“It’s Time for a ‘Quad’ of Coast Guards” –Real Clear Defense

A Japan Coast Guard helicopter approaches an Indian Coast Guard patrol vessel during a joint exercise off Chennai, India, January 2018 (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty)

Real Clear Defense has an article which first appeared in the Australian think tank Lowy Institute‘s publication “The Interpreter,” advocating greater cooperation between the Coast Guards of Australia, India, Japan, and the US.

“The so-called Quad group of Indo-Pacific maritime democracies – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – is a valuable grouping, although it is still under utilized in many ways. One of the most effective ways that these countries could work together to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific would be through coordinating the work of their coast guard agencies.”

While India in particular, is adverse to committing to a military alliance, these nations share a commitment to a rules based international system.

Quadrilateral cooperation through the countries’ coast guards could provide an answer to this political problem. As principally law-enforcement agencies, coast guards can provide many practical benefits in building a stable and secure maritime domain, without the overtones of a military alliance.

Using ship-riders, this sort of cooperation could go beyond capacity building and uphold the norms of international behavior. It might lead to the kind of standing maritime security task force I advocated earlier. When coast guards are in conflict, having multiple coast guards on scene could insure that instead of a “he said, she said” situation, we could have a “he said, we say” situation that would show a united front against bullying.

Given Bertholf and Stratton‘s stay in the Western Pacific and Walnut and Joseph Gerczak‘s support of Samoa, which was coordinated with Australia and New Zealand, it appears we may already be moving in this direction.

 

“Icebreaker Xuelong 2 joins service on China national maritime day” –Global Times

China’s first domestically built polar research vessel and icebreaker, Xuelong 2 docks at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai on Thursday morning. Photo: Polar Research Institute of China

Global Times is reporting completion of China’s first domestically produced Polar Icebreaker. (Their existing polar icebreaker was built in the Ukraine.)

According to Wikipedia, she was designed by Finnish firm Aker Arctic Technology. Specs are as follows.

  • Polar Class 3
  • Double Acting, can break ice going ahead or astern
  • Displacement of 14,300 tons
  • Length: 122.5 metres (402 ft)
  • Beam: 22.3 metres (73 ft)
  • Draft: 8.3 metres (27 ft)
  • Max Speed: 15 knots
  • Accommodations: 90 Passengers and crew
  • Diesel-electric propulsion system, two 16-cylinder, two 12-cylinder engines, both Wärtsilä 32-series, drive through two 7.5 MW Azipods. Just under 20,000 HP

It is a lot smaller than the planned Polar Security Cutter, but it is also larger and about as powerful and almost certainly more effective than the Glacier that served the US effectively for many years.

The hull and power plant looks like something we might want for our medium icebreakers, and I note, it looks like this size could negotiate the Saint Lawrence Seaway. That would mean a similar ship could potentially operate both on the Great Lakes and support Atlantic Fleet operations if required.

Thanks to Tups for bringing this to my attention.

“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.

“U.S. Bulks Up Coast Guard in Pacific to Counter China Fleet” –Bloomberg

USCGC Stratton moored in San Diego, California. Photo by BryanGoff

Bloomberg reports indication USCGC Stratton is following USCGC Bertholf’s example, voyaging to the Western Pacific to help allies and provide a counter to Chinese aggressive maritime behavior. Other cutters likely to follow. Looks like this may be the new normal.

Chinese Are Outbuilding the US in Warships

Respected Naval blogger CdrSalamander has a short post on the US Naval Institute blog warning that “The Pacific Will Pivot With or Without You.” It is really a quick look at a longer Reuters report, “China’s vast fleet Is now tipping the balance in the Pacific.” At the center of the stories is the chart above, showing how fast the Chinese have begun to build. The message is simple.

We are in a naval arms race with the most prolific shipbuilding nation in the world. 

The new reality is that China is building up their navy at a rate about twice as fast as the US, not just in numbers but in overall tonnage. That appears to mean, in about 30 years, the Chinese Navy could be twice as large as that of the US. Hopefully there will continue to be mitigating  factors, but since any conflict is likely to be in the Western Pacific, the Chinese also have an enormous geographical advantage.

