“U.S., Philippine Coast Guards Conduct Joint Search-and-Rescue Exercise” –Seapower

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas (center) and Kalanggaman during an exercise on May 14. U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer John Masson

The Navy League’s Seapower is reporting that USCGC Bertholf is conducting SAR exercises with the Philippine Coast Guard.

“The crew of Bertholf also will participate in other joint events with members of the Philippine coast guard during the ship’s Manila port call. The events include a series of engagements on operational subjects such as damage control and search and rescue as well as sporting and social events. The activities are designed to improve interoperability and strengthen the ties between the two countries.”

North Korean Cargo Vessel Connected to Sanctions Violations Seized by U.S. Government

You may have seen a report that the US had seized a North Korean bulk cargo ship, the M/V Wise Honest (great name for a smuggler?). The first report I saw was from GlobalSecurity.org. It seemed to have left off a lot of details like where was it seized and by whom,

“On or about March 14, 2018, the Wise Honest was loaded with coal in Nampo, North Korea. On or about April 2, 2018, foreign maritime authorities intercepted and detained the Wise Honest. Maritime regulations require vessels like the Wise Honest engaged in international voyages to operate an automatic identification system (“AIS”) capable of providing information about the vessel to other ships and coastal authorities. However, despite its March 2018 voyage from North Korea, the Wise Honest had not broadcast an AIS signal since August 4, 2017.”

The report did mention the Coast Guard.

Mr. Demers and Mr. Berman (Assistant Attorney General for National Security and U.S. Attorney–Chuck) praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI and its New York Field Office, Counterintelligence Division, and thanked the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Office of International Affairs; the United States Coast Guard; and the Department of State for their assistance.

This CourtHouseNews report provides more background. The ship was seized by Indonesian Authorities. and is currently en route American Samoa.

 

“Vietnamese fishing boat sinks during encounter with Indonesian warship” –Baird Maritime

Baird Maritime reports on an incident between Vietnamese and Indonesian fisheries protection vessels that resulted in the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

The Indonesian Corvette, KRI Tjiptadi (381), is a former East German Parchim class corvette like this one. It is about the size of a 210.

The South East Asian countries having disputes about their respective EEZs should really take it to the UN tribunal. The resulting decisions would ensure international recognition of their rights and leave China’s nine dash line claims in the trash bin.

Chinese Are Outbuilding the US in Warships

Respected Naval blogger CdrSalamander has a short post on the US Naval Institute blog warning that “The Pacific Will Pivot With or Without You.” It is really a quick look at a longer Reuters report, “China’s vast fleet Is now tipping the balance in the Pacific.” At the center of the stories is the chart above, showing how fast the Chinese have begun to build. The message is simple.

We are in a naval arms race with the most prolific shipbuilding nation in the world. 

The new reality is that China is building up their navy at a rate about twice as fast as the US, not just in numbers but in overall tonnage. That appears to mean, in about 30 years, the Chinese Navy could be twice as large as that of the US. Hopefully there will continue to be mitigating  factors, but since any conflict is likely to be in the Western Pacific, the Chinese also have an enormous geographical advantage.

It is time for the Coast Guard to step up their game as an armed force, with real arms and actual missions for a major war that the service has planned, practiced, and equipped for.

“US warns China on aggressive acts by fishing boats and coast guard” –Financial Times

The Financial Times is reporting, (Additional reporting here and here.)

“Navy chief (US Navy CNO Admiral John Richardson–Chuck) says Washington will use military rules of engagement to curb provocative behavior”

This is, if anything, overdue. The Chinese Coast Guard and Maritime Militia are effectively arms of the Chinese government in the same way the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is.

The Chinese have been taking advantage of the more ambiguous state of these agencies. They act boldly and if things go well, the Chinese government takes advantage. It things go badly, they can avoid responsibility, particularly with regard to the Militia.

The nations of South East Asia should make a similar stand. The decision to provide a Coast Guard as an agency separate from the Navy is strictly a national prerogative. It does not provide any special status relative to naval vessels. You don’t get a pass just because you are painted white. Similarly fishing vessels employed for aggressive government purposes enjoy no special protection. When they misbehave, they need to face consequence.

Japan Builds More XXLarge CG Cutters

Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel PLH32 Akitsushima. Photo by Kaidai

NavyRecognition is reporting that the Japanese Coast Guard is once again building very large coast guard cutters with the launch of Reimei (PLH 33).

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) recently launched a brand new patrol vessel for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). This vessel is a variant of the Shikishima-class, with two previous vessels built in 1992 and 2013. Two more vessels are also scheduled to be built in the future (emphasis applied–Chuck).

This class is going to be something of an oddity, because it looks like there will be at least 30 years between the commissioning of the first ship and the fifth. In fact the Japanese may be planning to replace the first ship of the class with the fifth (that is only speculation on my part, but the Japanese do not keep there ships nearly as long as the USCG. Referencing my Combat Fleets of the World from 2013, the Japan Coast Guard had no ships older than 35 years).

Before the Chinese built their very large Coast Guard cutters, the two earlier ships of this class, Shikishima (commissioned 1992) and her sister ship, Akitsushima (commissioned 2013), were largest cutters in the world, at 150.0m (492 ft), 9300 ton (full load), twice as large as Bertholf class cutters.

The South Koreans have also built some exceptionally large cutters. None of these ships have particularly large crews. Crews are about the same size or smaller than the crews of the Bertholf class. All seem to be good for about 25 knots and have facilities for two helicopters.

Armament:

The first two Japanese ships don’t have the 76mm guns found on the extremely large Chinese and South Korean cutters, but they are well armed for cutters with four gun mounts on each ship. There does seem to be some variation in the way the Japanese ships are armed–not too surprising considering the first two ships were commissioned 21 years apart, and seven years will separate this third ship from the second of the class.

20mm-76_Gatling_pic

Japanese 20 mm/76 Gatling Gun. Note the camera for remote targeting. JMSDF Photograph.

Just about all Japan Coast Guard cutters have the 20mm Sea Vulcan, which uses the same 20mm guns as those in the Phalanx Close in Weapon System (CIWS) but in a simpler mount. They have a 3000 round per minute rate of fire and a reported effective range of 1,625 yards (1,490 m). The first ships of the class had two mounts forward of the bridge at the O-2 deck level.

The first two ships have two mounts for the Oerlikon 35mm. These guns have a 550 round per minute rate of fire per gun and a reported effective range against surface targets of 8,700 yards (8,000 m). The first ship has two twin mounts, but it appears the second has two simplified single mounts. If the third ship follows typical Japan Coast Guard practice, the larger mounts will continue to be in the 30 to 40mm range. If on the other hand, they mount something larger, it will mark a departure for the JCG, I would assume, in response to the increased militancy of the China Coast Guard.

In the world of Asian Coast Guards, it may simply be that their large size is their primary armament. These nations seem to regularly engage in shoving matches. In at least one case, the China Coast Guard reportedly sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel by ramming.

“Rise of the white hulls: Indo-Pacific coast guards become diplomatic tools” –Stars and Stripes

Japanese built Philippine Coast Guard cutter Malabrigo

 

Stars and Stripes has a brief story on the increased use of Coast Guards in Asia as counters to Chinese actions.

Unfortunately it appears to me that some of the countries there are using a professed need to build up their coast guards as an excuse for not exercises their legitimate rights by using their navies to confront the Chinese when they act unlawfully.