“HMS Medway, U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Seize Cocaine in Caribbean” –Seapower

HMS MEDWAY and her embarked US Coastguard Law Enforcement team interdicted a vessel carrying over 400kg of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea, 29 Sep 22. Initially spotted by a US Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the ship chased down the boat before the Coastguard boarding team discovered the drugs and detained three individuals. The operation, which lasted overnight, then concluded with the vessel being sunk by Medway’s weapons systems.

A hat tip to our Royal Navy friends. The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports,

A Royal Navy ship and U.S. Coast Guard boarding team seized more than 400 kilograms of cocaine worth around £24m on Britain’s streets from a boat in the Caribbean, the U.K. Ministry Of Defence said in an Oct. 28 release.

HMS Medway is a River Class Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessel. The Coast Guard would probably call her a medium endurance cutter. They have a relatively small crew and are faster than Coast Guard WMECs or the Offshore Patrol Cutters currently building.

There is no indication they operated with an embarked helicopter. Operating in the Caribbean they would have had adequate fixed wing support. They have a large helicopter landing area but no hangar. The helicopter in the illustration is a very large one, a Merlin, with a max take off weight of over 32,000 pounds.

The gun on these ships is the same gun and mount as the new Mk38 Mod4.

“U.S. Naval Forces in Middle East Interdict $29 Million in Illegal Drugs” –Seapower

USCGC Charles Moulthrope arrives at Naval Station Rota, Spain. After a two-week transit across the Atlantic Ocean, the cutter arrived in-port to resupply.

The Navy League’s on-line magazine, Seapower, reports,

A U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter seized an estimated $29 million worth of illicit narcotics from a fishing vessel while patrolling the Gulf of Oman, Oct. 12, two weeks after another sizable interdiction, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs said in an Oct. 13 release.

This is getting to be routine. The same ship seized a fishing vessel on Sept 27 with $85M in illegal drugs, presumably the “sizable interdiction” referred to above, and USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) , an another PATFORSWA cutter, has already made three drug interdictions.

Coast Guard Los Angles Looks at MQ-8C

Picked this up off the Coast Guard Aviation Association’s Facebook page. A post by U. S. Coast Guard Los Angeles.

Today, members from Sector Enforcement travelled to Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, Calif. to discuss the possible use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to support Coast Guard missions. Pictured is the Navy’s MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

Is the Coast Guard looking to buy MQ-8C? It is not unlikely, the Navy wants to exercise these assets in an operational environment. Cutters doing drug interdiction are almost perfect for them. This is more likely looking at an opportunity for a Navy Detachment to deploy with a cutter than that the Coast Guard is looking to buy MQ-8C.

The MQ-8C should be able to search a much larger area than the Scan Eagles we are using now. The four National Security Cutters in Alameda have room for one of these in addition to an H-65 and Scan Eagle. There are also two WMEC 210 on the West Coast that might use these, but I would expect to see Scan Eagle on the WMECs before Fire Scout, but it is a possibility.

The First two OPCs are coming to San Pedro, hopefully, beginning next year. They also have ample aviation space, so perhaps they are a possibility as well.

This could be a win-win.

“Colombia inks deal that could see Damen build five Sigma frigates” –Defense News

Colombian Navy SIGMA frigate

Defense News reports, one of our primary partners in drug interdiction efforts is expected to significantly upgrade their naval capabilities.

Colombia is launching a $2 billion shipbuilding program that would see its Navy acquire five frigates.

The announcement, made last week, was followed by the signing on Tuesday of an initial contract between local shipbuilder Cotecmar and Dutch company Damen to adapt the latter’s Sigma 10514 design to meet the Colombian Navy’s requirements.

This is a significant step toward self sufficiency in naval construction. It is a step up after Cotemar built three Fassmer 80 meter Offshore Patrol Vessels.

The new ships will replace four smaller 95 meter, 1850 ton full load, German built light frigate/corvettes that were commissioned in 1983/84.

If these new ships are in fact 120 meters in length and at least 2800 tons full load, they will be the largest ships of the SIGMA series. (At one time I expected a SIGMA series ship would have been a contender in the Offshore Patrol Cutter program.)

Apparently they have not made a final choice of weapons and sensors. I would not be surprised if they were equipped much like the Mexican SIGMA frigate, which is armed with weapons sourced from the US, including RGM-84L Harpoon Block II, eight Mk56 VLS for ESSM, MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes with two MK 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) triple tube launchers, Block II Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) missiles and Bofors 57 mm gun.

