A Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel operates alongside U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 29, during Digital Horizon 2022. (Sgt. Brandon Murphy/US Army)
“We have done a lot of work with AI previously, and we’ve done computer vision, we’ve done anomalous behavior detection, we’ve done AI-enabled [command and control], but we’ve done all of those separately,” the commodore explained. “At Digital Horizon, for the first time ever, we did that together on a single stack, and that’s all integrated on a single pane of glass.”
There is also confirmation here that a similar effort will be going into 4th Fleet (Latin American/Caribbean Waters); that it will involve partner nations; and that it will look at IUU fishing as well as drug interdiction.
Fortunately, it looks like Coast Guard personnel and assets have been intimately involved in this effort and it looks like it will benefit our Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) efforts.
(Will the Coast Guard’s next class of ships be USV tenders?)
USCGC Frederick Hatch (WPC-1143) click on the photo for a larger version of photo.
After the recent look at a Webber class cutter bound for Bahrain, I thought I’d publish a photo of the latest FRC, Frederick Hatch (WPC-1143), provided by Bollinger. There is a lot of stuff on the mast I don’t recognize.
The Next four FRCs off the line, Glenn Harris (WPC-1144), Emlen Tunnell (1145), John Scheuerman (1146), and Clarence Sutphin (1147) will all be going to Bahrain to replace the 110 foot cutters of PATFORSWA, two in Fall 2021 and the last two in 2022. Generally Bollinger has been delivering five Webber class per year, so all four these should be delivered by the end of calendar 2021.
Coast Guard news release here:
Imagery Available: Coast Guard accepts Guam’s third fast response cutter
U.S. Coast Guard sent this bulletin at 02/10/2021 07:38 PM EST
Coast Guard accepts Guam’s third fast response cutter
Editors’ Note: Click on images to download a high-resolution version.
SANTA RITA, Guam —The Coast Guard accepted delivery of its newest Sentinel-class fast response cutter (FRC), the Coast Guard Cutter Frederick Hatch (WPC 1143), from Bollinger Shipyards in Key West, FL, Thursday. Frederick Hatch is scheduled to be the third FRC stationed in Guam and will arrive in Santa Rita during the summer. The cutter was placed in commission, special status, and will remain in Florida while the crew completes pre-commissioning trials and maintenance. “The fast response cutters in the Pacific are a game changer for the Coast Guard,” said Cmdr. Josh Empen, deputy sector commander, Coast Guard Sector Guam. “Frederick Hatch will be the third fast response cutter in Guam, joining the Coast Guard Cutters Myrtle Hazard (WPC-1139) and Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) who have already saved mariners in distress at sea, intercepted narcotics, and boarded several vessels to deter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in Oceania. These cutters are conducting longer missions over greater distances than the older patrol boats they are replacing.” Replacing the older 110-foot Island-class patrol boats formerly stationed in Guam, the Frederick Hatch represents the Coast Guard’s commitment to modernizing the service’s cutter fleet. FRCs boast a wide array of improvements over its predecessors including advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems designed to assist the cutter’s crew with their primary mission to patrol coastal regions. These advanced capabilities greatly improve the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct missions ranging from Search and Rescue to national defense within Guam’s waters while also contributing to joint operations between the United States and its regional partners as they work towards common goals such as the preservation of Pacific fish stocks. “All of our accomplishments to date are due to the tremendous amount of hard work our crew has put in to this process,” said the Lt. Craig Rooke, the Frederick Hatch’s commanding officer. “They continue to amaze me everyday with their great attitude and their tremendous effort that they have been putting into the pre-commission process. I know Frederick Hatch would be proud.” In keeping with the tradition of naming new FRCs after Coast Guard enlisted heroes, the cutter is named in honor of Frederick Hatch, a two time recipient of the Gold Lifesaving Medal. Hatch was awarded his first medal in 1884 while he was a surfman at the Cleveland Life-Saving Station for rescuing the crew of the schooner Sophia Minch during an October gale. During the rescue, Hatch volunteered to attempt to reach two men caught in the aft rigging of the vessel. At great risk to his own life he reached the two men and was able to bring them safely to shore. Later Hatch transferred to the Lighthouse Service where once again he received the Gold Lifesaving Medal for his selfless act of courage as he rescued those on board the schooner Wahnapitae which grounded near the Cleveland Breakwater lighthouse in 1890. Both the Lighthouse Service and the Life-Saving Service would later make up what we now know as the Coast Guard. With the addition of Frederick Hatch’s 24-person crew there will be over 70 new Coast Guard FRC members stationed on Guam along with a projected 100 dependents and family members. Before the FRCs arrival, the Coast Guard presence on Guam was composed of approximately 250 active duty personnel and 40 reservists.
