Coast Guard Commander Craig Allen talks about challenges with national security cutter connectivity.

HMAS Success (AOR-304) refuelling probe goes in for a hook-up with the US Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751) as the Royal Australian Navy Auxilliary Oiler Replenishment Ship conducts a dual RAS (Replenishment at Sea) off the coast of Hawaii during the Sea Phase of Exercise RIMPAC 2014, 19 July 2014. (RAN Photo by Leading Seaman Brenton Freind RAN)

The 8 Aug. 2019 US Naval Institute podcast features Cdr. Craig Allen, currently XO of USCGC Waesche discussing the topic of his winning USNI Coast Guard Essay contest.

Despite the title, connectivity on other Coast Guard platforms was also discussed.

The discussion on cutter connectivity doesn’t actually start until about time 10:05. Earlier in the podcast they talk about the Midshipmen and Cadets Essay Contest (deadline 31 Oct. 2019).

He mentions specifically difficult to share UAS data and images. Even so it sounds like the most significant difficulty is that operational data is crowding out administrative data that now can no longer be done offline. 

Sounds like there are three paths that might be pursued that might ease the situation.

First of course is to increase band width, but if that were easy I presume it would have already been done.

There was not discussion of tactical data links, like Link 16, but this is one way to a common shared tactical picture. Reportedly Link16 “supports the exchange of text messages, imagery data and provides two channels of digital voice (2.4 kbit/s and/or 16 kbit/s in any combination).” I am pretty sure the NSC has Link 16, but most Coast Guard units including Webber class, aircraft, and District and Area Commands do not. Moving the tactical information to data links could free bandwidth for administrative tasks. In addition if we ever want our district and area commands to be able to call on DOD assets to respond to a terrorist attack, having access to data link could make it a lot easier.

Third, it sounds like we may have shot ourselves in the foot by eliminating previously acceptable ways to handle administrative matters. Sounds like we are forcing operational units to make it easy for administrative support units, instead of the other way around, as it should be. The extreme measures he describes as required to get the job done should be an embarrassment to the Coast Guard. The administrative system worked before internet. It can work without it. There are ways around these problems.

Kites for Energy Savings and Maritime Domain Awareness

gCaptain is reporting that, since 2012, the Irish Naval Service has been experimenting with using kite sails to give their ships a fuel saving boost and to hoist aloft surveillance equipment up to 300 meters (1000 feet) into the air.  They now consider the technology mature enough to be commercialized.

Putting sensors at 1000 feet gives a horizon distance of 38.7 miles compared with 8.7 miles for a more typical height of 50 feet.

The Irish Naval Service, their missions, and their ships look more like the US Coast Guard than the US Navy. This technology might have applications for the Coast Guard. Perhaps it is worth a look by the Research and Development Center.

It looks like the Navy may be working on something that looks similar, TALONS, but is only intended to hoist sensors, not improve fuel economy.

Mini-Aegis Possible for Corvette (or Cutter) Sized Ships

NavyRecognition reports on the presentation of the Raytheon’s AN/SPY6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar at the recently completed SEA-AIR-SPACE trade show.

This is the radar that has been selected to go on the Flight III version of the Burke class DDG. Most of the emphasis has been on larger installations, but the good news for the Coast Guard is that these systems are modular, based on two foot square elements than each constitute a separate radar, so that it can be scaled down as well as up. These fixed arrays would normally be arranged with four arrays positioned to each cover a 90 degree sector. Raytheon claims arrays consisting of nine elements arranged in a 3×3 square (6 ft x 6 ft) provides performance similar to the 12 foot octagonal AN/SPY-1D on existing Burke class DDGs. It appears the intention is that the Flight III ships will have roughly octagonal arrays consisting of 37 elements, 14 foot across. There is also an option for an even larger array of 69 elements in an octagonal 18 foot diameter array.

These radars are reportedly capable of performing virtually every type of radar function including air and surface search and firecontrol. Reportedly the radar will be “qualified” in 2017 and the initial operational capability will be attained in 2023, presumably with the first flight III DDG.

When might we consider using these?