It seems likely the additional length compared to the Mexican ship will be to improve some capability, I would guess ASW. Mk41 VLS would allow greater flexibility including launch of ASROC and potentially land attack missiles.

It is widely known Colombia and Venezuela have not been getting along well. Colombia probably considers Venezuela their pacing threat. If that is the case, most, if not all five of the new ships will likely be based on the Caribbean side. These ships should provide an advantage vs the Venezuelan Navy.

Major naval bases of the Colombian Navy (Armada de la República de Colombia – ARC)
Colombian Navy (ARC) Marine Infantry Primary base and training school, Covenas
Source: Iceman0108. Background map: Mapa de Colombia (relieve-ríos) by Milenioscuro

Below, video of the latest SIGMA series ship, Mexican frigate ARM Benito Juárez (F 101), as it arrives for participation in RIMPAC 2022: 

“SouthCom Needs an Oiler” –USNI

USCGC Legare WMEC-912 refueling from Chilean Navy Oiler Almirante Montt

The October issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings has an article advocating regular assignment of a Navy Underway Replenishment (UNREP) vessel to support drug interdiction operations in the Eastern Pacific. The authors are serving Coast Guard officers,

  • Captain Michael Cilenti, U.S. Coast Guard, a career cutterman, a staff director at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and 

I would say “Amen!”

The article notes this would allow interdiction operations to become less predictable and would reduce time spent in transit to and from station. This could improve and speed handling of detainees. The unrep ships might even conduct some drug enforcement operations themselves.

The authors make a very good point, about the need for more underway replenishment ships,

“Some may push back against additional oiler deployments to SouthCom, citing a lack of available assets. But replenishment at sea—referred to as the Navy’s secret weapon by Admiral Chester Nimitz during World War II—will no doubt be foundational to any future conflict. If the Navy has too few assets to meet steady-state peacetime operations, how would it be able to support even short-term sustained combat operations in the far-flung corners of the globe?”

The title calls for an oiler (T-AO), but the article also mentions ” a T-AKE or allied oiler.” One of the Lewis and Clark class T-AKE dry cargo ships is actually a good option because, even though they carry only “limited quantities of fuel,” their 23,450 barrel capacity is enough to refuel a Bertholf class National Security Cutter more than four time from absolutely empty and they can simultaneously provide virtually every other type of stores that might be required.

Another way to achieve the same objective might be for the US Navy to transfer one or two Henry J. Kaiser class oilers to Colombia as they are replace by newer ships and work cooperatively with them.

I would note that, this would not only help Coast Guard cutters, it would also help Navy ships doing drug interdiction missions, which are typically Freedom class Littoral Combat Ships. They have far less range than the large cutter do. Allied vessels doing drug enforcement in the Eastern Pacific might also benefit.

An underway replenishment ship might also make use of Webber class cutters (FRCs) for drug interdiction more efficient, mitigating their limited endurance. While I would expect methods for replenishment directly from the underway replenishment ship would be developed, their availability would also encourage use of larger cutter to refuel and resupply the patrol craft. The underway replenishment ship might also provide aviation support for the FRCs that have no organic air support.

“Coast Guard offloads more than $475 million in illegal narcotics in Miami” –LANTAREA

HNLMS Groningen’s crew interdicts a suspected drug boat in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 27, 2020. HNLMS Groningen is a Holland-class offshore patrol vessel operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy. (Royal Netherlands Navy photo)

Below is a news release from USCG Atlantic Area. What I found notable was the participation of a Netherlands OPV and a USN Freedom class LCS. (No not the first time ships of these classes have been used for drug interdiction.)

The Holland class OPVs are very similar, in general terms, to the Offshore Patrol Cutters.

I expect Dutch participation to continue, but if the Navy gets their way, there will be a lot fewer LCSs.

181206-N-N0101-028, 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)

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area

Coast Guard offloads more than $475 million in illegal narcotics in Miami

A U.S. Coast Guard member offloads suspected narcotics from USCGC Legare in Miami, FloridaSuspected narcotics are removed via crane from USCGC Legare in Miami, Florida

Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.

