Hearing: Coast Guard Requirements, Priorities, and Future Acquisition Plans (FY-2018)

 

May 18, the Commandant, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, addressed the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. The recorded testimony is above. It is fairly long (1h40m). The Commandant’s initial statement, following the introductions, begins at 8m40s and ends approximately minute 14.

The administration’s FY 2018 budget request was not available, but the Commandant was there to discuss future priorities, requirements, and programs. The Department Secretary, General Kelly, is expected to address the Subcommittee on May 24 at 3PM Eastern.

I will just mention a few of the items I thought significant.

Admiral Zukunft noted that Huntington Ingalls has begun cutting steel for NSC #9. Questioned about NSC#10, he said, if it were funded, the Coast Guard would of course use it, but that the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) is the Coast Guard’s #1 priority. His response, that another NSC would have an effect on long-range operating cost, seemed to suggest anticipated significantly lower operating costs for the OPC. Significantly, there has been no mention of reducing the OPC program by one ship to offset the addition of NSC #9. (There is already a strong push to build more NSCs, a bill to authorized a multi-year buy of three more.)

He contended that the Coast Guard has taken a harder hit, due to budget restrictions, than other armed services and would need 5% annual growth and at least $2B annually for Acquisitions, Construction, and Improvements (AC&I). Later he stated that this annual AC&I appropriation would included about $300M annually for shore facilities. He pointed to a need to restore 1100 Reserve Billets and add 5,000 active duty military billets while retaining current levels of Civilian staff.

Apparently the FY2918 budget will begin a program to replace 35 Inland tenders at an estimated cost of approximately $25M each ($875M total). (Even if, in the unlikely event, this program were funded in only five years, that would only average $175M/year, so it is not a big program, but one that should have begun at least a decade ago.)

Cyber security for ports was discussed. The Commandant sees the Coast Guard role as decimating best practices, rather than imposing regulation. We now have a cyber program of record–still very small, two CG Academy graduates going directly into the program. The fact that two billets is worth mentioning, is probably the best indication of how really small the program is. A much smaller pre-World War II Coast Guard probably had more people working on breaking German and Japanese codes. 

Marine Inspection was addressed. The Commandant noted the increased demand for Inspections because 6,000 tugs have been added to inspection program. He noted a need for more stringent oversight of 3rd party inspectors, who in some cases have not been as meticulous as they should have been. He also noted that the US flag merchant fleet, notably the MSC’s Afloat Prepositioning Fleet, will need replacement, which will also raise demand for marine inspectors.

The Commandant also voiced his support for the Jones Act. He noted, we only have three shipyards building Jones Act ships in the US, and their loss would be short-sighted.

There was much discussion about the Arctic and the Icebreaker Fleet. Looks like follow-on funding for icebreaker program (at least after the first) will have to come from CG AC&I rather than the Navy budget. This may be difficult, but it is the way it should be. The chair of committee expressed his reservations about attempting to fund such big-ticket items through the DHS budget. The Commandant stated that the Coast Guard is still considering the acquisition of the commercial Icebreaker Aiviq (but apparently they are doing it very slowly–the chairman of the committee seemed a bit irritated about this).

The committee members seemed to latch onto the idea that the USCG, rather than the Navy, would be responsible for enforcing US sovereignty in the Arctic (which by US definition includes the Aleutians), and seemed to be asking if the Coast Guard was prepared to fight the Russians and/or Chinese in the Arctic. The Commandant suggested instead, that our role was to provide presence in the pre-conflict phase in order assert US sovereignty. He acknowledged that the National Security Cutters are only armed defensively and are not suitable for conventional naval warfare against an enemy combatant.

The Commandant acknowledged that, at some point it may be desirable to arm Polar Icebreakers, meaning they should be built with space, weight, and power reservations for additional weapons.

(I am all for keeping open the option of arming our icebreakers, so that they can defend themselves and do their part, if there is a conflict in a polar region, but there did not seem to be recognition among the Congression Representatives, that an Arctic conflict is most likely to be determined by submarines and aircraft. The icebreakers’ role is likely to be primarily logistical.)

The Commandant apparently does expect that there may be disagreements with regard to the extent of the US authority over certain areas of the Arctic.

