“CONVOY ESCORT: THE NAVY’S FORGOTTEN (PURPOSE) MISSION” –War on the Rocks

An Allied convoy heads eastward across the Atlantic, bound for Casablanca, in November 1942. U.S. Navy (photo 80-G-474788), Post-Work: User:W.wolny – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 520948.

War on the Rocks has a post entitled, “Convoy Escort: The Navy’s Forgotten (Purpose) Mission

Since it has been a Coast Guard mission and may be again, it might be of interest.

Contrary to the impression you may get, most of the North Atlantic convoy work during WWII was done by Great Britain’s Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. The US Navy played a relatively minor role until mid 1943.

USCGC Duane on North Atlantic Convoy Duty

“US Coast Guard won’t ‘close the door’ on hunting submarines again in the future” –Business Insider

US Coast Guard crew of cutter Spencer watched as a depth charge exploded near U-175, North Atlantic, 500 nautical miles WSW of Ireland, 17 Apr 1943. Photo by Jack January

Business Insider reports on the Commandant’s response to a question posed at a Navy League event. It was hardly a ringing commitment, but the Commandant did say,

“If there was a requirement that was at the joint Coast Guard-Navy-[Department of Defense] level that said, ‘Hey, there’s an urgent need to bring that capability back in Coast Guard,’ I’m not saying we couldn’t revisit that,”

“I’m not so sure I see an immediate return to that mission space here, but again, I don’t close the door on anything since we live in an increasingly complicated world … and requirements change,” Schultz added

We have had an almost 30 year period when the Coast Guard’s Defense Readiness mission has been limited to low level requirements that had little impact on the majority of Coast Guard members. It happened because of the virtual disappearance of any significant naval threat after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there has always been the possibility that a more active role might reemerge in the future.

If we have no defense readiness mission, there is no reason the Coast Guard should be military. There would be no reason for our ships to have sophisticated fire control systems, electronic warfare systems, or Phalanx CIWS. There would be no reason for defensive systems, because if we were irrelevant in a military conflict, why would an enemy bother wasting ammunition on us.

Many countries have no coast guard or their coast guards are limited to coastal SAR. In many nations their regular navies and air forces, that do have war time missions, also do fisheries protection, drug enforcement, migrant interdiction, coastal security, and SAR.

If our large cutters do not have a wartime defense readiness mission, it is illogical for us to build ships that are 80 to 90% of a frigate or corvette, with 80 to 90% of the crew of those types, when more numerous, much less capable ships could do the non-defense related missions much more economically.

Schultz and other officials have also said new Coast Guard ships will be able to adapt for future missions.

“We’re putting in what we call space, weight, and power to be able to plug and play for all kinds of mission support,” Shannon Jenkins, senior Arctic advisor at the Coast Guard’s Office of Arctic Policy, said at an event in August when asked about arming icebreakers. “It certainly will have the capacity and the abilities to add in whatever we need to execute our national missions, not just Coast Guard missions.”

( I think you mean Coast Guard non-defense related missions, because defense is a Coast Guard mission?)

If conditions are favorable and no conflict appears likely for a long period, then it may make sense to adopt a policy of “fitted for but not with” or a more open weight, space and power reservation approach, but at some point we are going to need leadership in the mold of Admiral Wasche to recognize the need for the Coast Guard to again step up and fill its military role.

Adding an ASW capability will take time. It has become more complex than it was in WWII and we no longer have a lot of ship building and repair facilities capable of quickly upgrading our ships. How good are we at predicting the future?

Even in WWII we began the war terribly unprepared. Cutters were assigned to escort convoys that had neither sonar nor radar. Some ships that got sonars had no trained operators. Although more U-boats were sunk by aircraft than by ships, our air assets failed to sink any submarines (although one sinking was credited, it turned out not to have been the case).

The Navy may be hesitant to ask that the Coast Guard start preparing for possible armed conflict. There are many in the US Navy who might see asking the Coast Guard to shoulder some of the responsibility for naval defense as a diversion of attention from the Navy’s needs. But the Navy has several communities that compete for dollars. If the Coast Guard can provide some surface escorts it may mean more Navy money available for submarines or aircraft, so we may also have support from within the Navy. We really need to talk about the Coast Guard’s role in a major conflict when our non-defense related missions will have a lower priority.

