JPALS landing aid for Coast Guard?

US Navy Photo. JPALS tactical prototype

The Navy has already chose Joint Precision Approach & Landing Systems (JPALS) and BreakingDefense reports Raytheon is offering it to the Air Force and Army. Perhaps the Coast Guard should take a look. Like the Navy, the Coast Guard operates aircraft from moving ships, with perhaps even more  “pitch, roll, surge, sway, heave, yaw, and translation”

JPALS fills the role of a TACAN, giving bearing and range to the landing area, but does it with much greater accuracy, directing the aircraft to a 20 cm (7.8″) square area, using differential GPS. It does it all in any weather and zero visibility with very low probability of intercept and in an encrypted format by data link, minimizing the need for radio communications.

Every time we turn on TACAN we broadcast the position of ship. 

Potentially it can provide a autonomous recovery for aircraft and UAVs.

“What’s more, Raytheon is finishing development of a capability for JPALS to take over the flight controls and bring the aircraft in for an automated landing with no input from the pilot – or potentially with no pilot on board at all. That is why the Navy has contracted with Raytheon to put JPALS on its future MQ-25 carrier-based drone.”

Maybe our over-the-horizon boats could use it too.

JANUS, the Standard Underwater Language

NATO has announced,

The NATO Science and Technology Organization’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation has developed a standard for underwater acoustic communications called JANUS, which is recognised as a NATO standard by all NATO Allies since 24 March 2017. This marks the first time that a digital underwater communication protocol has been acknowledged at international level and opens the way to develop many exciting underwater communication applications.

I think this might become important to us. It is not just a military system.

Thanks to EagleSpeak for bringing this to my attention. 

Equipment for the Offshore Patrol Cutter


The National Fleet Plan had some clues regarding equipment that we can expect on the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). Apparently there will be a lot of commonality between the Navy’s LCS and future generation frigates, the Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), and the Bertholf Class NSCs. My last discussion of the equipment on the OPC can be found here: “Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), the Other LCS” which contains information not addressed here. Generally the information below does not look much different but I will try to point out any significant differences.

Command, Control, and Communications (Ref. Section 5.5):

The recommended NTNO (Navy Type Navy Owned–Chuck)systems to meet C3 commonality and interoperability for the OPC are as follows: MIL UHF LOS 225-400 MHZ (Digital Modular Radio (DMR), ARC-210, PRC-117); MIL UHF SATCOM (DMR, ARC-210, PRC-117); Messaging (DMR SATCOM, ARC-210, PRC-117); Tactical Data Link (LINK 11; Joint Range Extension (JRE) Link-16, forwarded LINK 22); VACM (KY-100M, KY-58M, KYV-5M). (p. 22)

I am very pleased to see LINK 11, 16, and 22 on the list although this is probably a “junior edition” of these systems. These systems are becoming so ubiquitous if you don’t have them, you are more of a burden than an asset. The table on page 24 seems to indicate that the OPCs will not have an airsearch radar, but will have a multi-mode radar that will be common with Navy systems (p.50). Its not clear what that will really mean for the ship’s capabilities. As far as I can tell, the only air search on the NSCs is the EADS 3D TRS-16 which is also a multimode radar combining air search, surface search, and fire control functions. This radar is likely to be replaced by the newer EADS Cassadian TRS-4D multi-function radar.

Sensors (Ref. Section 5.6): The OPC will have a multi-mode radar, Electronic Warfare Systems, Decoy launching system, Sensitive compartmented information Network, TACAN, and CCOP (Cryptologic Carry-On Program).

 The recommended systems to meet Sensor commonality and interoperability for the Offshore Patrol Cutter are as follows: TACAN; Multi-Mode Radar; IFF; SEWIP (SLQ-32/SSX-1 replacement); and MK-160 Gun System. (p. 25, 5.6.b.2)


Weapon Systems: The OPC will have a 57mm, 25mm, and .50 cal guns. (It is not addressed in this document, but there have been indications that two of the .50 cal. are to be mounted in stabilized remotely controlled weapon stations. The 25mm will presumably be a Mk38 mod2 or 3) The OPCs will not incorporate either a CIWS or degaussing (p.32). (I do have reason to suspect that the OPC is fitted for upgrade to include CIWS.)

It will also have ADNS (Automated Digital Network System), Sensitive Compartmented Information Network (SCI-Networks), Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Service (CANES).

Notes on the Ship’s Signals Exploitation Equipment System and Unmanned Aircraft System, “OPC has the same space, weight and power requirements (as the NSC–Chuck) reserved but a system has not been selected.” (p. 24)

It appears the gun firecontrol system, may include only Electro-Optical control cued by the multimode radar, and that it will not include the AN/SPQ-9B which is used on the National Security Cutters (I think this may be a change).  There is a note on the Gun Fire Control System: “OPC will have a fire control radar capability (MMR-presumably multimode radar–Chuck) to provide tracking information and slew of the GWS camera, but slew and fire of the GWS cannon remains under manual control.” (p.24) Hopefully, an integration of the multimode radar with the weapon 57mm and perhaps the 25mm will permit blind firing of these systems, otherwise some visibility conditions may preclude effective fire control and certainly reaction times, particularly against air targets, will not be as good as they might have been.

Keep a Camera on the Bridge

MarineLog passed along a recommendation that a good camera be regarded as essential bridge equipment.

