Freedom of Navigation off Venezuela

Orthographic map of Venezuela centered on Caracas
Controlled territory in dark green.
Claimed territory in light green.
From Wikipedia, Author: Addicted04

Perhaps significantly for the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction efforts in the Caribbean, Navy Times is reporting that the Navy has been conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations off the Venezuelan coast in response to excessive claims not in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

A command official said the mission was undertaken “to challenge Venezuela’s excessive maritime claim of security jurisdiction from 12 to 15 nautical miles along its coastline and prior permission requirement for military operations within the Exclusive Economic Zone, which are contrary to international law.”

These are waters where Coast Guard cutters conduct law enforcement operations. If Venezuela wants to make a show of opposing US operations in these waters, it would be a lot easier for them to take on a 210 that a DDG or even an LCS.

“Trinidad & Tobago Orders 2 Cape-class Patrol Boats from Austal” –Naval News

The Australian Customs patrol boat ACV Cape St George on Darwin Harbour in 2014, Photo by Ken Hodge

Naval News reports that Trinidad and Tobago has signed a deal for two Cape Class 58 meter patrol vessels from Austal in Australia. Contract is valued at 126M A$ or about $85.4M US. That is less than the cost of our Webber class cutters. Not that I think the USCG is in the market for anything like this right now. (Perhaps the Navy might consider it.) Still a comparison is interesting.

The Cape Class is a enlarged, improved version of the earlier Armidale class patrol vessels. The Cape Class was originally developed for the Australian Border Force, but the Australian Navy is currently also operating two of the class. Compared to the Webber class.

  • Displacement about twice as large: 700 tons vice 353
  • Length: 57.8 m (190 ft) vice 46.8 m (154 ft)
  • Beam: 10.3 m (34 ft) vice 8.11 m (26.6 ft)
  • Draft: 3 m (9.8 ft) vice 2.9 m (9.5 ft)
  • HP, less: 6,772 vice 11,600
  • Speed, slower: 25 vice 28
  • Crew, smaller: 18 vice 24
  • Boats: two on davits vice one in stern ramp

The dramatic difference seems to be range and endurance, 28 days and 4,000 miles vs five days and 2,500 miles, although I continue to believe the Webber class’ endurance could be improved with only a little effort. These little ships also have aluminum hulls, while the Webber class hull is steel. Also the Australian ships are armed with nothing larger than crew served machine guns. That appears to be just a matter of choice but it would increase the cost.

In some ways these look a lot like the French “La Confiance” PLG. meaning they are similar to the Cutter X concept, although I would favor something a little larger so that it might be able to operate a helicopter.

Our previous contributor on the Tinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, Sanjay Badir-Maharaj, questions the wisdom of this purchase, since The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard seems to be having trouble maintaining the vessels it has now. Some degree of maintenance is included apparently, we wish them luck.

“Antigua, Sprawling “Chinese Colony” Plan Across Marine Reserve Ignites Opposition” –The Guardian

Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands. Antigua can be seen on the NE corner of the Caribbean. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons, author–Kmusser, all data from Vector Map.

There has been an interesting development in an area the Coast Guard frequents. The Guardian reports the Chinese are developing a part of the island of Antigua. Critics contend it will operate as a state within a state.

The 2000 acre development will include a seafood harvesting company.

“The master plan includes up to seven resorts, a shipping port (emphasis applied–Chuck), the country’s first four-lane highway, offshore “wealth management” centres, hospital and university facilities, a school, bank and a luxury golf community on adjacent uninhabited Guiana Island. The 400-acre industrial section includes steel and ceramic tile factories.”

The way the Chinese do things incrementally, this sounds suspiciously like it might be beginnings of a base.

At one time, Antigua was the site of NAVFAC Antigua, decommissioned 4 February 1984, an underwater listening station, part of the Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), which were used to track Soviet submarines.

“Exclusive: ACLU Alleges Coast Guard Detained and Abused Fishermen” –The Atlantic

Photo source: ACLU

The Atlantic reports on a suit filed by the ACLU against the Coast Guard. I will make no comments on the merits. This is not the first time Coast Guard prisoner detention procedures have been questioned.

If the ACLU wins this case it could adversely effect our ability to perform the drug interdiction mission. This criticism is not going to go away. Any thing we could do to dull the criticism would probably be helpful.

“The Coast Guard Should Helm SouthCom” –US Naval Institute Proceedings

Source: UNrefugees.com

The US Naval Institute has published a feature article by two USCG Lieutenant Commanders, Krystyn Pecora and Piero Pecora, suggesting that perhaps a Coast Guard flag Officer should command SouthCom.

This would certainly put the US military presence in Latin America in a different light, after a history of US meddling in Latin American internal affairs.

“Safety, stability, and economic prosperity in this region will help allay the continuing migration crisis, lay the groundwork for disaster-resilient communities, and prevent a Chinese foothold in the Western Hemisphere. The traditional DoD approach of building partner-nation military capabilities through training and access to U.S. equipment in trade for forward-deployed staging access will not suffice to achieve these goals. It will require a focus on building local civil, law enforcement, and military authorities capable of rooting out TCOs—a mission tailor-made for the Coast Guard. “

While being a Combatant Commander would certainly be a change from the Coast Guard’s normal supporting role, it might not be too much of a stretch. After all, we are not engaged in actual combat in Latin America. Generally Coast Guard forces make up most of SouthCom’s operational units,

and other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) assets make up much of the rest.

