Philippines Awards Contract for Upgrade of Former WHECs

BRP Andrés Bonifacio (FF-17), the former USCGC Boutwell.

Updates added below

NavyRecognition is reporting that the Philippines has awarded a PHP1.5 billion ($28.6M) contract to a South Korean firm for upgrades to their Del Pilar Class Frigates. These are the former cutters Hamilton, Boutwell, and Dallas.

“The project has an approved budget of PHP1.5 billion which will be sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippine Modernization Trust Fund. The upgrade seeks to enhance the ships’ combat management systems, electronic support and sonar capability to make it capable of operating with incoming and more modern naval assets like the two Jose Rizal-class missile frigates being completed by Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea.”

The AN/SPS-40 air search radar, SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System, 25 mm Mk38 guns, and the Phalanx CIWS were removed before the vessels were transferred to the Philippines.

Presumably in addition to sonar, this upgrade will include torpedo tubes and Korean manufactured torpedoes (Update: apparently not–not included in this contract). The EW system will likely also include countermeasures. An air search capable radar like the Hensoldt TRS-3D Baseline D multi-mode phased array C-band radar being installed on the Jose Rizal-class frigates, to replace the AN/SPS-40 will almost certainly be included (Update: Sea Giraffe multi-role radar had been purchased from the US for this purpose, this is the same radar being purchased for the OPCs). Provision for anti-ship cruise missiles is a possibility, but at this point the full extent of modernization is not clear. I would assume the former WHECs will share some systems with the new frigates. 

“U.S. Coast Guard Eyes Expanded Operations in Western Pacific” –USNI

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL-752) pulls into Lumut Naval Base for a scheduled port visit as part of Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2019. US Navy Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service has a story based on statements by Pacific Area Commander, Vice Adm. Linda Fagan regarding Coast Guard plans for future operations in Western Pacific.

Included is more information about what the Stratton will be doing.

Stratton Participates in Talisman Sabre 2019

Lt. Wes Figaro, a pilot attached to Coast Guard Cutter Stratton, guides a Navy helicopter as it lands on the flight deck of Stratton in the Coral Sea July 11, 2019.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jasmine Mieszala)

Below is a press release regarding USCGC Stratton’s participation in Exercise Tallisman Sabre 2019 hosted by the Australian Navy. This is a large biannual exercise. For the first time, Japan’s newly formed amphibious brigade participated in the amphibious landings as well as two Japanese ships. 

“Exercise Talisman Sabre will involve more than 34,000 personnel from Australia and the United States.

“Forces from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom will be embedded alongside Australian Defence Force personnel, and delegations from India and the Republic of Korea will observe the exercise. Eighteen nations from across the Indo-Pacific region have also been invited to an international visitors program.”

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U.S. Coast Guard story and photos by:
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jasmine Mieszala

The U.S. Coast Guard participated in Talisman Sabre 2019 in July, a bilateral exercise held every two years between the U.S. and Australia, and this year’s exercise marked the first for the Coast Guard since the exercises first began in 2005. TS 19 was designed to train U.S. and Australian forces across high-end, mid-intensity warfighting scenarios and to improve combat training, readiness and interoperability. This exercise illustrated the U.S., Australian alliance and the strength of military-to-military relationships in the eighth iteration of the exercise.

 “We supported 7th Fleet amphibious operations,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Dunlevy, the operations officer aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton. “We were part of an amphibious readiness group that conducted a combined exercise to move Marines and associated equipment ashore in a simulated hostile environment.”

One of the Coast Guard’s primary roles in TS 19 was to serve as a forward screening vessel. As the force moved north, Stratton was sent as an advanced unit to help identify possible landing areas for amphibious operations and to ensure the water north of the force was clear of threats before the force moved in behind Stratton. The crew of Stratton used air and surface assets to conduct searches as part of the forward screen.

“We’re learning about what it means to be a part of this exercise – where we’re falling short, where we have capabilities to add and where we don’t,” said Dunlevy.

