“U.S., UK and Saudi Arabia Complete Naval Exercise in Arabian Gulf” CENTCOM

210524-G-N0146-0073 ARABIAN GULF (May 24, 2021) – Patrol boat USCGC Maui (WPB 1304, foreground) and fast response cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) transit the Arabian Gulf en route to Bahrain, May 24. Robert Goldman and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141) are the newest additions to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), which is comprised of six 110′ cutters, the Maritime Engagement Team, shore side support personnel, and is the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the U.S. playing a key role in supporting Navy security cooperation, maritime security, and maritime infrastructure protection operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Logan Kaczmarek)

Below is a CENTCOM news release. Photos are available here. Wish they had listed the Saudi and Royal Navy participating units as well. 

NEWS | Nov. 8, 2022

U.S., UK and Saudi Arabia Complete Naval Exercise in Arabian Gulf

By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

Naval forces from the United States, United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completed a weeklong maritime exercise called Nautical Defender in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 7.

The multilateral training event involved U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), Royal Saudi Navy’s Eastern Fleet, UK’s Royal Navy, and observers from regional nations. Partners focused on maritime security, vessel boarding procedures, explosive ordinance disposal and other training drills ashore in Saudi Arabia and at sea.

In addition to personnel from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Coast Guard, participating U.S. ships included USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119), USS Devastator (MCM 6), USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141) and USCGC Robert Goldman (WPB 1142).

NAVCENT is headquartered in Manama, Bahrain and includes maritime forces operating in the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Bab al-Mandeb.

“US, Iran in Tense Sea Incident; Tehran Preps New Centrifuges” –Military.Com

USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC-1142)

As part of a new report of harassment of a US warship by Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Forces, we get a belated report of an even closer incident that involve a Webber class cutter.

On March 4, three Guard ships had a tense encounter for over two hours with Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels as they traveled out of the Persian Gulf through the strait, the Navy said. In that incident, the Guard’s catamaran Shahid Nazeri came within 25 yards (22 meters) of the USCGC Robert Goldman, the Navy said.

This is not the first time a cutter has had a run-in with this particular IRGC vessel.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Catamaran Shahid Nazeri

Late addtition

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) Harth 55 conducts an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver while operating in close proximity to USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) as it transits the Strait of Hormuz, March 4. U.S. Navy Photo

“Combined Maritime Forces establishes new naval group to patrol Red Sea region” –Defense News

Royal navy frigate HMS Montrose (F 236), left, Pakistan navy frigate PNS Aslat (F 254), left center, Royal navy of Oman patrol vessel Al-Shinas (Z 21), right center, and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141) sail in formation during International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express (IMX/CE) 2022 in the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 13. (Spc. Natianna Strachen/U.S. Army)

Defense News brings us word of the formation of another combined naval task force intended to enforce rules-based behavior, this time in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

It is not unlikely that the Coast Guard’s PATFORSWA will become involved in this, but more importantly, this is the latest in what looks like an emerging trend, and perhaps a way to deal with gray zone operations. It is not a military alliance against an opposing state, rather it is a law enforcement alliance of like-minded nations who wish to prevent the breakdown of order.

This seems to suggest something like my proposal for a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force, Pacific” is looking much more mainstream, if we could spread the concept from the CENTCOM area of operations to INDOPACOM and perhaps AFRICOM and apply it to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing.

“US Navy Seizes Weapons from Fishing Vessel in the Arabian Sea” –DVIDS

U.S. Navy Seizes 1,400 Assault Rifles During Illicit Weapons Interdiction

NORTH ARABIAN SEA (Dec. 20, 2021) U.S. service members from patrol coastal ship USS Typhoon (PC 5) interdict a stateless fishing vessel carrying illicit weapons while transiting international waters in the North Arabian Sea, Dec. 20. (U.S. Navy photo)

Below is a press release from Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS). The boarding team was apparently Coast Guard. It’s likely the Webber class WPCs assigned to PATFORSWA will be doing this sort of work since the Navy PCs are being decommissioned.


U.S. 5th Fleet ships seized approximately 1,400 AK-47 assault rifles and 226,600 rounds of ammunition from a stateless fishing vessel during a flag verification boarding in accordance with customary international law in the North Arabian Sea, Dec. 20.

