“Could the LCS fleet be getting a new mission?” –Navy Times

MARINETTE, Wis. (Dec. 6, 2018) The future littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) conducts acceptance trials on Lake Michigan, Dec. 6, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Marinette Marine/Released)

Navy Times reports,

“… Congress is tasking U.S. Southern Command with studying the feasibility of permanently assigning four to six LCSs to the combatant command.”

Is this likely?

Frequently nothing comes of these Congressionally mandated studies, but I suspect this may happen because it would complement the plan to replicate the 5th Fleets international unmanned effort, Task Force 59, in 4th Fleet.

What will not change?

Assigning up to six LCS to 4th Fleet probably would not increase the number of Navy ships underway in the SOUTHCOM Area of Operations (AOR). As the post points out, LCS are already routinely assigned to SOUTHCOM’s 4th Fleet. Typically, there is at least one and normally two doing drug interdiction with an embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment.

Navy combatants are typically deployed less than a third of the time and underway less than 25% of the time, so six would be translate to no more than two regularly deployed. Of course, the Navy could temporarily assign other LCSs to 4th Fleet.

All the LCSs that I have heard of operating under 4th Fleet have been Freedom class monohulls like the Billings pictured above. These ships are based Jacksonville. I would not expect their homeport to change.

What might change?

4th Fleet wants to be the Fleet of Innovation. For evaluating advances in Maritime Domain Awareness, they have the unique advantage of a full time, highly motivated opposition force that is always testing their capabilities in the form of drug smugglers.

Having four to six LCS permanently assigned to 4th Fleet would provide a continuity of experience that the current system does not allow. That continuity would likely enhance both their law enforcement operations and allow progressively more complex experimentation. The vessels might be provided with better accommodations for the Law Enforcement Detachments and additional facilities for detainees and storage of seized contraband. They might operate more frequently with embarked Coast Guard airborne use of force helicopters.

V-Bat from Martin UAV

While they have had their problems, LCS are uniquely suited for operating unmanned systems. This might include operations in support of unmanned surface vessels like Saildrones and small unmanned aircraft like V-Bat.

A Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel operates alongside U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 29, during Digital Horizon 2022. (Sgt. Brandon Murphy/US Army)

Continuity in 4th Fleet operations might also extend to disaster response and IUU fisheries enforcement, both of which might benefit from use of unmanned systems.

Not called for the study, but a Navy oiler operating in 4th Fleet would be a real plus. The Freedom Class LCSs have relatively short range and can quickly run out of fuel if operated at high speed. An oiler might also make operating Webber class WPCs in the Eastern Pacific more practical.

Thanks to Walter for bringing this to my attention.

Royal Navy OPV Does Mine Countermeasures With USN Team


The Royal Navy reports that HMS Tamar participated in an exercise off S. Korea, providing a platform for a US Navy diving/explosive ordnance disposal team equipped with Remus 100 uncrewed underwater vehicles to do mine countermeasures.

Virtually any large Coast Guard cutter could do the same thing, maybe even the Webber class FRCs. HMS Tamar would be an MEC if operated by the Coast Guard.

The Remus 100 would also be useful in reopening ports after a natural disaster, looking for changes in the underwater topography or obstructions.

This goes along with the way I think the Coast Guard should plan to do the Defense readiness mission, that is, that the Coast Guard would provide the platform and USN teams would come aboard, bringing the naval capability, whether it be mine hunting equipment, an ASW towed array and helicopter, or special ops team.

“New Zealand, Australian Navies Deploy for Tongan Disaster Relief” –USNI

HMNZS Wellington. New Zealand Defence force photo

The US Naval Institute News service reports on the response by the Australian and New Zealand Navies to the tsunami that followed a recent underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga.

Both navies have sent Maritime Patrol Aircraft to survey the damage. New Zealand is taking the initiative to sortie ships even before they receive a request for assistance. Australia is preparing a ship to go.

New Zealand’s response it especially commendable in taking immediate action without waiting for a request for assistance.

Just as in the response to the 2021 earthquake in Haiti, it appears an Offshore Patrol Vessel will be the first ship on scene.