USCG Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA
Global Security reports that the US is attempting to build a coalition to escort merchant ships through the Straits of Hormuz.
We would almost have to assume that the WPBs of PATFORSWA would be involved.
It would not be surprising to see the Coast Guard contribute up to six already commissioned Webber class WPCs in the near future. These could ultimately replace the current 110s stationed in Bahrain rather than waiting for FRCs specifically procured to replace the PATFORSWA WPBs, but for the duration of escort mission, they would augment them.
I would like to see some modifications done to these vessels before they go, but it is a question of urgency.
The Webber class could make the trip on their own bottoms if needed, especially if escorted by an National Security Cutter.
Note the video does not really start until approximately time (17m08s).
This is going to be a hodgepodge, but it is all about the 2019 budget. There is a video above. There will be my own observations on the video. There will be a brief outline of the Procurement, Construction, and Improvement (formerly AC&I) portion of the budget copied from the “Summary of Subject Matter.” At the tail end I have reproduced the Commandant’s prepared statement that was presented at the hearing
Above is a video of a 14 March, 2018, House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee. The commandant testified as well as Master Chief Steven W. Cantrell, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, United States Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, USN, Ret., Administrator, Maritime Administration, and The Honorable Michael A. Khouri, Acting Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission
You can find more information including all the prepared statements and the subcommittee chairman’s opening remarks here.
This subcommittee has been highly supportive of the Coast Guard, and we see the same in this hearing. The chairman, Duncan Hunter (R, CA), (17m30s) expressed his opinion that the Coast Guard was not fairing well under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He also noted the apparent obstruction of measures of effectiveness by DHS.
Ranking member, John Garamendi (D, CA), (22m) noted that there had been a welcomed significant bump in Coast Guard funding, but questioned if this would continue or would it prove an anomaly. He noted that attempting to stop drug trafficking would be better served by putting more money into the Coast Guard than by building a border wall.
(33m30s) MCPO Cantrell addressed quality of life concerns.
(55m30) Ranking member Garamendi noted the addition of $720M added to the budget for Heavy Polar Icebreaker(s) (HPIB) in addition to $30M already in the budget, and stated that he saw this as money for the second icebreaker because the DOD was not relieved of their obligation to fund a HPIB.
(1h03m) Commandant expressed his confidence in the helicopter life extension programs expected to keep them in operation until 2033 when the Coast Guard would be able to join in the Army lead Future Vertical Lift program. He suggested that a single helicopter type might be able to replace both the MH-65 and MH-60s.
(1h07m) Commandant answering a question about AMIO in the Caribbean noted that the Webber class Fast Response Cutters (FRC) we working well in this role, but there is a shortage of ISR assets that he believed might be addressed by land based unmanned air systems (UAS).
(1h17m) In answer to a question about replacement of the Island Class six 110 foot Island class cutters currently assigned to CENTCOM as PATFORSWA, the Commandant, noting the 110s would time out in 2022, said this has been discussed at the highest levels with the Navy and there was a possibility that Webber class replacements could be funded by the Navy. Interestingly, he also noted that the Navy’s Cyclone class patrol craft would time out in 2023 suggesting to me perhaps he believes the Navy is considering a version of the Webber class.
(1h39m) Concern was expressed that while the Commandant has consistently expressed a need for $2B annual in the AC&I account (now PC&I) and $1.8B was provided in FY2018 and $1.9B in FY2019, that the current projection is only $1.4B in FY2020.
There is also a note on a change in accounting procedure.
