CBP Intercepts Canadian Fishing Boats in Disputed Waters

We have a Canadian report (actually more than one) that Customs and Border Protection marine units are intercepting, boarding, and questioning Canadian fishermen in a disputed area in the vicinity of Machias Seal Islandabout 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island and east of Maine.

In the past two weeks, at least 10 Canadian fishing boats from New Brunswick have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol agents while fishing in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, a spokesman for the fishermen says.

According to the report, “They’re in international waters, so border patrol shouldn’t be boarding Canadian vessels.”

Additionally it is reported the agents were asking questions about illegal immigrants. You have to appreciate the Canadians’ sense of humor.

The suggestion that the border agents were looking for illegal immigrants seems improbable, he said.

“That’s possible, but … the Gulf of Maine is not a major route for illegal immigrants sneaking into the United States,” Kelly said. “If anything, people are sneaking the other way. They’re trying to get out of the U.S. and into Canada to claim asylum.”

There is an angrier sounding report here.

 

“Canada taps Davie for three AHTS-conversion medium icebreakers”–Marine Log

Projresolvbig

Our resident icebreaker expert, Tups, told us in a comment this was coming. Marine Log confirms the official announcement.

“On behalf of the Canadian Coast Guard, Public Services and Procurement Canada has issued an Advanced Contract Award Notice (ACAN) to shipbuilder Chantier Davie of Lévis, Quebec, for the acquisition and conversion of three medium commercial icebreakers.

“… The three candidate ships proposed by Project Resolute for this role are the Viking Supply Ships AB vessels Tor Viking II, Balder Viking and Vidar Viking.

There was an earlier proposal to lease these three ships and the icebreaking anchor handling vessel Aiviq, but these three will be purchased and there is no mention of the Aiviq in the announcement.

Based on the accompanying illustration, conversion will add a helo deck and hangar. These ships are 82 meters (276 ft) in length, 18 m (59 ft) of beam, and 18,300 HP.

The first of these is expected to go to work this winter.

Canadian SAR Helos

RCAF EHI CH-149 Cormorant. Photo by John Davies

The Canadian Coast Guard does not operate SAR aircraft the way the USCG does. Canadian SAR aircraft are operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). They have a fleet of 14 AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101) helicopters. According to Wikipedia,

In June 2011, several US VH-71s, which are also based on the AW101, were purchased by Canada to be used as spare parts for the CH-149 fleet.

In 2017, the Liberal government announced funding for the mid-life upgrade of the fleet, to be led by ‘Team Cormorant’, a team composed of Leonardo Helicopters and IMP Aerospace and Defense. Estimated at around C$1.5bn, the programmes will offer a common fleet featuring latest avionic and mission systems, advanced radars and sensors, vision enhancement and tracking systems as well as a new 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) GE CT7-8E engine. On May 10, 2017, a report by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recommended the government move forward with a proposal to expand the Cormorant fleet by upgrading the 14 CH-149 aircraft and converting seven VH-71 airframes currently in storage to the same operational capability. This would expand the Cormorant fleet to 21 aircraft, and keep them operational until 2040. All of the upgraded helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2024.

But now Defense News reports that Sikorsky will be offering the civilian version of their S-92 (known as the CH-148 in Canada) claiming to be “more affordable at acquisition and thoughout the entirety of the lifecycle.”

These helicopters are larger than the USCG MH-60 Jayhawks (empty weight 14,500 lb (6,580 kg)/max take-off weight  21,884 lb (9,926 kg))

  • Sikorsky S-92 (empty weight 15,500 lb (7,030 kg)/max take-off weight 27,700 lb (12,568 kg))
  • CH-149 (empty weight 23,149 lb (10,500 kg)/max take-off weight 32,187 lb (14,600 kg))

The RCAF has already begun operating the CH-148 as a replacement for 50 year old SeaKing (H-3) helicopters. Navy Recognition reports a navalized ASW variant of the S-92, has recently completed a series of test with the Canadian Navy, operating day and night from Canadian frigates HMCS Montréal and HMCS Halifax (12% larger than the National Security Cutter) in up to and including Sea State Six seas.

Key among the design features for the Cyclone, Sikorsky engineered:

a retractable probe on the belly of the aircraft to more securely cinch the 29,300-lb. Cyclone to the ship’s flight deck in high sea states;
a ground support tool with an articulating arm that, with the Recovery, Assist, Secure and Traverse (RAST) system, allows the deck crew to remotely align the aircraft’s nose prior to guiding the helicopter into the hangar.