HMNZS Wellington (pictured above) was designed by VARD, same firm that did the design for the Offshore Patrol Cutter.  She is much smaller, but you can see a family resemblance. Photos of the other New Zealand ships mentioned in the below.

 HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) (Photo courtesy of Deck Cadet Natalie Dorsey) For an underway replenishment ship, this ship is unusual in that it is ice-strengthened. 

New Zealand Defence Force – The HMNZS CANTERBURY (L 421) off Samoa coastline


“Coast Guard drones can see underwater and inside vessels during response to hurricanes and extreme weather events” –MyCG

US Coast Guard Photo

US Coast Guard photo

These two photos which accompany the post appear to be of the same tank but taken from opposite sides. 

MyCG has as post about the increasing use of Unmanned Air Systems. In this case primarily concerning the use of small commercially available systems. Take a look.

“Coast Guard conducts Hurricane Ida post-storm overflights along the Gulf Coast” –D8

The Coast Guard conducts Hurricane Ida post-storm overflights along the Gulf Coast on August 30, 2020. Assets conducted critical incident search and rescue overflights and assessing for damage along the Gulf Coast Region of Louisiana following Hurricane Ida. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

Passing along a Coast Guard District 8 news release.

united states coast guard


News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Heartland

Coast Guard conducts Hurricane Ida post-storm overflights along the Gulf Coast Image

Image Image 

Image Image 

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high-resolution versions. 

NEW ORLEANS —The Coast Guard is conducting critical incident search and rescue overflights and assessing for damage Monday along the Gulf Coast Region of Louisiana following Hurricane Ida.

The Coast Guard has brought to bear more than 28 aviation assets and nearly 21 shallow-water response assets to respond to flooded and damaged areas.

“The Coast Guard will continue to provide search and rescue capabilities, assess the damage done by Hurricane Ida, repair aids-to-navigation, and ensure the ports along the Gulf Coast can be safely reopened for the flow of maritime commerce,” said Capt. Tracy Phillips, area commander for the Ida response. 

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White Hull Diplomacy, “The Coast Guard and Stability Operations” –Small Wars Journal

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) sales alongside the Indian coast guard ships Abheed and Shaurya (16) Aug. 23, 2019, while transiting in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Chennai, India. The Stratton is participating in a professional exchange with the Indian coast guard that includes operational exercises at sea and on shore. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Esterly)

Small Wars Journal makes the case for designating the Coast Guard to maintain expertise in and conduct maritime stability operations.

Historically, the United States military is regularly involved in some sort of stability operation despite the military preference for high intensity conflict. … The United States risks losing some of the lessons learned if it does not develop a holistic and complementary Joint Force that can both dominate a peer enemy and conduct stability operations at and below the level of armed conflict. Competition means that forces will be employed across the spectrum of operations with equal emphasis. Designating specific services to conduct stability as a primary mission is one means of ensuring a Joint Force that is equally capable across the spectrum. The Coast Guard is uniquely suited to a lead role in maritime focused stability operations. As a military force that is resident within the inter-agency, the Coast Guard provides a presence that is “instantly acceptable because of their worldwide humanitarian reputation.” This forward presence dovetails with the Department of Homeland Security mission of “safeguarding the American people” by pushing the boundaries of U.S. law enforcement into regions and countries where it can mentor and develop partner capabilities in the areas it is needed most.

It quotes the Coast Guard Strategic Plan 2018-2022.

“The Coast Guard plays a critical role in strengthening governance in areas of strategic importance. We mature other nations’ inherent capabilities to police their own waters and support cooperative enforcement of international law through dozens of robust bilateral agreements. Our leadership on global maritime governing bodies and our collaborative approach to operationalize international agreements drives stability, legitimacy and order. As global strategic competition surges, adversaries become more sophisticated and the maritime environment becomes more complex. The Coast Guard provides a full spectrum of solutions, from cooperation to armed conflict.”

The post states,

“At its heart the primary stability tasks fall into seven military missions and activities:  protecting civilians, security sector reform, support to security cooperation, peace operations, foreign humanitarian assistance, counterinsurgency, and foreign internal defense.”

