NavyRecognition is reporting that the Russians are planning to package air defense systems in standard containers.
Specifically they refer to possible use on the project 20386 corvettes and project 22160 patrol ships. One of the two systems discussed is a missile and gun “Close In Weapon System” (CIWS) but the other system is a much longer ranged system.
This is a significant departure from the container packaged cruise missile systems we have heard about before.
The Pantsir-M CIWS (photo above) would also be effective against surface targets, at close range. In addition to the two 30mm gatling guns, the missiles may also have an anti-surface capability.
In time of war, we might see these, or something similar, on naval auxiliaries or even merchant ships as well as the naval vessels mentioned above. Encountering them on a terrorist controlled vessel is far less likely, but not impossible.
The other way to look at this is, could we do something similar, to make it easy for our icebreakers or perhaps other ships, to go from armed, to unarmed, and back again relatively easily?
Like many of you, I was unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Conference, but I did find a number of videos which may provide some of the information that would have been available there. The Coast Guard Commandant had been scheduled to speak but cancelled, apparently in response to the partial government shutdown.
I have provided three videos, each about ten minutes, that may be of general interest, and links to four others, typically 20-25 minutes. The descriptions are from their respective YouTube pages.
The second and third videos have specific Coast Guard content, which I have identified by bold typeface with the beginning time in parenthesis. Some of the other equipment may have Coast Guard applications in the future.
Day 1 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Austal latest frigate design for FFG(X)
– Raytheon DART Variable Depth Sonar (VDS)
– Raytheon / Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM)
– Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM)
Day 2 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium.
In this video we cover:
– Fincantieri Marine Group FREMM frigate design for FFG(X)
– General Dynamics NASSCO John Lewis-class T-AO (New Oiler)
– Raytheon SM-2 restart
– Raytheon SM-3
– Leonardo DRS Hybrid Electric Drive for U.S. Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) (time 11:10)
Day 3 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Atlas North America’s solutions for mine counter measures, harbor security and unmanned surface vessels
– Lockheed Martin Canadian Surface Combatant (Type 26 Frigate, Canada’s Combat Ship Team)
– Insitu ScanEagle and Integrator UAS (time 4:30)
– Raytheon SPY-6 and EASR radar programs
Vice Adm. Tom Moore, USN, the commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, discusses US Navy efforts to increase public and private ship repair capabilities, lessons learned from repairing USS John S. McCain and Fitzgerald, the new Ford-class aircraft carrier, getting the Littoral Combat Ship on regular deployments and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.
George Awiszus, military marketing director of GE Marine, discusses the outlook for the company’s LM2500 engine that drives warships in more than 30 nations and the future of shipboard power with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.
Adm. Bill Moran, USN, the vice chief of naval operations, discusses dialogue with China, improving the surface force in the wake of 2017’s deadly accidents, refining Navy culture, increasing ship repair capabilities, harnessing data, improving information sharing across the force and the new Design for Seapower 2.0 with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.
Maj. Gen. David “Stretch” Coffman, USMC, the US Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare (N95), discusses new expeditionary warfighting concepts, the recent deployment of Littoral Combat Group 1 — composed of USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG-108) and USS Somerset (LPD-25) — to South America, new formations to replace the current Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit, unmanned ships, the performance of the F-35B Lightning II and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian.
The US Naval Institute News Service has provided an update on the FFG(X) program, based on a Jan. 15, 2019 presentation at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, by Regan Campbell, Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants, which provides both a projected lower unit cost approaching $800M for follow on units (not a lot more than the Coast Guard was paying for its National Security Cutters) and a list of minimal equipment to be included in each ship
There is one particular item on the list of equipment that may be significant for the Coast Guard, “57mm gun (with ALaMO)”. That means the “Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance” or ALaMO program to provide guided projectiles for the 57mm Mk110 gun is still on track. Apparently ALaMO uses the same guidance system developed for the Hyper-Velocity Round.
