“Littoral combat ships in Mayport make the most of a year of restricted operations” –Defense News

Littoral combat ship Little Rock (LCS 9) is underway during a high-speed run in Lake Michigan during acceptance trials. Lockheed Martin Photo

Defense News reports on the activities of the eight Freedom class Littoral Combat Ships based in Mayport during the year since recognition of their combining gear problem. (LCS-5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19. LCS-1 and 3 are in San Diego.)

All their deployments have been with Forth Fleet, primarily doing drug interdiction with a Coast Guard LEDET aboard.

“But, the squadron commodore said, the formation also has seen its greatest operational achievements during that same time, conducting seven successful deployments to U.S. 4th Fleet that took hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of drugs off the market, interrupted trafficking networks across SOUTHCOM, supported partners throughout Central and South America and pushed back against excessive maritime claims.”

The report provides some insights in the nature of the class problems. The problems were not limited to when both turbines and diesels were operating together, to achieve maximum speed.

they are forbidden from operating in two modes to achieve top speeds — operating both the gas turbine and the diesel engine for full power, and using the diesel engine in “boost mode”

It appears the clutches for the diesel engines were not up to the torque those engines provided and this has meant that the ships are using turbines for cruise speeds that the diesels would have been expected to provide.

What we found out then later after that was, when Detroit had the failure, is that it was more than just that combined mode; it was actually the torque on that clutch when the diesel engine was operating under the higher loads, causing the same degradation and failure,”

This has impacted their already short range.

“…diesel engine is your most economical mode, so you just have to watch the operational employment of the ship more to make sure that you’re managing your fuel consumption” as the ships relied less on the diesel engine and more on the gas turbine.”

These ships continue to have reliability problems.

Defense News reported in June the LCS Strike Team, alongside the newly established LCS Task Force, had identified 32 reliability problems and were focused on five for the Freedom-variant ships. In addition to the combining gear, that list included issues related to the diesel generator rigid mount, fuel lines, water jets and boat davits.

That means they are being kept on a short leash. That is to some extent good news for 4th Fleet and the drug enforcement effort, since they are still not ready to be deployed to Bahrain.

On the other hand, that means PATFORSWA is to some extent covering missions that the LCSs should be doing.

I am not sure it’s true, but it seems the LCS are not as effective as cutters in drug enforcement. It would be interesting to do a study of that. To determine if it is true, and if so, why.

Another impression is that while we have deployed HITRON helicopters on foreign vessels engaged in drug enforcement, the LCSs use only Navy helicopters.

“Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton offloads approximately $504 million in cocaine, marijuana at Port Everglades” –D7

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s (WMSL 753) crew conduct small boat operations with HMCS Harry DeWolf (AOPV 430) in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 14, 2021. Harry DeWolf is the Royal Canadian Navy’s newest Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, while on her maiden voyage, circumnavigating North America. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Below is a news release from D7. It may seem routine, but this does mark something of a debut for an asset new to drug interdiction operations, Canada’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships.  They are much larger and more capable than the Kingston class coastal defense ships Canada has previously used in support of our drug interdiction efforts. HMCS Harry DeWolf is making a circumnavigation of North America.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 7th District Southeast

Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton offloads approximately $504 million in cocaine, marijuana at Port Everglades

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s (WMSL 753) crew conduct small boat operations with HMCS Harry DeWolf (AOPV 430) in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 14, 2021. Harry DeWolf is the Royal Canadian Navy’s newest Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship, while on her maiden voyage, circumnavigating North America. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s (WMSL 753) small boat crews interdict a Low-Profile Vessel (LPV) while on patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 23, 2021. The Hamilton is homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) on scene with a Low-Profile Vessel (LPV) in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 15, 2021. The Hamilton is homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s (WMSL 753) crewmembers conduct Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP) training with a Coast Guard Air Station Jacksonville MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew from the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron (HITRON) while on patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Nov. 15, 2021. The Hamilton is homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s (WMSL 753) crew wraps bails at Port Everglades, Florida, Nov. 22, 2021. The Hamilton is homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Hernandez)A pallet of seized contraband is hoisted during a drug offload from the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) in Port Everglades, Florida, Nov. 22, 2021. The drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America, including contraband seized and recovered during 8 interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels by 3 American and Canadian ships. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Hernandez)A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer waiting for a pallet wrapped with bails to be forklifted at Port Everglades, Florida, Nov. 22, 2021. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, allow for a unity of effort to disrupt transnational crime organizations, which threaten America and our partners. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Hernandez)The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s (WMSL 753) crew poses with approximately 26,250 pounds of cocaine and 3,700 pounds of marijuana at Port Everglades, Florida, Nov. 22, 2021. The largest drug interdiction in the ship’s history. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jose Hernandez)

Editor’s Note: Click on images to download high-resolution version.