In FY 2019, the Coast Guard will transition to the DHS Common Appropriations Structure (CAS). Accordingly, activities funded through the previous Operating Expenses, Reserve Training, Environmental Compliance and Restoration, and Medicare Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund Contribution are included as part of the new Operations and Support (O&S) account. In addition, acquisition personnel costs previously funded through the Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements account ($118.2m in the FY2018 budget request–Chuck) are included as part of the O&S account. The Acquisition, Construction, and Improvements account transitions into the Procurement, Construction, and Improvements account and the Research, Development, Test and Evaluation account becomes the new Research and Development account.
Below is the summary information on the PC&I section that replaces the AC&I portion of the budget.
Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (previously Acquisitions, Construction, and Improvements)The President requests $1.89 billion for the Procurement, Construction, and Improvements (PC&I) account, a $516.7 million (or 37.7 percent) increase over the FY 2017 enacted level. The PC&I account funds the acquisition, procurement, construction, rebuilding, and physical improvements of Coast Guard owned and operated vessels, aircraft, facilities, aids-to-navigation, communications and information technology systems, and related equipment.The FY 2019 budget request includes $1.76 billion for the acquisition of aircraft, vessels, and the continued build-out of Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems. This represents an increase of $597.1 million (or 51.7 percent) from the FY 2017 enacted level. The budget request includes:$30 million for the construction of a Heavy Polar Icebreaker. The FY 2019 Budget Addendum included an additional $720 million, for a total of $750 million;
$65 million to conduct Post Delivery Activities on National Security Cutters (NSC) 7 through 9;
$240 million for the production of four Fast Response Cutters (FRC);
$400 million for the construction of the second Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and to facilitate evaluation of the Long Lead Time Materials for OPC 3. The OPCs will replace the Service’s aging 210-foot and 270foot Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC);
$80 million to fund the requirement to establish logistics for 14 newly acquired HC-27J aircraft. The request funds HC-27J Asset Project Office activities, logistics, training, and engineering studies to assess and resolve aircraft obsolescence issues;
$20 million for the continued modernization and sustainment of the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter fleet;
$23.3 million for C4ISR design, development, and integration; and
No funding for the Alteration of Bridges program in FY 2019. The program did not receive funding in FY 2017 or FY 2016. Established by the Truman-Hobbs Act of 1940 (33 U.S.C. 511 et. seq.), the Alteration of Bridges program authorizes the Coast Guard to share with a bridge’s owner the cost of altering or removing privately or publicly owned railroad and highway bridges that are determined by the Service to obstruct marine navigation.
The budget requests $135 million to construct or renovate shore facilities and aids-to-navigation. This request is a $35.5 million (or 26.3 percent) increase over the FY 2017 enacted level. The Coast Guard currently has a backlog of 95 prioritized shore facility improvement projects with an estimated combined cost of over $1.5 billion
THE COMMANDANT’S PREPARED TESTIMONY
Below you will find “TESTIMONY OF ADMIRAL PAUL F. ZUKUNFT COMMANDANT, U.S. COAST GUARD ON “THE COAST GUARD’S FISCAL YEAR 2019 BUDGET REQUEST” BEFORE THE HOUSE COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE” which I have copied in full.
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Committee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify today. Thank you for your enduring support of the United States Coast Guard, particularly the significant investments provided in the FY 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act, recent Hurricane Supplemental, and ongoing deliberations to support our FY 2018 and FY 2019 President’s Budget requests.
As the world’s premier, multi-mission, maritime service, the Coast Guard offers a unique and enduring value to the Nation. The only branch of the U.S. Armed Forces within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a federal law enforcement agency, a regulatory body, a first responder, and a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community – the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to help secure the maritime border, combat transnational criminal organizations (TCO), and safeguard commerce on America’s waterways.
The Coast Guard’s combination of broad authorities and complementary capabilities squarely aligns with the President’s national security and economic prosperity priorities; furthermore, it offers an agile toolset to address the Nation’s most pressing challenges. Appropriately positioned in DHS, the Coast Guard is a military service and a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States at all times.1 We are also an important part of the modern Joint Force2 and currently have forces assigned to each of the five geographic Combatant Commanders, as well as Cyber Command.
As demonstrated in the 2017 record hurricane season, the Coast Guard is the Nation’s “maritime first responder” and plays a leading role in executing the National Response Plan (NRP) for disaster situations. Our ability to rapidly surge in response to emerging threats or contingencies are critical to success across the spectrum of missions we prosecute.
