“SEA Completes Successful Trials Of KraitArray In The English Channel” –Naval News

KraitArray (actual size) on SEA stand at DSEI 2019

Naval News reports,

“SEA, the UK’s defence and security electronic system specialist, has completed successful trials of its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) thin line towed array, KraitArray, in the English Channel – proving its exceptional sensing performance in small vessels.”

This seems to be another example of an ASW system being marketed for unmanned vessels that might also be used on cutters if the need should arise.

The company’s brochure does in fact specifically mention patrol craft and OPVs that are unable to accommodate full size towed arrays. In addition to the towed array, they also make active sonar systems, acoustic decoys, and light weight torpedo launchers.

A towed array might also be a good way to search for low profile smuggling vessels that have a minimal visual and radar cross section.

“Elbit Systems To Supply ASW Capabilities To An Asian-Pacific Navy” –Naval News

Naval News Reports, Israeli defense contractor, Elbit Systems has been awarded contracts totaling about $56M to provide ASW capabilities to an unnamed Asia-Pacific country (my guess, the Philippines).

Elbit Systems will provide the Seagull™ USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) configured to perform ASW missions and the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) systems. The Seagull USVs will integrate Helicopter/Ship Long-Range Active Sonars (HELRAS) and will be equipped with the Company’s autonomous suite, Combat Management System and Satellite Communication capability. The TRAPS systems, which will be installed onboard the customer’s corvettes, are low frequency variable-depth-sonars intended for detection, tracking and classification of submarines, midget submarines, surface vessels and torpedoes.

I love to see this stuff because it means there are ASW systems out there that are appropriate for cutters from the largest down to relatively small.

Using helicopter style dipping sonars on surface vessels is not new. The Soviets built a number of corvettes that used this approach (Petya, Mirka, and Koni classes), but the dipping sonars have gotten much better since then.

We have talked about TRAPS before:

HELRES, Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar, is a product of L3Harris, headquartered in Melbourne, FL.

Elbit Systems’ Seagull unmanned surface vessel. I do love this photo because it shows that even a very small vessel can launch light weight torpedoes.

 

Navy Creates an On Call Task Force

160523-N-TC720-274 USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) underway May 23, 2016.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mat Murch/Released)

US Naval Institute reports that the Navy is doing something new in the Atlantic. They are establishing an on call Surface Action Group (SAG) “Navy Creates New Atlantic Destroyer Task Group to Hunt Russian Submarines.”

To me this highlights a couple of things. First apparently there is no comparable group in the Pacific. Second there is only one group to cover the entire East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. So if the Coast Guard calls on the Navy for assistance, its likely there will be a long wait.

“Saildrone Showcased Its USVs At Sea Air Space 2021 For The First Time” –Naval News

Saildrone is a company that provides Unmanned Surface Vessels, powered primarily by wind and solar. The Coast Guard has already been experimenting with some of the these to provide Maritime Domain Awareness.

Naval News reports on their presence at Sea Air Space 2021, including a new, much larger, 72 foot long class of saildrones.

Meanwhile the US Naval Institute News Service reports these “Uncrewed” surface vessels might be used for ASW, towing passive sensors.

Video: Northrop Grumman Showcases Very Light Weight Torpedo At Sea Air Space 2021″ –Naval News

Our friends at Naval News have an update on the Very Light Weight Torpedo program. It seems to be progressing rapidly. Apparently this is seen as an urgent requirement.

The discussion in the video talked about the anti-torpedo and anti-submarine capabilities, but no discussion of use against surface targets. I suspect this is because those capabilities are the primary selling points for the Navy. It may not be that it is incapable of attacking surface vessels, which should be easier targets.

We talked about this weapon earlier, in greater depth, including potential Coast Guard use.

Full scale production should drive to price down to a point, it might even find its way into the Coast Guard.

(There does seem to be an error in the written portion of the Naval News post in that it says the diameter of the weapon is 121 mm while the video discussion indicates 171 mm. The figures I had seen earlier were:  6.75″ in diameter (171.45mm), about 85″ in length, and weighs about 220 pounds or about 100 kilos).

 

“SEA CONTROL 219 – USCG COMMANDANT ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ” –CIMSEC

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

(I meant to cover this earlier, but perhaps still worth a listen)

CIMSEC’s Podcast “SEA Control,” had an interview with the Commandant, Dec. 27, 2020. You can find it here.

