“Marines Fuel Coast Guard Mission”–Military.com

“U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Robert Parkes, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron (VMM) 774 V-22 crew chief, poses in front of a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City HH-65 Dolphin on Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City, N.J., June 14, 2018. The Marines conducted a forward air-refueling point for the first time – refueling an HH-65 with a VMM-774 V-22 Osprey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Ariel Owings)”

Military.com has a report of an exercise in which a Marine V-22 refueled a CG H-65 on the ground.

My first reaction, is that this is a good exercise for the Marines, but I had a hard time imagining how the Coast Guard might use this capability. There were times when we had to call on the Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service to fly very long missions out to sea because Coast Guard helicopters did not have an aerial refueling capability, but this would not help us in those cases. On the other hand this might be useful in the Arctic where fuel stops can be few and far between. There aren’t many Marine assets in Alaska, but the Air Force might have a similar capability.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Bollinger Wants to Build CG Icebreakers in Tampa

MarineLink provides what is almost certainly a quote of press release from Bollinger stating they hope to build the three heavy and three medium icebreakers the Coast Guard has been saying it needs in Tampa. They are reminding every one (hay, you guys in Congress) how many jobs this could mean for Florida.

This cannot hurt our case for building more than one icebreaker.

The nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika in the Kara Sea. RIA Novosti archive, image #186141. Also keep reminding them how many icebreakers the Russians have and that the Chinese have one, are building one, and are planning a nuclear icebreaker. 

 

Maritime Transportation in the Arctic: The U.S. Role–House Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure

Above you will find a video of a hearing held on June 7, 2018 regarding “Transportation in the Arctic”. You will find the subcommittee web page here. It includes the video, the list of witnesses which I have reproduced below, and the Chairman’s opening remarks.

The video does not actually start until time 21:45.

Witnesses:

  • Admiral Charles W. Ray, Vice Commandant United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Mr. David Kennedy, Senior Arctic Advisor, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Heather A. Conley, Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic, Center for Strategic and International Studies | Written Testimony
  • Dr. Lawson Brigham, Faculty and Distinguished Fellow, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Molly McCammon, Executive Director, Alaska Ocean Observing System | Written Testimony
  • Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Ret.), Professor of Practice, Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University | Written Testimony

 

As you may see, the new Vice Commandant, Adm. Ray is the first witness. He completes his prepared remarks at time 32:30.

Incidentally one of the Witnesses Lawson Brigham (prepared testimony begins at time 44:00 to 48:25) is a retired Coast Guard captain with extensive polar icebreaker experience.

Questioning begins at time 1:00:00 with the “trick question” explored further by the Washington Examiner Magazine, “The Next ‘Cold’ War: America May Be Missing the Boat in the Arctic.”

There are few surprises here. There is almost no infrastructure in the Arctic. Apparently there is a slow effort to provide better domain awareness. Only about 5% of the American Arctic waters are charted to international standards.

The most significant thing to come out in the hearing was that there is no National or Naval strategy for the Arctic Ocean. (This might be because NORTHCOM, which is air and ground oriented, has responsibility for the Arctic Ocean area.) Congress has added a requirement for development of an Arctic Strategy in the FY2019 DOD budget, and they certainly expect the Coast Guard to have a large role in the strategy.

If you don’t listen to anything else, particularly listen to John Garamendi’s remarks 1:41:30 to 1:43:30.

 

 

Norway’s Coast Guard Challenges in the Arctic

Location of Svalbard, Norway. Prepared by
TUBS

DefenseNews has an excellent article on the challenges facing the Norwegian Coast Guard around the islands of Svalbard.

You thought the USCG was small. They have less than 400 people but operate nine ocean going ships as well as inshore patrol vessels. They are part of the Norwegian Navy and have no aircraft of their own, so they don’t have the same range of responsibilities, but by any measure, they are a small force.

Global warming has increased access for fisheries and tourism. Traffic is increasing around the island of Svalbard and they are unable to meet the demanding new conditions.