We live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world. Rapid technological advancement, increasing globalization, and intensifying threats from state and nonstate actors alike challenge international norms and threaten global governance.
To ensure we meet the demands of today while preparing for tomorrow, the Coast Guard is guided by a five-year Strategic Intent and suite of regional and functional strategies that drive our Service’s operations and investments.
These strategic efforts are informed by the National Security Strategy and applicable DHS strategies, and are coordinated to augment Department of Defense (DoD) priorities. Using these strategies as guideposts, leveraging the intelligence community, and employing a risk-based approach to focus our limited resources allows us to address maritime threats with the greatest precision and effect.
Fueled by the Service’s unique authorities and capabilities, our Western Hemisphere Strategy continues to yield large-scale successes in our counter-drug mission. The Coast Guard’s persistent offshore presence and associated interdiction efforts sever the supply lines of criminal networks where they are most vulnerable—at sea. Leveraging over 30 multilateral and bilateral agreements with a host of government organizations, the Coast Guard’s long-term counter-TCO efforts promote stability and strengthen the rule of law throughout these regions. Working with interagency partners, the Coast Guard seized 223 metric tons of cocaine and detained and transferred 606 smugglers for criminal prosecution in FY 2017. Highlighting our record-breaking mission performance for drug interdiction was the STRATTON’s offload of over 50,000 pounds of illicit narcotics, with an estimated street value of over $6.1 billion. This was a result of collaborative efforts between four U.S. Coast Guard cutters, DHS maritime patrol aircraft, and a U.S. Navy ship in over 25 separate interdictions. Beyond the important task of removing cocaine from the illicit system that gets it to U.S. streets, prosecuting smugglers facilitates deeper understanding of TCOs and ultimately helps our unified efforts to dismantle them.
Without question, National Security Cutters (NSC) have been a game-changer not only for our drug interdiction and counter-TCO operations in the southern maritime transit zone, but also in contributing to other national security priorities, such as supporting DoD Combatant Commander requirements across the globe and projecting sovereign rights in the Arctic.
Looking forward, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) will provide the tools to more effectively enforce Federal laws, secure our maritime borders, disrupt TCOs, and respond to 21st century threats. Continued progress on this acquisition is absolutely vital to recapitalizing our aging fleet of Medium Endurance Cutters (MECs), some of which will be over 55 years old when the first OPC is delivered in 2021. In concert with the extended range and capability of the NSC and the enhanced coastal patrol capability of the Fast Response Cutter (FRC), OPCs will be the backbone of the Coast Guard’s strategy to project and maintain offshore presence.
As one of the five Armed Forces, the Coast Guard deploys world-wide to execute our statutory Defense Operations mission in support of national security priorities. On any given day, 11 cutters, two maritime patrol aircraft, five helicopters, two specialized boarding teams, and an entire Port Security Unit are supporting DoD Combatant Commanders on all seven continents. In the Middle East, our squadron of six patrol boats continues to police the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf in close cooperation with the U.S. Navy, promoting regional peace and stability. Likewise, as one of the principal Federal agencies performing detection and monitoring in the southern maritime transit zone, the Coast Guard provides more than 4,000 hours of maritime patrol aircraft support and 2,000 major cutter days to DoD’s Southern Command each year.
In the high latitudes, the Arctic region is becoming increasingly accessible at a time when global interests in energy, clean water, and subsistence continue to intensify. The Coast Guard is committed to the safety, security, and environmental stewardship of the Arctic, and we will remain closely engaged with our partners, including Russia, via the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. By focusing on collaboration over conflict, we are promoting governance and building a shared approach to prevention and response challenges in the region.
Meanwhile, the 42-year old POLAR STAR recently completed another Operation DEEP FREEZE patrol in Antarctica. Just one major casualty away from leaving the Nation without any heavy icebreaking capability, POLAR STAR supported U.S. strategic interests and the National Science Foundation by breaking a navigable shipping lane to deliver fuel and critical supplies to the U.S. base at McMurdo Sound.
I appreciate your support for the $150 million appropriated in Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy (SCN) funding in the FY 2017 Omnibus. This is a great step forward to secure our future in the Polar Regions and finally recapitalize the Nation’s icebreaker fleet. This funding coupled with the $750 million in the FY 2019 President’s Budget, would enable the Coast Guard to award a contract for detail design and construction and deliver the first new heavy polar icebreaker in 2023. These critical investments reflect our interests and standing as an Arctic Nation and affirm the Coast Guard’s role in providing assured access to the Polar Regions.
