“Sea Serpent ASW system successfully used by US Navy” –Navy Recognition

Sea Serpent system deployed from a boat (MIND photo)

Navy Recognition reports,

“On September 27, 2022, MIND Technologies Inc., a Texas/U.S.-based company providing underwater research solutions, announced the successful demonstration of its Sea Serpent ASW system during the U.S. Navy’s Coastal Trident 2022 exercise.”

The Sea Serpent system is described by Mind Technologies as,

  • “…based on COTS Seismic Arrays, applicable for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), and Waterside Security (WSS) applications.
  • “…designed for rapid deployment from USV platforms or as a ‘clip-on’ capability to existing light- and medium-weight Coast Guard (emphasis appkied–Chuck) or Naval vessels
  • “…modular and scalable, with lengths from 50 m to over 12,000 m acoustic aperture available
  • “Processing uses a scalable, app-based architecture and includes multiple beamforming options,  as well as broadband, narrowband/LOFAR, and DEMON processing
  • “Other apps will include Automatic Detection and Tracking (ADT) and Target Motion Analysis (TMA)
  • “The architecture is fully open to allow third-party/government processing and supports private cloud operation for distributed tracking, multi-static processing, and data fusion.”

All the reports I have seen were based on the company’s news release so we don’t have an independent evaluation of its success.

An exercise with the United States Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team-West was leveraged to conduct Advanced Naval Technology Exercise experiments with wearable sensors and remote physiological monitoring.

Coastal Trident is a series of annual exercises conducted by Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Port Hueneme Division. Apparently the Coast Guard has participated in the exercise in the past. It certainly seems to be something the CG should be interested in.

 

What is an Ideal Coast Guard Military Readiness Mission? We Provide the Truck and Driver, Navy Provides the Load

A US Marine Corps Logistics Vehicle System Replacement truck carrying a standard shipping container with a Navy logistics vessel in the background. The Navy is now working on a project to develop a containerized electronic warfare and electronic intelligence system that will work on various naval, air, and ground platforms. USMC / Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin

The US Coast Guard has had a long history of participation in almost every armed conflict the US Navy has engaged in. But there has always been a tension between peacetime economy and effectiveness and readiness for war.

Some military systems are essential for our peacetime missions, like minimal deck guns or muti-mode radars, we would probably have them, even if we had no wartime missions.

Some military equipment we would be unlikely to have, if we had no military missions, can enhance performance of peacetime missions, like data links and electronic warfare systems. These systems are welcome.

Then there are systems that would enhance our wartime effectiveness that have little or no utility in peacetime. If they require significant training and maintenance time, they can adversely effective peacetime economy and effectiveness. There is an argument to be made that these still offer good return on investment compared with making a similar investment in DOD assets, but diverting DHS assets to support DOD missions can be a hard sell.

Ideally, we would want Coast Guard assets to do their peacetime missions without having to think about wartime missions until mobilization, but when needed, DOD would quickly and easily add capabilities and trained operating personnel.

That is not always possible, but in some cases we might be able to come close to that.

The Danes showed how to make modular naval weapon and sensor systems with their SanFlex system. Now we regularly see announcement of some new modular system. Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and  here.

TRAPS containerized active/passive towed array from GeoSpectrum Technologies.

Towed sonars can be containerized, here, here, and here.

I even proposed a containerized weapon system.

What I think we need, after determining the most appropriate mission set for Coast Guard units is a determination of what:

  • must be permanently installed and operated by Coast Guard personnel at all times,
  • what can be quickly installed and operated in the event of a crisis, and
  • what can be added in the form of modular equipment maintained by the Navy and to be operated by Navy Reserve personnel upon mobilization.

A primary example of the latter would be an ASW helicopter. Unmanned systems also look like likely candidates for systems that could be quickly added to Coast Guard vessels.

Unmanned mine hunting and destruction equipment might be based on Coast Guard buoy tenders to allow them to look for mines in US waters, including those around Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. In fact the Navy is making some extra LCS Mine CounterMeasures (MCM) for ships of opportunity.

If the Navy wanted Coast Guard cutters to augment Navy ASW forces, a likely mission if we have a war with China, they could become useful units by the addition of a modular version of the Navy’s towed array sonar systems and assignment of experienced ASW personnel and an MH-60R aviation detachment. We would need to have identified where we would store torpedoes, sonobuoys, and other support equipment, but those spaces could have other uses in peacetime.

Why Did USCGC Midgett Embark an ASW Helicopter For RIMPAC 2022?

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 30, 2022) U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Humberto Alba, a naval aircrewman tactical-helicopter, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37, deployed on U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757), looks down at a USCGC crewmember after taking off during flight operations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Bacon)

The Drive reported on Cutter Midgett’s participation in RIMPAC 2022 with a look at flying Navy MH-60R ASW helicopters from the National Security Cutters. I wanted to talk about why this might have been done, but first let’s clarify something.