MIAMI— Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton’s crew offloaded approximately 26,250 pounds of cocaine and 3,700 pounds of marijuana worth approximately $504 million, Monday, at Port Everglades, which is the largest drug interdiction in the ship’s history.

The Coast Guard’s strong international relationships, with key partners like Canada along with our specialized capabilities and unmatched authorities, allow for a unity of effort to disrupt transnational crime organizations, which threaten America and our partner nations.

The drugs were interdicted in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America, including contraband seized and recovered during eight interdictions of suspected drug smuggling vessels by three American and Canadian ships:

“I could not be prouder of this crew and their determination to keeping more than 26,000 pounds of cocaine from reaching the shores of Central and North America,” said Capt. Matthew Brown, commanding officer Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton. “It has been a dynamic two and half months for this ship with some very difficult law enforcement cases. But at the core of these capabilities is a true culture of trust and respect for each other which enabled the safe apprehension of 14 suspected traffickers. Each one of our cases represented the teamwork and partnerships not only domestically but with our partners in the Western Hemisphere.” 

Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security cooperated in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, play a role in counter-drug operations. The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in districts across the nation.

During at-sea interdictions, a suspect vessel is initially detected and monitored by allied, military or law enforcement personnel coordinated by Joint Interagency Task Force-South based in Key West, Florida. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District, headquartered in Alameda, California. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District, headquartered in Alameda, California, and the law enforcement phase of operations in the Caribbean is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 7th District, headquartered in Miami. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by members of the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton is a 418-foot national security cutter homeported in Charleston, South Carolina. The Coast Guard Cutter Vigilant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Port Canaveral, Florida. Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Harry DeWolf is a 340-foot Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) home ported in Halifax, Canada.

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“Bad Jizz: New Generation Of Narco Submarine Builders Present A Problem” –Covert Shores

Caption from Covert Shores: A new type of ‘narco submarine’ captured by USCG Cutter Active in the Easter Pacific Ocean, May 5, 2021. There is enough that is distinct to give it a fresh family designation, LPV-OM-VSV-10. Although it appears well finished, as far as these things go, many details seem borrowed from other types. The unusual reinforced cockpit leading edge is strongly reminiscent of the LPV-IM-14 and related LPV-IM-VSV-1 types for example. But other features do not match that master boat builder. New narco submarine types are increasingly often copies of various features of established types.

Civilian analysist H. I. Sutton, who has spent a great deal of effort tracking the development of ocean smuggling craft, feels we may be seeing a change in how, and by whom, they are being built.

Narco submarine production may have entered a new phase. After the period of Productionization, we are now seeing greater variance again. This suggests more one-off vessels and, likely, more people designing and building them. It can be characterized as a Commoditization of narco submarine technology.

From the Coast Guard’s perspective, this may not make much difference on the interdiction side, but it may make it more difficult for our partners to attack the problem from shore side.

“Ecuadorian Navy Sailing Ship Interdicts Drug Smugglers in the Pacific” –USNI

Ecuadorian Navy Sailing Ship Interdicts Drug Smugglers in the Pacific

The US Naval Institute news service reports,

A three-masted training ship interdicted a drug-laden high-speed smuggling vessel off the coast of Colombia on Friday, the Ecuadorian Navy announced.

Sailing ship BAE Guayas caught the low-profile vessel within the 200-nautical miles of the Colombian exclusive economic zone, the service announced.

Maybe we should put Eagle to work.

“The Drug War at Sea Is Getting Bigger and Bigger” –Bloomberg

Bloomberg has an editorial by Admiral James Stavridis, USN (retired), former  United States Southern Command (2006 to 2009) and commander, United States European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (2009 to 2013) that suggests the smugglers’ methods now increasingly include shipping by container in otherwise legal shipping. He goes on to suggest some possible countermeasures.