At the same time the Service was conducting counter-drug missions in the Eastern Pacific and projecting sovereign rights in the Arctic, the Coast Guard also launched one of the largest responses in history during a historic 2017 hurricane season. Over a five week period, Hurricanes HARVEY, IRMA, MARIA, and NATE impacted over 2,540 miles of shoreline3, and Coast Guard men and women in helicopters, boats, cutters, vehicles and on foot rescued over 11,300 people and over 1,500 pets.
During our 2017 hurricane response, the Coast Guard resolved over 1,269 aids to navigation discrepancies, handled 290 pollution cases, located and assessed more than 3,623 grounded vessels, with more than 1,585 removed to date. Within hours after each storm’s passage, Coast Guard damage and recovery assessment teams were on-scene determining the status of ports and waterways, leveraging electronic aids to navigation when feasible to facilitate the rapid reopening of key ports and waterways, and assessing impacts to Coast Guard facilities and capabilities. This enabled a vital portion of the country’s waterways to reopen, helping maintain our Maritime Transportation System (MTS) which contributes $4.6 trillion annually to our Gross Domestic Product.
The daily activities of Coast Guard men and women are heroic, as they support nearly every facet of the Nation’s maritime interests, protect our homeland, and secure our economic prosperity. In addition to the hurricane responses, the Coast Guard prosecuted over 16,000 search-and-rescue cases and saved more than 4,200 lives; interdicted more than 2,500 undocumented migrants; completed over 9,100 Safety of Life at Sea safety exams on foreign vessels; and responded to over 12,200 reports of pollution incidents.
Beyond operations, we earned our fifth consecutive clean financial audit opinion – the only Armed Service that can make such a claim. Further, our major acquisition programs and product lines are delivering new assets on schedule and on budget that have proven to meet our operational requirements. To better guide our modernization, we developed a Long Term Major Acquisitions Plan (LTMAP), a roadmap to field modern platforms to address 21st century threats. We have been working with the Administration to finalize the details of the LTMAP and are committed to delivering this report to Congress as soon as possible.
Our greatest strength is undoubtedly our people. Coast Guard operations require a resilient, capable workforce that draws upon the broad range of skills, talents, and experiences found in the American population. In FY 2019, the Coast Guard will maintain a proficient, diverse, and adaptable workforce that responds effectively to changing technology, an increasingly complex operating environment, and dynamic partnerships. Together, modern platforms and a strong, resilient workforce will maximize the Coast Guard’s capacity to meet future challenges.
History has proven that a responsive, capable, and agile Coast Guard is an indispensable instrument of national security. Funding 21st century Coast Guard platforms and people are especially prudent investments given today’s challenging fiscal environment. I firmly believe no other investment will return more operational value on every dollar than the extraordinary men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard—which includes 48,000 Active Duty and Reserve members, 8,500 civilians, and over 27,000 volunteer members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. As illustrated by our sustained response to an historic hurricane season, another record year removing illicit narcotics from the maritime approaches, and unique support to Combatant Commanders around the globe; our ability to rapidly surge resources to emerging threats continues yield unprecedented results for the Nation.
With the continued support of the Administration and Congress, the Coast Guard will continue to live up to our motto – Semper Paratus – Always Ready. Thank you for all you do for the men and women of the Coast Guard.
USCGC Maui (WPB-1304) exercised with USS “Vella Gulf” (CG-72), a cruiser, USS “Squall“ (PC-7) and USS “Thunderbolt“ (PC-12), both U.S. Navy Cyclone-class patrol (coastal) ships, a US Army Logistics Support Vessel, the Iraqi Navy, and the Kuwaiti Navy and Coast Guard.
Photo: The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak passes by one of the numerous cargo dhows that travel along the Iraqi river coast. The Coast Guard has deployed four 110-foot patrol boats to the region to support U.S. Navy 5th Fleet and coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Maritime Interception Operations to stop illegal oil smuggling and to search for terrorists. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Belson.