The international environment is starting to take on an ominous resemblance to the late 1930s. The US needs to deter aggressive action. The Coast Guard can play a part in providing a credible naval deterrent, but only if it is seen as capable in the near term. We really need to start thinking about this before the need becomes urgent.

 

How Spencer Became the Coast Guard’s Top U-Boat Killer, Thank You Royal Navy

US Coast Guard crew of cutter Spencer watched as a depth charge exploded near U-175, North Atlantic, 500 nautical miles WSW of Ireland, 17 Apr 1943. Photo by Jack January

Wanted to pass along a bit of Coast Guard history I found on Uboat.net. Below is their list of “Notable Events involving Spencer.”

It really looks like Spencer got a lot of her ASW training from the British Royal Navy, operating in company with British, Canadian, and USN escorts, against small World War I vintage British H class submarines.


23 Mar 1942
HMS H 50 (Lt. H.B. Turner, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with USCGC Spencer and USS Gleaves. (1)

26 Aug 1942
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.R. Drummond, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Yestor (Lt. R.C. Holt, RNVR), HMS Beverley (Lt. R.A. Price, RN), USS BabbittUSS SpencerHMCS Collingwood (T/A/Lt.Cdr. W. Woods, RCNR) and HMCS Trillium (T/Lt. P.C. Evans, RCNR). (2)

22 Dec 1942
HMS H 34 (Lt. G.M. Noll, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Fowey (Cdr.(Retd.) L.B.A. Majendie, RN), HMS Carnation (Lt. A. Branson, RNR), HMS Black Swan (Cdr. T.A.C. Pakenham, RN), HMS Tango (T/Lt. J. Hunter, RNR), USS SpencerUSS Badger and HMCS Trillium (T/Lt. P.C. Evans, RCNR). (3)

23 Dec 1942
HMS H 34 (Lt. G.M. Noll, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with USS SpencerHMCS Dauphin (T/Lt. R.A.S. MacNeil, RCNR) and HMS Tango (T/Lt. J. Hunter, RNR) plus ships from the 37th Escort Group. (3)

9 Feb 1943
HMS H 33 (Lt. M.H. Jupp, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.F. Tognola, RNR) and USS Spencer. (4)

10 Feb 1943
HMS H 28 (Lt. K.H. Martin, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with USS Spencer. (5)

10 Feb 1943
HMS H 44 (Lt. I.S. McIntosh, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMCS Dauphin (T/Lt. M.H. Wallace, RCNR), HMCS Trillium (T/Lt. P.C. Evans, RCNR), HMS Ness (Lt.Cdr. T.G.P. Crick, DSC, RN), HMS Philante (Capt. A.J. Baker-Cresswell, DSO, RN), HMS Folkestone (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G.C. Gibson, OBE, RN), USS SpencerUSS Campbell and HMCS Rosthern (T/Lt. R.J.G. Johnson, RCNVR). (6)

8 Mar 1943
German U-boat U-633 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Iceland, in position 58.21N, 31.00W, by depth charges from the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Spencer.

23 Mar 1943
HMS H 28 (Lt. K.H. Martin, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Mallow (T/A/Lt.Cdr. H.T.S. Clouston, RNVR), HMS Myosotis (T/Lt. R. Lugg, RNR), HMS La Malouine (T/Lt. V.D.H. Bidwell, RNR), HMS Dianthus (T/A/Lt.Cdr. N.F. Israel, RNR) and USS Spencer. (7)

17 Apr 1943
German U-boat U-175 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Ireland, in position 47.53N, 22.04W, by depth charges and gunfire from the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Spencer.

Polar Security Cutters and Coast Guard ASW

The US Naval Institute Proceedings web page has a couple of Coast Guard related articles that did not appear in the print version of Proceedings,

I have reproduced my comments on these topics below.


In regard to arming the Polar Security Cutters (the author seemed fixated on cruise missiles. We did discuss this topic earlier here)

There are limits to what we want to put on ships bound for Antarctica, since they have to be open for inspection. On the other hand if we ever do have a near peer conflict involving the Arctic or Antarctic, these will become rare and essential naval auxiliaries. As such they will probably operate with other vessels, including more powerful warships if appropriate, but that does not mean they should not be able to defend themselves against the possibility of leakers. We need to make provision for last ditch defense with systems like SeaRAM.

