“USCG selects KVH for new 5-year small cutter satcom connectivity contract” –Marine Log

“Coast Guard Cutter John F. McCormick (WPC 1121) crew transits through the San Francisco Bay, Saturday, March 4, 2017, during their voyage to homeport in Ketchikan, Alaska. The cutter was named after McCormick who received the Gold Lifesaving Medal in 1938 for his exceptional skill in maintaining control of the 52-foot motor lifeboat Triumph while responding to a vessel in need near the Columbia River Bar under treacherous conditions, allowing the crew to recover a crewmember that had been washed overseas. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart”

Marine Log reports,

Middletown, R.I., KVH Industries, Inc., (Nasdaq: KVHI), has been awarded a U.S. Coast Guard contract worth a potential $69 million that will see it supply the next-generation satellite communications solution for the service’s small cutter fleet of more than 140 vessels/platforms. Chosen in a full and open competitive procurement process, KVH’s TracPhone V7-HTS Ku-band satellite communications system and mini-VSAT broadband service will be the U.S. Coast Guard’s Small Cutter Connectivity (SCC) Ku-band System and Airtime Support Services solution. The USCG also anticipates that approximately 20 new cutters will join the small cutter fleet over the next five years, requiring the same level of support that KVH will provide to the already deployed vessels.

I presume the additional “approximately 20 new cutters” are the remaining Webber class Fast Response Cutters.

Marines’ Next-gen Handheld Targeting System (NGHTS)–Naval Today

Next Generation Handheld Targeting System (NGHTS) Photo by: Northrop Grumman. 

Naval Today reports,

“US-based aerospace company Northrop Grumman Corporation has been selected to provide the US Marine Corps with the next-generation handheld targeting system (NGHTS).”

As disclosed, NGHTS is capable of performing rapid target acquisition, laser terminal guidance operation and laser spot imaging functions. Its high-definition infrared sensors provide accuracy and grid capability over extended ranges.

So, what does this have to do with the Coast Guard?

If the Coast Guard is to respond to a terrorist attack using a medium to large ship, we have to respond in one of two ways. We either have to stop the ship with Coast Guard systems, or we have to call in help from other armed forces. Either way, something like this could help.

Plus, the device seems to have additional capabilities that might be useful.

In what is likely to be a rapidly developing threat situation, I have little faith, that we can get help in time, but if we do, we are going to need to quickly and effectively identify the target. This can be a lot more difficult than you might think. Army and Air Force pilots are not trained in ship recognition. They are unlikely to be able to recognize a particular ship based on a description. Using a laser designator insures there would be no misunderstanding about which ship is their target.

If Coast Guard are going to forcibly stop a terrorist-controlled vessel, we need accurate weapons that will not result in collateral damage. Laser guided weapons can fill this role.

These systems seem to have capabilities beyond laser designation. Looking at the illustration above, it appears it also can serve as a compass, perhaps capable of taking bearings day or night, and of providing low probability of intercept, line of sight communications.

This could even be used on smaller units like the response boats. Large cutters are getting the Mk20 Electro-Optic Sensor System (It is still not clear to me, if that includes a laser designator but it does seem likely). On a rolling ship we would probably rather have a mounted rather than handheld system, but some kind of mount would probably not be too difficult. Since it is supposed to be network capable, presumably its imaging could be remoted to command positions.

 

“Time to Revise the Japan Coast Guard Act?” –The Diplomat

Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel PL82 Nagura at the Port of Ishigaki. Photo from Wikipedia Commons, by Yasu

The Diplomat reports that Japan is considering changes to their laws governing the Japan Coast Guard.

One proposal seeks to add “maintenance of  territorial sea integrity” and “security of territorial sea” to the Act’s mission, while another seeks to moderate the prerequisites allowing harm through use of weapons by Coast Guard officers. All of these proposals seek to give the JCG more muscle.

