“Singapore’s Police Coast Guard deploys multilayered tactics to defend coastline” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Indo-Pacific Defense Forum takes a look at Singapore’s Police Coast Guard, apparently prompted by a July 2022 report commissioned by the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy and titled “Second Amongst Equals? The Police Coast Guard within Singapore’s Maritime Security Architecture.” Wikipedia has a more detail.

(They have a very different sort of “racing stripe” to identify their vessels, apparently replacing a more conventional white/red/white stripe on blue hull about a decade ago.)

Singapore has a very small EEZ, 1,067 sq.km. That of the US is 10,638 times larger, but those waters are extremely important, highly congested, and have had a long history of piracy. IUU, terrorism, and particularly illegal imigration are continuing concerns.

The largest Singapore Police Coast Guard vessels are similar in size to the 110 foot WPBs. Most of their vessels are relatively fast (35 to 55 knots) and for a “police” organization, well armed. The Singapore Navy handles some missions that we would consider Coast Guard missions, including operation of Offshore Patrol Vessels.

PATFORSWA Now Has Six Webber Class

220822-A-KS490-1182 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 22, 2022) From the left, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144), USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Aug. 22. The cutters are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noah Martin)

The planned six Webber Class contingent for PATFORSWA is now complete. See the press release below.


08.23.2022

Story by NAVCENT Public Affairs   

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet

MANAMA, Bahrain – Two U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters arrived in Bahrain, Aug. 23, marking the arrival to their ultimate destination after departing Key West, Florida in June.

USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) are two of the Coast Guard’s six newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters (FRC) now stationed in Bahrain where U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered.

“This arrival represents the culmination of years of tireless effort and exceptional teamwork,” said Capt. Eric Helgen, commander of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA). “These newest FRCs bring us to our full complement of six ships and mark the beginning of a new era of extraordinary maritime capability supporting U.S. 5th Fleet.”

The Sentinel-class cutters in Bahrain are overseen by PATFORSWA, the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the United States. The ships are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East.

“We are extremely excited to be here and look forward continuing to work with international partners in the region,” said Lt. David Anderson, commanding officer of Clarence Sutphin Jr. “Completing this more than 10,000-nautical-mile transit to Bahrain has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

John Scheuerman and Clarence Sutphin Jr. were commissioned in February and April 2022 respectively. The 154-foot long vessels feature advanced communications systems and improved surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.

Fincantiari of Italy Builds Two Small but Powerful OPVs

The Qatari Navy OPV is about 63 meters long, 9.2 meters wide, with a maximum speed of 30 knots. Giorgio Arra picture.

Naval News has done a couple of posts on a pair of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) built in Italy for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces by Fincantieri (owner of Marinette Marine in Wisconsin):

These are not your typical OPV. They look more like FAC(M) i.e fast attack craft, missile, but they trace their linage back through the UAE’s Falag 2 class to the Italian Coast Guard’s Diciotti class. Let’s compare to a typical OPV and talk about why they are so different.

First what is a typical OPV?

  • Displacement: at least 1,500 tons full load, typically less than 3,000
  • Length: at least 75 meters (246 ft), typically less than 100 meters (328 ft)
  • Range: at least 3500 nautical miles, typically 5,000 or more
  • Endurance: at least three weeks
  • Speed: 20-25 knots
  • Aviation: At least flight deck for medium helicopter
  • Boats:  at least two RHIB of 7 meters or larger
  • Weapons: one deck gun of 76mm or less plus two to four guns .50 cal to 30mm guns with one or two typically mounted in remote weapon stations. Anti-Ship Cruise missiles are rare and Anti-Aircraft missile systems more capable than MAPADS rarer still.

Examples include ships building or in service with Argentina, Australia, Britain, India, Japan, Malta, the Philippines, Singapore, Türkiye, the Fassmar designs used by Chile, Colombia, and German, and Damen designs used by Malaysia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, and Vietnam.

The 270 foot Bear class WMECs fit the profile pretty well, if you ignore the fact they can’t quite reach 20 knots. In some respects they are still more sophisticated that some of the newer OPVs.

The 210 foot Reliance class WMECs fall outside the current norm, being smaller and slower than typical, but they otherwise fit the profile. Of course even the newest is 53 years old.

Now let us compare the new Qatar OPV.