The FFG(X) will also share, in common with all the NSCs, the Mk160 Gun Fire Control System, and with the later NSCs, the Mk20 Electro-Optic Sensor System (Mods may be different). This means we can expect continued Navy support of these systems over the long-term.
Request for Proposal is to be issued Q4FY2019. Contract award is expected Q4FY2020.
I note there is still no image available for Huntington Ingalls proposal which may be based on the National Security Cutter.
Below is a list of equipment for the FFG(X) found on page three of the presentation. I can not claim to recognize all the acronyms. Interestingly there is space and weight reservation for a 150 kW Laser Weapon.
Guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) Capabilities AW 3x3x3 fixed-face EASR (Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar) Mk41 VLS (32 cell) SM-2 Blk IIIC ESSM Blk 2 21 cell RAM launcher (Rolling Airframe Missile) UPX-29 IFF CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability) EW/IO SLQ-32(V)6 (SEWIP Blk II) w/ HGHS and Specific Emitter Identification (SEI) Spectral (Follow on to SSEE Inc F) AOEW (on airborne asset) SWAP-C reservation for SLQ-32C(V)7 (SEWIP Blk III Lite) SWAP-C reservation for 150kw laser WATERCRAFT 7m RHIB (x2) SUW 57mm gun (with ALaMO) Mk160 GFCS Mk20 Mod 1EOSS OTH fire control system OTH 2x4 (T)/ 2x8 (Obj) 50 caliber machine guns iStalker w/3600 coverage NGSSR AVIATION Organic MH-60R (x1) Organic MQ-8C (x1) Secure & Traverse Aircraft Handling System Horizon Reference System Night Vision Device Compatibility ASW AN/SQS-62 Variable Depth Sonar or Low Band Hull Array TB-37 MFTA w/ TACI AN/SQQ-89(V)15 USW-DSS AN/SLQ-61 Lightweight Tow or SLQ-25 NIXIE ADC (Torp CM) Mk41 VLS supports VLA (Vertical Launch ASROC) for allwx stand-off ASW weapon (future) SVTT – Shipboard Torpedo Launch (Obj) C4I/ CMS CANES ICOP Link-11/22 Link-16 LOS/STJ/JRE HF/VHF/UHF LOS UHF/SHF/EHF SATCOM NTCDL Frigate Weapon System (FWS) Advanced Cyber Design GPNTS & ECDIS
Back in 2012, I published a post “Case for the Five Inch Gun.” My conclusion was
In choosing the Mk110 57mm because it was seen as a better AAW weapon, a better anti-swarm weapon, as lighter, cheaper, easier to maintain or man, for whatever reason, the Coast Guard will have a weapon that is at best only marginally more capable, perhaps even less capable, of performing the most likely missions–stopping/sinking a surface target or performing NSFS–than the weapons of 60 to 90 years ago.
While the size, toughness, and survivability of merchant ships has increased dramatically, the Coast Guard has not provided its ships with a significantly improved capability to stop or sink a ship since the introduction of the 5″/51 in 1921. I still think the Coast Guard should add a light weight anti-surface vessel torpedo to its inventory as the cheapest way to have a truly effective ship stopper that can be made widely available. But until such a weapon becomes available, the Mk45 5″ is the best alternative available.
The 5″ Mk45 is a versatile weapon. Equipping the OPCs with this weapon make the ships more capable of performing both the PWCS and probable wartime mission and significantly enhances the NSFS capability of US Naval forces in a major conflict.
I think the argument for the 5″ just got a lot stronger. The test involved shooting guided rounds at a target of cruise missile size and speed. That has got to mean extreme accuracy against even moving targets.
Adding this capability to Cutters would increase both their survivability and their offensive capability. In addition it would substantially increase their capability to forcibly stop a vessel of almost any size since the projectiles, about seven times heavier than an 57mm round, would be traveling at near hypersonic speeds, they would likely disable any engine it hits by kinetic energy alone.
