“BOLLINGER SHIPYARDS DELIVERS 41st FAST RESPONSE CUTTER STRENGTHENING DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IN THE ARABIAN GULF” –Bollinger Press Release

USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE

Below I have reproduced a Press Release from Bollinger. Normally I would note the delivery of these vessels by a comment on a previous post, “Webber Class WPC Homeports,” but this is the first Webber class to be going to PATFORSWA. I hope we will see some upgrades to their weapons before they get to Bahrain.


BOLLINGER SHIPYARDS DELIVERS 41st FAST RESPONSE CUTTER STRENGTHENING DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IN THE ARABIAN GULF

FRC is first of six cutters destined for overseas operations in Manama, Bahrain

LOCKPORT, La., — (October 22, 2020)Bollinger Shipyards LLC (“Bollinger”) today delivered the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Florida. This is the 164th vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 41st Fast Response Cutter (“FRC”) delivered under the current program.

The USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE is the first of six FRCs to be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, which will replace the aging 110’ Island Class Patrol Boats, built by Bollinger Shipyards 30 years ago, supporting the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest overseas presence outside the United States.

“Bollinger is proud to continue enhancing and supporting the U.S. Coast Guard’s operational presence around the world by delivering the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE,” said Bollinger President & C.E.O. Ben Bordelon. “It is our top priority to ensure that the brave men and women of the Coast Guard stationed in PATFORSWA have the most state-of-the-art, advanced vessels as they work to build and maintain the necessary regional alliances to ensure maritime security in the region. Building ships for the Coast Guard provides critical assets to bolster our national security and advance America’s interests, both at home and abroad.”

At a PATFORSWA change of command ceremony earlier in the summer, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander Vice Adm. Steven D. Poulin emphasized the importance of the unit, saying, “During these historical times it is important, now more than ever, that we maintain maritime security operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. [PATFORSWA is] pushing forward into the unknown to protect American interests in the region.”

PATFORSWA Commander Capt. Willie L. Carmichael echoed Poulin’s comments, saying PATFORSWA “plays a key role in maritime security, maritime infrastructure protection, theater security cooperation, and counter-smuggling operations.”

PATFORSWA is composed of six cutters, shoreside support personnel, and the Maritime Engagement Team. The unit’s mission is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard Forces in support of U.S. Central Command and national security objectives. PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command in furthering their goals to conduct persistent maritime operations to forward U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment.

Bordelon continued, “The FRC hot production line continues to produce and provide stability in the industrial base for the U.S. Government and our Bollinger workforce, assuring economic benefit for our region, our vendor partners in the 40-plus states that support the FRC program, and our country.”

The last 20 weeks of the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE build occurred despite the COVID-19 global pandemic and six named storms impacting the Gulf region, all of which affected Louisiana and two of which made landfall in the state as hurricanes, including Hurricane Laura – a Category 4 storm and the strongest to hit the state since the Great Storm of 1856. Bollinger undertook precautions to ensure the health and safety of employees and maintain its delivery schedule. For the COVID-19 pandemic, Bollinger increased and enhanced sanitization practices across the shipyard, and enacted more liberal leave and remote work policies as well as altered shift schedules to promote social distancing.

Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished himself or herself in the line of duty. Born in Massachusetts in 1873, Charles Moulthrope was a member of the crew of Revenue Cutter Commodore Perry. Seaman Moulthrope gave his life in the performance of duties in 1896. Moulthrope had previously performed a heroic deed while serving on the Perry.Moulthrope rescued four of his shipmates who had fallen into the sea from the cutter’s launch after they had gone to rescue another crewman, Boatswain Alfred Halfell who had fallen overboard. He grabbed a line and leaped over the side into the freezing water to rescue the four who were rapidly succumbing to hypothermia.Moulthrope worked the line around all four of the sailors and those on board the cutter then pulled the men aboard the Perry.

About the Fast Response Cutter Platform

The FRC is an operational “game changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. FRCs are consistently being deployed in support of the full range of missions within the United States Coast Guard and other branches of our armed services.This is due to its exceptional performance, expanded operational reach and capabilities, and ability to transform and adapt to the mission. FRCs have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands—a 4,400 nautical mile trip from their homeport. Measuring in at 154-feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, state of the art C4ISR suite (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), and stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.

About Bollinger Shipyards LLC

Bollinger Shipyards LLC (www.bollingershipyards.com) is a leading designer and builder of high performance military patrol boats, ocean-going double hull barges, offshore oil field support vessels, tugboats, rigs, lift boats, inland waterways push boats, barges, and other steel and aluminum products from its new construction shipyards as part of the U. S. industrial base. Bollinger has 10 shipyards, all strategically located throughout Louisiana with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Bollinger is the largest vessel repair company in the Gulf of Mexico region.