Stratton is currently the only Coast Guard cutter that has small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) capabilities permanently attached the ship. The sUAS is capable of flying more than 16 hours, has a maximum speed of 60 knots and can provide real-time data to the ship to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

This capability allows the Coast Guard to provide real-time surveillance to battle staff and exercise planners, and it allows them to explore the skills and expertise the Coast Guard can bring to both exercises and real-world scenarios.

The Stratton is the Coast Guard’s third national security cutter (NSC) and is homeported in Alameda, California. National security cutters are the Coast Guard’s key interoperability platform in the afloat arena. NSCs are capable of executing challenging operations, including supporting maritime homeland security and defense missions, as well as operating in open ocean environments and supporting international partner agencies.

TS 19 included field training exercises, force preparation, logistic activities, amphibious landings, land force maneuvers, urban operations, air operations, maritime operations and special forces activities. The exercise provided an opportunity to conduct operations in a combined joint and interagency environment that increased both countries’ ability to plan and execute contingency responses, from combat missions to humanitarian assistance efforts.

“Talisman Sabre was key to the U.S. and to the Coast Guard because we were able to exercise relationships with our international partners, to conduct training necessary and to help maintain regional security, peace and stability,” said Dunlevy.

Though this is the Coast Guard’s first time participating in Talisman Sabre, the experience and knowledge gained from participating in the exercise is proving to be instrumental.

“We will provide an after-action report detailing how we were employed and how we think we could better add to the exercise next time,” said Dunlevy. “We hope the Coast Guard is invited back for the next Talisman Sabre. This has been a huge win for the Coast Guard.”

“Schultz: Coast Guard Expanding Western Pacific Operations” –USNI

USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750) crew members observe the stars from Bertholf’s flight deck as the cutter and crew patrol the South China Sea on April 21, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

KUALA LUMPUR – The U.S. Coast Guard will increase its presence and deployments to Asia – particularly around Oceania and U.S. Pacific territories – and test out a new operational deployment concept in the region, service head Adm. Karl Schultz told reporters on Thursday.

We have been seeing this happening. The Coast Guard has begun spending more time in and around the Western Pacific, particularly around US Western Pacific territories and Oceania.

The reference to use of a buoy tender as a mothership to support patrol craft operations looks like a test to see how useful the proposed basing of three Webber class cutters in Guam might be.

The Commandant suggested that the tender might partner with Australian, New Zealand, or Japanese vessels as well. He promised,

““In the face of coercive and antagonistic behavior, the United States Coast Guard offers transparent engagement and partnership,…”

There is no reason this should not work, hopefully it will lead to similar multi-unit operations in the Eastern Pacific drug transit areas where the Webber class could augment larger cutters.

“US Builds Global Coalition to Protect Gulf Shipping” –Global Security

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.

 

 

“Khulna delivers Bangladesh Coast Guard patrol boat trio, lays keels of two more” –Baird Maritime

CGS Sonar Bangla moments before being launched on May 23, 2018

Baird Maritime has reported that the Bangladesh Coast Guard has taken delivery of three new cutters.

These are based on the Bangladesh Navy’s Padma-class patrol vessels

They are similar in size to the Webber class Fast Response Cutters. Specs for the Bangladesh vessels are:

  • Displacement: 350 tons
  • Length: 165.35 ft (50.40 m)
  • Beam: 24.61 ft (7.50 m)
  • Draft: 13.45 ft (4.10 m)
  • Speed: 23 knots
  • Endurance: 7 days
  • Crew: 45

Armament for the Coast Guard versions of vessel is two Oerlikon 25mm, while that for the Navy version is two 37mm and two 20mm. They are also reported to be capable of minelaying.

Wikipedia indicates up to 23 of these indigenously produced craft are planned (presumably Navy and Coast Guard).

“What Is the US Coast Guard’s Role in the Indo-Pacific Strategy?” –The Diplomat

The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton passes underneath San Francisco’s Bay Bridge as Stratton and the crew depart on a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, June 12, 2019. Operating under the tactical control of the U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Stratton and crew are scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations in the Western Pacific and to patrol and operate as directed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.The Diplomat reports on rationale for the increasing presence of the US Coast Guard in the Western Pacific. The piece is written by a Philippine Coast Guard Officer and he credits the Japanese with developing the effective use of White Ships to provide influence in this region.