard)

Naval News reports,

“The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is set to receive an additional 4,000 personnel this year, in order to reach a total of 30,000 by year-end.”

Some things to note:

That is almost 75% the size of the US Coast Guard, while the Philippine EEZ is less than 20% of the US.

The Philippine Coast Guard will be considerably larger than the Philippine Navy which has 24,500 active-duty members including 8,300 Marines.

BRP Batangas (SARV-004) in between USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) and BRP Kalanggaman (FPB-2404) in an Exericse held in 2019. For many years, the Australian San Juan and Ilocos Norte vessels were the only major patrol assets in PCG service.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer John Masson)

Until 2020 the Philippine Coast Guard had no large patrol cutters. Their largest ships were two buoy tenders including the former USCGC Redbud, first commissioned in 1944. In fact, they mark the founding of their Coast Guard Fleet only as of 2007.

Beginning in 2020 the Philippine Coast Guard has obtained their first large patrol cutter, the 83 meter BRP Gabriela Silang. In 2022 they obtained two Japanese built 97 meter cutters of the Teresa Magbanua-class (see lead photo). They hope to get many more.

This build-up is obviously in response to Chinese intrusions into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone.

It appears the Philippine Coast Guard still has no weapons larger than .50 caliber machine guns. It will be interesting to see if this changes.

“How a new Vietnam-Indonesia deal will affect South China Sea disputes” –Defense News

Defense News reports that Vietnam and Indonesia have agreed on demarcation of their respective EEZs where they had previously been in dispute.

Peaceful settlement of conflicting SE Asian nation claims would go a long way toward presenting a united front against China’s expansive 9 Dash Line claims and clarify IUU fisheries enforcement.

“Practically, the successful Indonesia-Vietnam EEZ [exclusive economic zone] demarcation will help both countries to resolve illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which has been a serious bilateral irritant and a broader issue involving third-party countries, including China and Thailand,” according to Bich Tran, a visiting fellow writing in the Fulcrum, a publication of the ISEAS—Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“Philippines Says China Ship Used Laser Against Coast Guard” –Real Clear Defense

RealClearDefense reports,

 “The Philippines on Monday accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser and temporarily blinding some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights.”

The incident occurred near Second Thomas Shoal, as the Philippine cutter BRP Malapascua was escorting a resupply mission to the BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine LST deliberately, permanently grounded on Second Thomas Shoal. (Video here). Apparently the resupply effort was turned back.

Philippine CG statement on the incident here.

None of the Philippine Coast Guard cutters seem to be armed with anything larger than a .50 cal. machine gun, so they are at a disadvantage in facing down a large China CG cutter armed with a 76 mm gun, like the one in the photo above.

“Discover the French Navy’s New OPV for the Indo-Pacific” –Naval News

The video above is from Naval News via YouTube. Below is the information provided on the YouTube page.

Presentation of the first POM (Patrouilleur Outre-Mer or Offshore Patrol Vessel – OPV – for the overseas territories), the “Auguste Bénébig”, by its commander. This new French Navy (Marine Nationale) vessel will be based in Noumea, New Caledonia, in the Southern Pacific Ocean.

This new class of modern OPVs marks the renewal of the assets of the French Navy based overseas to protect French interests in the Indo-Pacific.

The increased autonomy (endurance–Chuck) of the patrol boat and its state-of-the-art equipment give it the capacity to operate far and for a long time in the wide French maritime zones in the Indo-Pacific.

This class of ships was designed by SOCARENAM. It can implement the SMDM drone. The POM vessel are 79.9 meters long and 11.8 meters wide, with a draft of 3.5 meters for a displacement of 1,300 tons at full load.

We have looked at the UAS these ships will deploy with here, “First Three SMDM Fixed-Wing UAS Delivered To The French Navy” –Naval News.

We talked about these ships in regard to how similar their missions are to those of Coast Guard cutters here, “SOCARENAM Shipyard Selected to Deliver 6 French Navy OPVs for Overseas Territories” –Naval News.

And about how close these were to my concept of Cutter X here, “France confirms order for six new POM Offshore Patrol Vessels” –Naval News, Another Cutter X

Like an FRC:

I always thought these looked like oversized Webber class, the proportions are similar and the much larger POM is not much more complicated than the Webber class. The crew of the POM is 30, only six more than that of the FRC. Both have a bridge with a 360-degree view positioned well aft, minimizing vertical acceleration. Both have an 8 meter boat in a stern ramp. The armament is similar with four .50 cal. machine guns and a single medium caliber gun in the bow, a 20mm on the POM and a 25mm on the FRC. The POM has a diesel electric and diesel powerplant but despite its much greater displacement, I doubt it has any more horsepower than the FRC (I have not been able to find a figure for the POM). With similar crew and systems, they should not cost much more than the FRCs to operate.

Unlike an FRC:

It appears the thinking was that they wanted a ship to do the same sorts of missions the Webber class Fast Response cutters (FRC) are doing out of Guam, but they also recognized that these ships would be far from any major naval base and that they would need to travel great distances and would be exposed to extreme weather conditions, so they needed to be larger (1300 tons vs 353 tons) and have greater endurance (30 days vs 5 days). Their range is 5500 nmi compared to 2500 for the FRC.