Range/Endurance:

Their range is only 1500 nautical miles at 15 knots, that is even less than that of the smaller Webber class cutters’ 2500 at 14 knots. Their seven day endurance is more typical of the smaller Inshore Patrol Vessel class. As a patrol vessel, it is closer to the Webber class WPCs than even the Reliance class.

Persian Gulf. US Government work product in the public domain.

Geography is the reason. Qatar’s coast line is only 563 km and its EEZ is 31,819 sq km (that of the US is 11,351,000 sq km, 357 times greater). They just don’t have to go very far. It may also be that these ships will be used more in reaction than as actual patrol vessels.

Size:

Full load displacement is 725 tonnes, with a length of 63.80 (209 feet) (59.60 meters or 195.5 feet between the perpendiculars) and a beam of 9.20 meters/30 feet. This makes them smaller than the Reliance class and only about half the size of the smallest of the typical OPVs. Rough seas are probably less of a concern than in more open areas.

Speed:

Their speed of 30 knots, rather than the typical 20 to 25, also seems to suggest their role is one of rapid reaction rather than persistant patrolling.

Aviation:

Unlike most modern OPVs, there is no apparent provision for supporting aviation assets, not even UAS. That is presumably because land based air is always close.

Starboard quarter of second Musherib-class OPV “Sheraouh” for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces. Visible are the ship’s boat, two twin Exocet launchers and two 30 mm Marlin-WS secondary gun systems. Picture by Luca Peruzzi

Boats:

The OPV has a stern area with crane for launch and recovery of a RHIB. This is not an arrangement that suggests the boat would be used frequently or that boat ops is a high priority.

The second Musherib-class OPV “Sheraouh” for the Qatar Emiri Naval Forces. Fincantieri picture.

Amaments:

“…in addition to the NA-30S Mk2 FCS for the Leonardo Super Rapido 76/62 mm Multi-Feeding main calibre gun, the Leonardo-provided  EO/IR suite also includes two SASS IRSTs and a single Medusa Mk4B FCS for the two 30 mm Marlin-WS secondary gun systems. The missile armament package also includes two four-cell VLSs for the MBDA VL MICA surface-to-air system in the bow area and two twin-launchers for the MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missiles in the stern area.”

The Persian Gulf is a rough neighborhood. Qatar faces Iran across the relatively narrow Gulf. Potentially hostile craft are always close. Shore based anti-ship cruise missiles are always within range. Iranian surface units are at most only hours away, aircraft and missiles only minutes.

The vertical launch MICA missile system and Super Rapid 76mm gun provide credible defense against aircraft and cruise missiles.

While normally I would not feel four Exocets would be enough to provide two salvos of adequate size, against the potential Iranian opposition, four are probably adequate for two engagements.

It is not surprising these ships are better armed than any US Coast Guard cutter, including the more than six times larger National Security Cutters. They may be the most heavily armed “OPVs” in the world.

Two four-cell VLSs for the MBDA VL MICA surface-to-air system mounted between the bridge and a Leonardo 76mm gun forward. Picture by Luca Peruzzi

“Japan Awards Contract to Shipbuilder JMU for 12 New Offshore Patrol Vessels” –The Diplomat

A concept image of a next-generation offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) made by JMU. Image courtesy of Japan’s Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency.

The Diplomat reports,

The Japanese Ministry of Defense announced on June 30 that it has awarded a contract to shipbuilding company Japan Marine United (JMU) Corporation to build a next-generation offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

We had an earlier report about this project.

The project is for 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels of 1920 tons standard displacement. Their full load displacement will be higher, probably in the neighborhood of 2,200 to 2,400 tons.

  • Length: 95 meters  (312 feet)
  • Beam: 12 meters (39’4″)
  • Speed: 20 knots (slower than the 25+ knots reported earlier)
  • Crew: 30
  • Average Cost: $66.6M

The design is said to offer modular adaptability.

Combined diesel-electric and diesel (CODLAD) propulsion promises very economical slow cruising.

Presumably these will be used to shaddow the movements of potentially hostile vessels transiting in or near Japanese waters.

They might also be used to provide counter piracy protection off the Horn of Africa. This would free more capable (and much more expensive) warships to be in position to deal with more significant threats.

The design looks to be almost ideal for export as part of Japan’s on going program to strengthen the maritime law enforcement capabilities of friendly Asian nations.