At first I thought I had heard it all before, but toward the end, there were some surprises.

He talked about  Arctic, Antarctic, and IUU. He talked about the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the IUU Strategic Outlook.

Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing got a lot of attention. He related that it was gaining visibility and had become a national security issue since overfishing has created food security issues for many countries. He pointed to Coast Guard Cooperation with Ecuador in monitoring a fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands. Internationally he sees a coordination role for the USCG.

Relative to the Arctic he mentioned the possibility of basing icebreakers in the Atlantic and the need for better communications.

He talked about the Tri-Service Strategy and the Coast Guards roles in it, particularly in less than lethal competition.

More novel topics started about minute 38 beginning with Unmanned systems. He talked about the recent CG experiments with unmanned systems and went on to note that the CG will also regulated Unmanned commercial vessel systems.

About minute 41 he talked about the Coast Guard’s role in countering UAS in the Arabian Gulf. He added that we have a lead role in DHS in counter UAS. “We are in the thick of that”

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

He said the service was looking at MQ-9 maritime “Guardian” (minute 45)

When ask about reintroducing an ASW capability he said that while the Coast Guard was looking at it, the service would have to be cautious about biting off too much. (My suggestion of how the CG could have an ASW mission with minimal impact on its peacetime structure.)

He talked about balancing local and distant missions and concluded that the CG could do both (47), and that the Coast Guard was becoming truly globally deployable (48).

He noted that the first two FRCs for PATFORSWA would transit to Bahrain in Spring, followed by two more in the Fall, and two more in 2022. (49)

He noted technology is making SAR more efficient. “Hopefully we will put ourselves out of the Search and Rescue business.” 50

He talked about the benefits of “white hull diplomacy.” (52)

Asked about our funding for new missions he said it was sometime necessary to demonstrate the value of the mission first, then seek funding. (55)

He also talked about raising the bar on maintenance.

Coast Guard Cutter + Navy Reserve + Mission Module = ASW

The US is seriously short of Anti-Submarine Warfare escort vessels, but a little forethought and some cooperation between the Navy Reserve and the Coast Guard could seriously reduce the deficit, without a huge impact on either the Navy or the Coast Guard’s peacetime budget, operations, and manning.

It is a simple concept, a payload/platform solution. The Navy provides the payload. The Coast Guard provides the platform and drives “the truck.” It would allow the Coast Guard to have an important wartime role without significantly increasing its manning or training requirements. The costs to the Navy would be minimal and it would allow them to exploit their reserve pool of trained ASW personnel long before additional ships could be built.

In peacetime, the Coast Guard has been placing detachments on Navy ships. In wartime, Navy detachments could be placed on Coast Guard ships.

The essential elements are:

  • 36 Coast Guard Cutters, 11 National Security Cutters and 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters built, building, or planned.
  • Navy Reserve Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) aircraft and crews
  • An ASW mission module for each cutter
  • Navy personnel (active or reserve, officer and enlisted) trained and experienced in operating the ASW mission module equipment and ASW operations

The Threat:

If we have a non-nuclear war with a near peer, e.g. China or Russia, it is almost certain we will need more Anti-Submarine Warfare escort vessels than we currently have. The Chinese have almost 80 submarines  (60 conventional and about 19 nuclear) and they are doubling their capacity for building nuclear submarines. Russia has about 63 submarines, mostly nuclear.

US Navy ASW escorts, we are short:

The Navy’s force level goal is 156 surface combatants, out of the projected fleet of 355. These would include 104 large surface combatants (LSC, cruisers and destroyers) and 52 small surface combatants (SSC, LCS and frigates), but so far, there is no clear path to that goal. The Navy’s fleet will vary over time, but for the foreseeable future it will include less than 120 surface combatants. These include fewer than 90 cruisers and destroyers. A total of 35 LCS are built or funded, but it appears four of those may be decommissioned. Only ten LCS will be equipped as ASW escorts. The FFG(X), now FFG-62 program, is expected to produce 20 FFGs, but that program, is unlikely to produce its first ten ships before 2029.

The “Battle Force 2045” plan, which was never approved by DOD, projects a need for 60 to 70 Small Surface Combatants.

In any case we are going to short of escorts. A little over two years ago, the Military Sealift Command was told that ‘You’re on your own’: US sealift can’t count on Navy escorts in the next big war.