It then goes on to describe how the Coast Guard has done each of these tasks in the past.

What we may be seeing here is a preview of the roles the Coast Guard may be expected to perform when the expected Tri-Service Strategy is published.

Thanks to Geoff for the “White Hull Diplomacy” portion of the title. 

Small Unmanned Systems Used in Response to Hurricane Sally

Below is a news release from the Eighth district. The thing I found surprising, was that in the video below, it reports that three USCG drone pilots flew 95 flights totaling 16 hours and 34 minutes (about 10.5 minutes per flight). You will see some of the drone video below. Above is a better look at the equipment being used.

united states coast guard


Video Release

U.S. Coast Guard 8th District Heartland
Contact: 8th District Public Affairs
Office: 504-671-2020
After Hours: 618-225-9008
Eighth District online newsroom

Coast Guard ends 37-day response to Hurricane Sally aftermath on Gulf Coast

This video highlights the Coast Guard's role in marine environmental response operations after Hurricane Sally. Hurricane Sally made landfall in Alabama on Sept. 16, 2020. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Wargo 

Editors’ Note: Click on image to download high-resolution version.

MOBILE, Ala. — The Coast Guard Sector Mobile Incident Command has concluded a 37-day coordinated response effort to Hurricane Sally along the Gulf Coast, Thursday.

Many parts of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle sustained damage during Hurricane Sally when it made landfall September 16th as a Category 2 hurricane. Since then, 1,132 vessels have been assessed for potential pollution threat to the environment. All sources of pollutants have been mitigated and contractors continue to conduct salvage operations in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Baldwin Counties. 

The Coast Guard federal on-scene coordinator and the state on-scene coordinator from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection coordinated efforts to remove weathered oil, discovered on a half-mile area of Johnson Beach, Florida, in consultation with Federal Trustees:

  • Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service
  • National Park Service

The impacted area was located on federally designated, critical habitat and marine protected areas as well as being designated as culturally significant to federally recognized tribes.

Coast Guard Sector Mobile Sally Marine Environmental Response (MER) partnered with wildlife response specialists to save the life of a brown pelican. It was found heavily oiled at Day Break Marina in Pensacola, Florida. After a three-week rehabilitation process, it was safely released into the Northwest Florida Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The Coast Guard concluded its response to Hurricane Sally well ahead of our anticipated timeline, ” said Cmdr. Kelly Thorkilson, Coast Guard Hurricane Sally MER incident commander. “Coast Guard members deployed from across the nation, collaborated with our partner agencies, and quickly integrated new technologies which greatly enhanced frontline operations resulting in a more efficient response.” 

There were 148 Coast Guard responders whose combined efforts totaled an estimated 17,630 work hours. Members managed logistics, resources, and operations including; vessel assessments and facilitating the deployment of 11,650 feet of containment boom. Additionally, three drone pilots flew a total of 95 unmanned aerial system flights to pinpoint pollution along the Gulf Coast. 

Any additional pollution incidents should be reported to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

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Hurricanes and Urban Search and Rescue

The US Naval Institute Proceedings had a recent post, “Hurricanes: The Coast Guard’s Growing Responsibility” By Lieutenant Noah Miller, U.S. Coast Guard, September 2020.

This led me to an earlier article, “The Coast Guard Needs Urban SAR Assets” by Boatswain’s Mate First Class Michael Buchanan, U.S. Coast Guard, August 2019; then to “Now Hear This—Coast Guard on the Crest of Climate Change” by Lieutenant Angel Kwok, U.S. Coast Guard, January, 2019.

Two appeals like this from the deck plates suggests we probably need to do something more about urban search and rescue.

Apparently there is some action being taken: “New Flood Response Training Finishes Its Inaugural Course”

“SOCARENAM Shipyard Selected to Deliver 6 French Navy OPVs for Overseas Territories” –Naval News

Rendering of the future “POM” OPV of the French Navy

Naval News reports,

French President Emmanuel Macron announced today a procurement order of 6 new patrol vessels to be based overseas, a program known as POM in French (for patrouilleurs outre-mer).