In discussing the need for land based Unmanned Air Systems, there was a curious note at minute 40 about go-fast boats going south. Where are they going?

Alien Migrant Interdiction (AMIO). We have gone for seven weeks without a single Cuban Migrant being interdicted. This is because of the end of Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy. This has allowed reallocation of resources to drug interdiction South of Cuba and human trafficking from the Bahamas

A Congressional Representative, from Texas pointed out there is no CG presence on the Rio Grande River, in spite of it being an international waterway. There was no mention of it, but perhaps he was thinking of the Falcon Lake incident in 2010 when an American was allegedly shot in the head by Mexican drug runners. Maybe something we should reconsider.

The Commandant promised the CG would have an unfunded priority list for FY2018.

Putting Torpedoes on the Webber Class WPC

USCGC Kathleen Moore (WPC-1109)

What is the Problem?:

For a good while, I have been pointing out that the Coast Guard really does not have a means of forcibly stopping a medium to large ship, if its crew is willing to risk death. Even the largest guns the Coast Guard has (76 and 57mm) are unlikely to be able to reliably stop such a ship, and those larger cutters that carry the 76 and 57mm guns are unlikely to be available when needed anyway. They are more likely to be either deployed far from the ports or in maintenance status, unable to respond in a timely manner. There are also no other US military forces positioned and ready to respond to this type threat.

This means, the assets most likely to be available to stop a terrorist attack are Webber class WPCs and smaller vessels. They are armed, at best, with the 25mm M240 chain gun in a Mk38 mount and .50 caliber machine guns. These are even more unlikely to be able to forcibly stop a vessel. In addition there is a good possibility, a hostile vessel used for such a mission could be equipped with weapons that can out gun and out range the cutter. The Mk38 has a reported effective range of 2700 yards. I estimate the maximum effective range of improvised weapons on a terrorist vessel might be as much as 4000 yards. (I have never seen any indication anyone is attempting to train to use anything approaching the 25mm’s maximum range of 7,450 yards.)

Photo: This is a Chinese experiment with improvised armament for civilian ships. Likely useful systems include anti-tank guided missiles, recoilless rifles, heavy machine guns, man portable anti-aircraft missiles, and anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns which are designed to follow fast moving targets allowing them to compensate for movement of the ship. Terrorists would probably make more of an effort to hide the weapons, but you get the idea. 

What is available?:

I believe light weight torpedoes are the lightest, cheapest way to provide the missing capability.

Until recently, I had assumed, we would have to at least reprogram some of our existing light weight torpedoes. Recently I saw a report that the Mk46 mod5 has an anti-surface capability, so it may not be necessary to create or modify a torpedo for the role.

The Mk46 torpedo is not exactly new tech, the original design is over 50 years old and the mod5 version was introduced over 30 years ago. Two newer light weight torpedoes have been developed since introduction of the Mk46, the Mk50 in 1981 and the Mk54 (which uses the propulsion system of the Mk46) in 2004. Because the replacements are more expensive, there are still a large number of Mk46 torpedoes in the inventory. The national fleet (Navy and Coast Guard) has far fewer light weight torpedo armed surface combatants now (85) they did, 30 years ago (229). (At one time, the Coast Guard had quite a few Mk46 torpedoes on the 378s.)

Despite its age, the Mk46 appears adequate to stop most ships. It has an unclassified reported speed 45 knots and a range variously reported as at least 8,000 yards. Its warhead wight is only 98 pounds, about 15% that of the Mk48 heavy weight torpedo’s 650 pound warhead, but the effects of underwater explosions are not proportional to the weight of explosive. The effect, assuming the same explosive is use, is proportional to the cube root of the weight of explosive. This means that the shock experienced as a result of a 98 pounds of explosive underwater is more than half that experienced as a result of the explosion of 650 pounds at the same distance.

We might convince the Navy that putting torpedoes on Coast Guard cutters, is just another place to store them until needed. We are not likely to expend many of them, and if we use one or two, I think they will forgive us.

Why the Webber class WPCs?:

If there is a terrorist attempt using a medium to large ship, a Webber class WPC is likely to be the most capable Coast Guard unit available to attempt to stop the attempt. Larger ships are likely to be either far away or unable to get underway in time.

