Mexico Naval Upgrades–Eight MH-60R

Navy photo. MH-60R “Knighthawk” helicopters conducts an airborne low frequency sonar (ALFS) operation during testing and evaluation

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency has released the following notice of approval for the sale of eight MH-60R ASW helicopters with associated equipment and weapons for the Mexican Navy valued at $1.2B.

Media/Public Contact:
pm-cpa@state.gov
Transmittal No:
18-06

­­­WASHINGTON, Apr. 19, 2018 – The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Mexico of MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopters for an estimated cost of $1.20 billion.  The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on April 18, 2018.

The Government of Mexico has requested to buy eight (8) MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopters, equipped with:  twenty (20) T-700 GE 401 C engines (16 installed and 4 spares); sixteen (16) APS-153(V) Multi-Mode radars (8 installed, 8 spares); ten (10) Airborne Low Frequency Systems (ALFS) (8 installed and 2 spares); fourteen (14) AN/APX-123 Identification Friend or Foe transponders (8 installed and 6 spares); twelve (12) AN/AAS-44C Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems Forward Looking Infrared Systems (8 installed, 4 spares); twenty (20) Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (16 installed and 4 spares); thirty (30) AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Devices; one thousand (1,000) AN/SSQ-36/53/62 Sonobuoys; ten (10) AGM-114 Hellfire missiles; five (5) AGM-114 M36-E9 Captive Air Training missiles; four (4) AGM-114Q Hellfire training missiles; thirty eight (38) Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) II rockets; thirty (30) Mk -54 Lightweight Hybrid Torpedoes (LHTs); twelve (12) M-240D machine guns; twelve (12) GAU-21 Machine Guns (an improved .50 cal. evolved from the M2–Chuck).  Also included are twelve (12) AN/ARC-220 High Frequency radios; spare engine containers; facilities study, design, and construction; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; communication equipment; ferry support; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support.  The total estimated value is $1.20 billion.

This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a strategic regional partner.  Mexico has been a strong partner in combating organized crime and drug trafficking organizations.  The sale of these aircraft 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.

The proposed sale will improve Mexico’s ability to meet current and future threats from enemy weapon systems.  The MH-60R Multi-Mission Helicopter will enable Mexico to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions and secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.  Mexico will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense.  Mexico will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor will be Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems in Owego, New York.  There are no known offset agreements in connection with this potential sale.

Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of additional U.S. Government and/or contractor representatives to Mexico.

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, pm-cpa@state.gov.

Navy Awards FFG Conceptual Design Contracts for FFG(X)–Speculation on a NSC Derivative

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.

Parent Designs:

Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship:

USS Independence (LCS-2)

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:

USS Freedom (LCS-1)

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:

Italian FREMM Bergamini. photo by Fabius1975

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:

HMAS Hobart, photo by Nick-D

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.

How the Coast Guard and Navy Could Plan to Mobilize the Cutter Force in a Major Conflict

The Coast Guard has a rich military history, but we should recognize that, while we may be an “armed service,” we are not prepared for war.

We took the opportunity presented by the apparent end of the Cold War in the early ’90s to cut cost and overhead by removing recently installed  anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and Harpoon launching equipment from the 378s and eliminating entire Sonar Tech (ST) rating.

Unfortunately, the holiday from worrying about a possible major conflict is over. China is challenging us, and Russia is resurgent. While it appears the Coast Guard has planned to provide some resources to address contingencies, it also appear we have no real direction as to what the Coast Guard will do if we have a major conflict. Certainly the new major cutters, the NSCs and OPCs, could be turned into credible escort vessels, but it would take months and their crews would need to be trained.

The development of modular systems for the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) may provide a mechanism for rapidly upgrading our ships while Navy Reserves might provide the personnel and expertise to cut mobilization time from months to weeks.

The Navy currently has over 100,000 reservists, either Selected Reservists or Individual Ready Reservist, subject to recall. A number of them have expertise not resident in the Coast Guard, but useful upon mobilization. At one time these reservists might have gone to man Navy reserve frigates, but there are currently no navy combatants in reserve. As the number of LCSs increase the number of reservists with experience operating and maintaining the mission modules will increase. In addition all LCSs have two complete crews, so in wartime when they will presumably stop rotating crews, they will have an excess of active duty crews training in the mission module systems.