I don’t have a feel for what the actual proposed changes are, but I do know the Japan Coast Guard does not have the same close relationships with the Japanese Navy (Maritime Defense Force) that the USCG enjoys with the USN. It is not a military service. They don’t share equip or even use the same fuel. You can bet they don’t share the same communications systems. This means that the organization is not as useful as it might be in wartime, and, of more immediate concern, it means coordination in crisis is far more difficult.

Currently none of the Japan Coast Guard vessels have weapons larger than 40mm, and very few have an air search radar or any kind of AAW firecontrol system. If Japanese Self Defense Forces are not immediately available as backup, it might be hard not to feel intimidated by better armed China Coast Guard vessels, particularly if supported by aircraft.

This Chinese coast guard ship is equipped with weapons believed to be 76-millimeter guns. © Kyodo

“Eastern Shipbuilding opens new C5I integration facility for offshore patrol cutter” –Defense News

Eastern Shipbuilding Group is on contract to build the first four offshore patrol cutters for the U.S. Coast Guard and is competing for the contract for the rest of the class. The first ship, Argus, is in construction and expected to deliver by the end of 2022. (Eastern Shipbuilding Group photo)

Defense News reports,

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Northrop Grumman and their industry partners formally opened a test and integration center this week for the C5I systems at the heart of the U.S. Coast Guard’s new offshore patrol cutter program.

This OPC production facility is meant to reduce risk on what the Coast Guard calls its top acquisition priority. Within mockups of the bridge, the operations center and other key rooms, every piece of internal and external sensing and communications equipment will be networked together in this facility at Eastern’s Allanton yard first, tested for any integration hiccups and then sent up the road to the company’s Nelson Street yard where the OPC hulls are being constructed.

Northrop Grumman Vice President for Maritime Systems and Integration Todd Leavitt told Defense News this C5I system — command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — is more complex than even the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program the company worked on for the U.S. Navy.

That is only a small part of the report which includes information about the ship’s internal communications system. A shoreside facility is a great idea. It will likely eliminate post delivery teething problems that can be expensive and delay deployment.

We really need these ships to work right out of the box.

“SOLVING COMMUNICATIONS GAPS IN THE ARCTIC WITH BALLOONS” –CIMSEC

A NASA long duration balloon is prepared for launch on Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Station in 2004. (NASA photo)

CIMSEC provides a discussion of the possibility of using high altitude balloons as communications links in the Arctic.

Even if balloons are not the answer, the article at least does an excellent job of outlining the difficulties of communicating in the Arctic (or Antarctic).

“Coast Guard first ever Data Strategy guides the way forward for data readiness and well-informed decision making” –MyCG

A family of Link-16 Terminals for Air, Ground, and Sea Platforms. MIDS Family. LVT 1:Provides Link-16, TACAN and Voice for Tactical Air and Surface Vessels. LVT 2: Provides Link-16 for US Army Air Defense Units. LVT 3 – Fighter Data Link: Provides Link-16 with reduced output power for the USAF F-15 fleet. MIDS LVT-1. MIDS LVT-3.

Looks like this might be important. Certainly the goals are laudable. MyCG reports on the Coast Guard’s “Data Strategy.” (I have provided the text below.) The objective that stood out for me was improved cutter connectivity. This inevitably means different things to different people. Are we talking wider availability of tactical data links or more opportunities for second guessing the captain of the cutter? There is limited access to the strategy, so I was not able to look at the original document.

There is a tendency to always want more data and to create a new system and a new reporting requirement. Hopefully this approach will minimize that tendency. The report suggests that is the intention. Let’s hope so.

Hopefully it will also help in making the case for the Coast Guard within the Department, the Administration, and the Congress.


Coast Guard first ever Data Strategy guides the way forward for data readiness and well-informed decision making

By Shana Brouder, MyCG Writer

The first in our service history, the Coast Guard Data Strategy is a critical step for improving data quality and decision making in the Coast Guard for years to come.

“In an era where data generates more revenue than oil, it is crucial that the Coast Guard modernizes its data management to help build and sustain its future force,” said Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz in the Data Strategy.