Their advice:

…as a minimum:

  • a digital compact camera with at least 8X optical zoom, built-in flash and video function; camera image quality of at least 10 megapixels;
  • two 8GB or larger blank SD cards (preformatted) and checked for operation;
  • spare battery pack;
  • mains charger with ship-compatible plug

“The camera should be kept on the bridge, fully charged with an empty storage card. Most cameras have an internal clock which should be checked and set to UTC. This time-stamp is used when the image file is stored, essential when the chronology of events could be questioned,” says Mr. Harrison. (Mike Harrison of marine consultancy Solis Marine Consultants, Ltd.–Chuck)

Their focus is on insurance claims, and while that certainly applies to the Coast Guard, we have other reasons to want video documentation. Good video is useful for public information and for training. It can help with evaluating and passing along lessons learned. It can also become valuable evidence in criminal cases.

Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS)

DARPA’s Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) effort seeks to develop a low-cost, fully automated parafoil system to extend small ships’ long-distance communications and improve their maritime domain awareness. DARPA developed TALONS as part of Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research that seeks to enable forward-deployed small ships to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems.

Navy Recognition reports on two initiatives that are part of the TERN,  “a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research that seeks to enable forward-deployed small ships to serve as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial systems.”

We have talked about TERN before, it is intended to allow the LCS and similar sized ships to have persistent overhead surveillance by Unmanned Air Systems (UAS). The post talks about a launch and recovery system for fixed wing UAS, “SideArm,” but there is also this discussion of a towed system that looks like it might be applicable to units as small as WPBs and give them many of the advantages of a UAS with far less overhead.

DARPA’s TALONS effort seeks to develop a low-cost, fully automated parafoil system to extend small ships’ long-distance communications and improve their maritime domain awareness. Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could carry ISR and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds between 500 and 1,500 feet in altitude—many times higher than current ships’ masts—and greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness. Following successful ground-based tests, DARPA will conduct at-sea testing this year and potentially transition the technology to the U.S. Navy.

Why is this important? With a mast head height of say 36 feet the horizon distance is only about 7 nautical miles. Go to 500 feet and it is over 26 miles. Go to 1500 feet and it is over 45 miles. Effectively search widths could be multiplied several times over.

It doesn’t take much power to keep a parafoil up. In my neighborhood, there is a good sized man who flies a powered foot launched version out of our local open space. He has the engine and prop on his back, launches into the wind with just a short walk or run. Landings are frequently at walking speeds. That people (admittedly braver than I) are willing to entrust their lives to these things has to say something about their reliability.

(Historical note: During WWII, the Germans used an manned unpowered autogyro, the Focke-Achgelis FA-330, that was towed behind U-boats in an effort to extend their visible horizon.)

The Old (Coast) Guard Was Tougher

Recently saw this on Bill Wells FaceBook page and thought it might be worth opening a discussion. I am republishing it here with his permission.

The current Coast Guard, and that of the immediate past, has relieved officers and enlisted men from command for any number of reasons. The “Relief for Cause,” or the “Loss of Confidence” reasons can mean anything and usually do. However, there is no legal process, the officer or enlisted man has little recourse and their careers as over. Many of the cases have devolved into using the “failure to abide by the Core Values.” It must be remembered that Core Values were implanted as part of the now defunct Total Quality Management System. The initial use of the values were to provide a guide for organizational conduct as shown in the Business Dictionary that defines Core Values as, “A principle that guides an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world. Core values are usually summarized in the mission statement or in a statement of core values.”

However, since inception the Core Values have been used as a hammer for punitive, extra-legal functions. The Coast Guard’s Core Values of Honor, Respect, and Devotion to Duty are claimed to have come from the Coast Guard’s history, but no one has pointed to that source. It is more faith and a belief system gone wrong. When first adopted no one could define just what the three words meant to the Coast Guard at large. So, explanatory paragraphs became additions to the words but these only confused the issue because the additional wording contained more core values, rules, and philosophical sloganeering. Still seeing the troops did not understand the additions, the Coast Guard added Twenty-Eight Competencies of leadership that all circled back to the Core Values providing more confusion.

So, how was the Old Guard tougher? They followed the prevailing rules. For example, in 1913 the Treasury Department charged Captain Horace B. West, USRCS, at a General R. C. S. Court with:

Neglect of Duty with six specifications.
Violating lawful regulations with eight specifications.
Conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman with four specifications.

All these charges sound series until the reasons for the charges are known. West was found guilty on ‘neglect of duty’ and violating regulations and not guilty for unofficer-like conduct. His crimes consisted solely of his apparent dislike for paper work. West failed, according to the New York Times, to make “reply to several reports and communications transmitted to him from the Treasury Department. Although, the USRCS had had a service motto, “Semper Paratus,” since 1896, he was not charged being in violation of it and all it could have referenced was he was not ready to do paper work. The charges were not his first brush with not filing paperwork. In 1905, while in command of the cutter Woodbury at Portland, ME., he failed to submit assistance reports and for not having officers comply with a General Order. The assistance reports were more important because they provided the statistical data the Treasury Department used to justify the existence of the USRCS.

His sentence consisted of a suspension from the service for six months on half pay. A vacation of sorts and he resumed full service and his command with no real adverse effect on his career. Of course, West understood it all. He was an 1880 graduate of the Revenue Cutter School of Instruction (later the Coast Guard Academy).

The Treasury Department of West’s era would have never relieved him for cause. If they had specific charges and proof they brought the person to a legitimatize trial to exact that pound of flesh. Using the sloganeering of core values does little to inspire confidence in the ability of the Coast Guard’s leadership to address situations in a fair and military manner. Perhaps it is time to look at the Core Values and see that they do represent the Service beyond being a punitive cat o’ three tails.

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.