I have not seen any particular kind of guidance identified for this test. The illustration above does appear to show a panel, presumably one of four, between the fins at the base of the projectile.
“So if you think about the kinds of threats you might face in the Middle East, the lower-end cruise missiles or a larger UAV, now you have a way to shoot them down that doesn’t require you use a $2 million ESSM or $1 million RAM because a hyper velocity projectile – even in the highest-end estimates have it in the $75,000 to $100,000 range, and that’s for the fanciest version of it with an onboard seeker,” he said.
An added benefit of using HVP in powder guns is the gun’s high rate of fire and a large magazine capacity.
The projectiles apparently weigh about 45 pounds, and may cost as little as $25,000, far less than even the relatively cheap RAM short range anti-air missile at about $1M each. Range is expected to be about 40 miles when fired from a 5″ gun.
The Mk45 Mod4 was first installed on the USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81) commissioned in 2001, superseding the earlier 5″/54 Mk45 mods. Since then it has been the standard USN 5″ gun. It is also in service with the Australian, South Korean, Japanese, and Danish Navies, and they will arm the British Type 26 frigate. Earlier models of the 5″ Mk45 also serve in the Navies of New Zealand, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Thailand.
The gun mount is not a lot larger than the 5″/38 Mk30 mounts that were used on over 50 Coast Guard cutters (255s, 311s, 327s, 378s, and icebreakers) between the early 1940s and their removal from the 378s in the late ’80s and early 90s. In fact the early models of the Mk45 were designed as a drop in replacement for the 5″/38.
Earlier 5″/38 mounts used by the Coast Guard were highly manpower intensive requiring 14 to 15 to fully man the mount and pass projectiles and powder. Full manning for a Mk45 Mod4 is only six, a Gun Captain, Panel Operator and four ammunition Ioperators, all below deck. It can fire up to twenty rounds before the four ammunition operators arrive on station, allowing relatively easy Condition III manning.
The 5″/38 mount weighed about 41,000 pounds. The Mk45 Mod4 is estimated to weigh 50,456 lbs. (22,886 kg) without a lower hoist and 54,398 lbs. (24,674 kg) with a four-flight lower hoist. that is at most a 33% increase.
Time to Think about an OPC “B class”
What the Soviets used to call the correlation of forces is changing. The Navy’s top surface warfare officer told a gathering at the Surface Navy Association Seminar, For the ship crews, “we need to have them prepared on a moment’s notice to turn the readiness we are building into lethality,” that they had to be ready to fight now.
It is time for the Coast Guard to start reasserting its military nature. Hopefully we have at least a few years to rebuild the Coast Guard’s capability as a naval force which was discarded after the Soviet Union fell apart
It is not too early to start thinking about a “B class” OPC. Replace the 57mm with the 5″/62 Mk45 mod4, replace the 25mm Mk38 with SeaRAM. Add the sensors from the LCS ASW mission module at the stern. Add some Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles Forward. Make sure we have space to support MH-60R ASW helos it is supposed to be able to hangar with torpedoes and sonobuoys. That is not a whole lot different from the systems we had on the FRAM 378s, and the OPC is a third again as large.
The US Naval Institute has the best report I have seen on the recent award of five contracts to five different vendors for development of conceptual designs for the projected FFG (X).
I’ll look at the parent craft and offer some speculation about what Huntington Ingalls might be doing to make their NSC based offering more attractive.
There are five venders but actually only four shipyards involved since Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisc. is both the primary for an offer based on the Fincantieri Italian FREMM, and the build yard for Lockheed’s offer of a Freedom class LCS design.
Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship:
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) derived designs are the light weights in the competition. They both come with large open spaces that might be converted, but as built, they have limited crew accommodations. They will likely take substantial redesign to serve as FFGs. This class has exceptional aviation facilities, and functionally I find it preferable to the monohull Freedom class. Still it seems to have a fatal flaw, in that many do not like the aluminum hull and superstructure, but the Navy has not ruled out the design.
Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship:
My primary problem with this class is its short range. Their engineering spaces are crowded and their seakeeping has been criticized. There is a good chance that their FFG(X) variant may have a lengthened hull. What that will mean for the ships’ range is unclear. This class, with its semi-planning hull, may not take kindly to the additional weight envisioned for the FFG.
Fincantieri Italian FREMM:
These and the Navantia F-100 are the high end candidates. At about 6,700 tons full load the FREMM is about twice as large as the LCS derived designs. The FREMM comes in several versions, ASW, General Purpose, and AAW. Some of them have capabilities for land attack and Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (ABMD). The Italian versions have an active electronically scanned array radar, but this would likely be replaced by an American system. They have a double helicopter hangar. While the Italian version has at most 16 VLS, the French version of the same ship, which do not have the 5″64 gun have up to 32 VLS cells. The latest versions have a 20 knot cruise on diesels. In addition they have two 3,000 HP electric motors which can provide very quiet slow cruise (my guess, about 15 knots). It also means they have substantial reserves of electrical power for future weapons like lasers and rail guns. Neither the French or Italian versions have more than eight anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) but the Italian ASCMs are bulkier than likely American counterparts. The speed has been variously reported as 27 and 30 knots, but given that they only have LM2500 gas turbine, 27 knots is probably a realistic expectation. Because these ships’ systems are European, they may require substantial redesign. If these ships have a weakness it is likely that their cost will likely be near the but still under the Navy’s declared upper limit of $950M.
Navantia Álvaro de Bazán-class F100 Frigate:
There are actually three versions of this ship, Spanish, Norwegian, and Australian. The Australian ships are the latest version, so I would assume the offering is based most closely on these. These ships already use primarily American equipment including the Aegis system and a 48 cell Mk41 VLS. At 6,250 tons full load, they approach the size of many countries’ destroyers, and, in fact, that is the way the Australians and Spanish classify them. This already looks like an American design. The propulsion is CODOG with two 7,580 HP diesels and two LM2500 gas turbines for a max speed of 28+ knots. As currently configured all three versions of the design have hangars for only one H-60. All three versions are also equipped with no more than eight ASCMs. The likely stumbling block for this class is cost. When the Hobart class was constructed in Australia the three ships cost total was $9.1 B Australian, so they cost more than Burke class DDGs. The cost of the last of five F100s built by the more experienced Spanish shipyard was probably more representative, but even there the cost was $1B US. The US shipyard offering this is Bath Iron Works, a yard known more for quality than for low cost. There is perhaps the option of building a version of the smaller 5,290 ton Norwegian version of this design which mounts only a 16 cell Mk41 VLS.
The Bertholf class National Security Cutter:
Interestingly the USNI post reports, “Out of the competitors involved in the competition, HII was the only company that did not present a model or a rendering of its FFG(X) at the Surface Navy Association symposium in January.”
HII has already shown several models of NSC based frigates so perhaps they are doing something a bit different.
I suppose it is possible HII could build a stripped down version of the Burke class DDG or perhaps some other frigate design, but I will presume they will base their frigate on the Bertholf class cutter, but why the mystery?
I will speculate that they plan to make some significant changes relative to their previous presentation and they did not want to tip their hand. I’ll get to the likely changes in a moment.
The post has a short summary of the systems expected to be included in the FFG(X), I have noted the systems already included on the Bertholf class by having them in bold face.