This and other reports may have left the impression that a Coast Guard Officer leading a task force at RIMPAC was a first and that it was the first time a Navy H-60 had flown from an NSC. Neither is not really the case.

  • During RIMPAC 2020, USCGC Munro embarked a Navy MH-60S, the surface warfare and logistics counterpart to the MH-60R. It is not clear if they ever hangared it.
  • Reportedly USCGC Bertholf headed a Task Force during RIMPAC2018.
  • In RIMPAC 2014 USCGC Waesche also headed a task force. “The maritime interdiction operation involving the Chinese destroyer, frigate and oiler was referenced in December by the Navy as being under the Coast Guard cutter Waesche and including two Royal Brunei Navy ships, a French frigate, a U.S. frigate and the Pearl Harbor-based cruiser USS Port Royal.”

Since NSCs are skippered by Captains, while the US Navy and our allies captain Burke class DDGs and similar ships with commanders, it is not uncommon for the Coast Guard commanding officer to be the senior officer among the captains of a group ships, if there is no commodore assigned. So, frequently, the Coast Guard CO is task force commander by default. This happened to 327 skippers early in WWII as well. For a period, Spencer’s CO was an escort group commander until the Navy assigned a Commodore. Fortunately Spencer got some good training allowing her to sink two of the less than 40 U-boats sunk by US surface ships.

So what was the reason an ASW helicopter was embarked on Midgett? The Coast Guard’s motivation and the Navy’s?

Could be as simple as because they could, but I don’t think so. Both services expected to get something out of this.

Interoperability is always nice, so Navy helo on CG cutter allows both to get some training. Still think there must be more to it than that.

The Navy wants to more widely distribute their forces so this might have been something of a dry run to see what they could do in terms of command and control from a Frigate sized ship and crew.

For the Coast Guard, it could have been an opportunity to get used to operating an H-60 with folding tail from a Bertholf class. It was certainly a rare opportunity to exercise LINK 16. We might have wanted to find out if a system included in the MH-60R should also be included in Coast Guard H-60s.

Or it might have been a first small step toward reviving a Coast Guard ASW mission. Unless the National Security Cutters could operate an ASW helicopter there would be no point in trying to add an additional ASW capability such as a towed array. Confirming ship/helo compatibility would be a first step, along with identifying what changes might be necessary to provide for the helicopters’ additonal needs for weapons, sonobuoys, etc.

Maybe Supporting MH-60R helicopters is reason enough

The US Navy has alot of H-60s. The numbers I have seen are 237 MH-60S (the surface warfare and logistics type) and 291 MH-60Rs (the multi-mission/ASW type). It is probably a bit less than that now, but about 500 plus the MQ-8 helicopter drones that they will also want to take to sea.

The Navy obviously does not have as many ships capable of hosting H-60s as they would like. Every US Navy surface combatant commissioned in the 21st century (DDG and LCS–there have been no cruisers or frigates) has had the capability to hangar two H-60s, and the planned FFGs will have this capability as well.

Navy requirements seem to be always changing,

  • The proposed 355 ship navy included 104 large surface combatants (cruisers and destroyers) plus 52 small surface combatants (frigates and LCS).
  • The latest from July 2022 calls for 96 large and 56 small.

Let’s say a minimum of 116 ASW capable escorts, probably about 120. Right now they have about 90 with no ASW capable LCS, 22 cruisers all now 22 to 36 years old (five of which are slated for retirement in the current budget), and about 70 Burke class DDGs of which 13 will reach 30 years old by the end of 2025 while the first FFG is not expected until 2026. Clearly the number is ASW capable escorts is unlikely to increase significantly any time soon and number may actually decline.

So how many MH-80R/MQ-8 spots are there?

The ten carriers typically host about six MH-60R. The cruisers and Burke class flight IIA and III have two each, but 28 of the Burke class DDGs (Flights I and II), almost a third of our large surface combatants, have flight decks and LAMPS ASW electronics, but no hangar. So roughly 72 ships with 204 spots. Eleven National Security Cutters would provide 22 additional spots, about a 11% increase. The Offshore Patrol Cutters protentially offer another 25 spots about 12% more.

With the Navy hoping to more widely distribute their surface combatants, rather than keeping them firmly attached to a carrier, a couple of additional MH-60Rs could substantially improve ASW capabilities of a small surface action group (SAG).

 

 

 

“JUST IN: Coast Guard Aims to Learn from Navy at RIMPAC” –National Defense

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Midgett (WMSL 757) and Kimball (WMSL 756) transit past Koko Head on Oahu, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2019. The Kimball and Midgett are both homeported in Honolulu and two of the newest Coast Guard cutters to join the fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released)

We are finally getting some information about the Coast Guard’s participation in RIMPAC 2022, and some of it may be a bit surprising.

