Where in the World are the WHECs?

The Former USCGC Morgenthau, now in Vvietnamese service

The Philippines has a continuing interest in the 378 foot WHECs, after all they already have three, and it appears they may want another. Certainly they and other operators (Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Vietnam) will want to cooperate in finding ways to keep them operational.

An online discussion group called “Defense of the Republic of the Philippines” has a page entitled “Where in the World are the WHECs?” devoted to the topic. It includes both the old and new names and hull numbers. It also looks at the future disposition of 378s still in US Coast Guard service (Sherman, Midgett, Mellon, and Douglas Munro). (Yes we currently have both a USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724) and a USCGC Munro (WMSL-755).

Sherman is expected to be decommissioned in 2018, Midgett in 2019, Mellon in 2020. Douglas Munro’s decommissioning is not currently scheduled but will probably happen in 2021.

The decommissioning information is based on Annex J of a MARAD report, “OFFICE OF SHIP DISPOSAL PROGRAMS ANNUAL REPORT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2016.”

 

The U. S. Coast Guard in the South China Sea: Strategy or Folly?–CIMSEC

CIMSEC has a brief discussion of the possibility of deploying a Coast Guard presence in the South Chia Sea.

First let me say, I don’t think using cutters for Freedom of Navigation demonstrations would be an improvement. Our warships have every right to be there. Substituting Coast Guard Cutters to be less offensive to the Chinese might be seen as a sign of  weakened resolve, and it would be a whole lot easier for them to make a move against a cutter than a DDG.

The presumption in these discussions seems to be, that if we do put a presence in the South China Sea, it will be a large cutter. There is another alternative. If we want a Coast Guard presence in the area, perhaps we should start small. We could move three 110 foot WPBs to a port in the South China Sea. When enough Webber class become available, we could replace the WPBs with the newer WPCs and donate the 110s to a navy or coast guard in the area. (It would not hurt if some of the members of the WPB crews were of Asian descent.)

They could do the same kind of capacity building our cutters in South West Asia do. They could help with local fisheries enforcement, particularly the increasingly aggressive members of Chinese maritime militia units. If our cutters occasionally provide force protection or operate with a DDG conducting a Freedom of Navigation Exercise, that’s good too.

 

 

Blockading North Korea–A Coast Guard Role?

Photo: Yellow Sea from DeepSeaWaters

I have seen several references lately to the possibility of blockading North Korea. A good explanation of why this is apparently being considered is in a Bloomberg article by Retired Admiral James Stavridis, who previously served as Commander, U.S. Southern Command; Commander, U.S. European Command; and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Quoting Wikipedia,

James George Stavridis (born February 15, 1955) is a retired United States Navy admiral and the current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, a graduate school for international affairs. Stravidis serves as the chief international diplomacy and national security analyst for NBC News in New York. He is also chairman of the board of the U.S. Naval Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

So perhaps we should consider this as a serious possibility. If it happens, would the Coast Guard have a role?

Certainly Coast Guard boarding teams would be high demand.

North Korea shares borders with South Korea to the South, a long border with China to the North, and a short Border with Russia to the Northeast. If the US attempts to blockade North Korean waters in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, it will bring US naval units into close proximity to both China and Russia including major Chinese and Russian Navy bases. We have to consider how they might react.

Both China and Russia might be more comfortable if the blockading units operating closest to them were Coast Guard rather than Navy. This applies equally to both ships and aircraft.

Certainly to protect Coast Guard units they would have to have Navy and Air Force backup.

India Launches First Two of Five OPVs

The Indian Navy has announced the launching of the first two of a new class of five Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). Three more of the class are expected by the end of the year.

Within the Indian Navy, these are unique in that they are being built by a private, rather than a government, shipyard.

Wikipedia reports that these vessels are 110 meters in length (Same as the Offshore Patrol Cutter) with a displacement of 2000 tons (this appears to be light displacement). They are armed with  an OTO Melara 76mm super rapid gun mount (SRGM) and two 30mm AK-630M six barrel Gatling guns. It is powered by twin diesels 18,200 kW (24,400 HP) for a maximum speed of 25 knots.

India has both a Coast Guard and a Navy, and both operated Offshore Patrol Vessels. The Coast Guard was established in 1978 and operates under the Ministry of Defense. Indian CG OPVs tend to be more lightly armed than their Navy counterparts.

The Indian Navy currently operates ten Offshore Patrol Vessels.