That is really not a good plan. We already have a minimal number of logistics support vessels and only a small pool of American mariners to sail them. Maritime Patrol Aircraft might be able to provide some degree of protection for transiting logistics vessels but one thing they cannot do, is rescue mariners from ships that are inevitably sunk. Coast Guard ships might be able to rescue mariners, but without ASW equipment, they themselves would be vulnerable.

The Mission: 

I would not expect the cutters to be on the forward edge of battle, but by providing escort service from the Continental US to forward logistics bases, they would free more capable assets for areas where the threat level, particularly the air threat, is higher.

 

The Cutters: 

The Coast Guard has or is building two classes of cutters that might be useful as ASW escorts, the Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) and the Argus class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC).

USCGC Stone, the ninth National Security Cutter. Dual helicopter hangars clearly visible.  (Huntington Ingalls photo)

Nine NSCs have already been completed. Two more are building or on order. Though they lack any current ASW capabilities, the Bertholf class National Security Cutters are in many ways already equipped to serve as frigates. A modified version of the design was apparently a contender for the FFG(X) program. They are a bit faster than the new FFGs and have a longer range and greater endurance. They have a flight deck and hangars capable of handling two MH-60s or one MH-60 and UAS. Like the new frigate and the LCSs, they have a 57mm Mk110 gun, but with a better fire control system than found on the LCSs, that includes a SPQ-9B Fire Control Radar. They also have a Phalanx CIWS and a sensitive compartmented intelligence facility (SCIF). They were designed with provision to accept twelve Mk56 VLS and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. Their equipment includes:

  • EADS 3D TRS-16 AN/SPS-75 Air Search Radar
  • SPQ-9B Fire Control Radar
  • AN/SPS-79 Surface Search Radar
  • AN/SLQ-32B(V)2
  • 2 × SRBOC/ 2 × NULKA countermeasures chaff/rapid decoy launchers
  • AN/UPX-29A IFF
  • AN/URN-25 TACAN
  • MK 46 Mod 1 Optical Sighting System (WMSL 750 – 753)
  • MK 20 Mod 0 Electro-Optical Sighting System (WMSL 754 – 760)
  • Furuno X and S-band radars
  • Sea Commander Aegis derived combat system
  • Link-11 and Link-16 tactical data links

The Offshore Patrol Cutters are only slightly less capable than the National Security Cutters. They are about the same size at 4,500 tons full load. Speed is lower at 22+ knots sustained. They also have a 60 day endurance and an over 10,000 mile range. They are designed to support and hangar both a helicopter and a UAS, but while they clearly could hangar a MH-60R, it is not clear if it could also support an MQ-8. It is currently unclear if they will have a SCIF as built, but they have space for one. Their equipment includes:

  • Saab Sea Giraffe AN/SPS-77 AMB multi-mode naval radar
  • AN/UPX-46 IFF
  • AN/URN-32 TACAN
  • MK 20 Mod 1 EOSS
  • Link 22 Tactical Data Link
  • AN/SLQ-32C(V)6 Electronic Warfare System
  • 2 x MK 53 Mod 10 NULKA Decoy Launching Systems

Navy Reserve Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) squadron(s):

HSM squadrons fly both the MH-60R and MQ-8 Fire Scout UASWikipedia reports there are currently 18 HSM squadrons. They are now the only provider of shipboard airborne ASW capability. Only one of those is a Reserve squadron. Reportedly the Navy currently has 34 excess MH-60R which could equip virtually all the large cutter currently planned.

The ASW Mission Module:

The Navy apparently intends to equip ten LCS with ASW mission modules. But the new FFG-62 class will share the same ASW equipment including the TB-37U MFTA (Multi-Function Towed Array) which takes the form of a three inch cable towed behind the ship. The LCS ASW module also includes a variable depth sonar, the AN/SQS-62. This may or may not be required for the cutters’ open ocean escort mission. Even 36 complete ASW modules at the current cost of 19.8M would cost less than a single new FFG.

AN/SQS-62 Variable Depth Sonar intended for Littoral Combat ships. Photo Raytheon.

Manning the ASW Modules:

There are at least two possible sources of crews to man the ASW modules:

  • Active duty personnel assigned to rotational crews of LCS and FFGs
  • Navy Reservists

All LCS are now expected to be manned by rotating Blue and Gold crews. A similar scheme is being considered for the FFGs. Upon mobilization it is likely crew rotations will stop. That may mean experienced ASW officers and crew will be available to serve on similarly equipped ASW capable cutters.