“Many of the required weapons systems are pulled from the previous FF requirements: the COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System, which pulls software from the same common source library as the Aegis Combat System on large surface combatants; the SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system (currently a Phalanx, but the SeaRAM is a drop in replacement–Chuck); a canister-launched over-the-horizon missile; the surface-to-surface Longbow Hellfire missile; the Mk53 Nulka decoy launching system; the Surface Electron Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2 program with SLQ-32(V)6; and a slew of undersea warfare tools such as the AN/SLQ-61 light weight tow, AN/SQS-62 variable depth sonar and AN/SQQ-89F undersea warfare/anti-submarine warfare combat system. It also requires use of the MK 110 57mm gun with the Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance (ALaMO) projectile being developed for the LCS and frigate,”
An NSC derived frigate may occupy the sweet spot between the too small LCS derived designs and the too expensive FREMM and F100 designs that are about the largest combatants (other than flat tops and amphibs) in their respective navies. .
In order to make it more competitive with the high end frigates, I suspect HII is making some changes. Here is a list of things that might be done.
- Increase the length to make room for additional features, but keeping it under 5,000 tons full load.
- Using the additional length provide for more VLS, perhaps 48, or even 64.
- Provide for 16 canister launched anti-ship cruise missiles.
- Increase the generator power to allow future use of systems such as rail guns and lasers.
- Provide electric motors for quiet and economical cruise and loiter (which would also use the additional generator capacity. (HII put two 5,000HP/3,700kW auxiliary propulsion motors on USS America and some other big amphibs.)
- Use an active electronically scanned radar array.
- Use the extra length to put another davit amidships and free the fantail and stern for ASW systems.
Photo: Sigma 10514 in Mexican Navy configuration, fitted with a BAE Systems Bofors 57Mk3 57mm main guna 12.7mm remote weapon system right behind it. The Mexican Navy opted for the Smart Mk2 radar by Thales. The Mexican “Long Range Patrol Vessel” will not be fitted with VLS cells but a Raytheon RAM launcher will be fitted on top of the helicopter hangar.
How much would it cost to turn one of our new construction cutters into a minimally capable frigate with at least some capability for anti-submarine, anti-surface, and self defense anti-air warfare?
I don’t have a definitive answer but we did get a good indication along with more information about Mexico’s new long range patrol vessel, a Damen 10514 design, that is close enough to our own Offshore Patrol Cutter requirements, that I thought it might have been an OPC contender.
Earlier we had an indication regarding the addition of VLS and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) when Chile ordered $140.1M worth of equipment to arm three ships. Plus we had an earlier post based on a 2009 Congressional Budget Office study (apparently no longer available on line) that suggested costs to replace the Phalanx on NSCs with SeaRAM and to add 12 Mk56 VLS and associated equipment, which could have provided up to 24 ESSM.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has issued a news release concerning the sale of weapons for the new Mexican patrol vessel, and the shopping list is a pretty extensive, including anti-surface, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons.
Mexico –Harpoon Block II Missiles, RAM Missiles and MK 54 Torpedoes
Media/Public Contact: email@example.comTransmittal No: 17-63
WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2018 – The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Mexico of RGM-84L Harpoon Block II surface launched missiles, Block II Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) tactical missiles and MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes for an estimated cost of $98.4 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.
The Government of Mexico has requested to buy six (6) RGM-84L Harpoon Block II surface launched missiles, twenty-three (23) Block II Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) tactical missiles and six (6) MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes. Also included are eight (8) MK 825 Mod 0 RAM Guided Missile Round Packs (GMRP) tri-pack shipping and storage containers; RAM Block 2 MK 44 Mod 4 Guided Missile Round Pack (GMRP); two (2) MK 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) triple tube launchers; two hundred and fifty (250) rounds of AA98 25 mm high explosive and semi-armor piercing ammunition; seven hundred and fifty (750) rounds A976 25mm target practice and tracer ammunition; four hundred and eighty (480) rounds of BA22 57mm high explosive programmable fuze ammunition; nine hundred and sixty (960) rounds of BA23 57mm practice ammunition; containers; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor representatives’ technical assistance; engineering and logistics support services; installation services; associated electronics and hardware to control the launch of torpedoes; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $98.4 million.