Having chosen a larger hull, they took advantage of the greater volume and deck space to add a second RHIB, a multimode radar, space for 29 passengers (roughly a platoon of Marines), a sickbay, a dive locker, space for a 20 foot containerized mission module, a flight deck and hangar for a 700-kilogram-class rotor-blade drone (not yet deployed), and a holding area for up to six prisoners.

Upgrades to the Philippine WHECs

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (former USCGC Dallas) equipped with new Sea Giraffe multi-mode radar in Cebu.

NavyRecognition reports, “China Coast Guard try to intercept Philippine Navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio.” We talked about this incident earlier, but this report also includes information about the upgrades to the former US Coast Guard cutter. We did talk about upgrades earlier, but this has more specifics, particularly in regard to the sonar. All three of the Philippines’ former cutters are being upgraded.

The OPV is equipped with various sensors and processing systems, including the Naval Shield Baseline 2 Integrated Combat Management System, a Saab AB AN/SPS-77 Sea Giraffe AMB 3D air/surface search radar, a Furuno FAR3220BB 25KW X-band navigational radar, a Sperry Mk 92 Mod 1 Fire Control System, and an ELAC Hunter 2.0 hull-mounted sonar.

BRP Andres Bonifacio is armed with a Mk 75 Oto Melara 76mm Compact gun, two Mk 38 25mm autocannons, six M2HB Browning .50 caliber guns, and two USN-Mark 36 SRBOC (Super Rapid Blooming Offboard Countermeasures) mortar-type launching systems.

The combat management system, AN/SPS-77, sonar, and 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3s are all upgrades since the hand-over. I also found some additional information, that also mentioned Radar Electronic Support Measure (R-ESM), a new Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), and the SeaFLIR 230 electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) system.

The AN/SPS-77 is also used on Independence class LCS and will equip the US Coast Guard Offshore Patrol Cutter.

The sonar is by a German company and offers mine avoidance and torpedo detection as well as passive and active submarine and UUV detection capabilities. We don’t know which of the various sized transducers associated with this system was chosen. Transducers of 4 kHz to 30 kHz are available that span the range from low frequency long range systems to relatively short ranged high frequency systems. A medium frequency seems most likely.

Some of these upgrades, particularly the multimode radar, support helicopter operations. The Philippine Navy currently has two AW159 Wildcat helicopters with significant ASW and anti-surface capability. So far these are the only Philippine aircraft with an ASW capability and they may be based on other Philippine Navy warships.

The upgrades were done in South Korea. The Philippine military seems to have developed a relationship with South Korea. The Philippine Navy has purchased two 2600 ton light frigates from S. Korea and has contracts out for two 3200 ton corvettes and six 2400 ton 94.4 meter Offshore Patrol Vessels.

The three Philippine ships are probably now the best equipped of the 12 former US Coast Guard 378s currently serving in five different navies and coast guards, but there are still some desirable possible additions, including anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM), close in weapon systems (CIWS), light weight ASW torpedoes, and towed array sonars.


Philippines Standing Up to China? Joint Patrols?

Philippine Navy frigate BRP Andrés Bonifacio (FF 17), the former USCGC Boutwell, participates in a group sail during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise off the coast of Hawaii, July 26, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Arthurgwain Marquez)

A couple of recent reports seem to indicate the Philippines is becoming more aggressive in the protection of their EEZ.

Marine Link reports, “Philippines Coast Guard Boosts South China Sea Presence.”

“The Philippine Coast Guard has stepped up its presence in the disputed South China Sea by deploying additional vessels and conducting more sorties and overflights to protect maritime territory and the country’s fishermen, its chief said on Monday.”

gCaptain reports, “Philippine Navy Says China Tailed Its Warship.”

“The navy’s BRP Andres Bonifacio was conducting a patrol and search mission on Feb. 1 when it was monitored and tailed by the Chinese vessels near the reef, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone, said Armand Balilo, a spokesman for the coast guard. The militia boats “even conducted an intercept course,” he added.”

That the Philippine Navy is sending one of its largest ships (painted gray), the former USCGC  Boutwell, to confront Chinese trespassing is, I believe, a change from their previous policy.

Since the US and the Philippines have agreed to resume joint patrols, I would not be surprised to see a US Coast Guard cutter backstopping a Philippine CG cutter as it boards and perhaps seizes a Chinese fishing vessel. There are certainly plenty of them that are violating Philippine law.

“Japanese, Malaysian coast guards hold South China Sea security drill” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

This photo released by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency shows the Japan Coast Guard ship Tsugaru (PLH02) and helicopters of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency during a joint exercise between the both agencies off Kuantan, Malaysia, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency via AP)

Indo-Pacific Defense Forum reports on efforts by the Japan Coast Guard to assist the Malaysia Coast Guard, including, in this case, with Long Range Acoustic Devices that are being provided by Japan.

The Malaysia Coast Guard is a relatively young organization, having become operational in 2005. Two of the largest vessels in the Malaysia CG have been provided by Japan.

Japan has been helping to strengthen other coast guards in SE Asia as well, including those of Vietnam and the Philippines