DefenseNews reports the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been staging a series of provacative incidents in close proximity to US Navy units including US patrol coastal ships Tempest and Squall patrolling in international waters in the northern Gulf.
We have a statement for the record (pdf) from James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, dated February 9, 2016. Perhaps it is the nature of the beast, but there is no good news, and much that is bad.
Smuggling of every type appears to be on the rise including drugs and people. We can expect an increase in illegal immigration as a result of violence, poverty, and disorder in Latin America and particularly Cuba and Central America.
It is a relatively compact document. There are sections on Terrorism (pp 4-6), transnational organized crime (pp 11-12), Arctic (p 13), Environmental Risks and Climate Change (pp 13-14), health (including potential pandemics) (pp 14-15), and Global Displacement, “These 60 million consist of approximately 20 million refugees, 38 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and approximately 2 million stateless persons, also according to UNHCR statistics.” (p.15)
There are also regional assessments including one on Latin America and the Caribbean (pp 28-29).
There is no regional assessment for the US. In terms of direct terrorist threats to the US, while there is a recognition of an aspiration on the part of various groups to attack the US, but the emphasis seems to be on “homegrown violent extremists” (HVEs) and there is nothing about the possibility of a maritime attack on the US. Is that because none exist?
NavalToday reports the Saudis are having 15 patrol boats built in Germany by boat builder Lürssen, famous for building missile and torpedo boats.
“German naval shipyard Lürssen has started construction of the 15 patrol vessels for Saudi Arabia under the €1.5 billion (approx $1.63b) contract despite of talks (sic) about cancelling the deal amidst the Middle Eastern country’s public executions early January 2016.”
That is about $109M each for craft of 35 and 38 meters. Our Webber class are 47 meters in length and cost typically $60M. Maybe not a bad deal.
Incidentally, these do not appear to be the 20 to 24 patrol boats 40 to 45 meters in length, discussed earlier as part of the Saudi Naval Modernization.
DOD Photo. Ships of the Saudi Arabian Navy are docked at the base PORT JUBAIL
Below is a post I prepared for CIMSEC. It began at Lyle’s suggestion several months ago, to be published here, considering if perhaps some of the new Coast Guard assets, the National Security Cutter, the Offshore Patrol Cutter, or the Fast Response Cutter might serve as the basis for something the Saudis would buy. It seems clear now that will probably not be the case. The Saudi’s have a very different set of priorities than those that shaped the Coast Guard’s specifications. Distances are relatively short. The likely enemy, Iran, is close at hand, and primarily uses small vessels with limited seakeeping so even moderately good seakeeping is better than that of the apparent enemy. .
The Royal Saudi Navy is planning to replace virtually all of its Eastern Fleet. The expected price tag has been variously reported as between $11.25 and $20B. One of Saudi Arabia’s two fleets, the Eastern Fleet is based in the Persian Gulf and faces off squarely against Iran’s Navy and Revolutionary Guard Corp. The Western Fleet is based in the Red Sea and includes seven French built frigates.
The existing Eastern fleet, all American built, includes four 75 meter (246 foot), 1,038 ton corvettes and nine 58 meter (190 feet), 495 ton guided missile boats. All are nearing the end of their useful lives, having entered service in the early ’80s.
In February Defense News reported that Saudi Arabia had sent a letter of request to the US Navy that outlined the entire program. It specified:
Four 3,500-ton “frigate-like warships” capable of anti-air warfare, armed with an eight-to-16-cell vertical launch system (VLS) capable of launching Standard SM-2 missiles; fitted with an “Aegis or like” combat system using “SPY-1F or similar” radars; able to operate Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters; with a speed of 35 knots.
Six 2,500-ton warships with combat systems compatible with the frigates, able to operate MH-60R helos.
20 to 24 fast patrol vessels about 40 to 45 meters long, powered by twin diesels.
10 “maritime helicopters” with characteristics identical to the MH-60R.
Three maritime patrol aircraft for coastal surveillance.
30 to 50 UAVs, some for maritime use, some to be shore-based.
This shopping list sounds remarkably specific. This suggest that they already have a good idea what they expect to buy.