It is time for the Coast Guard to step up their game as an armed force, with real arms and actual missions for a major war that the service has planned, practiced, and equipped for.

“US warns China on aggressive acts by fishing boats and coast guard” –Financial Times

The Financial Times is reporting, (Additional reporting here and here.)

“Navy chief (US Navy CNO Admiral John Richardson–Chuck) says Washington will use military rules of engagement to curb provocative behavior”

This is, if anything, overdue. The Chinese Coast Guard and Maritime Militia are effectively arms of the Chinese government in the same way the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is.

The Chinese have been taking advantage of the more ambiguous state of these agencies. They act boldly and if things go well, the Chinese government takes advantage. It things go badly, they can avoid responsibility, particularly with regard to the Militia.

The nations of South East Asia should make a similar stand. The decision to provide a Coast Guard as an agency separate from the Navy is strictly a national prerogative. It does not provide any special status relative to naval vessels. You don’t get a pass just because you are painted white. Similarly fishing vessels employed for aggressive government purposes enjoy no special protection. When they misbehave, they need to face consequence.

Japan Builds More XXLarge CG Cutters

Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel PLH32 Akitsushima. Photo by Kaidai

NavyRecognition is reporting that the Japanese Coast Guard is once again building very large coast guard cutters with the launch of Reimei (PLH 33).

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) recently launched a brand new patrol vessel for the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). This vessel is a variant of the Shikishima-class, with two previous vessels built in 1992 and 2013. Two more vessels are also scheduled to be built in the future (emphasis applied–Chuck).

This class is going to be something of an oddity, because it looks like there will be at least 30 years between the commissioning of the first ship and the fifth. In fact the Japanese may be planning to replace the first ship of the class with the fifth (that is only speculation on my part, but the Japanese do not keep there ships nearly as long as the USCG. Referencing my Combat Fleets of the World from 2013, the Japan Coast Guard had no ships older than 35 years).

Before the Chinese built their very large Coast Guard cutters, the two earlier ships of this class, Shikishima (commissioned 1992) and her sister ship, Akitsushima (commissioned 2013), were largest cutters in the world, at 150.0m (492 ft), 9300 ton (full load), twice as large as Bertholf class cutters.

The South Koreans have also built some exceptionally large cutters. None of these ships have particularly large crews. Crews are about the same size or smaller than the crews of the Bertholf class. All seem to be good for about 25 knots and have facilities for two helicopters.

Armament:

The first two Japanese ships don’t have the 76mm guns found on the extremely large Chinese and South Korean cutters, but they are well armed for cutters with four gun mounts on each ship. There does seem to be some variation in the way the Japanese ships are armed–not too surprising considering the first two ships were commissioned 21 years apart, and seven years will separate this third ship from the second of the class.

20mm-76_Gatling_pic

Japanese 20 mm/76 Gatling Gun. Note the camera for remote targeting. JMSDF Photograph.

Just about all Japan Coast Guard cutters have the 20mm Sea Vulcan, which uses the same 20mm guns as those in the Phalanx Close in Weapon System (CIWS) but in a simpler mount. They have a 3000 round per minute rate of fire and a reported effective range of 1,625 yards (1,490 m). The first ships of the class had two mounts forward of the bridge at the O-2 deck level.

The first two ships have two mounts for the Oerlikon 35mm. These guns have a 550 round per minute rate of fire per gun and a reported effective range against surface targets of 8,700 yards (8,000 m). The first ship has two twin mounts, but it appears the second has two simplified single mounts. If the third ship follows typical Japan Coast Guard practice, the larger mounts will continue to be in the 30 to 40mm range. If on the other hand, they mount something larger, it will mark a departure for the JCG, I would assume, in response to the increased militancy of the China Coast Guard.

In the world of Asian Coast Guards, it may simply be that their large size is their primary armament. These nations seem to regularly engage in shoving matches. In at least one case, the China Coast Guard reportedly sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel by ramming.