This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic partner. Mexico has been a strong partner in combating organized crime and drug trafficking organizations. The sale of these ship-based systems to Mexico will significantly increase and strengthen its maritime capabilities. Mexico intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces and expand its existing naval and maritime support of national security requirements and in its efforts to combat criminal organizations.
Mexico intends to use the weapon systems on its Mexican Navy Sigma 10514 Class ship. The systems will provide enhanced capabilities in effective defense of critical sea lanes. The proposed sale of these systems and support will increase the Mexican Navy’s maritime partnership potential and align its capabilities with existing regional navies. Mexico has not purchased these systems previously. Mexico will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
The proposed sale of this equipment will not alter the basic military balance in the region.
The equipment will be provided from U.S. stocks. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale.
Implementation of this proposed sale will require annual trips to Mexico involving U.S. Government personnel and contractor representatives for technical reviews, support, and oversight for approximately two years.
There will be no adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.
This notice of a potential sale is required by law and does not mean the sale has been concluded.
All questions regarding this proposed Foreign Military Sale should be directed to the State Department’s Bureau of Political Military Affairs, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The big ticket items certainly made the head lines, but the ammunition for the 57mm is not cheap.
Fortunately for the Coast Guard, the Navy generally pays for our ammunition and weapon systems. The cost to the Coast Guard is installation and integration, plus primarily long term personnel and training costs.
DefenseNews reports first impressions of a new Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) built for UAE’s Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Agency (CICPA) shown at the NAVDEX (naval) portion of the IDEX international Defense Exposition in Abu Dhabi.
The ships are 67 meters (220 feet) in length, 11 meters (36 feet) of beam, and 5.4 meters (18 feet) of draft, with a speed of 20+ knots provided by four MTU engines driving four propellers.
Most of the armament is typical OPV, a 57 mm gun and two 30mm auto-cannon in remote weapon stations. What really sets it apart, is the Mk49 Rolling Airframe Missile launcher.
On the other hand, the UAE is just across the Straits of Hormuz from Iran and their shore based anti-ship cruise missiles.
Photo: Mk49 guided missile launch system for Rolling Airframe Missile
An earlier post provides a bit more detail on the program but it appears to have a couple of errors regarding the weapon systems (indicates a 76mm as seen in the first illustration vice 57mm and says the Mk49 launcher has 11 cells rather than the actual 21). There are to be two of this class, both to be delivered this year.
“The ships themselves will be delivered from Damen’s Galati shipyard in Romania in 2017; they will then go to ADSB’s facility in Abu Dhabi’s Mussafah industrial area for combat systems installation and integration prior to delivery to the CICPA.”
This looks like a straight forward adaptation of one of Damen’s designs for Offshore Industry Support Vessels with boats, helo deck, ESM/ECM, weapons and sensors added.
According to this older source, the Coast Guard was involved in the development of the SEA AXE Bow.
“Damen … has developed the sea axe bow design in partnership with the University of Delft, Royal Netherlands Navy, US Coast Guard and the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands.”
The National Interest has a post subtitled, “A new challenge for Trump: redefine the U.S. Coast Guard’s defense roles” you might find interesting.
The author, a Coast Guard Officer and Cutterman, wants to see our larger cutters better armed. He recommends specifically, provision for support of the Navy’s MH-60R
“The U.S. Coast Guard should explore adding the ability to embark, operate with, maintain and rearm these aircraft from both the National Security Cutter and Offshore Patrol Cutter. Only complete solutions that see cutters equipped with ordnance handling facilities, surge berthing for a full-maintenance detachment and sensor integration through data links should be considered.”
and the 5″ Mk45 for the National Security Cutter.
“The addition of a true major caliber-deck gun offers immediate utility, but the system’s real potential will be unlocked if efforts to develop hypervelocity projectiles bear fruit. If so, the National Security Cutter would emerge as a true utility warship capable of providing fires to forces ashore at substantial range and meaningfully contributing to air defense.”
He does, however, see the services culture as an impediment.