We are likely to face similar problems in the American Arctic EEZ. How far is it from the nearest Coast Guard Air Station (Kodiak) to the Bering Strait? (677 nautical miles). To Barrow (822 n.mi).

How many ships do we expect to keep north of the Bering Strait? Would be surprised if it more than one.

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Program: Background and Issues for Congress–23 May, 2018

USCGC Polar Sea

The latest edition of the Congressional Research Service report on Coast Guard Polar Icebreakers, by Ronald O’Rourke, was published on 23 May, 2018. You can see it here. 

I have reproduced the summary immediately below.  

The Coast Guard polar icebreaker program is a program to acquire three new heavy polar icebreakers, to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new medium polar icebreakers. The Coast Guard wants to begin construction of the first new heavy polar icebreaker in FY2019 and have it enter service in 2023. The polar icebreaker program has received about $359.6 million in acquisition funding through FY2018, including $300 million provided through the Navy’s shipbuilding account and $59.6 million provided through the Coast Guard’s acquisition account. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $750 million in Coast Guard acquisition funding for the program.

The acquisition cost of a new heavy polar icebreaker had earlier been estimated informally at roughly $1 billion, but the Coast Guard and Navy now believe that three heavy polar icebreakers could be acquired for a total cost of about $2.1 billion, or an average of about $700 million per ship. The first ship will cost more than the other two because it will incorporate design costs for the class and be at the start of the production learning curve for the class. An April 13, 2018, Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the polar icebreaker program states that the Coast Guard has reduced its estimated cost for the first heavy polar icebreaker to less than $900 million, which would imply an average cost of something more than $600 million each for the second and third icebreakers. When combined with the program’s $359.6 million in prior-year funding, the $750 million requested for FY2019 would fully fund the procurement of the first new heavy polar icebreaker and partially fund the procurement of the second.

The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, Healy. In addition to Polar Star, the Coast Guard has a second heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Sea. Polar Sea, however, suffered an engine casualty in June 2010 and has been nonoperational since then. Polar Star and Polar Sea entered service in 1976 and 1978, respectively, and are now well beyond their originally intended 30-year service lives. The Coast Guard has used Polar Sea as a source of spare parts for keeping Polar Star operational.

A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Mission Need Statement (MNS) approved in June 2013 states that “current requirements and future projections … indicate the Coast Guard will need to expand its icebreaking capacity, potentially requiring a fleet of up to six icebreakers (3 heavy and 3 medium) to adequately meet mission demands in the high latitudes….”

The current condition of the U.S. polar icebreaker fleet, the DHS MNS, and concerns among some observers about whether the United States is adequately investing in capabilities to carry out its responsibilities and defend its interests in the Arctic, have focused policymaker attention on the question of whether and when to acquire one or more new heavy polar icebreakers as replacements for Polar Star and Polar Sea.

On March 2, 2018, the U.S. Navy, in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard under the polar icebreaker integrated program office, released a request for proposal (RFP) for the advance procurement and detail design for the Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker, with options for detail design and construction for up to three heavy polar icebreakers.

Issues for Congress for FY2019 for the polar icebreaker program include, inter alia, whether to approve, reject, or modify the Coast Guard’s FY2019 acquisition funding request; whether to use a contract with options or a block buy contract to acquire the ships; whether to continue providing at least some of the acquisition funding for the polar icebreaker program through the Navy’s shipbuilding account; and whether to procure heavy and medium polar icebreakers to a common basic design.

Russia to Have Floating Nuclear Power Plant Near Alaska

CORRECTION: The MarineLink report this was based on, and the virtually identical report at gCaptain, is misleading. The town, Pevek, population less than 5,000, is not “across the Bering Strait from Alaska.” It is on the North coast of Siberia. The entire region, Chukotka, has a population of about 50,000. The Russian town on Bering Strait is Uelen, population about 720. 

An interesting note from MarineLink. The Russians are deploying a floating nuclear power plant to a small community, the town of Pevek, on their side of the Bering Strait, 53 miles  (86 km) from Alaska.

Greenpeace is concerned.

“Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, said in a statement last month.