MIAMI — The crew of the USCGC Legare (WMEC 912) offloaded approximately 24,700 pounds of cocaine and 3,892 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $475 million, Thursday at Base Miami Beach.

The drugs were interdicted in the international waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Eastern Pacific Ocean by crews from:

“I am proud of the crew’s continued devotion to duty that made this offload possible,” said Cdr. Jeremy M. Greenwood, commanding officer of Legare. “Through the coordinated efforts of the Legare, the LEDETs, HNLMS Groningen, CGC James, and the USS Billings crews, we significantly contributed to the counter-drug mission and the dismantling of transnational criminal organizations. The drugs seized through this coordinated effort will result in significantly fewer drug-related overdoses.”

The fight against drug cartels in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean, and the transnational criminal organizations they are associated with, requires a unity of effort in all phases; from detection and monitoring to interdiction and apprehension, and on to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation.

Detecting and interdicting illegal drug traffickers on the high seas involves significant interagency and international coordination. The Joint Interagency Task Force South in Key West, Florida conducts detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs. Maritime interdiction of illicit smuggling activity in the Caribbean Sea is coordinated by the Seventh Coast Guard District, headquartered in Miami. The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard also coordinates maritime interdiction of illicit smuggling activity with deployed Royal Netherlands Navy ships and their embarked Dutch Fleet Marine Corps squadrons and U.S. Coast Guard LEDETs in the Eastern Caribbean Sea near the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. Maritime interdiction of illicit smuggling activity in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is coordinated by the Eleventh Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda, California. The U.S. Navy and allied foreign ships conduct law enforcement missions under the authority of embarked Coast Guard LEDETs from Tactical Law Enforcement Teams based in Miami and San Diego.

The Legare is a 270-foot Famous-class medium endurance cutter stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia. Legare’s missions include Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Protection of Living Marine Resources, Homeland Security and Defense Operations, international training, and humanitarian operations. Legare patrols the offshore waters from Maine to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the Eastern Pacific, and the Caribbean.

For information on how to join the U.S. Coast Guard, visit www.GoCoastGuard.com to learn more about active duty and reserve officer and enlisted opportunities. Information on how to apply to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy can be found at www.uscga.edu.

“Coast Guard FRC Seizes Illegal Narcotics in Gulf of Oman” –Seapower/Same Job, Different Hemisphere

Personnel from U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) interdict a fishing vessel smuggling illegal narcotics in the Gulf of Oman, Aug. 30, 2022. U.S. COAST GUARD

The Navy League’s on-line magazine, Seapower, reports,

A U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter interdicted a fishing vessel smuggling illegal drugs worth an estimated U.S. street value of $20 million while patrolling the Gulf of Oman, Aug. 30, NAVCENT Public Affairs said Aug. 31.

USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) seized 2,980 kilograms of hashish and 320 kilograms of amphetamine tablets during operations in support of Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

This is USCGC Glen Harris’ third drug bust since joining Patrol Forces SW Asia in January.

New Format–USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: July 11, 2022

The latest “USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker” includes additional summary information that is more informative.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
298
(USS 241, USNS 57)
110
(USS 73, USNS 37)
 60
(44 Deployed, 16 Local )

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
0 11 2 13 26 58 110

For the last several weeks, information about how many ships were deployed and how many underway was missing entirely.

I had been following how many ships were deployed to 4th Fleet because in most cases those ships were assisting in drug interdiction, but recently that information was not listed. That is back. Two ships are deployed to 4th Fleet which was typical of earlier information.

From prior information, I had concluded that US Navy ships were deployed about a third of the time and underway about a quarter of the time. That is far less underway time than I believe is typical for Coast Guard cutters. We frequently hear that US Navy ships are overworked. I would not dispute that, but it does seem that underway time is not the reason they are overworked. New information included in this latest “Fleet and Marine Tracker” gives even clearer insight into how much time US Navy’s commissioned ships spend deployed and underway. For the first time there is a breakdown of ship type as either USS or USNS.

USNS ships are only 19.1% of the “Battle Force.” but they are 33.6% of the ships deployed. 64.9% of USNS ships are deployed.

Commissioned ships (USS) are 80.9% of the “Battle Force,” but only 66.4% of those deployed. Less than a third, 30.3% of commissioned ships, are deployed.