The Indian Coast Guard currently operates 16 Offshore Patrol Vessels and three larger “Pollution Control Vessels” which also function as OPVs.

The oldest of the Indian Coast Guard OPV was commissioned in 1983. The oldest Indian Navy OPV was commissioned in 1989.

Balance of Power, 2030

Found this graphic on the US Naval Institute Blog.

Considering that the US Navy is spread all over the globe, with responsibilities in the Atlantic as well the Pacific, while the Chinese Navy will be concentrated in the Western Pacific, far from American Naval bases with the exception of a small number of units in Guam, Japan, and possibly Singapore, the Chinese Navy is likely  to enjoy a considerable local advantage, particularly early in any conflict.

In peacetime, it takes three CONUS based ships to maintain one in the Western Pacific. That would improve in wartime, but the Chinese would always have an advantage. Not to mention Chinese land based air and missiles.

Is there anything the Coast Guard can do to mitigate the coming imbalance in the Western Pacific?

It could be worse if US vs both China and Russia.

Morgenthau Going Back to Vietnam

We have a report from Naval Today that Morgenthau, being decommissioned today, will be going to back Vietnam.

Ironically Morgenthau served in Vietnamese warters earlier. This from Wikipedia:

Soon after its commissioning in 1970 the Morgenthau sailed to Vietnam for service in the US Navy’s Operation Market Time. (Operation Market Time was the United State’s successful operation to stop North Vietnamese ships and boats from infiltrating South Vietnam to supply weapons and munitions to North Vietnamese military, including the People’s Army of Vietnam (aka “NVA” – North Vietnamese Army) and Viet Cong.)

Morgenthau was extremely active in the Vietnam War: its duties included boarding/inspection of ships and boats suspected of running guns, ammunition and supplies, naval gunfire support missions, providing medical care to Vietnamese villagers (MEDCAPS – civic action program), ferrying special forces soldiers on missions, and 24/7 patrol duties.[10]

From records compiled by then-Lieutenant Eugene N. Tulich, Commander, US Coast Guard (Ret), Morgenthaus Vietnam numbers included: Miles cruised – 38,029 nautical miles (70,430 km; 43,763 mi); Percentage time underway – 72.8%; Junks/sampans detected/inspected/boarded – 2383/627/63; Enemy confirmed killed in action (KIA) 14; Structures destroyed/damaged – 32/37; Bunkers destroyed/damaged – 12/3; Waterborne craft destroyed/damaged – 7/3; Naval Gunfire Support Missions (NGFS) – 19; MEDCAPS (Medical Civic Action Program) – 25; Patients treated – 2676.

For exceptionally valorous action in combat, Morgenthau received a number of awards and commendations, including a Navy Unit Commendation when Morgenthau distinguished itself with outstanding heroism in action against the enemy. Morgenthau’s actions included its multi-day undetected tracking and surveillance of a 160′ North Vietnamese SL-8 trawler that attempted to resupply waiting North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong, and the April 11, 1971, destruction of that enemy ship when Morgenthau and other forces engaged in a two-hour battle against the ship, at the end of which the North Vietnamese SL-8 trawler suffered a massive explosion and disappeared from radar screens. For this and its other Vietnam service, the ship and Morgenthaus crew were additionally awarded the Navy Combat Action Ribbon; Navy Unit Commendation; Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation; Vietnam Service Medal; Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation; Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation; Vietnam Campaign Medal; and other awards.

Morgenthau served in Vietnam until July 19, 1971.

I am curious, will it be repainted Vietnamese Navy gray or remain white and wear the stripes of Vietnam’s recently formed Coast Guard?

The Era of Coast Guards in the Asia-Pacific is Upon Us–Rand Corp

The Rand Corporation has issued an interesting post regarding the increased use and aggressiveness of Asian Coast Guards. It is based on a study of the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Philippine Coast Guards. The full text of the study is here. in pdf format.

The growth of these four Coast Guards has been remarkable. According to the report, between 2010 and 2016 the China Coast Guard vessel tonnage has increased 73%, the Japan Coast Guard increased 50%, the Vietnamese CG by 73%, and the Philippine CG by 100%.

The growth is largely driven by China’s pushiness using its newly formed Coast Guard, but it is also because of Japan’s new willingness to provide security assistance, at least in the form of Coast Guard vessels, to nations who, like them, must confront Chinese aggressiveness.