U.S. Navy patrol coastal ships USS Tempest (PC 2) and USS Typhoon (PC 5) found the weapons during a search conducted by embarked U.S. Coast Guard personnel. The illicit weapons and ammunition were later transported to guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane (DDG 77) where they await final disposition.

The stateless vessel was assessed to have originated in Iran and transited international waters along a route historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully to the Houthis in Yemen. The direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons to the Houthis violates U.N. Security Council Resolutions and U.S. sanctions.

The vessel’s five crew members identified themselves as Yemeni nationals and will be returned to Yemen.

After removing the crew and illicit cargo, U.S. naval forces determined the stateless vessel was a hazard to navigation for commercial shipping and sank it.

U.S. naval forces regularly perform maritime security operations in the Middle East to ensure the free flow of legitimate trade and to disrupt the transport of illicit cargo that often funds terrorism and other unlawful activity. U.S. Navy warships operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet region have seized approximately 8,700 illicit weapons in 2021.

Guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) seized dozens of advanced Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of Chinese Type 56 assault rifles, and hundreds of PKM machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers from a stateless vessel transiting the North Arabian Sea in May.

In February, guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) seized a cache of weapons off the coast of Somalia, including thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew served weapons. The inventory also included barrels, stocks, optical scopes and weapon systems.

The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses approximately 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Strait of Bab al Mandeb.

U.S. Navy Seizes 1,400 Assault Rifles During Illicit Weapons Interdiction

NORTH ARABIAN SEA (Dec. 21, 2021) Illicit weapons seized from a stateless fishing vessel in the North Arabian Sea are arranged for inventory aboard guided-missile destroyer USS O’Kane’s (DDG 77) flight deck, Dec. 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Elisha Smith)

“Winston S. Churchill Seizes Illicit Weapons from Two Dhows off Somalia” –Seapower

DDG-81 USS Winston Churchill, US Navy photo, 2008

The Navy League’s online edition of Seapower Magazine reports that an “Advanced Interdiction Team” [Army, Navy and Coast Guard] from the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) had seized weapons found on two stateless dhows off the coast of Somalia.

“The cache of weapons consisted of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and crew served weapons. Other weapon components included barrels, stocks, optical scopes and weapon systems. “

Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

(As we get into this, you may want to click on the photo to get an enlarged view.)

This Spring, the first two Webber class patrol craft are expected to go to Bahrain to start replacing the six 110 foot WPBs of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA).  Two more will join them in the Fall and the last two in 2022. Back in 2018, I speculated on what might be done to modify them for duty in this more dangerous area. Apparently the Coast Guard leadership has had a few ideas of their own.

We have some very shape observers among the readers of this blog.

First Andy provided the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) above and pointed out the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD, the gray device mounted near rail on the O-1 deck just this side of the port forward corner of the bridge) and the four round sensors a short way up the mast two on each side. I note these systems were not on the ship when it was handed over by Bollinger (photo below).

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, as delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Then Secundius identified the four round sensors on the mast as Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band Radar.

From the Company web site: “RPS-42 is an S-Band tactical hemispheric air surveillance radar system. It is a member of the non-rotating, solid-state, digital radar family Multi-mission Hemisphere Radar (MHR), developed by RADA Electronic Industries Ltd.
“The RPS-42 is a pulse Doppler, software-defined radar platform, that can detect, classify and track all types of aerial vehicles – including fighters, helicopters, UAVs, transport aircraft, etc. at tactical ranges. A single radar platform provides 90º azimuth coverage. Hemispheric coverage is achieved when four radars are employed as a system. Mobile or stationary, the system can be integrated with any C⁴I system and other radars and sensors. The software is able for On-the-Move (OTM) Operation. The radar can operate either as a stand-alone or as part of a large-scale surveillance system.
“The Antenna is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) based on Galliumnitrid (GaN) Amplifiers. Its diameter is 50.4 cm , the max width is 16.5 cm. (19.8″ x 6.5″ –Chuck)
“The achievable range for detection of the smallest drones (known as Nano UAV) is 3.5 km”

These radars use Galliumnitrid (GaN), the new technology in radar, that allows the AN/SPY-6 to significantly outperform the earlier AN/SPY-1 found on most Aegis equipped warships. (Reportedly a 3000% improvement)

You can get an appreciation of what this is about from this Popular Mechanics article. This Is the ATV-Mounted Jammer That Took Down an Iranian Drone.