“The lesson of the twenty-five years following the Hamilton experience is that a challenge to maintaining the U.S. Coast Guard’s warfighting capability lies in managing the service’s perception of its character…
He also notes that previous concepts of the Coast Guards wartime environment may be unrealistic.
“Attempts to define the U.S. Coast Guard’s defense roles following the Cold War have been challenging. Published in 1998, Coast Guard 2020 proclaimed that the “Coast Guard will be prepared to operate in low-threat conflict environments, and to provide specialized functions at all levels of operation.” The notions of low-threat operations and service-unique specialization are obstacles to interoperability. While U.S. Coast Guard buoy tenders and icebreakers absolutely provide specialized capability, the major cutter fleet’s warfighting role was never—nor should it have ever been—unique to the U.S. Coast Guard. Rather, the major cutter fleet provided an active augmentation force trained and equipped to provide service in any theater of war. This should be the target for the fleet’s future employment as the community of nations returns to its more normal mode of great power competition. As for the limitation of a low-threat environment, U.S. Coast Guard cutters have deployed recently to Southeast Asia, the Black Sea, the Arctic and the Arabian Gulf. Saber rattling among great powers and the HSV-2Swift incident demand that we ask: which of these locations will qualify as a low-threat environment on the first day of a global or major regional war?
Generally I agree with the thrust,
“The immediate challenges are acquiring and integrating combat systems and training crews in their employment. These are not trivial tasks and will necessarily consume time and resources. Better to act with dark clouds forming on the horizon, however, than in the midst of the storm.”
It is a two page post. The first page is mostly history lesson on the Coast Guard’s participation in past conflicts, but if he gives the impression the Coast Guard was historically ready for these roles on day 1, that would be a mistake. The Coast Guard entered WWII terribly unprepared. The cutters had no sonar or radar and no depth charge racks. There is nothing new about our current lack of readiness for war, it is not the exception, it is the norm.
Trouble is, we tend to have a binary approach. Either we are at peace and could care less about war-time roles, or we are all in after an attack. We need a more measured approach that responds to changing circumstance.
We really need to do better at preparing for a transition from peace to war.
I don’t necessarily think removing the ASW systems from the 378s following the collapse of the Soviet threat was a mistake. It was a rational response to rapidly changing circumstance. Since then, we have had a quarter century without a substantial ASW threat, and the 378s are now on their way out. We probably should have removed the CIWS too, unfortunately it did mean we lost all the Coast Guard’s accumulated expertise in ASW. Hopefully we can rebuild it with the Navy’s help if needed.
But circumstances have changed again.
To me, a major conflict now appears more likely in the next ten to twenty years than at any time since I entered the Academy in 1965. We have a true peer challenger, with a chip on its shoulder and a belief in its inherent right to rule, in China. If that was not enough, Russia is rearming and acting increasingly obnoxious. Iran and North Korea may be annoying, but they are really not in the same league, at least in terms of a naval threat. Dealing with them would not stress our Navy, so would not really require Coast Guard assistance. China is the real threat, and if Russia sides with them, things could get dicey. Even without the Russians, the Chinese are building credible surface combattants at least as fast as the US. They already have a local superiority in the Western Pacific. We have to spread our fleet out, while they can concentrate their forces. To concentrate our forces in the Western Pacific, the US will be fighting at arm’s length with long vulnerable supply lines.
I don’t necessarily think war with China inevitable, but we need to recognize the possibility and plan for it.
Theoretically the process should start with an agreement between the Navy and the Coast Guard about what the Coast Guard, particularly its vessels and aircraft, will do in a general war. I see few indications that is happening. Certainly the OPC Concept of Operations did not include anything beyond a simple contingency operation.