The strategy’s guiding principles emphasize a user-centric approach, highlighting people as our most important asset and reinforcing the need to more fully support them through the data and technologies they require. With our workforce in mind, the strategy focuses on reducing the burden of manual data collection by crews during daily operations. The strategy also lays out a future that simplifies access to data, enables data analytics across systems and improves security to protect the information collected.

“Almost everyone in the Coast Guard handles data in some sort of way,” said Mark Bortle, acting chief data officer for the Coast Guard. “Ultimately, we want to free up people’s time by automating certain tasks that allow them to do more mission-oriented tasks rather than administrative-oriented tasks.”

Program leaders throughout the fleet provided perspective to the Data Readiness Task Force (DRTF), charged with establishing the processes and governance to improve the scope of what information is collected, and how it should be used.

Reducing Data Redundancies

Capabilities implemented by the DRTF will tie together data from multiple systems. This means accessing data and associated analytics will be simplified and streamlined—making data-driven decisions in real time a reality.

The DRTF will also help identify authoritative data sources, which will help limit redundant data entry and reduce risk of error. Instead of several platforms or sources tracking weigh-in information for members, the structure and processes established by the DRTF will ensure that only one system tracks the data, and remains current.

Improving Data Security 

Streamlining access to data using identity management configuration will ensure only those who should have access to data are the ones who can access it. This will also make accessing data faster and easier.Data Strategy Explained. The first official U.S. Coast Guard Data Strategy, signed in February 2021, is an essential component of the USCG’s Technology Revolution and directly tied to the Coast Guard 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. It aims to improve data quality, which will ultimately lead to better decision making.

The effort ties together both the Tech Revolution and the Coast Guard Strategic Plan—moving both closer to reality. Focusing on data readiness and fostering automation to share data rapidly and accurately will promote a culture in the Coast Guard that embraces evidence-based decision making as part of day-to-day operations.

“The DRTF is implementing five core programs to realize higher data readiness and informed decision making,” said Bortle. “These core programs are Data Governance and Management, Workforce Development, Data Fidelity, Technology Way Forward, and Pilot and Real-time Learning. Our goal is to create a structure within the Coast Guard to make the right information accessible to the right people at the right time from anywhere on any authorized device.”

Additional Resources:

“Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region” –D17

JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel en route Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Woods.

Below is a District 17 News release regarding USCGC Polar Star’s unusual Winter Arctic deployment. (I did do some editing to remove repetition in the photo captions.)

united states coast guard

 

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: 17th District Public Affairs
Office: (907) 463-2065
After Hours: (907) 463-2065
17th District online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region

JUNEAU, Alaska - U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor up in Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021, as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment.  In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor Juneau, Alaska, Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Trevor Bannerman.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) arrived in Juneau, Friday, for a logistics stop as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment conducting scientific research and protecting the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the polar region.

In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.

“The Arctic is cold, dark, and difficult to navigate in the winter,” said Capt. Bill Woityra, the Polar Star’s commanding officer. “Deploying with researchers and scientists aboard has aided in the development, understanding and pursuit of technologies that will mitigate risks and enable future mission performance so that looking forward, the Coast Guard can safely operate continually and effectively in this remote environment.”

Working aboard Polar Star, Shalane Regan, a member of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC), teamed up with Lt. Lydia Ames, a NOAA Corps officer to assist CRREL researchers by deploying buoys onto the ice where they will, over time, collect and transmit information about ice flow to help fill in data gaps for higher latitude oceans.

The Polar Star crew also aided in a research project concerning water flow regimes in the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea, a study developed by Dr. Robert Pickart of WHOI. The data collected during Polar Star’s patrol will be used to develop a more complete understanding of the hydrology of the dynamic region.

To support Dr. Pickart’s research, WHOI provided 120 Expendable Conductivity-Temperature- Depth (XCTD) instruments to measure temperature and salinity. These profiles of the water column will give a better picture of what water and nutrient flow look like in the Arctic winter. Polar Star crew members deployed the probes every 12 hours when above 65 degrees north.