As of Sept 30, 2019, the Navy’s Ready Reserve Force included over 100,000 members, 59,658 Selected Reservists (SELRES) and 44,020 Individual Ready Reservists (IRR). Currently I doubt there are organized reserve units prepared to operate ASW mission modules, but that might be a future option that would allow them to operate with cutters during training and exercises, while maintaining their training using simulators. There will certainly be recently separated IRR members, trained in the operation of the relevant systems who could be recalled to active duty.

Conclusion: 

This is a simple low cost way to add about 30% more ASW capable surface combatants to the fleet, putting it much closer to its projected requirements. They may not be ideal ASW escorts, but they may be good enough to make a difference.

“CONVOY ESCORT: THE NAVY’S FORGOTTEN (PURPOSE) MISSION” –War on the Rocks

An Allied convoy heads eastward across the Atlantic, bound for Casablanca, in November 1942. U.S. Navy (photo 80-G-474788), Post-Work: User:W.wolny – This media is available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 520948.

War on the Rocks has a post entitled, “Convoy Escort: The Navy’s Forgotten (Purpose) Mission

Since it has been a Coast Guard mission and may be again, it might be of interest.

Contrary to the impression you may get, most of the North Atlantic convoy work during WWII was done by Great Britain’s Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. The US Navy played a relatively minor role until mid 1943.

USCGC Duane on North Atlantic Convoy Duty

“US Coast Guard won’t ‘close the door’ on hunting submarines again in the future” –Business Insider

US Coast Guard crew of cutter Spencer watched as a depth charge exploded near U-175, North Atlantic, 500 nautical miles WSW of Ireland, 17 Apr 1943. Photo by Jack January

Business Insider reports on the Commandant’s response to a question posed at a Navy League event. It was hardly a ringing commitment, but the Commandant did say,

“If there was a requirement that was at the joint Coast Guard-Navy-[Department of Defense] level that said, ‘Hey, there’s an urgent need to bring that capability back in Coast Guard,’ I’m not saying we couldn’t revisit that,”

“I’m not so sure I see an immediate return to that mission space here, but again, I don’t close the door on anything since we live in an increasingly complicated world … and requirements change,” Schultz added

We have had an almost 30 year period when the Coast Guard’s Defense Readiness mission has been limited to low level requirements that had little impact on the majority of Coast Guard members. It happened because of the virtual disappearance of any significant naval threat after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there has always been the possibility that a more active role might reemerge in the future.

If we have no defense readiness mission, there is no reason the Coast Guard should be military. There would be no reason for our ships to have sophisticated fire control systems, electronic warfare systems, or Phalanx CIWS. There would be no reason for defensive systems, because if we were irrelevant in a military conflict, why would an enemy bother wasting ammunition on us.

Many countries have no coast guard or their coast guards are limited to coastal SAR. In many nations their regular navies and air forces, that do have war time missions, also do fisheries protection, drug enforcement, migrant interdiction, coastal security, and SAR.

If our large cutters do not have a wartime defense readiness mission, it is illogical for us to build ships that are 80 to 90% of a frigate or corvette, with 80 to 90% of the crew of those types, when more numerous, much less capable ships could do the non-defense related missions much more economically.

Schultz and other officials have also said new Coast Guard ships will be able to adapt for future missions.

“We’re putting in what we call space, weight, and power to be able to plug and play for all kinds of mission support,” Shannon Jenkins, senior Arctic advisor at the Coast Guard’s Office of Arctic Policy, said at an event in August when asked about arming icebreakers. “It certainly will have the capacity and the abilities to add in whatever we need to execute our national missions, not just Coast Guard missions.”

( I think you mean Coast Guard non-defense related missions, because defense is a Coast Guard mission?)

If conditions are favorable and no conflict appears likely for a long period, then it may make sense to adopt a policy of “fitted for but not with” or a more open weight, space and power reservation approach, but at some point we are going to need leadership in the mold of Admiral Wasche to recognize the need for the Coast Guard to again step up and fill its military role.

Adding an ASW capability will take time. It has become more complex than it was in WWII and we no longer have a lot of ship building and repair facilities capable of quickly upgrading our ships. How good are we at predicting the future?

Even in WWII we began the war terribly unprepared. Cutters were assigned to escort convoys that had neither sonar nor radar. Some ships that got sonars had no trained operators. Although more U-boats were sunk by aircraft than by ships, our air assets failed to sink any submarines (although one sinking was credited, it turned out not to have been the case).