“Stuck in the middle with you: Resourcing the Coast Guard for global competition” –Brookings

Brookings contends that the Coast Guard, not the Navy, is the proper instrument to counter Chinese maritime “gray zone” operations. But it needs more money, something in the range of $200-500M more per year, a 1.7-4.2% budget increase.

Simply put, for a relatively meager influx of operations and maintenance funds, at least in DoD terms (where the unit cost of a single Fordclass aircraft carrier is more than the Coast Guard’s entire annual budget), the Coast Guard could provide substantially more services in the Pacific. Enhanced funding in the range of $200-$500 million would translate to improved readiness and availability of its National Security Cutter (NSC) fleet and other Coast Guard assets capable of operating deep into the Pacific theater. Importantly, this funding might actually save money for DoD. Using the Coast Guard to conduct joint military exercises and patrols, capacity building, and international training is far cheaper than using a higher-end Navy ship to perform the same missions. (emphasis applied–Chuck)

It goes on to suggest that the PATFORSWA model be replicated in the Western Pacific and suggests,

As a corollary, as the Coast Guard plans for its Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition, it should consider whether it could optimize a sub-class of these vessels for these types of defense-flavored operations in the Pacific.

There is also a suggestion of overseas basing,

Finally, it may also be time for the Coast Guard to consider independent foreign basing options for the first time in recent memory, perhaps with America’s close ally and “Five Eyes” partner, Australia. A Coast Guard detachment in Australia would not only provide for an additional Pacific-centric staging area, besides existing Coast Guard locations in Hawaii and Guam, but would also assist with Coast Guard strategic icebreaking operations directed towards Antarctica, which is itself becoming more and more relevant in the era of great power competition.

Once we have our fleet of icebreakers, we might want to base one in Australia or New Zealand, but Guam still looks like a good place for our patrol ships, even if we might include OPCs in addition to the three Webber class FRCs currently planned. Patrolling our Western Pacific EEZ and that of friendly Micronesian states, we might want to replenish at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where Australia is developing a joint use base. At least for short term deployments, our ships and aircraft might also exploit the newly improved base at Wake Island 1,501 miles (2,416 kilometers) east of Guam, 2,298 miles (3,698 kilometers) west of Honolulu.

North Korea’s Ghost Fishing Fleet –It is worse than I thought

Sixty fishermen aboard this North Korean boat were rescued after it collided with a Japanese patrol vessel and sank off Japan’s Noto Peninsula in October 2019.

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum reports on the extent of the disaster that has befallen North Korean fishermen since their government has sold fishing rights to the PRC.

“The so-called ghost ships come ashore on Japan’s coastline and increasingly along Russia’s coast, according to a mid-September 2020 report by Lenta.ru, a Russian-language online newspaper.

“Japanese authorities report that more than 500 ghost boats have landed on the nation’s coast in the past five years, with 158 in 2019, Lenta.ru reported. The unidentified bodies found aboard are buried in unmarked graves in Japanese and Russian coastal towns, the online report said.”

“Japan Coast Guard protects fishing boat from Chinese vessels near Senkaku islands” –Stars and Stripes

The Senkaku islands in the East China Sea are administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. CABINET SECRETARIAT OF JAPAN

Stars and Stripes reports the latest of an increasingly frequent series of incursions by the Chinese in an attempt to intimidate Japanese interests in the Senkaku islands.

The report identified the Chinese vessels only as “naval vessels.”

Uotsuri-shima / Diaoyu Dao (Blue, west end and nearly south end, 25°44′33″N 123°28′17″E at Mount Narahara), Kuba-shima / Huangwei Yu (Yellow, north end, 25°55′24″N 123°40′51″E at Mount Chitose), Taishō-tō / Chiwei Yu (Red, east end, 25°55′21″N 124°33′36″E at the peek) referenced on Geospatial Information Authority of Japan and distances referenced on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Every distances of the map show coast to coast, but distances of the coast of Okinawa Island and Naha City, and the coast of Ishigaki-Island and Ishigaki City are quite near on the map. Author: Jackopoid, from Wikipedia.

“10,000 Tons Patrol Vessel ‘Haixun’ Launched For China’s Maritime Safety Administration” –Naval News

Artist impression of 10,000 tons class patrol vessel Haixun

Naval News reports the launch of a 10.700 ton cutter (more than twice the size of a National Security Cutter) for the Chinese Maritime Safety Agency. We knew this was coming.

“The 165-meter maritime security patrol vessel has a displacement of 10,700 tonnes and a speed of over 25 knots (46 km / h). It can travel more than 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 kilometers) at an economical speed of 16 knots (30 km / h) and make trips of more than 90 days.”