Meanwhile the fact that they are law enforcement vessels means they should be able to forcibly stop any private or merchant vessel regardless of size. So far it seems they will have at most, 25mm Mk38 Mod3 guns.

The follow on Medium Icebreakers or Arctic Security Cutters, which are unlikely to go to Antarctica, are more likely to be more heavily armed from the start.


Coast Guard ASW (comments were generally surprisingly adverse):

It is a fact that in WWII most U-boats were sunk by aircraft, but about a third (about 230) were sunk by surface vessels, primarily those of our allies Britain and Canada.

Even when surface vessels did not sink U-boats, they often performed valuable service in blocking access to convoys and in rescuing mariners from sunken ships.

US Naval vessels only sank about 38 U-boats. Coast Guard cutters and Coast Guard manned Navy ships were involved in sinking a disproportionate number of those (ten) for various reasons. Most of the US Navy effort went into the Pacific and most of the USN effort in the Atlantic at least through mid-1943, was in escorting high speed troop convoys than largely avoided contact with U-boats.

Circumstances we will face in any near peer conflict may be very different.

The advantages provided by code breaking in WWII are unlikely.

The advantages provided by radar equipped aircraft detecting U-boats charging their batteries or transiting the Bay of Biscay on the surface during the night no longer exists.

The Chinese surface and air threat would divert the most capable USN assets from ASW tasks.

Unlike the Japanese during the Pacific campaign, the Chinese are likely to make a concerted effort to disrupt our logistics train.

We simply do not have enough ASW assets.

Augmenting Coast Guard cutters to allow them to provide ASW escort and rescue services for ships that are sunk by hostile subs, in lower threat areas, is a low cost mobilization option that can substantially increase the number of escorts at low cost.

This could be facilitated by augmenting cutter with USN Reserves. Navy reserve ASW helicopter squadrons could be assigned to fly from cutters.
LCS ASW modules could be placed on cutters and manned by reactivated Navy reservists with LCS ASW module experience.

Our few US merchant ships need to be protected and when inevitably, some are sunk, we need someone to rescue those mariners, because they have become a rare and precious commodity.

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Midgett (WMSL 757) and Kimball (WMSL 756) transit past Koko Head on Oahu, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2019. The Kimball and Midgett are both homeported in Honolulu and two of the newest Coast Guard cutters to join the fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released)


In answer to this comment from James M

Add : For (millions)

ASIST : 6.263
Mk 32 SVTT : 3.237
SLQ-25 Nixie: 1.727
AN/SRQ-4 LAMPS III: 4.625
VDS/MFTA combo: 14.802
ASW Combat Suite: 33.684
64.338 total. I am sure something could be arrived at for less. I look at this as what it takes to fit out an NSC the whole way. For one, OPC will never fit that VDS/MFTA on its stern. At best it would be a Nixie, maybe a container towed sonar we don’t yet use, and the mods for MH-60R. It would be good to know the plan for MUSV as it might help the equation. After all, the 64.338 would buy 2 MUSVs without payload. It could also buy an additional FRC.

So, we could equip ASW equip all eleven projected Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) for less than the cost of a single frigate.

Why do you believe the VDS/MFTA would not fit on the Offshore Patrol Cutter? It is fully as large as the NSCs and does not have the boat launch ramp cut into the stern. They are also substantially larger than the LCSs.

OPC “Placemat”

Containerized Sonar

Naval News reports that the French Navy is testing a containerized Thales CAPTAS-1 active/passive variable depth sonar (VDS).

This not the only such sonar available. The Canadians offer a similar system.

Should it be necessary, such systems could conceivably allow sonar systems to be added to all Coast Guard cutters the size of the Webber class Fast Response Cutters and larger.

“GeoSpectrum Launches Low Frequency Active VDS Deployable by USVs”

Geospectrum’s new, compact version of the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) suitable for Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs)

NavyNews reports that Canadian Company GeoSpectrum has developed a version of their “Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar” (TRAPS) that is scaled to fit vessels as small as 12 meter Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV).