Surprisingly there is no mention of Fentanyl which appears to be an emerging drug of choice. Fentanyl is still primarily a prescription drug abuse problem, but that may be changing. Its strength in even very small quantities makes it an almost ideal drug for smuggling.

“The U.S. Sea Services (Navy, Marines, Coast Guard) Are Preparing For Great Power War” –1945

ARABIAN GULF (Feb. 25, 2021) The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) and the Greek navy guided-missile frigate HS Hydra (F452) participate in a passing exercise in the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 25, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) is comprised of six 110-foot 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)

James Holmes (a name worth remembering) discusses the Large Scale Exercise 2021 and war gaming in general.

This is the first indication I have seen that the Coast Guard was participating, though at least limited participation was expected. If anyone has any information about about Coast Guard’s actual participation, please provide a comment.

I’ve often thought we might learn a lot about drug interdiction by employing war gaming with an intelligent and aggressive “Red Cell.”

Finding someone who is trying not to be found is far different from doing SAR, finding someone who hopes to be found. I don’t know if we have begun to apply Operations Research developed search patterns for moving targets. I know when I was active duty it was an alien concept.

“US Navy helicopters and Coast Guard snipers are firing on suspected drug traffickers ‘daily,’ top admiral says” –Business Insider

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, February 23, 2010. US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash

Business Insider has a story touting the success of the Navy/Coast Guard team effort in drug interdiction. This seems to be a report on Adm. Craig Faller’s (SOUTHCOM) remarks at the Surface Navy Association symposium in mid-January.

There is strong praise for the HITRON personnel.

“Coast Guard HITRON teams, which are sniper teams, have integrated into US Navy helicopters. So our Navy crews are involved in decisions to use … warning shots and disabling fire daily. I mean, it is a daily event,” Faller added. “We average numbers, sometimes large numbers, of events daily, and they’ve done it safely, effectively, completely in compliance with all the law of war and with precision. [I’m] very proud of that.”

I have to believe the “daily” claim is at least a slight exaggeration, since presumably HITRON was involved in all the cases and the report quotes Cmdr. Ace Castle, public affairs officer for US Coast Guard Atlantic Area, as saying they prosecuted 56 in 2020.

In any case, HITRON is getting a workout and proving their value. Worth noting that they and other Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, also serve on foreign ships working for SouthCom, including British, Canadian, Dutch, and French vessels.

USCGC Stone off Guyana, Plus a Drug Interdiction

Some photographs from USCGC Stone’s deployment to the Atlantic Coast of South America. Keep in mind, this is really a shakedown cruise. She still has not been commissioned.

Guyana coast guard small boats patrol alongside the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) off Guyana’s coast on Jan. 9, 2021. The U.S. and Guyana governments enacted a bilateral agreement on Sep. 18, 2020, to cooperatively combat illegal marine activity in Guyana’s waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jason McCarthey, operations officer of the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758), bumps elbows, as a COVID mitigation, with a member of the Guyana coast guard off the coast of Guyana on Jan. 9, 2021, to celebrate the joint exercise. The U.S. Coast Guard and Guyana coast guard completed their first cooperative exercise in training to combat illicit marine traffic since the enactment of a bilateral agreement between the two on Sep. 18, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j. g. John Cardinal supervises Petty Officer 1st Class Pamala Jensen as she coordinates helicopter operations from the aviation tower of the USCGC Stone (WSML 758) in the Caribbean Sea on Jan. 7, 2021. Since the Stone began its first patrol on Dec 22, 2020, many of its crew trained in their new positions for the first time to become fully qualified. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

U.S. Coast Guard small boats from the USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) and small boats from the Guyana coast guard patrol off the coast of Guyana on Jan. 9, 2021.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

Along the way, Stone managed to conduct a drug interdiction operation as well. LANT Area news release below:

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Office: (757) 398-6521
After Hours: uscglantarea@gmail.com
Atlantic Area online newsroom

On maiden voyage, USCGC Stone crew interdict narcotics in Caribbean

Stone launches small boat Stone stops suspect vessel

Editor’s Note: to view larger or download high-resolution images, click on the item above. 