There is more here: Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System [LMADIS] (globalsecurity.org)

I’m only guessing, but I would think the FRC would also have the same or equivalent complementary equipment as the LMADIS, e.g. small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer (Photo below, I may be seeing the jammer–pictured below–located above and behind the port side RPS-42 radar arrays, visible between the radar arrays and the tripod legs). The cutters of this class are already normally equipped with electro-optic devices, both on the mast and on the Mk38 gun mount, which can provide a kinetic counter to UAVs.

Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer. From the company web site, “SNC’s Modi II is the most modern & highly-capable dismounted EMC system in the DOD inventory.”

This was probably what the Commandant was talking about, when he said that Coast Guard PATFORSWA had a counter UAS role in a recent interview.

I am thinking, this radar might also be used on some of our other cutters as well, perhaps the 210s and the six 270s to be FRAMed, to provide them better control of their helicopters on approach in bad weather. The 210s have no air search radar and the 270s will almost certainly lose the Mk92 fire control system which provides their only air search radar currently. Reportedly the radar has a range of up to 30km and an instrumented range of 50km at altitudes from 30ft to 30,000 feet. Apparently the Marines are also using it to direct fire for their short range air defense systems. which includes a 30mm gun and Stinger missiles.

Thanks to Andy and Secundius for kicking this off.

Navy to Decommission Cyclone Class Patrol Craft

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

I learned recently that the Navy expects to decommission their 13 Cyclone class patrol craft in FY2021. This is significant for the Coast Guard for a couple of reasons.

The three based in Mayport have consistently been used to augment Coast Guard vessels, hosting Law Enforcement Detachments for drug enforcement (a recent example). .

Second, these vessels frequently partner with Coast Guard patrol boats of PATFORSWA based in Bahrain. Their decommissioning may put a greater load on the Coast Guard unit as it begins to receive Webber class as replacements for the existing six Island class patrol boats.

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 16, 2018) A MK-60 Griffin surface-to-surface missile is launched from coastal patrol ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12). (Photo by MC2 Kevin Steinberg)

For the Island class cutters in the Persian Gulf, the Cyclone class have served as better armed, big brothers, adding a bit of muscle to escort missions where Iranian Fast Inshore Attack Craft might be encountered. While the Webber class, that will be replacing the Island class, are a bit better armed than the 110s, unless they are extensively modified, they will not come close to replacing the missile armed Cyclone class. LCS are supposed to replace the Cyclone class, but they still have not demonstrated the ability to sustain a reasonable number of vessels in a remote theater. LCS are also too large to go many of the places the Cyclone class were able to.

USS Hurricane (PC-3)

These little ships have seemed to count for very little to the Navy. Regularly we see a count of “Battleforce ships”“Battleforce ships” that includes everything from aircraft carriers down to civilian crewed, unarmed fleet tugs (T-ATF), salvage ships (T-ARS), and high speed intra-theater transports (T-EPF, really aluminum hulled, high speed ferries). The Cyclone class were only included in the count one year (2014), so their loss will be largely invisible. (Significantly, this count of what many must assume is the National Fleet also makes no mention of Coast Guard assets either.)

Until ten of the class found a home in Bahrain, the Navy seemed to have had a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Originally intended to support the special warfare community, they were considered to large for that mission. Of the original fourteen one was transferred to the Philippine Navy. Five had been temporarily commissioned as Coast Guard cutters.

Other than the far larger LCS, the navy has no plans to replace these little ships, that have reportedly been the busiest ships in the Navy.

DAHLGREN, Va. (Nov. 6, 2004) Coast Guard Cutter Shamal (WPC-13) . USCG photo by Joseph P. Cirone, USCG AUX

Are PATFORSWA WPBs Being Equipped With a Target Designation System?

Crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Adak (WPB-1333) raise the American flag. Adak is assigned to CTF 55, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Frank Iannazzo-Simmons

NavyRecognition has some more details about the multi-unit exercise that prompted recent Iranian harassment of Navy and Coast Guard vessels, “U.S. Navy Surface Forces and Army Helicopters Conduct Live Fire Exercise in North Arabian Gulf.”