It does appear there might be some overlap between the missions of this class and those of the Japan Coast Guard.

This combination of sea worthy hull, simple systems, and small crew sounds a lot like my Cutter X proposal to put the machinery, equipment, and crew of the Webber class cutters in a larger, more seaworthy, and longer range hull.

 

“Southeast Asian partners enhancing trilateral maritime patrols” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Law Breakers frequently attempt to exploit divisions of jurisdiction. How to deal with this? The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum contributor Gusty Da Costa reports from Indonesia (reproduced in full below),

IMAGE CREDIT: INDONESIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY

The launch about five years ago of maritime patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas involving the armed forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have corresponded with a sharp drop in piracy and terrorism, officials and analysts said. The three nations plan to enhance the patrols with improved surveillance, intelligence and communication to boost security and economic stability.

The INDOMALPHI patrols, a moniker that combines the names of the partner nations, began in 2017 as a result of the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement (TCA) signed a year earlier by the three governments. Security challenges are “especially daunting” in the seas, where the three nations’ maritime borders converge in an area “with a complex political history and a long legacy of illicit maritime activity,” according to Stable Seas, a nonprofit research initiative.

“The main objective is to enhance security in the Sulu and Sulawesi [Celebes] seas,” Indonesian Army Col. Kurniawan Firmizi, a senior official at the Indonesian Defense Ministry, told FORUM. “A high level of protection with all parties can be beneficial. It can increase the economy, facilitate traffic flows between countries adjacent to the Sulu Sea area, and improve border security and international cooperation. The goal is to secure the Sulu Sea and maritime border waters for all three countries.”

Since their launch, the INDOMALPHI patrols have deterred and defended against attacks on vessels at sea by pirates and violent extremist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Kurniawan said. According to Indonesia’s Defense Ministry, known as Kemhan, there were no reports of piracy for ransom in the patrolled waters in 2021. As recently as 2017, there were 99 reports of piracy and armed robbery in the area, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia.

Four categories of patrol enhancements were announced at the TCA Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in late March 2022, Kemhan reported. They are: optimizing communication by deploying a liaison officer from each partner nation to each country’s maritime command center; conducting trilateral maritime exercises; adopting an intelligence-led approach to surveillance operations; and improving the TCA structure, communication and coordination to increase partners’ participation and commitment. (Pictured, from left: Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Malaysian Senior Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Philippine National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana attend the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement Ministerial Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in March 2022.)

“There has been an increase in surveillance technology, including drones and satellite systems,” Kurniawan said.

The INDOMALPHI patrols demonstrate the expansive benefits of multilateralism, Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, a defense analyst and the author of “Defending Indonesia,” told FORUM.

“These countries will undoubtedly increase their cooperation with other regions, such as Europe, by securing their maritime areas,” she said. “The reason is that trading traffic will be smoother since it is safe, so the risk-cost will be lower.”

She recommended two additional improvements: increase patrol frequency in the Sulu Sea; and supplement patrols with “additional aircraft such as reconnaissance aircraft, close air support or attack aircraft, commandos from helicopters, etc.”

“Japanese PM Kishida Lays Out Indo-Pacific Strategy in Shangri-La Speech” –USNI

Japanese built Philippine CG cutter BRP Teresa Magbanua during sea trials off Japan (Photo: Philippine Coast Guard)

The US Naval Institute News Service reports on a speech by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida before the Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue forum in Singapore.

During his speech, Kishida also spoke about Japan’s planned efforts to strengthen nations in the Indo-Pacific both in security and economic aspects. The security side will include transferring patrol boats in the region, strengthening regional maritime law enforcement capabilities (emphasis applied–Chuck) and providing defense equipment and technology transfers. Singapore is one of the countries that will sign a defense equipment and technology transfer agreement with Japan.

As China has become more agressive in its behavior, Japan has been a lot more active in reaching out to help friendly nations. It appears they have decided to provide an Asian nation alternative to Chinese hegemony. One of the ways they have done this is transfer of vessels to conduct coast guard functions on favorable terms. We have already seen this with the Philippines (and here), Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

We have also seen increased interaction between the Japan Coast Guard and the USCG here, here, here, and here. Japan seems to be promoting coast guards as a way to maintain rules based international norms and may be looking to create an international consensus on coast guard behavior to promote cooperation and interoperability. They are looking at their own Coast Guard’s role as well. They seem to be looking to the USCG as an allied, internationally recognized example of proper coast guard functions to help achieve this consensus.