The Navy may be hesitant to ask that the Coast Guard start preparing for possible armed conflict. There are many in the US Navy who might see asking the Coast Guard to shoulder some of the responsibility for naval defense as a diversion of attention from the Navy’s needs. But the Navy has several communities that compete for dollars. If the Coast Guard can provide some surface escorts it may mean more Navy money available for submarines or aircraft, so we may also have support from within the Navy. We really need to talk about the Coast Guard’s role in a major conflict when our non-defense related missions will have a lower priority.

The international environment is starting to take on an ominous resemblance to the late 1930s. The US needs to deter aggressive action. The Coast Guard can play a part in providing a credible naval deterrent, but only if it is seen as capable in the near term. We really need to start thinking about this before the need becomes urgent.

 

How Spencer Became the Coast Guard’s Top U-Boat Killer, Thank You Royal Navy

US Coast Guard crew of cutter Spencer watched as a depth charge exploded near U-175, North Atlantic, 500 nautical miles WSW of Ireland, 17 Apr 1943. Photo by Jack January

Wanted to pass along a bit of Coast Guard history I found on Uboat.net. Below is their list of “Notable Events involving Spencer.”

It really looks like Spencer got a lot of her ASW training from the British Royal Navy, operating in company with British, Canadian, and USN escorts, against small World War I vintage British H class submarines.


23 Mar 1942
HMS H 50 (Lt. H.B. Turner, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with USCGC Spencer and USS Gleaves. (1)

26 Aug 1942
HMS H 32 (Lt. J.R. Drummond, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Yestor (Lt. R.C. Holt, RNVR), HMS Beverley (Lt. R.A. Price, RN), USS BabbittUSS SpencerHMCS Collingwood (T/A/Lt.Cdr. W. Woods, RCNR) and HMCS Trillium (T/Lt. P.C. Evans, RCNR). (2)

22 Dec 1942
HMS H 34 (Lt. G.M. Noll, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Fowey (Cdr.(Retd.) L.B.A. Majendie, RN), HMS Carnation (Lt. A. Branson, RNR), HMS Black Swan (Cdr. T.A.C. Pakenham, RN), HMS Tango (T/Lt. J. Hunter, RNR), USS SpencerUSS Badger and HMCS Trillium (T/Lt. P.C. Evans, RCNR). (3)

23 Dec 1942
HMS H 34 (Lt. G.M. Noll, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with USS SpencerHMCS Dauphin (T/Lt. R.A.S. MacNeil, RCNR) and HMS Tango (T/Lt. J. Hunter, RNR) plus ships from the 37th Escort Group. (3)

9 Feb 1943
HMS H 33 (Lt. M.H. Jupp, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Poppy (Lt. N.K. Boyd, RNR), HMS Dianella (T/Lt. J.F. Tognola, RNR) and USS Spencer. (4)

10 Feb 1943
HMS H 28 (Lt. K.H. Martin, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with USS Spencer. (5)

10 Feb 1943
HMS H 44 (Lt. I.S. McIntosh, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMCS Dauphin (T/Lt. M.H. Wallace, RCNR), HMCS Trillium (T/Lt. P.C. Evans, RCNR), HMS Ness (Lt.Cdr. T.G.P. Crick, DSC, RN), HMS Philante (Capt. A.J. Baker-Cresswell, DSO, RN), HMS Folkestone (Cdr.(Retd.) J.G.C. Gibson, OBE, RN), USS SpencerUSS Campbell and HMCS Rosthern (T/Lt. R.J.G. Johnson, RCNVR). (6)

8 Mar 1943
German U-boat U-633 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Iceland, in position 58.21N, 31.00W, by depth charges from the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Spencer.

23 Mar 1943
HMS H 28 (Lt. K.H. Martin, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Mallow (T/A/Lt.Cdr. H.T.S. Clouston, RNVR), HMS Myosotis (T/Lt. R. Lugg, RNR), HMS La Malouine (T/Lt. V.D.H. Bidwell, RNR), HMS Dianthus (T/A/Lt.Cdr. N.F. Israel, RNR) and USS Spencer. (7)

17 Apr 1943
German U-boat U-175 was sunk in the North Atlantic south-west of Ireland, in position 47.53N, 22.04W, by depth charges and gunfire from the US Coast Guard cutter USCGC Spencer.