The primary mission modules planned for the LCSs are Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (SuW), and Mine Counter-Measures (MCM). It would not take much to make cutters capable of accepting all or parts of these mission modules, perhaps an OPC “B” class and during overhauls.

There is a very real possibility of inter-service synergy here.

A mission package of equipment, aircraft, sensors, and personnel could be loaded aboard for exercises, providing training for both the Navy and Coast Guard personnel.

The acoustic sensors from the ASW module might be deployed on a cutter bound for a drug interdiction mission in the Eastern Pacific, to help locate drug running semi-submersibles or if they are out there, submarines.

There are very few Navy mine counter measures assets in the US and those we have are not spread out geographically. If there were to be a peacetime mining incident in US waters, it might be possible to airlift an MCM module to the nearest cutter to allow the problem to be dealt with more quickly.

A 6,200 mile Range, Autonomous Underwater 100 Megaton Nuclear Delivery System (Really Big Torpedo)

nuclear-capable underwater drone called Ocean Multipurpose System Status-6.

Defense News Reports that “A draft of the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review confirms the existence of an underwater nuclear drone made and operated by Russia, a capability the U.S. Defense Department had not previously publicly acknowledged.”

Maybe this is another reason we might want to add an ASW capability to our ships.

(Perhaps we have someone out there who can translate the info on the graphic above?)

Interview: Adm. Paul Zukunft demands Coast Guard respect–Defense News

DefenseNews had an interview with the Commandant. You can read it here. I will not repeat the Commandant’s responses here, but I will repeat one of the questions and add my own thoughts.

Admiral, you have said that the Coast Guard’s identity as an armed service is forgotten. Can you tell me what you mean by that?

The Commandant talks here about budget, but I think this starts with self image. We do SAR. We rescue sea turtles. Armed services are first and foremost ARMED. We are by law a military service, but we are currently inadequately armed for even our peacetime counter terrorism, DHS mission. We are less capable of forcibly stopping a ship than we were 90 years ago.

Do our people know what their role will be if there is a major conflict with the Chinese or Russians? You can bet Navy and Marine Personnel have a pretty good idea of their roles.

We have had a quarter century hiatus in a mono-polar world where no one could challenge American seapower. That is changing rapidly and it is time for the Coast Guard to see itself in a new light. Just as the nation has benefited from having two land forces (Army and Marines), it can benefit from having two sea forces. The Coast Guard is a substantial naval force. Certainly we will not replace the Navy’s sophisticated systems, but there is a need for a high low mix and the marginal cost of adding capability to Coast Guard vessels that are going to be built anyway is very small.

We are currently in an unrecognized naval arms race with China. It is time to give the Coast Guard back the ASW and ASuW capabilities it was building before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When I reported to the academy in 1965, it had a gun lab, and we were taught ASW (badly) during swab summer. The Coast Guard had 36 ships equipped with sonar, ASW torpedoes and 5″ guns. The ships were old (not as old as now), but we were building a new fleet of 36 Hamilton Class WHECs equipped with a better sonar in addition to torpedoes and a 5″ gun. Being armed did not stop us from doing SAR, fisheries, or aids to navigation.

At that time (1965) in terms of personnel, the US Navy was about 25 times larger than the Coast Guard and had 287 cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. Now it is only eight times as large as the Coast Guard and has only 85 ASW equipped surface ships. We also had a powerful naval ally in Europe in the form of the Royal Navy. Now the Coast Guard is supplying personnel to the Royal Navy and in terms of personnel the Coast Guard is larger than the Royal Navy or the French Navy. Equipping our planned 33 to 35 large cutters as true surface combattants could make a real difference.

Even if we never go to war, preparation can make us better at our peacetime roles. Drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, and even SAR benefit from military grade ISR and C4I. Recognition of naval capabilities in the Coast Guard may justify additional resorces that have dual use for peacetime missions. Its a win-win.

 

Convoy SG-19 and the Sinking of USAT Dorchester–When Things Went Terribly Wrong

Escanaba rescuing survivors from USAT Dorchester. USCG Image.

Escanaba rescuing survivors from USAT Dorchester. USCG Image.