“U.S., Japan Coast Guards conduct joint counter-narcotics exercise in the Pacific” –D14

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry sails alongside the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Mizuho during an exercise off Guam, June 7, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard completed the joint counter-narcotics exercise SAPPHIRE which stands for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule-of-Law Based Engagement 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam)

An interesting development in US and Japanese Coast Guard cooperation. This is apparently the first implementation of Operation SAPPHIRE announced in May.

This exercise does not seem to be an end in itself. It seems more like a tune-up for follow-on operations.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific

U.S., Japan Coast Guards conduct joint counter-narcotics exercise in the Pacific

Joint exercise Joint exercise Joint exercise  

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download a high-resolution version.

SANTA RITA, Guam — The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard completed a joint counter-narcotics exercise off Guam, Tuesday. 
 
The exercise was the first operational exchange between U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam and the Japan Coast Guard and was designed to promote cooperation between the partners in areas of mutual interest including maritime security and counter-smuggling operations.  
 
“What an incredible opportunity to conduct joint training with the Japan Coast Guard and be able to share law enforcement capabilities which will enhance future joint mission planning,” said Capt. Nicholas Simmons, commander of Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “These exercises further solidify our great maritime relationship and will prove to be invaluable during future missions.” 
 
The exercise was conducted between the crews of the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Mizuho, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry, and U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. 
 
On Monday, the participants met at Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam for tours of the participating vessels and tabletop discussions to plan the at-sea exercise the next day. 
 
“Conducting exercises based off of real-world scenarios will boost opportunities to respond more effectively,” said Lt. Jack Hamel, the commanding officer of the Oliver Henry. “The cohesion and teamwork on display showcased that both Coast Guards have mutual interest in keeping the maritime commons safe and secure.” 
 
On Tuesday, the crews deployed for the at-sea exercise consisting of two counter-narcotics drills where the crews simulated locating and boarding a target of interest fishing vessel suspected of drug smuggling. 
 
The drills focused on methods of information sharing, vessel tracking, stopping measures, and inspection procedures for greater interoperability between the partners in the future. 
 
The two crews also conducted a personnel exchange and rendered passing honors between the vessels. 
 
The exercise was a part of the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Operation SAPPHIRE 2022, which stands for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule-of-Law Based Engagement 2022, and was the second such operation held between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard, the first being held in San Francisco in May. 
 
SAPPHIRE was created during a joint document signing ceremony and celebration at Japan Coast Guard Headquarters earlier this year and was an annex to a memorandum of cooperation between the sea services which has existed since 2010. 
 
The purpose of Operation SAPPHIRE is to standardize operating procedures for combined operations, training and capacity building, and information sharing between the partners. 
 
The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard have been bolstering each other’s capabilities and effectiveness since the founding of the Japan Coast Guard in 1948. The agencies work together to counter illegal maritime activity and assist foreign maritime agencies in the Indo-Pacific region in improving their own capabilities necessary for maritime law enforcement.

“Taiwan’s Coast Guard Tests Its Ability To Turn Cutters Into Ship Killers” –The Drive

Taiwan Coast Guard Vessel Anping firing missile

The Drive/The War-Zone reports,

During the test conducted on May 23, officials said that the HF-2 missiles were launched from the cutter off the coast of the Jiupeng Base and successfully hit a target ship that was located 62 miles off the coast of Lanyu, near Orchid Island. According to Taiwan’s Liberty Times Net reporter Zheng Jingyi, “this live ammunition firing specifically verifies the integration of the naval forces and sea cruisers under the ‘peace-to-war conversion.’”

This was a test and the missile launch equipment was removed immediately after the test. The launch and control was conducted by Taiwanese Navy personnel, temporarily assigned for the test.

Since the cutters are a version of a missile equipped Taiwanese Navy corvette, there would seem little reason to believe the test would not have been successful.

Reportedly twelve corvettes and twelve cutters are planned, but the prototype Navy corvette was commissioned in 2014, the second not until 2021, and none since. On the other hand four of the cutters have entered service beginning 2020 with two more under construction.