The Bertholf was commissioned in 2008 so the class will start needing mid-life renovations some time after 2023.

The Offshore Patrol Cutter construction program is expected to be stretched out with funding over 15 years and deliveries will probably extend from FY2021 to FY2035. Over so long a period it would not be unreasonable to expect that there will be a “B class” with updated systems. By that time, these systems may be so common it may be reasonable to replace the planned radar suite with these fixed systems.

At the very least, at some point it might be advisable to convert at least one of each class to accept this or a similar system as a prototype for war emergency conversion. This might be something DOD would pay for.

State of the Coast Guard Address–2015

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft delivers his first State of the Coast Guard Address and outlines how America’s Coast Guard will meet the challenges of today while preparing for complexities that remain ahead. U.S. Coast Guard video by Telfair. H. Brown, Sr.

The Commandant has issued his State of the Coast Guard address, and I think you will find it well said, even inspiring. You can watch it above or read more here.

State-of-the-Coast-Guard-2015-560x399

Coast Guard Budget and Charlie Hebdo

Defensenews reports,

“When the Hill passed its spending bill in December, it excluded DHS, instead putting the agency under a three-month continuing resolution while the Republican-controlled Congress sought to challenge President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration.

“Asked about the DHS funds days after the Paris attacks, newly re-elected House Speaker John Boehner, R- Ohio, said “I don’t believe that the funding of the department is in fact at risk.” Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations Committee member Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D, indicated “more has to be done” to prevent such attacks, which could include an increase of funds.” (Emphasis applied–Chuck)

Should the Coast Guard play the terrorism card in a push for increased funding?
I hate to push fear as a justification for funding but keep a couple of things in mind.

  • If the electorate and their representatives are afraid, maybe they are right, maybe there is a threat.
  • Funding for Coast Guard counter-terrorism capabilities is a lot more relevant to the threat than funding for Navy high end warships, Air Force F-35s, or Army theater ballistic missile defense systems.
  • Improvements that help the Coast Guard deal with terrorism, including better comms, better Maritime Domain Awareness, and better sensors can also help the Coast Guard do a better job on their other missions.

The Department of Homeland Security seems to have a fixation on terrorism that the Coast Guard seems to have viewed with some skepticism. As a result while Departmental funding has continued to increase, Coast Guard funding has actually declined. We have been out of step with Department priorities.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Department’s priorities.

It does seem the world is becoming a more dangerous place.

The house is pushing a bill that would have DHS strengthen the southern border including more aircraft.

Are they really worried about the right threats? Really, we should be talking about what we should be afraid of, and that should include the introduction of a nuclear device which most likely to come by sea.

The Pentagon wants $350B to modernize Nuclear deterrents, new SSBNs, new ICBMs, and new nuclear bombers, none of which will have any deterrent effect on terrorists. And after all will $350B for deterrence be any more effective than $320B?

Perhaps it would make sense to spend $1B more a year on the Service that is most likely to be on the line if terrorists attempt to bring a weapon of mass destruction into the US, when most of that money is expected to be spent over the long term anyway.

If the Coast Guard is going to embrace counter terrorism as a priority, the service needs to act like it believes a terrorist attack is a possibility and ask to be armed appropriately to deal with terrorist threats, a 7.62 mm machine gun on a 25 foot boat will not cut it.

It the Coast Guard is to have a creditable capability, it will need small highly accurate missiles like Griffin, Hellfire, or Brimstone to deal with relatively small, fast, highly maneuverable threats and light weight torpedoes to deal with larger, hard to stop threats. We also need to get modern reliable patrol vessels or aircraft armed with these weapons spread out geographically to cover all our ports.

Maritime Domain Awareness?

The Acquisitions Directorate is reporting purchase of equipment to complete the Nationwide Automatic Identification System. US regulations will require most vessels in US waters 65 foot and longer to participate.

This should be a boon to SAR. It has the potential to help the Coast Guard in many ways. Still we should not forget, the information is only as good as the cooperation of the participating vessels. Vessels that choose not to cooperate by either not transmitting, or by transmitting bogus data, for whatever reason, will either not show up at all or will be improperly identified.