The following is based on Samuel Eliot Morison’s History of the United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume I, The Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1943, pp 330-334 and information from Uboat.net.

The current list of names selected for the Webber class WPCs includes the names of Charles Walter David Jr. and most recently Forrest O. Rednour. These two men are representative of about two dozen rescue swimmers who risk their lives to rescue survivors from the chartered US Army Transport Dorchester. torpedoed on February 3, 1943, 74 years ago.

These men did the best they could to mitigate a disaster, but it was still a disaster. This was the largest loss of personnel on a US flag merchant vessel during WWII.

SG-19 was a small convoy bound from St Johns Newfoundland to Greenland, three ships, two merchantmen and the 5,252 ton Army transport Dorchester, with about 1000 tons of cargo, a crew of 130 men, an armed guard of 23, and 751 passengers, mostly Army reinforcements, and among them some 23 Coast Guard personnel, for a total of 904, of these only 229 would survive. As might be expected, the weather was cold and nasty as they approached Greenland.

The convoy was escorted by three cutters, the 240 foot Tampa (WPG-48) and two 165 foot “A” class cutters, Escanaba (WPG-77) and Comanche (WPG-76). The convoy escort was commanded by Capt. Joseph Greenspun, USCG. Tampa, commissioned in 1921, was fairly old, her speed, officially 15.5 knots but according to Morison actually 14.5, was less than that of a surfaced U-boat (17.7), but it was similar to that of the smaller Flower Class corvettes that made up the majority of convoy escorts and she was larger and better armed than a corvette.

The two 165 foot cutters, Escanba and Comanche, were really ill-suited for the mission. They were small with a low freeboard, and while credited with a speed of 12.8 knots, according to Morison their actual speed was 11.5 knots, and this was further reduced by icing, slowing the convoy. Icing also effected the escorts’ weapons. According to Morison, “At times they had to heave-to and remove ice with live steam; guns, depth charges and mousetraps (anti-submarine rockets–Chuck) sealed tight by thick ice, and excessive water noise rendered sound gear of little value.” Unable to do more than keep up with the convoy, the two smaller cutters struggled to maintain station on the flanks of the convoy.

US Army Tansport Dorchester

US Army Tansport Dorchester

The convoy was sailing at a speed of ten knots. The three merchant ships were in line abreast with Dorchester in the center. Tampa led 3,000 yards ahead of Dorchester, and Comanche and Escanaba were 5,400 yards on the flanks, to port and starboard respectively.

On Feb. 2 the weather had moderated, but the convoy was informed that there was U-boat activity in the area.

59 degrees 22′ N, 48 degrees 42′ W, 150 miles West of Cape Farewell, Greenland, during the night, very early on 3 Feb., a torpedo struck the Dorchester on the starboard side in the machinery spaces. About 20 minutes later the Dorchester had sunk.

U-223, on her first war patrol, had approached the convoy from starboard, probably on the surface in the dark, probably having passed between Tampa and the Escanaba. Even at this late date the Escanaba still had no radar.

The U-boat had loosed five torpedoes, meaning she had fired all four of her bow tubes and turned and fired the single stern tube as well. One of the first hit the Dorchester. All the rest missed.

There was confusion on the transport. Many never heard the order to abandon ship. “Three of the 14 lifeboats had been damaged by the explosion, the crew managed only to launch two more overcrowded boats and 33 men left with rafts, but many men evidently did not realize the seriousness of the situation, stayed aboard and went down with the ship.” Most went into the water with nothing more than a lifebelt.

Initially Escanaba and Comanche attempted to find the U-boat, but Escanaba then moved in to rescue survivors while Comanche attempted to protect Escanaba. Comanche joined the rescue effort about two hours after the torpedoing.

From Uboatnet,

“Escanaba … picked up 81 survivors from the water and rafts and 51 from one lifeboat. Comanche picked up 41 survivors from another lifeboat and 56 from rafts and the water. Hundreds of floating bodies or frozen to wreckage were checked for signs of life. The survivors were landed at Narsarssuak (Greenland) later the same day. 675 lives were lost: the master, three officers, 98 crewmen, 15 armed guards and 558 troops and passengers (including 16 Coast Guardsmen). The following were saved: three officers, 25 crewmen, 44 civilian workers, three Danish citizens, twelve armed guards, seven US Coast Guard personnel and 135 US Army personnel.”