Additionally, Regan, who is a mechanical engineer and researcher with the RDC Surface Branch, worked with other scientists and researchers on board to find ways to operate most effectively in the frigid Arctic environment.

For technology, Regan brought a 3D printer and Remotely Operated Vehicle aboard Polar Star to evaluate how the systems would react to the Arctic climate and ship life.

“I used the 3D printer to complete many small projects that resulted in large lifestyle improvements for the crew,” said Regan. “Most importantly, the knowledge I was able to gather about larger issues the crew faces, for example, visibility issues due to frost accumulation on the bridge windows, I can take home for my team to develop solutions that will create a better-equipped, mission-ready fleet.”

Another big item the RDC team is focusing on is underway connectivity, specifically in the Arctic region.

To better understand high latitude communications, The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) was installed on Polar Star to test its abilities at high latitudes in the harsh Arctic winter conditions. Developed for the U.S. Navy by Lockheed Martin, the MUOS is an ultra-high frequency satellite communications system that provides secure connections for mobile forces.

“Looking towards the future, all signs point toward the Coast Guard deploying more platforms to the Arctic, more often and during different seasons of the year,” said Woityra. “The Coast Guard is robustly proficient at summer-time Arctic operations, while winter presents an entirely new set of challenges. Polar Star’s winter Arctic deployment has served to better understand and prepare for the challenges of operating in such a harsh and unforgiving environment.”

The cutter will be visiting Juneau to close out its operational patrol and will be moored downtown through the weekend. Due to COVID-19, the cutter will not be open to the public for tours. 

Authorization (not money) for Six Icebreakers and Better Comms in the Arctic

The Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, launched two 6U CubeSats from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as part of the Polar Scout project. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.

Breaking Defense reports the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes six icebreakers for the Coast Guard and better satellite communications for the polar regions.

Not really a reason to get too excited yet. Authorization does not include any money. There was already general bipartisan acceptance of the idea that the Coast Guard needs new icebreakers with the 3 heavy and 3 mediums apparently seen as reasonable. Funding ($555M) for the second Polar Security Cutter was requested by the administration and agreed to by both Senate and House oversight committees, so should be in the FY2021 budget.

The addition of better comms may be the best news in the NDAA for the Coast Guard. It has been a major problem in US Arctic operations.

“Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg Tech: RDT&E’s Annual Arctic Technology Evaluation” –MarineLink

ENS Jordan Solseth runs a test for the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) 500. U.S. Coast Guard photo by SN Kate Kilroy

Marine Link reports on the Coast Guard’s evaluation of five technologies during USCGC Campbell’s Arctic cruise. Five different technologies were evaluated. All were deemed successful:

  • Insight Mini Thermal Monocular (MTM) and AN/PSQ-20 Monoculars (enhanced night vision devices) for improved law enforcement and ice detection.
  • Handheld Glare Helios laser for stand-off hailing capabilities.
  • FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle for underwater inspections in cold weather.
  • Long Range Acoustic Device 500X-RE for enhanced communication with vessels at longer distances.
  • Iridium Certus Terminal, which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area.

These systems were referred to in the earlier linked post, but there is much more information in the Marine Link article.

I think that we are going to start seeing the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) on all our cutters. We really should have them on our Webber class bound for PATFORSWA. In addition to its communications capabilities, it can be an effective less than lethal weapon for discouraging approach or breaking down resistance to a boarding. (Remember when we played rock music for Noriega down in Panama.)

The Iridium Certus Terminal helped communications that are always difficult in the Arctic, and probably provided in major morale boost for the crew.

While I see the utility of the night vision devices, for the larger ships I would really like to see us take a look at this. It appears it could do everything the night vision devices can do, plus allow transmission of bearing and elevation information, along with its nominal function of quickly bringing weapons to bear on a visually detected threat. Maybe another good addition for Webber class going to SW Asia.