Coast Guard leadership in SouthCom is a natural fit. Coast Guard officers have led SouthCom’s J-3 directorate for nearly a decade, and its primary component command, Joint Interagency Task Force–South, for nearly three decades. SouthCom’s lines of effort—building relationships, countering threat networks, and enabling rapid response—all align with the Coast Guard’s statutory missions.

Looking at the humanitarian crisis that is driving the illegal immigration at the border, DHS might see DHS coordination of the US response, in the form of a Coast Guard SouthCom, as the best hope for a long term solution.

Something is Happening in Venezuela

Orthographic map of Venezuela centered on Caracas. Controlled territory in dark green. Claimed territory in light green. From Wikipedia, author: Addicted04

Venezuela is in an area vital to the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction effort.

CBS is reporting,

President Trump recognized the chief opposition leader in Venezuela, National Assembly President Juan Guaido, as the country’s legitimate interim president. The rare move by the White House comes as large anti-government protests erupted across the South American nation on Wednesday.

The Organization of American States (OAS) recently passed a resolution agreeing not to recognize the legitimacy of Maduro’s new term, which began on January 10.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. Civil war is possible, and it already looks like a humanitarian crisis. That our cutters may become involved in some way is not out of the question.

Thanks to Andres for bringing this to my attention.

Tradewinds 2018 and the Caribbean’s Maritime Security Challenges–CIMSEC

Participants in the Tradewinds 2018 exercise. Seen here are U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Charles David Jr. (WPC-1107, most distant); the British RFA Mounts Bay (L3008, left), a Bay-class auxiliary landing ship dock; Canada’s HMCS Shawinigan (MM 704, right), a Kingston-class coastal defense vessel; and Mexico’s ARM Oaxaca (PO 161, foreground), an Oaxaca-class patrol vessel along with a Mexican helicopter AS365N3 Panther. 180616-N-ZZ999-0004.JPG Photo By: Able Seaman John Iglesias

CIMSEC provides a brief review of the SOUTHCOM sponsored 2018 Tradewinds exercise along with background information about current maritime security challenges in the Caribbean.

New OPVs for France, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, and India

Four new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) projects, totaling 20 vessels, have been reported.

NavyRecognition reports the French Navy has issued a Request for Information preparatory to procurement of six OPVs to operate from French overseas territories. They are seeking 22 knot vessels about 70 meters (230 feet) in length with facilities to support a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air system (UAS). Given France’s recent history with OPVs these may look a lot like Offshore Supply Vessels.

The Australian Customs patrol boat ACV Cape St George on Darwin Harbour in 2014, Photo by Ken Hodge

Australian Shipbuilder Austal has been contracted to build two Cape Class OPVs (illustrated above) for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. These are 58 meter (190 foot) 25 knot vessels with a 4,000 mile range. Ten have already been built for the Australian Navy and Border Force.

It appears Austal’s yard in the Philippines may be building six 80 meter OPVs for the Philippine Navy. These would reportedly be based on the Cape Class Patrol Vessels, but would be much larger, have steel hulls, and helicopter support facilities (helo deck certainly, but not clear if that would include a hangar).

Indian Navy Photo: INS Saryu, the lead ship of her class of advanced offshore patrol vessels of the Indian Navy

India is planning to procure six “New Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels.” It sounds like these will evolve from the Saryu Class OPV which are 2,230 tons displacement, 344 feet in length, 42 foot of beam, with a 12 foot draft with a speed of 25 knots. The Saryus are armed with a 76mm Oto Melara gun and two Soviet designed AK-630, 30mm six barrel Gatling guns (just forward of the funnels in the photo). They also have a hangar and flight deck for a HAL Dhruv medium weight helicopter. The new ships should be at least equal in capability.

 

Coast Guard Releases Request For Proposal For Long Range UAS Tech Demonstration

3-View line drawing and dimensions of MQ-1B Predator UAV, – Department of the Air Force, Engineering Technical Letter (ETL) 09-1: Airfield Planning and Design Criteria for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), 28 Sept 2009

The Acquisitions Directorate has issued a Request for Proposal for demonstration of a Long Range/Ultra-Long Endurance (LR/U-LE) Unmanned Air System (UAS).

The Statement of Work (Attachment_1_-_Statement_of_Work_.pdf) indicates demonstration is expected to take place at Eglin Air Force Base. “The period of performance will be one year from the date of award which is estimated to occur in September 2018.”

The Requirements

The sensor package will include Electro-optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) Full Motion Video (FMV), Maritime Surveillance Radar, Radio Frequency/Direction Finding (RF/DF) sensor, with tactical communications radio/data link.

Minimum airframe performance in the full up configuration include 50 knot patrol speed, 15,000 foot ceiling, 24 hour endurance.

Takeoff and Recovery Wind Limits are 20 knot headwind, seven knot crosswind, and up to five knot gusts.

For identification the airframe will be equipped with Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon System, Identification Friend or Foe, Mark XII/Mark XIIA, Systems (AIMS) certified (AIMS 03-1000A) Mode 3 A/C transponder with “IDENT” capability.

Commentary

Presumably this will result in a RFP for a land based LR/U-LE UAS, but probably not before FY2021.

The specifications make it clear the Coast Guard is not looking at obtaining their own version of the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) MQ-4C Triton UAS.

I would note that the demonstration provides no slack for trade-offs between search width, speed, and endurance to determine total area searchable. The 24 hour endurance is fixed. There is also no dash speed requirement. To me this suggest that the system is more for tracking than searching, although it could also do that as well.

There is also no mention of ViDAR as an alternative to Radar.

Given distance to operating area and the relatively slow speed of these assets, to maintain an asset on scene is going to require more than one sortie per day, probably more like two per day. That suggest that a 24/7/365 on scene capability will require five or six airframes.