I may be wrong about this, since I am way out of the loop, but if the service had an established general war mission focus to prepare for, it should be generally known. It should be reflected in our procurements. Perhaps the Navy thinks it would be presumptuous of them to assign the Coast Guard missions, and the Coast Guard does not want to push itself into Navy planning, but this is too important for delicate feelings to get in the way. Right now the Coast Guard is probably proportionately larger compared to the Navy than at any time in the last 100 years. When I entered the service, the Navy was 22 times larger than the Coast Guard in terms of personnel. Now it is only eight times larger. A combat ready Coast Guard may be the difference between victory and defeat.
The Coast Guard has potentially important roles to fill in any general conflict. If the Navy cannot envision these roles, perhaps the Coast Guard should think for itself. Plans should include our aircraft as well as our vessels, but I will stick to the vessels for now.
What we need is not an overall strategy to defeat China, but a well developed range of options for employment and a good idea of what upgrades would be required.
In a major war, I see a major shortfall in open ocean escorts. Thirty years ago, when the threat was the Soviet Navy and the problem was projecting American power across the shorter distances of the Atlantic, the US had 36 cruisers, 69 destroyers, and 115 frigates (plus 12 WHEC 378s). Now they have 22 cruisers, 63 destroyers, and 8 LCS.
Then we had the advantage, that the Soviet Fleet was split into four parts and their egress to our supply lines was limited by the presence of powerful European Allied navies that restricted their access to our supply lines.
In a Pacific War with China, the distances are much greater, our allies fewer, and, with the exception of Japan and S. Korea, much weaker. Our Navy’s fleet, currently 274 ships, with ambitions of 355, is scattered across three oceans while China’s fleet, likely soon to be 500 ships, is geographically concentrated.
If we needed over a hundred frigates to cross the Atlantic, we probably need at least that many to push across the Pacific. As it is, the Navy cannot meet their current peacetime commitments, and replenishment ships cross the oceans unescorted and unarmed.
The Navy seems to have belatedly recognized this with moves toward a new frigate to be based on one of the LCS designs, but even if they complete all 52 small surface combattants currently planned, less than half will be completed as frigates, and if based on the LCS designs, they will have limited range, survivability, and crew size. The Independence class LCS will likely be permanently employed as mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels (There were 22 of those in 1987). The Freedom class will likely be employed in enforcing a blockade (perhaps with help from Webber class WPCs). Even with some backfitting of LCS 25-32, that leaves at most 28 frigates in the current plan. 35 ASW equipped cutters could make a huge difference.
Cutters should be designed with wartime roles in mind, even if they will not be initially fully equipped with combat systems.
In the Bertholf class and Offshore Patrol Cutters, we will have most of the elements of modern warships. To not be prepared to add the few systems necessary to make them effective warships, if the nation were engaged in combat, would be criminal. If we do not already have plans to upgrade the Bertholf class National Security Cutters and the Offshore Patrol Cutters to give them significantly improved ASW, AAW, and ASuW capability we should start those plans.
At some point perhaps we should prototype an installation of these capabilities on at least one NSC and one OPC. Then we need to wring them out by deploying with the Navy and getting feedback on their performance, and periodically update plans for mobilizing their war-time potential.
Just as we have marine inspection, fisheries, and drug enforcement specialist, the Coast Guard needs a cadre of officers in the Office of Counter Terrorism and Defense Operations Policy (CG-ODO) who have a deep understanding of the needs of modern naval warfare, who will advocate for naval capabilities consistent with both wartime missions and the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) mission. Likely this means revival or strengthening of officer exchange programs, Tactical Action Officer training, and War College education.
Perhaps the longest lead time item in mobilizing the Coast Guard for war would be the senior enlisted we would need for rating not currently found in the peacetime Coast Guard. It might be possible for the Navy to identify some reservist to augment the crews of Coast Guard cutters upon mobilization, but even a small cadre within the Coast Guard, founded on prototyping systems on at least a couple of cutters would provide valuable continuity and advice in defining required capabilities.
Bottom Line–When we get in trouble, we cannot make it up as we go along. Sweat now, saves blood later.
Thanks to Lyle for bringing this to my attention.