The ships involved in the event included Navy Expeditionary Landing Base ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), coastal patrol ships USS Sirocco (PC 6), USS Whirlwind (PC 11), USS Firebolt (PC 10 ), USS Tempest (PC 2), Coast Guard patrol boats USCGC Adak (WPB 1333), USCGC Maui (WPB 1304), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332), and guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60).

In addition, there were Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters operating from USS Lewis B. Puller. What I found particularly interesting was:

On the ships involved without organic aircraft control capabilities, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) was embarked to communicate directly with the aircraft and provide targeting information.

Does this mean that the Island class WPBs are getting a form of data link to allow them to pass targeting information to the Army attack helicopters? Other DOD aircraft?

Will the Webber class WPCs expected to go to PATFORSWA going to get these?

“GeoSpectrum Launches Low Frequency Active VDS Deployable by USVs”

Geospectrum’s new, compact version of the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) suitable for Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs)

NavyNews reports that Canadian Company GeoSpectrum has developed a version of their “Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar” (TRAPS) that is scaled to fit vessels as small as 12 meter Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV).

We talked earlier about an earlier version of this system. If it fits on a 12 meter (39’4″) USV, then it should certainly be able to fit on anything WPB or larger. If we should ever have to go to war, this might be a capability we would want to protect our harbor approaches from submarines. We would probably also want to add an ASW torpedo launching capability.

It might be worth doing some experimentation to see how it works, and if desirable, draw up plans for adding this or a similar system for mobilization. First of course we should take a look at the results of Canada’s tests.

Might also be desirable to have something like this for the Webber class cutters going to PATFORSWA, since the Iranians have a large number of small conventionally powered submarines.

Maybe it could help us find semi-submersibles smuggling drugs as well. 

Coast Guard Budget in “A Budget for America’s Future, Fiscal Year 2021” and a small, unpleasant surprise

White House, South Side. Photo by MattWade from Wikipedia

Looking for information on the 2021 budget I came across “A Budget for America’s Future, Fiscal Year 2021” issued from the White House by the GAO. It covers the entire Federal budget. It is a 138 pages. It mentions the Coast Guard only three times. (No, I did not read the entire document, used the “control F” function to find them.) I have reproduced those parts below. The third was a bit of a surprise.

  1. In addition, the Budget includes $1.6 billion to continue the important work of modernizing the U.S. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft that patrol the Nation’s coastal borders. (page 6 or 10 of 138 in the pdf)
  2.  In addition, the Budget includes $1.6 billion to continue to modernize U.S. Coast Guard vessels and aircraft that patrol and provide life-saving rescue missions across the Nation’s coastal borders.  The Budget includes funding for a second polar icebreaker to ensure America is at the forefront of safeguarding uninterrupted, year round commercial activity, trade, and supply routes and confirming America’s leadership role in the Arctic and Antarctic. (page 56 or 60 of 138 in the pdf)
  3. Focuses on Sound Budgeting.  The Budget proposes to shift $215 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for the U.S. Coast Guard into the Department’s base budget.  This furthers the Administration’s goal of ensuring that the OCO request funds only temporary overseas warfighting operations and does not fund enduring operations “off budget.” (page 58 or 62 of 138 in the pdf)

The third entry caught my eye. I can only think of one significant “Overseas Contingency Operation,” PATFORSWA, which is funded by DOD. It sounds like DHS wants to terminate PATFORSWA. This might explain why the last two Webber class FRCs, which would have presumably gone to PATFORSWA, were not included in the FY2021 budget. 

Depending on your degree of cynicism, other possibilities are that DHS wants to increase the total budget that they control, or that they want make CG budget look bigger when it was really money we were getting already.

The on line edition of Seapower, the Navy League magazine’s, report on the budget included something that surprised me.

The 2021 budget also proposes $35.5 million to manage retirements of old assets, including the decommissioning of two Secretary-class high-endurance cutters, two Island-class patrol boats and eight Marine Protector-class patrol boats. (emphasis applied-Chuck)

Looks like we are starting to decommission the 87 foot WPBs without a replacement in sight. For at least the last five years, I have been saying we were going to need a replacement for these in the near future, here, here, here, but I was still surprised because I have seen nothing about a replacement.