U-223 was a reasonably successful U-boat being responsible for the loss of three merchant ships, a frigate, and a destroyer. She was sunk 30 March 1944 in the Mediterranean Sea, 60 nautical miles northeast of Palermo, Sicily, in a battle with four British destroyers in which she sank one of her pursuers, HMS Laforey.

Four months after the loss of Dorchester, 13 June, 1943, at 0510 Escanaba blew up and sank within three minutes in the North Atlantic.  All but two of her crew of 103 were lost.

Would the result have been any different if the cutters had been more capable? We will never know, but it suggest that if we are ever again in a general war, prepared or not, our cutters will be pressed into service even if they are unsuitable, poorly trained, or inadequately equipped.

Navy Rethinks the LCS–Manning, Crew Rotation, Homeporting

800px-USS-Freedom-rear-130222-N-DR144-367

Photo: USS Freedom (LCS-1)

The US Naval Institute news service reports “Results of New LCS Review is Departure from Original Vision.”

Why should we care?:

For one thing the LCS were planned to be multi-crewed. Their plan was a bit different from our Crew Rotation Concept, but the idea was the same, multiple crews rotating among multiple ships to provide more deployed time. The Coast Guard had planned to apply the Crew Rotation Concept to the National Security Cutters, but I have also seen it referred to with regard to the Offshore Patrol Cutters.

Earlier I called the Offshore Patrol Cutter, the other LCS, and it does look like they will continue to share some systems and training. If the OPCs emerge with space for modular systems, we may see even more cross talk between the programs. The two types (LCS and OPCs) are similar in size, so comparisons are inevitable.

Hopefully we can learn from their experience.

The results: 

The Navy is abandoning their planned rotation of three crews among two ships in favor of a plan that would assign two crews to a single ship, much like the way SSBNs are manned by blue and gold crews. The significant difference is that the crews “own” the ships, they don’t expect to walk away to a different hull and never see it again.

The size of the crews is to be increased. Originally there was to have been a core crew of 40. That was increased to 50, and it is now planned to increase the core crew to 70 plus a 23 person air detachment. Maximum berthing is reportedly 98. Adding a CG LE team should max out the berthing. This pushes the crew much closer to what the Coast Guard was planning for the OPC, (pdf) a crew of 104. That means a full crew for each LCS is really 163, two core crews of 70 and 23 in the air detachment.

Instead of basing a mix of both types of LCS on each coast, the new plan would put the trimaran Independence class, with its longer range, on the West Coast (San Diego) while the shorter legged, monohull Freedom class will be based on the East Coast (Mayport, FL). That makes a lot of sense.

The ships will be organized into six four ship divisions with each division assigned a single mission (mine countermeasures, anti-surface, or antisubmarine). The four oldest ships will be single crewed, will not be assigned to a division and will instead be used for training and testing. Again this makes sense since subsequent ships are somewhat different, having incorporated lessons learned on the first ships.

That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be one division of each class assigned each of the three missions although that may the result. To me the Independence class appears better suited for ASW and the Freedom class by default better used as minecountermeasures ship.

uss_independence_lcs_2

Photo: USS Independence (LCS-2), U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justan Williams 

Lessons: 

When the Coast Guard finally decides to abandon the Crew Rotation Concept, as currently envisioned–four crews for three ships. They can point to the LCS experience as justification.

As a means to allow increased time underway, permanently augmenting the NSCs’ crews to allow generous leave and TAD assignments is probably a better solution. After all, if we have a crew of 160 or so assigned to each NSC or OPC, we could probably keep them underway at least as much as the LCS are.

Applying a division staff organization to the NSCs and perhaps the OPCs is probably a good idea. In addition to a post command captain, that could, among other things, provide initial advice to newly arrived COs and possibly a relief CO function; it could provide personnel augmentation for those specialists positions that have little or no redundancy in the typical ship’s organization, allowing them some leave and/or TAD while the ship is underway, with the objective of keeping the crew members underway time at 185 days or less, while the ship is away from homeport for a considerably longer time.