Four 3,500-ton “frigate-like warships”
Plans have firmed up for the four frigates. While they will not have the Aegis like radars they will have a, “…16-cell (Mk41) VLS installation able to launch Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, and will carry Harpoon Block II surface-to-surface missiles in dedicated launchers, and anti-air Rolling Airframe Missiles in a SeaRAM close-in weapon system. The MMSC will also mount a 76mm gun… a Lockheed Martin COMBATSS-21 combat management system, which shares some commonality with the much larger Aegis combat system, and feature the Cassidian TRS-4D C-band radar.”
Six 2,500-ton warships with combat systems compatible with the frigates, able to operate MH-60R helos.
The design for the six smaller ships hasn’t been discussed openly, so this is a bit of speculation, but at least I think we can expect something like this. The video below, from Swiftship, recently appeared without much explanation. The similarity in design to the Freedom class is striking and it claims to be a proven hull form. If Marinette Marine is too busy to build these smaller ships in addition to the LCS and the Saudi Frigates, having Swiftships build them might be a way have having them delivered relatively quickly and it looks like it might fit the description. Note there is no mention of an ASW capability for these ships (other than the ability to embark an MH-60R). This parallels the current fleet structure where only the four largest vessels have an ASW capability and the next largest class vessels do not.
Swiftships has a record of selling vessels through “Foreign Military Sales” and the vessel in the video shares a number of systems in common with the projected Saudi frigates including a 76mm gun, RAM missiles, MH-60s, and possibly Harpoon (they show only a generic representation of an ASCM).
20 to 24 fast patrol vessels about 40 to 45 meters long, powered by twin diesels.
A likely choice for the patrol boat is this one, eight of which were sold to Pakistan. Reportedly these 43 meter, 143 foot vessels can make 34 knots and operate a ScanEagle UAS.
Another possibility is this 43.5 meter vessel that was provided to Lebanon under FMS.
Both of these PCs have the capability to stern launch an RHIB.
10 “maritime helicopters” with characteristics identical to the MH-60R.
Included in the buy of the helicopters are, “one-thousand (1,000) AN/SSQ-36/53/62 Sonobuoys; thirty-eight (38) AGM-114R Hellfire II missiles; five (5) AGM-114 M36-E9 Captive Air Training missiles; four (4) AGM-114Q Hellfire Training Missiles; three-hundred eighty (380) Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System rockets; twelve (12) M-240D crew served weapons; and twelve (12) GAU-21 crew served weapons.”
I note that the 380 Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) semi-active laser homing 70mm rockets is exactly the number to fill twenty 19 round launchers. These weapons are probably an ideal counter to the much vaunted Iranian “swarm.”
Three maritime patrol aircraft for coastal surveillance:
These are almost certainly P-8s.
30 to 50 UAVs, some for maritime use, some to be shore-based:
While there is no indication which system is favored. This sounds like too many systems for Firescout.
ScanEagle or one of Insitu’s slightly larger systems seems more likely, and if the Swiftships Offshore Patrol Vessel video is any indication, it includes a ScanEagle launch and recovery.
This will be a major upgrade to the Saudi fleet that should allow them to maintain an advantage relative to the Iranian Fleet.
The ships and patrol boats will be three to five times larger than those they replace and far more survivable.
Fleet air defense systems which have been limited to 76mm guns and Phalanx CIWS will get a basic local area defense in the form of Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, which will be backed up by rolling airframe missiles.
ASW capability will take a quantum leap with the addition of the three Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), the ten MH-60R.
The Eastern fleet was relatively well equipped to target larger surface targets with a total of 68 Harpoon launch tubes on the existing ships, but they were less well equipped to deal with numerous Iranian small craft. MH-60Rs armed with Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System guided rockets should provide an effective counter to Iran’s swarm strategy.
MPA and Unmanned systems will enhance ISR capability.
The larger patrol craft should significantly improve maritime security.
According to my “Combat Fleets of the World,” the Saudi Navy has a Marine Corp of 3,000, but their only Amphibious Warfare ships are four LCUs and two LCMs. The addition of at least 30 ships with RHIBs, assuming the patrol craft have this capability, should allow the Saudi Navy to consider at least small scale raids and other forms of maritime Special Ops. If the six 2500 ton ships are configured like the ship in Swiftships video, with four RHIBs, it would seem particularly appropriate for this role. The addition of ten helicopter decks where there were none before also opens up options for these types of operations.