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — While in transit to conduct joint operations off the coast of Guyana as part of Operation Southern Cross, USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) encountered and interdicted a suspected narcotic trafficking vessel south of the Dominican Republic Thursday.  
 
Having stopped the illicit activity, Stone handed off the case to the USCGC Raymond Evans (WPC 1110), a fast response cutter from Key West, Florida, and continued their patrol south. 
 
Early Thursday, acting on information from a maritime patrol aircraft, the Stone crew approached the vessel of interest and exercised U.S. Coast Guard authorities to stop their transit and interdict illicit maritime trade. 
 
The USCGC Raymond Evans arrived on the scene shortly after. A Coast Guard boarding team from the Raymond Evans conducted a law enforcement boarding, testing packages found aboard the vessel, revealing bales of cocaine estimated at 2,148.5 lbs (970 kgs) total.

Stone’s crew remained on scene during the search of the vessel to assist if need. Following the boarding, the Raymond Evans crew took possession of the contraband and detained the four suspected narcotics trafficking vessel members. They are working with the U.S. Coast Guard 7th District and Department of Justice on the next steps. 
 
Quotes 
“USCGC Stone is a highly-capable multipurpose platform and ready to conduct missions to save lives, support lawful activities on the high seas, and highlight and build Coast Guard partnerships with other nations.  I am not surprised that Stone interdicted drug smugglers – it is what the Captain, crew, and every U.S. Coast Guard member is prepared to do every day underway.  Stone’s crew is exhibiting the highest professional competence, reinforcing that Stone is well-suited to help our partners in the South Atlantic expose and address illicit activities in the maritime domain. These transnational criminal activities – be it illegal fishing or the trafficking of people, drugs, money, etc.  – challenge global security, and only together can we combat these threats.”
– Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
 
 “I’m very proud of the crew for completing this evolution safely and making an immediate impact on our first patrol. This case illustrates that Stone is a competent partner, and our crew is ready for the front-lines. We look forward to our upcoming engagements, first with Guyana.”
– Capt. Adam Morrison, commanding officer of USCGC Stone (WMSL 758)

“Our teammates aboard USCGC Stone are helping keep our shared neighborhood – the Western Hemisphere- safe, successfully stopping illicit narcotics smuggling, while continuing their equally important mission to counter predatory and irresponsible IUU fishing, a growing threat to our partner nations’ sovereignty and our collective regional security.”

- Rear Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson, director of operations, U.S. Southern Command

 Quick Facts
 Mission
– Operation Southern Cross is a multi-month deployment to the South Atlantic countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.

– Stone’s patrol demonstrates the U.S. commitment to the established rules-based order while addressing illegal activity wherever a U.S. Coast Guard cutter is deployed.”

– Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing is a pervasive, far-reaching security threat. One in five fish caught worldwide likely originate from IUU fishing. 
 
 – Healthy fish stocks underpin the food security of coastal communities, maritime regions, and entire nation-states. 
 
 – The U.S. Coast Guard has been the lead agency in the United States for at-sea enforcement of living marine resource laws for more than 150 years. 

– The U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to combat IUU fishing and uphold the rule of law at sea. The Service is keen to share knowledge and partner with like-minded nations. 
 
 – The U.S. Coast Guard is recognized worldwide for our ability to perform diverse maritime missions over vast geographic areas. The U.S. Coast Guard’s value to the Nation resides in its enduring commitment to protect those on the sea, protect the United States from threats delivered by the sea, and protect the sea itself.

– As a military, law enforcement, regulatory, and humanitarian service, the U.S. Coast Guard relies upon various authorities and partnerships to enhance our capability and capacity throughout the maritime domain.
  
– Patrols like Stone’s support U.S. initiatives to strengthen and fortify effective governance and cooperation with our partner nations to address destabilizing influences – illegal narcotics and fishing that are high on that list. 
 
 USCGC Stone
 – The ship, one of the Legend-class, is named for the U.S. Coast Guard’s first aviator, Cmdr. Elmer “Archie” Fowler Stone.
 
 – Stone is the ninth National Security Cutter. They are a multi-mission platform — 418 feet (127 meters) long with a 54-foot beam and displace 4,500 tons with a full load. They have a top speed of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 miles, an endurance of 60 days, and a crew of around 120.