A Coast Guard CO will command a task force,

Coast Guard Cutter Midgett is commanding Combined Task Force 175, which includes ships from France, Peru and the U.S. Navy, and is conducting air and missile defense, gunnery, mass rescue and anti-submarine warfare exercises.

The surprise, of course, is anti-submarine warfare. Midgett might simply simulate the high value unit to be protected, but Midgett will embark an MH-60R. The “Romeo” version is an ASW helicopter.

The 418-foot Midgett, a national security cutter and the largest class in the Coast Guard fleet, will also sail with a Navy MH-60R helicopter on board.

“Part of that is, how do you sustain that particular airframe? How do you support it for a long-range, two-month or three-month deployment?” he said. The Coast Guard is hoping to convert some of its airframes to ones used by the Navy going forward.

I might add, where do you store the sonobuoys, torpedoes, and other weapons?

(I have felt for a long time there are opportunities for attaching Navy Reserve units, that might include ASW Helicopters and their crews and sonar equipment and supporting personnel, to Coast Guard cutters as mobilization assets.)

Will the helicopter operate from Midgett as part of a Sink-Ex? Will Midgett get to participate in a Sink-Ex?

All the Sink-Exs seem to target ships of frigate size or larger. It would be good to have some smaller targets for less capable weapon systems.

What about the USCGC William Hart (WPC-1134), that will also be participating? Her only activity mentioned is to help set up a SAR exercise,

“As part of RIMPAC, the Hart will deploy two groups of mannequins at sea for the Midgett and a Japanese cutter to find and recover in a mass-rescue operation.”

Hope Hart and Midgett get to exercise against high speed small surface targets.

“All Freedom Littoral Combat Ships in Commission Tapped for Early Disposal” –USNI

Littoral combat ship Little Rock (LCS 9) is underway during a high-speed run in Lake Michigan during acceptance trials. Lockheed Martin Photo

The US Naval Institute’s news service reports, that the Navy intends to decommission all nine currently completed and commissioned Freedom class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) including one commissioned in 2020 and three commissioned in 2019.

Does this make any sense?

We are told the Freedom Class cost as much to maintain as a Burke class DDG. I have to wonder if we are talking total operating costs? Does that include manning? Fuel? Manning is a very large part of the operating cost of a warship, and even with two crews per ship, the manning for the Freedom class (2 x 75) is about half that of a single crewed DDG (303 to 323).

Also sighted in the report is the decision to terminate Raytheon’s AN/SQS-62 VDS program that was to be the primary sensor for the ASW mission module and was expected to equip the new FFG has been cancelled. On the FFG it will be replaced by the CAPTAS 4.

While it showed promise in early testing, the Raytheon-built AN/SQS-62 VDS suffered stability problems and had towing issues with the Freedom-class, several Navy officials have told USNI News. As a result of the poor performance, the Navy announced it had terminated the mission module on Monday.

The report seemed to suggest that because the VDS was not working, the Freedom class could not be used in the ASW role that was intended.

“With no mission module and unexpected costs for the repair to a complex combining gear for the Freedom-class ships, Navy officials said it wasn’t worth keeping the ships in commission.”

Elsewhere I have seen Navy officials quoted as saying the two decisions, while announced almost concurrently, were in fact unrelated. It also would not account for the decommissioning of nine ships because, only a third of the completed or funded Freedom class (after Freedom was decommissioned) that would have remained were expected to have the ASW mission. That meant, at most, five ASW equipped ships.

It also would not make sense because, while the CAPTAS 4 might not fit the LCS, it is only one of a family of related towed array systems. There is a lighter, modular CAPTAS 4, as well a other smaller and lighter members of the CAPTAS family, that could have given these ships a significant ASW capability. A question remains, what is to become of the Independence class LCSs that were to have been equipped with the ASW module?

These ships were built by Marinette Marine. Marinette also has the contract for the new guided missile frigate (FFG). If the Freedom class LCSs were returned to Marinette to be fixed, it might delay completion of the FFGs, which must certainly be a higher priority than fixing the Freedom Class ships. That could be a reason. Still the repairs could be done elsewhere.

One thing is for sure, this decision will save the builders of these defective ships a huge amount of money, in that they will no longer be required to fix the problems they created. Could this be the real reason?

Some good may come of this debacle:

It appears six, as yet uncompleted Freedom class LCS, will be retained. They are to be split between 4th and 5th Fleet. That probably means three in Jacksonville and three forward deployed in Bahrain. The ships in Jacksonville will probably do a lot of drug interdiction patrols for 4th Fleet. Still three ships could not continuously support more than one ship underway, whereas the norm has been two ships for some time now.

Adoption of the CAPTAS 4 may open up the possibility of use of other members of the CAPTAS family including, perhaps, application to cutters.

“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).