Only 20.1% of the “Battle Force” was underway. We don’t have a USS/USNS breakdown for ships underway. If we assume the 44 ships deployed and underway was in the same proportion as those simply deployed, then there were probably 29 USS ships deployed and underway. While unlikely, the 16 ships underway locally might all be USS ships, so at most 45 USS ships, 18.7% of commissioned ships might have been underway.

If the Navy wants to reduce the workload on their sailors, they probably cannot do it by reducing deployments and underway time. My own experience was that we got a lot more done while underway than while inport.

There is a second observation that is particularly important for war planning. The USNS fleet is strained to support current deployment levels. If we have a near peer conflict in the Western Pacific, we would probably want to approximately double the number of commissioned ships deployed to about 60% with about 50% of commissioned ships actually continuously underway, almost three times what we are seeing now.

Those ships will need underway replenishment.

That means that both, we need to substantially increase the number of support ships, just to fully use the combatants we already have, and that the support ships we do have are precious and need to be protected. The Coast Guard may have a role in providing at least some of that protection.

“Police seize underwater drones from drug dealers for the first time” –Der Spiegel

A view across the Strait of Gibraltar taken from the hills above Tarifa, Spain. Photo by Rob3fish at en.wikipedia

Der Spiegel reports that Spanish police have arrested eight and confiscated six underwater drones. The drones were being used to transport drugs from Morocco to Spain across the Straits of Gibraltar.c

Thanks to Sven for bringing this to my attention. 

“U.S., Japan Coast Guards conduct joint counter-narcotics exercise in the Pacific” –D14

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry sails alongside the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Mizuho during an exercise off Guam, June 7, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard completed the joint counter-narcotics exercise SAPPHIRE which stands for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule-of-Law Based Engagement 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam)

An interesting development in US and Japanese Coast Guard cooperation. This is apparently the first implementation of Operation SAPPHIRE announced in May.

This exercise does not seem to be an end in itself. It seems more like a tune-up for follow-on operations.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific

U.S., Japan Coast Guards conduct joint counter-narcotics exercise in the Pacific

Joint exercise Joint exercise Joint exercise  

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

SANTA RITA, Guam — The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard completed a joint counter-narcotics exercise off Guam, Tuesday. 
 
The exercise was the first operational exchange between U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam and the Japan Coast Guard and was designed to promote cooperation between the partners in areas of mutual interest including maritime security and counter-smuggling operations.  
 
“What an incredible opportunity to conduct joint training with the Japan Coast Guard and be able to share law enforcement capabilities which will enhance future joint mission planning,” said Capt. Nicholas Simmons, commander of Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. “These exercises further solidify our great maritime relationship and will prove to be invaluable during future missions.” 
 
The exercise was conducted between the crews of the Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel Mizuho, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry, and U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam. 
 
On Monday, the participants met at Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam for tours of the participating vessels and tabletop discussions to plan the at-sea exercise the next day. 
 
“Conducting exercises based off of real-world scenarios will boost opportunities to respond more effectively,” said Lt. Jack Hamel, the commanding officer of the Oliver Henry. “The cohesion and teamwork on display showcased that both Coast Guards have mutual interest in keeping the maritime commons safe and secure.” 
 
On Tuesday, the crews deployed for the at-sea exercise consisting of two counter-narcotics drills where the crews simulated locating and boarding a target of interest fishing vessel suspected of drug smuggling. 
 
The drills focused on methods of information sharing, vessel tracking, stopping measures, and inspection procedures for greater interoperability between the partners in the future. 
 
The two crews also conducted a personnel exchange and rendered passing honors between the vessels. 
 
The exercise was a part of the Japan Coast Guard and U.S. Coast Guard Operation SAPPHIRE 2022, which stands for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule-of-Law Based Engagement 2022, and was the second such operation held between the U.S. Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard, the first being held in San Francisco in May. 
 
SAPPHIRE was created during a joint document signing ceremony and celebration at Japan Coast Guard Headquarters earlier this year and was an annex to a memorandum of cooperation between the sea services which has existed since 2010. 
 
The purpose of Operation SAPPHIRE is to standardize operating procedures for combined operations, training and capacity building, and information sharing between the partners. 
 
The U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard have been bolstering each other’s capabilities and effectiveness since the founding of the Japan Coast Guard in 1948. The agencies work together to counter illegal maritime activity and assist foreign maritime agencies in the Indo-Pacific region in improving their own capabilities necessary for maritime law enforcement.