The normal armament of these and other Taiwanese cutters includes an unusual 42 round, remote controlled, “Zhenhai” 70mm/2.75″ rocket launcher. It is unclear if these rockets have a guidance system like APKWS. Photos below from Wikipedia.

Taiwan Anping-class offshore patrol vessel onboard multi-barrel Zhenhai rocket system

Anping-class offshore patrol vessel onboard 42-barrel Zhenhai rocket system, looking forward

“THREE ROUNDS OF COERCION IN PHILIPPINE WATERS” –CSIS

China CG Cutter 5203

The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative brings a report of Chinese tracking and harassing vessels conducting legitimate activities in the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) on three occasions.

There are some things worth noting about these three encounters:

  • In the first the Taiwanese Coast Guard was successful in allowing the research vessel to complete its task. In the second encounter, the Philippines appears to have surrendered preemtively while the Chinese vessel came no closer than 0,9 miles. In the third, the two Philippine vessels were successfully intimidated and turned away by China Coast Guard vessels supported by maritime militia vessels.
  • While Chinese vessels approached these vessels and came with 100 meters in the third incident, there was no indication that they attempted to ram or block movement, though blocking did appear to be the ultimate intent in the third incident. Chinese vessels have intentionally rammed in the past, but I cannot recall a Chinese government vessel ramming another government’s vessel. Chinese maritime militia have employed this tactic.
  • In the first encounter the Taiwanese Coast Guard used some of their largest ships as escorts. 5001 is more than 5000 tons full load, larger than the Bertholf class ships (4,500 tons full load). Taiwan Coast Guard’s CG129 is also relatively large at 120 meters (394 ft). It is nominally 3,000 tons, but probably over 4,000 tons full load. China Coast Guard (CCG) 5203 is reportedly 102 meters (335 ft) in length and 14 meters of beam.  It is probably around 3,000 tons full load.
  • The two Philippine Coast Guard cutters mentioned, BRP Capones and BRP Cape Engaño were both Parola class patrol boats, built in Japan and delivered in 2017 and 2018 respectiely. These 44 meter/146 ft vessels are just a bit smaller and slower than the Webber class. They were much smaller than the CCG vessels.
  • Only the Chinese employed vessels were armed with medium caliber naval guns. I was unable to find specs or photographs of CCG 5303 or 5304 but at least CCG 5203 was armed with a modern 3″ gun. The Taiwanese vessels were armed with auto-cannon of up to 40mm. The Philippine CG vessels were armed with nothing larger than .50 cal.
  • Taiwanese and Philippine CG vessels appear to have had a speed advantage, but the CCG had a speed advantage over the vessels being escorted. In the third incident any speed advantage was also largely negated by the larger number of Chinese vessels.

It should be clear that if the Philippines intends to operate in their EEZ, in areas included in the “Nine Dash Line,” they should expect the Chinese will confront them. If they intend to operate there, they need to decide to either support the effort strongly or operate not at all. Being chased out repeatedly strengthens China’s position.

Should the Philippines decide to operate in the disputed waters, it does have some advantages at least for operations of short duration. While the China CG is much larger, the Philippines has the advantage of proximity. Far from their bases, the Chinese cannot reinforce quickly. The Philippines can surge large numbers of units the short distance from their bases quickly.

The Philippines has been pushed around. Perhaps it is time to push back. Not an escalation, but a reponse in kind.

A coordinated sweep of Chinese fishing vessels fishing illegally should be possible.

To deter shouldering, size is important, so the Philippine CG should include their largest ships.

To deter the Chinese from resorting to weapons, Philippine law enforcement vesssels should be supported by Philippine Navy vessels. It would not hurt if Philippine light attack aircraft were airborne.

It would also help if vessels of other nations, including the US, were on scene to witness the encounter.

BRP Capones in Davao Gulf. Philippine Information Agency.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention.

“Indonesia stands up to PRC’s aggressive moves in South China Sea” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

A China Coast Guard ship is seen from an Indonesian naval vessel during a patrol north of Indonesia’s Natuna islands. (Antara Foto via Reuters)

Indo-Pacific Defense Forum reports,

“Indonesia has successfully defended its sovereignty off the northwest coast of the island of Borneo by standing up to aggressive incursions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which maintains that its widely dismissed territorial claim in the South China Sea gives it authority to enter the area unimpeded.”

Indonesia is demonstrating it is possible to resist China’s bullying without starting a war.