This program was plagued by developmental delays and may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Canadian procurement personnel, but there would be undoubted advantages in operating a common type of helicopter.

A decision is expected soon.

Canadian Navy Buying Small UAS For Coast Defense Ships

HMCS Saskatoon, a Kingston class Coastal Defence Vessel, near Esquimalt, British Columbia and A CH-149 Cormorant helicopter that is practicing personnel transfers.
Date March 2007
Photo by Rayzlens

Seapower Magazine (on-line) is reporting that Canada will equip its Coastal Defense ships with the Puma AE RQ-20B small unmanned air system (sUAS). These ships of the Kingston class, are a bit smaller than the Coast Guard’s 210 foot cutters and have no flight deck.

These ships frequently cooperate with the Coast Guard in drug interdiction operations, with a USCG Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) on board.

The Coast Guard has some experience with the Puma UAS as it has flown from USCGC Healey, and from USCGC Chock as part of a demonstration

John Ferguson and Chris Thompson, Unmanned Aircraft System operators for AeroVironment, release a Puma All Environment UAS from the flight deck of the Coast Guard Cutter Healy during an exercise in the Arctic Aug. 18, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

Below can be seen the Mantis i45 sensor as installed on the Puma sUAS

Mantis i45 sensor

This might be a candidate for a sUAS to operate from the Webber class WPCs. I can see some useful scenarios, such as providing overwatch while doing a law enforcement boarding, but I still think we need something more capable of providing a more persistent and more wide-ranging search. Still a combination of a sUAS like this and the TALONS (Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems) might be very effective. The recovery methods I have seen so far, for this system, either landing on the flight deck of an icebreaker or landing in the water don’t seem satisfactory.

Still I would suggest we take a look at what the Canadians are doing. We might want to send an R&D rep who has participated in our previous examination of sUAS to ride one of these ships during the last half of a drug interdiction patrol, so they can get input from both the Canadians and the LEDET.

 

Acoustic Systems from Our Canadian Friends

TRAPS containerized active/passive towed array from GeoSpectrum Technologies.

We talked about the possibility of using TRAPS earlier. I had an email discussion with a GeoSpectrum Technologies representative, Geoff Lebans. He tells me the Canadian Navy will test TRAPS from a Kingston class ship in March. 

The Kingston class are a little smaller and slower than the 210 foot WMECs, but they have regularly assisted the Coast Guard in drug interdiction.

Would love to see how effective this system might be in detecting semi-submersibles.

The Coast Guard has expressed an interest in having unmanned systems providing networked sensors and GeoSpectrum makes a much smaller towed acoustic directional sensor that they believe would work with the Liquid Robotics™ Wave Glider™ and other small autonomous vehicles. Frankly, I could see the drug cartels putting a bounty on recovery of unmanned surface vessels and their sensors. Still the Navy might also be interested in this sort of network for ASW and they could probably fund the program out of loose change they might find in the sofa. Forth Fleet would probably more than happy to test it in the Eastern Pacific and cutters could probably deploy them.

Hopefully the Canadians will send their TARPS equipped ship down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones. If they do not, it might make a good Coast Guard R&D project to mount one on the back of a WMEC and use it to help define competitive contract requirements.

An acoustic system like this should be good for detection of something like a semi-submersible out to at least the first convergence zone, well beyond the visual and radar horizon. Mounted in a container they could be placed on WMECs bound for the Eastern Pacific and then transferred to the OPCs as they replace the MECs.

 

HMCS Nanaimo, a Royal Canadian Navy maritime coastal defense vessel operating in support of Operation Martillo

Canada Expands Coast Guard

A rescue boat sits moored at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station before the base's closure in 2013.

Rescue boat sits moored at the Kitsilano Coast Guard station before the base’s closure in 2013.

Our Canadian counterparts are looking forward to an 11% expansion over the next two years. This is a part of the Canadian government’s $1.5B (Canadian) Ocean Protection Plan that will include new vessels and new lifeboat stations.

The Ocean Protection Plan appears to be a response to late or less than satisfactory response to pollution incidents.

I’m told among the new Canadian Coast Guard assets will be 45 foot USCG standard Response Boat, Mediums.