This is not the China Coast Guard (CCG). That is a separate agency and they already have built ships that may be larger than this.

Like the China Coast Guard ships, these may have a wartime role as fast attack transports. Unlike the CCG ships, these do not appear to have significant armament.

Speed of construction is significant. “Construction of the vessel began in May 2019…and is set to enter service next year.”

“RELEASE OF THE CG ILLEGAL, UNREPORTED, AND UNREGULATED FISHING STRATEGIC OUTLOOK” DCO

The Deputy Commandant for Operations (DCO) has released the “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Strategic Outlook.” You can see the 40 page strategy document here. There is a short summary here.

The strategy promotes three “lines of effort.”

  • Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.
  • Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior.
  • Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation.

A press release is quoted below. Make no mistake, this is a very big deal, and it is pointed directly at China’s predatory practices that are impoverishing coastal states dependent on fisheries.

united states coast guard

R 171209 SEP 20
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//DCO//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS //N16000//
ALCOAST 347/20
COMDTNOTE 16000
SUBJ:  RELEASE OF THE CG ILLEGAL, UNREPORTED, AND UNREGULATED FISHING STRATEGIC OUTLOOK
1. Today the Commandant promulgated the Coast Guard’s Illegal, Unreported,
and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Strategic Outlook, which emphasizes IUU fishing as a
pervasive security threat to U.S. national interests. IUU fishing, if left unchecked,
will result in deterioration of fragile coastal States and increased tension among
foreign-fishing nations threatening geo-political stability around the world.
Tackling IUU fishing requires experienced, capable, and trusted leadership. The U.S.
Coast Guard is a well-respected global leader in maritime safety and security; able to
lead a unified force to cement positive change and promote enhanced maritime governance.
This Strategic Outlook outlines the Service’s vision to strengthen global maritime
security, regional stability, and economic prosperity with the following Lines of Effort:
   a. LOE 1 Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.
The U.S. Coast Guard will lead global efforts to detect and deter IUU fishing on the high
seas and in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of partner nations. Through the innovative
use of intelligence, technology, data analysis, and information sharing, we will identify,
target, and interdict illicit actors in the maritime domain in order to disrupt corrupt
cycles of influence that enable illegal operations.
   b. LOE 2 Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will
prioritize operations and engagement in areas where our efforts are most critical to
demonstrate U.S. commitment and model responsible behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will
shine a light on the activities of those who violate international rules-based order,
exposing and holding accountable the most egregious predatory actors.
   c. LOE 3 Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation. The U.S. Coast Guard
will build and maintain lasting cooperation with key partners to empower regional resource
conservation and management. Working with U.S. and international partners, the U.S. Coast
Guard will assist at-risk coastal States and like-minded nations to develop and maintain
their own robust counter-IUU fishing capacity, bolstering their governance and enforcement
systems and affirming the United States as a preferred partner. Through targeted, persistent,
and collaborative efforts, we will sustain and strengthen connections with partner nations
supporting international oceans governance.
2. Each line of effort depends on Unity of Effort, Partnership, Investment in the Future,
and Innovation to succeed.
3. Under this IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook, the U.S. Coast Guard will apply our broad
authorities, capabilities, capacities, and partnerships to be a global leader in the fight
against IUU fishing. Working with partners in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the Department of State (DOS), the Department of Defense (DOD),
and others, the U.S. Coast Guard will uphold a whole-of-government effort to advance
national interests in the maritime domain and promote economic prosperity. Through enhanced
engagement with like-minded nations and key maritime stakeholders, the U.S. Coast Guard
is ready to spearhead the global fight against IUU fishing.
4. More information and copies of the strategy can be found at: www.uscg.mil/iuufishing/.
5. POCs: CDR James Binniker at (202) 372-2187 or James.A.Binniker@uscg.mil.
6. VADM Scott A. Buschman, Deputy Commandant for Operations, sends.
7. Internet release is authorized.

 

Navy to Decommission Cyclone Class Patrol Craft

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

I learned recently that the Navy expects to decommission their 13 Cyclone class patrol craft in FY2021. This is significant for the Coast Guard for a couple of reasons.

The three based in Mayport have consistently been used to augment Coast Guard vessels, hosting Law Enforcement Detachments for drug enforcement (a recent example). .

Second, these vessels frequently partner with Coast Guard patrol boats of PATFORSWA based in Bahrain. Their decommissioning may put a greater load on the Coast Guard unit as it begins to receive Webber class as replacements for the existing six Island class patrol boats.