They will be about 70 meters (230 feet) in length with a speed of 22 knots. They will be equipped with an unmanned air system (UAS) (apparently that flight deck is not really intended for helicopters).

Basing will be two ships in New Caledonia at Nouméa naval base (Pacific), two ships in La Reunion Island at Port Réunion naval base (Indian Ocean), and one ship in French Polynesia at Fare Ute Papeete (Tahiti) naval base (Pacific), basing of the sixth ship has not yet been decided.

This will be a significant upgrade over their current assets in the Western Pacific and will complement the Coast Guard’s increased presence in the area, as well as the efforts of Australia and New Zealand to curb Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing. When disaster strike, like Australia, New Zealand, and the US, the French Navy will come to the aid of their neighbors. They are developing technology to enhance maritime domain awareness, here and here.  

The French do not have the same kind of Coast Guard that the US does. The French Navy handles many coast guard type missions. Clearly they recognize the importance of these functions. These ships come on the heels of other French Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel projects, here and here.

French territory, territorial waters, and EEZ. By B1mbo, via Wikipedia

Despite the recent kerfuffle at the NATO get together, France is our oldest ally. They and the US have the largest Exclusive Economic Zones in the world.

Both the US and France benefit from a close working relationship between the US Coast Guard and the French Navy. Beside, occasional visits by Coast Guard vessels or aircraft to New Caledonia (a major base during WWII) and Tahiti might not be bad for morale.

Sub-Committee Hearing, Coast Guard Modernization and Recapitalization: Status and Future, 26 Sept. 2018

Note, the hearing does not actually begin until time 20:30 on the video above. 

The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation conducted a hearing on “Coast Guard Modernization and Recapitalization: Status and Future” on September 26, 2018.

You can see the “Summary of Subject Matter” that was prepared for the Congressmen here.

This is the first hearing for both Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) as subcommittee chair and Admiral Karl L. Schultz as Commandant. What I saw looked promising.

The Commandant’s prepared remarks has some items of interest. 

The Commandant announced that he would soon issue a Coast Guard “Strategic Plan 2018-2022”

He referenced the new icebreakers as “Polar Security Cutters.”

This past March, we released a request for proposal (RFP), setting the stage for award of a Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract in FY 2019 for the construction of up to three heavy Polar icebreakers. We are as close as we have ever been to recapitalizing our Polar icebreaking fleet; continued investment now is vital to solidify our standing as an Arctic nation and affirms the Coast Guard’s role in providing assured, year-round access to the Polar regions for decades to come.

This seems to be a part of an effort to broaden the appeal of the icebreaker program as discussed in a recent USNI post, “Coast Guard Renames Icebreaker Program ‘Polar Security Cutter.'”. Their “…hull designation will be WMSP. W is the standard prefix for Coast Guard vessels, and MSP stands for Maritime Security-Polar, Brian Olexy, a Coast Guard spokesman, told USNI News.”

Apparently we are working toward a fleet of 64 Webber class WPCs rather than the 58 in the Program of Record. The first two additional to replace six Island class WPBs currently assigned to Patrol Force South West Asia have already been funded.

“…Earlier this summer, we exercised the second option under the Phase II contract to begin production of six more FRCs. The FY 2018 appropriation also included funding for two additional FRCs, beyond our domestic program of record of 58 hulls (emphasis applied–Chuck), to initiate the vital replacement of our six patrol boats supporting long-term U.S. Central Command missions in southwest Asia.”

Q&A. Topics discussed during the question and answer period included:

Civil Engineering/Shore infrastructure. $1.6B backlog.

40:00 possibility of a 12th NSC

42:30 Where is the $34M taken out of the FY2018 budget will be coming from–reprogramming within the Department.

44:30 Closures of the Potomac

54:00 Diversity within the service.

1:14:40 Need for larger Reserve Force

1:18:00 Icebreaker program

1:20:00 Waterways commerce cutters

In addition response to the recent Hurricanes seemed to be very much on the minds of Representatives and was referred to repeatedly.