There also seems to have been a tacit acceptance of the idea that gray hulls should not mix it up with white hulls. This has played into the hands of the Chinese who have by far the largest fleet of white hulls in the world. In fact there are really only two kinds of vessels, private and government, and when fishing vessels act under government orders they are defacto government vessels

The full report has some figures I had not seen before.

Despite the fact that its missions apparently do not include Aids to Navigation, China’s CG is by far the largest:

“China’s investment has yielded a total fleet size of around 215 vessels, of which 105 are considered large (more than one-thousand-tons displacement) and 110 small (less than one thousand tons). In terms of total tonnage, China boasts the largest coast guard in the world at roughly 190,000 tons, enjoying substantial quantitative overmatch over its Asian competitors.” (The CCG reportedly has 17,000 members.)

Japan Coast Guard had a head start, it has grown less but still has more ships than the USCG.

In terms of fleet size, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence estimates that Japan has approximately fifty-three large and twenty-five small vessels in operation. The largest vessels in the JCG fleet include two PLH-class vessels with a displacement of 6,500 tons (9,000 tons fully loaded) and two Mizuho-class vessels of 5,200 tons. For comparison, the largest and most capable destroyers in the JMSDF, the Kongo-class vessels, displace approximately 9,500 tons. Most of the medium-to-high-endurance JCG vessels are equipped with deck-mounted autocannon that range in caliber from 20 to 40 mm, and most JCG officers carry light firearms for self-defense. Notably, the PLH-class cutters are only equipped with two Oerlikon 35–40 mm autocannon and two M61 Vulcan 20 mm six-barrel Gatling-style guns, compared with the 76 mm cannon on China’s largest cutter, Haijing 3901.

In terms of aviation assets, the JCG has by far the largest fleet in Asia, second only to the U.S. Coast Guard in the world, boasting twenty-six fixed-wing aircraft and forty-eight helicopters. Finally, the JCG has roughly 13,500 personnel, second most among coast guards in Asia.

Vietnam has also recently formed a Coast Guard.

The VCG has approximately fifty vessels: five large (the largest displaces 2,500 tons) and forty-five small. Soon after the Haiyang Shiyou 981 (HYSY 981) incident in 2014, Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced the allocation of U.S.$540 million to build thirty-two new coast guard ships and hundreds of aluminum fishing vessels that can withstand ramming better. With the delivery of two five-hundred-ton TT400TP-class patrol vessels in January 2016 and the addition of six one-thousand-ton patrol craft pledged from Japan, Vietnam will boast the largest coast guard fleet in Southeast Asia. Most VCG vessels have light-caliber deck-mounted autocannon or machine guns (ranging in size from 14.5 to 23 mm) or both, and most crewmembers carry light firearms for self-defense. The VCG has three fixed-wing CASA C-212 Aviocar patrol aircraft. The VCG has approximately 5,500 total personnel.

The Philippine Coast Guard:

The PCG maintains a small fleet of eight medium-endurance patrol craft, mounted with 50 mm autocannon; four buoy tenders; and roughly thirty-two small patrol vessels. Japan’s announcement that it plans to sell eight medium endurance cutters to the Philippines will mean an almost doubling of the PCG medium-endurance-cutter fleet. The PCG has only two operational aircraft— one fixed wing and one helicopter—but it is slated to receive two helicopters from France within the next few years. Finally, there are roughly 9,000 personnel in the PCG, with plans to expand to 13,500 by 2020.

A final note: 

It is not clear what type of displacement the study used. I try to consistently use full load, but Asian nations tend to try to minimize displacement and frequently report only light displacement.

The total displacement of the US Coast Guard’s ships is also going up, but it is not because of more ships, it is because the ships are larger. The total full load displacement for the program of record, 8 NSCs (36,000 tons), 25 OPCs (about 100,000 tons), and 58 FRCs (21,170 tons) is about 157,170 tons. The NSCs are 50% larger than the 378s. The OPCs are a third larger than the 378s and four times the size of the 210s. The FRCs are three times the size of the 110s they replace.

It might be assumed that a Country’s Coast Guard’s size should be related to the size of the country’s EEZ. It doesn’t seem to have worked that way. The size of the EEZs for the countries is

China: 877,019 km2 (plus disputed claims for 3,000,000 km)

Japan: 4,479,388 km2

Philippines:  2,263,816 km2

Vietnam: 748,875 km2

USA: 11,351,000 km2