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 16, 2018) A MK-60 Griffin surface-to-surface missile is launched from coastal patrol ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12). (Photo by MC2 Kevin Steinberg)

For the Island class cutters in the Persian Gulf, the Cyclone class have served as better armed, big brothers, adding a bit of muscle to escort missions where Iranian Fast Inshore Attack Craft might be encountered. While the Webber class, that will be replacing the Island class, are a bit better armed than the 110s, unless they are extensively modified, they will not come close to replacing the missile armed Cyclone class. LCS are supposed to replace the Cyclone class, but they still have not demonstrated the ability to sustain a reasonable number of vessels in a remote theater. LCS are also too large to go many of the places the Cyclone class were able to.

USS Hurricane (PC-3)

These little ships have seemed to count for very little to the Navy. Regularly we see a count of “Battleforce ships”“Battleforce ships” that includes everything from aircraft carriers down to civilian crewed, unarmed fleet tugs (T-ATF), salvage ships (T-ARS), and high speed intra-theater transports (T-EPF, really aluminum hulled, high speed ferries). The Cyclone class were only included in the count one year (2014), so their loss will be largely invisible. (Significantly, this count of what many must assume is the National Fleet also makes no mention of Coast Guard assets either.)

Until ten of the class found a home in Bahrain, the Navy seemed to have had a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Originally intended to support the special warfare community, they were considered to large for that mission. Of the original fourteen one was transferred to the Philippine Navy. Five had been temporarily commissioned as Coast Guard cutters.

Other than the far larger LCS, the navy has no plans to replace these little ships, that have reportedly been the busiest ships in the Navy.

DAHLGREN, Va. (Nov. 6, 2004) Coast Guard Cutter Shamal (WPC-13) . USCG photo by Joseph P. Cirone, USCG AUX

China, Ready to Pick the Low Hanging Fruit?

Taiwan Coast Guard cutter KAOSHIUNG

BairdMaritime has a column suggesting China is training for an  “…invasion of Pratas Reef (Dongsha), a Taiwanese-garrisoned outcrop, situated some 170 nautical miles southeast of Hong Kong.” Possibly “…followed by an attack upon another Taiwan-manned islet, namely Taiping (Itu Abu), the largest and most habitable of the Spratly islands in the SCS. The two Taiwanese outposts, which are manned by Taiwan Coast Guard Administration (TCGA), retain some strategic value, particularly as both feature airfields, but the main advantage to be reaped by the PRC by their seizure would probably be political.”

That they feel the US will not intervene because, “the US Congress’ Taiwan Relations Act requires the US to come to the aid of Taipei in the event of a PRC attack on Formosa, or the Pescadores (Penghu), situated in the Taiwan Straits, but excludes Taiwan’s more distant territories.” 

Certainly any such attack, if successful, and unopposed by the US would seriously undermine American credibility as an ally, regardless of the specifics of US formal obligations to Taiwan.

“Launch of 600-ton catamaran-hull patrol vessel Anping CG601 for Taiwanese Coast Guard” –Navy Recognition

New patrol vessel Anping CG601 for the Taiwanese Coast Guard launched. (Picture source Jong Shyn Shipbuilding Group)

NavyRecognition reports that,

“…on April 28, 2020, the first 600-ton catamaran-hull patrol vessel, Anping (CG601) for the Taiwanese Coast Guard was launched in the southern port city of Kaohsiung.”

This is the first of twelve ordered for the Taiwanese Coast Guard. The design is based on the Tuo Chiang-class stealth missile corvette in service with the Republic of China Navy.

An earlier post, from 2014, talked about these cutters and included a video of the Navy version of the design underway.

I am a bit surprised this program is not moving more rapidly. According to Wikipedia, work did not begin on these cutters until 2019. It appears the Taiwanese Navy still only has one of the 12 Corvettes planned. They may have had some problems.

Model of Tuo Chiang-class corvette armed with 76mm gun, Palanx CIWS, 8 × Hsiung Feng II and 8 × Hsiung Feng III, and 2 × Mark 32 triple torpedo launchers . Photo credit: Solomon203

“Guangzhou Wenchong Ship Factory to build new 10,000-ton cutter for China Maritime Safety Administration” –NavyRecognition

Drawing of future 10,000-ton cutter for China Maritime Safety Administration. (Picture source China Blog)

NavyRecognition is reporting that China is building an over 10,000 ton cutter for their Maritime Safety Administration (MSA). MSA is the only one of the five Chinese Maritime coast guard like organizations that was not incorporated into the China Coast Guard.

“According to information published by the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration, the new cutter will have a total length of 165 meters, a width of 20.6 meters, a depth of 9.5 meters, and a displacement of 10,700 tons.”

That is 541 feet in length, 67.6 feet of beam, and 31.2 feet of draft. The displacement is probably light displacement rather than full load.

The China MSA appears less militant than the China Coast Guard. No weapons are evident, but that does not mean they don’t have a plan of how to use the ship in wartime. Like some of the large China Coast Guard cutters, this looks like it could be used as an attack transport.