We talked earlier about an earlier version of this system. If it fits on a 12 meter (39’4″) USV, then it should certainly be able to fit on anything WPB or larger. If we should ever have to go to war, this might be a capability we would want to protect our harbor approaches from submarines. We would probably also want to add an ASW torpedo launching capability.

It might be worth doing some experimentation to see how it works, and if desirable, draw up plans for adding this or a similar system for mobilization. First of course we should take a look at the results of Canada’s tests.

Might also be desirable to have something like this for the Webber class cutters going to PATFORSWA, since the Iranians have a large number of small conventionally powered submarines.

Maybe it could help us find semi-submersibles smuggling drugs as well. 

Surface Navy Association 2019 –Virtual Attendance

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

NAVSEA’s Moore on Improving Ship Repair, McCain & Fitzgerald, Ford, LCS

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.

GE Marine’s Awiszus on LM2500 Engine Outlook, Future Shipboard Power

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.

US Navy’s Moran on Improving the Surface Force, Culture, Ship Repair & Information Sharing

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.

US Navy’s Coffman on New Expeditionary Warfighting Concepts, Organizations, Unmanned Ships

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.

Something for the Coast Guard as “Navy Squeezing Costs Out of FFG(X) Program as Requirements Solidify”–USNI


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

The New Hyper-Velocity Round and an Old Five Inch Gun Make a Revolutionary Combo

Mk45 Mod4, a 5″ gun 62 calibers in length

The US Naval Institute reports that during an unclassified exercise as part of RIMPAC USS Dewey (DDG-105) fired 20 hyper velocity projectiles (HVP). The rounds were fired from a 5″/62 Mk45 Mod4.

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.

An artist’s conception of BAE Systems’ Hyper Velocity Projectile. BAE Systems Image

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.

USCGC Mellon seen here launching a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile in 1990.

 

Hearing: “Review of Recent GAO Reports on Icebreaker Acquisition and the Need for a National Maritime Strategy”

Note: Apparently as a result of the Government Shutdown, links to the House of Representative’s Website that have been included in this are no longer available and once you get their error message you will no longer be able to back arrow to this site. You will have to reload. Hopefully these link will be reestablished some time in the future, so I have left them in. I have been unable to relocate some of the quotations below to provide more specific citations so I am going to go ahead and publish without them.  

Again, I have to apologize for being late in analysis of a Congressional hearing. In this case it is the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, “Review of Recent GAO Reports on Icebreaker Acquisition and the Need for a National Maritime Strategy” that took place on 29 November, 2018.

The video actually begins at minute 21.

Witnesses were:

  • Rear Admiral Michael J. Haycock, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition & Chief Acquisition Officer, United States Coast Guard  | Written Testimony
  • Rear Admiral Mark H. “Buz” Buzby, USN, Ret., Administrator, Maritime Administration  | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office  | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Andrew Von Ah, Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office  | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in Naval Affairs, Congressional Research Service  | Written Testimony

Subcommittee members present included:

All five Representatives won reelection, so it is probable we will see them on the Subcommittee next year. Representative Garamendi was clearly excited and optimistic about the becoming chair of the House Sub-Committee. He strongly reports Coast Guard recapitalization. He also expressed a desire to see Rep. Brian Mast return as ranking member.

The two topics were essentially unrelated. We have revisited the topic of the Polar Security Cutter/Heavy Polar Icebreaker numerous times.

GAO is still contending there are Scheduling and Technological risks. They don’t seem to recognize the steps that have been taken to minimize these risks and that the largest scheduling risk is in delaying the start of the project once the detail design is substantially complete. There is real urgency in the need to replace Polar Star and they don’t seem to recognize that. Yes, the Coast Guard might have done a better job, if we had started this project about a decade earlier, and we might have done that if they had not continued to insist we had to keep our AC&I (now PC&I) budget to about $1.1B, but we can no longer afford more delay to achieve a drawn out, risk free, acquisition process.

Mr. O’Rourke once again made the case for block buy vs a contract with options, contrasting the way the Coast Guard has contracted for vessels while the Navy has successfully used Block Buy and Multi-Year contracting for vessels much more complicated than those being procured by the Coast Guard.

The need for a National Maritime Strategy reflected a realization that the US ability to transport military reinforcements to a theater of conflict in American ships with American crews seems to be in jeopardy. We discussed this problem and what the Coast Guard could do about it here.

Rather than reference the exchange on the video above as I have done before, I will just highlight parts of the two source documents, the “Summary of Subject Matter” (a six page pdf) and Congressional Research Service Naval Expert, Ronald O’Rourke’s prepared statement.

Regarding the Polar Security Cutter (Heavy Polar Icebreaker or HPIB), from the summary of subject matter

The Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate is conducting a tailored technical readiness assessment to update the HPIB cost estimate with an estimated completion of June 30, 2019.

The Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate will update the program schedule within three months of the Detail Design and Construction contract award and before awarding construction, as appropriate, with an estimated completion date of September 30, 2019.

The Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate is conducting a tailored technical readiness assessment to analyze and determine schedule risks with an estimated completion of June 30, 2019.

Since presumably much of this work would be done by civilian acquisitions specialist, it is likely the work is falling behind because of the government shut down

Shift in Security Environment; New National Defense Strategy

A Maritime Strategy has not been issued. If it had it would likely need an update given that both the Administration and Geopolitical situation have changed.

Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2018 (MCRS-18)

 DOD states that it started the study, which it refers to as the Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2018 (MCRS-18), on March 8, 2018, and that it is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2018…A September 25, 2017, press report about MCRS-18 states that “Since the early 1990s, Pentagon mobility studies have consistently identified a requirement for about 20 million square feet of roll-on/roll-off capacity to quickly transport material in support of a contingency.” Mobility studies conducted from the 1990s until recently, however, were all done in the post-Cold War era, when U.S. military force planning focused to a large degree on potential crises and conflicts against regional military powers such as Iran and North Korea. Given the recent shift from the post-Cold War era to the new era of renewed great power competition and the resulting formal shift in U.S. military force planning toward a primary emphasis on potential challenges posed by China and Russia, it is not clear that MCRS-18 will leave the figure of 20 million square feet of roll-on/roll-off capacity unchanged. A change in this figure could have implications for the content of a new national maritime strategy.

We have seen no indication of movement on these documents.

Potential Shortfall of Navy Escorts and Possible Impacts on Mariners

 GAO notes MARAD’s September 2017 estimate of a potential shortage of U.S.-citizen mariners available to crew U.S.-owned reserve sealift ships during a crisis or conflict. The challenge of finding adequate numbers of appropriately trained mariners to crew DOD sealift ships in time of crisis or conflict is a longstanding issue, dating back at least to 1990, when mariners in their 50s, 60s, and 70s (and one aged 81), some brought out of retirement, were reportedly needed to help fill out the crews of DOD sealift ships that were activated for Operation Desert Shield (the initial phase of the U.S. reaction to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait). Problems in filling out ship crews reportedly contributed to delays in activating some RRF sealift ships to participate in the operation.  A potential shortage of U.S.-citizen mariners for manning DOD sealift ships in wartime has been a recurring matter of concern since then.

“Was I to die this moment, ‘Want of Frigates’ would be found stamped on my heart.”, Lord Nelson to Earl Spencer, 9 August 1798

Section 1072 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810/P.L. 11591 of December 12, 2017) requires the Navy to submit a report on its plans for defending combat logistics and strategic mobility forces—meaning Navy underway replenishment ships, RRF sealift ships, and MSC surge sealift ships—against potential wartime threats. The report is to include, among other things, a “description of the combat logistics and strategic mobility forces capacity, including additional combat logistics and strategic mobility forces, that may be required due to losses from attacks,” an “assessment of the ability and availability of United States naval forces to defend combat logistics and strategic mobility forces from the threats,” and a “description of specific capability gaps or risk areas in the ability or availability of United States naval forces to defend combat logistics and strategic mobility forces from the threats….”

This was brought sharply into focus in a surprisingly frank article in Defense News, dated October 10, 2018, “‘You’re On Your Own’: US Sealift Can’t Count on Navy Escorts in the Next Big War,”

My earlier post talks about what the Coast Guard could do to mitigate this shortfall, but the most significant step would be to bring back the Coast Guard ASW mission. Equipping eleven NSCs and 25 OPCs with ASW systems could make a huge difference.