Perhaps in the future we could also equip the larger cutters and the 87 foot WPB replacement with these weapons, but the WPCs should be the highest priority.

What does an installation look like?: 

American light weight torpedo launchers are all designated Mk32, but they are available in three configurations, triple, stacked twin, and single. The single tube fixed Mod11 is the lightest and probably most appropriate for the WPCs. Two torpedo tubes and two torpedoes are probably sufficient. Support equipment can mostly be left at a support facility ashore.

Surface Vessel Torpedo Tube, Mk32 mod11

These systems are relatively small, 11’4″ in length and less than two feet wide. Loaded with a Mk46 torpedo, each tube weighs 1160 pounds. They do require 9’6″ of open space behind the breech for the tray used to load the 8’6″ long torpedo.

Where to put install?:

In regard to putting torpedoes on Webber Class cutters, one question I have gotten is, “where would you put them?”

I see three likely locations. All three would require some minor modifications to the ship.

  1. On the stern aimed aft to fire over the transom.
  2. On the O-1 deck behind the bridge firing forward and slightly to the sides.
  3. On the O-1 deck forward of the bridge firing forward and slightly to the sides.

The first would require some rearrangement of deck outfit.

The second and third options would likely require about a three foot wide and 12 foot long extension to the O-1 deck on both sides essentially covering the walkway between the main deck superstructure and the side of the hull. This would allow mounting and access to the tubes which would be pointed at a shallow angle outboard placing the muzzle just inside and above the ship’s side. The breech would be angled in so that it is accessible for loading from the clear space behind it.

Personally I prefer the second or third options.

If there is ever a question “Are cutters are large enough to launch a light weight torpedo?” this should dispel any doubts. Below is a photo of a 12 meter (40 foot) Unmanned Surface Vessel with two torpedo tubes. It also has a dipping sonar (presumably the type used by helicopters).

The 2017 Budget

It seems a bit late to talk about the FY2017 budget, but here we are, eight months into the FY, and it is finally signed into law. This is a bit rambling, forgive me, but that is the budget process.

The Coast Guard’s description of the Obama administration’s original budget request is here. It is fairly detailed, but now obsolete.

A short summary of the Coast Guard budget, as part of a summary of the Department budget, contained in the Omnibus bill is here. It is quoted in full below.

Coast Guard – The bill contains $10.5 billion for the U.S. Coast Guard – an increase of $344 million above the previous Administration’s request and a decrease of $467.3 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides 1.6 percent military pay increase;

  • Provides $7.1 billion for operations and training, military personnel costs, aviation and cutter hours, and to reduce a maintenance backlog that can hinder readiness and response; and

  • Provides $1.37 billion – $233 million above the request – for modernization and recapitalization of vessels, aircraft, and facilities. This includes funding for the Polar Ice Breaking Vessel program, the acquisition of an Offshore Patrol Cutter, an HC130-J aircraft, six Fast Response Cutters, and facility improvements at multiple locations throughout the United States.

The good news here is that the Coast Guard will not see a dramatic cut to pay for “the Wall.” The bad news is that the total budget is down over $600M from the FY2016 enacted budget (I know this is different from the summary above, but that is what I got), most of which is an approximately $580M cut in AC&I which included NSC#9.

There is actually a small increase in operating budget from last year and from the initial budget request, a bit over $100M.

There is a pleasant surprise in the notes explaining budget reductions in the Coast Guard’s explanation of the initial budget request:

“National Security Cutter Energy Efficiency -$13.5M

(O FTE) Reflects savings from a re-calculation of National Security Cutter (NSC) energy costs based on observed energy expenditures during NSC operations, without impacting the ability to carry out those operations”

Apparently the big cutters are not costing a much to fuel as we expected. I suppose this could just reflect current oil prices.

There is also a note that there will be a permanent increase in the crew size for all NSCs.

You can see the actual bill here (pdf), the Coast Guard budget is on pages 28-32.

Unexpected items in the Operating Budget

  • Additional $4.49M for Cyber
  • $5M for the CG museum

Reserves: A total of$112,302,000 is provided for Reserve Training.

The AC&I Budget includes:

  • $2M for design work on Great Lakes icebreaking capacity
  • $1M for design work on Inland AtoN fleet
  • $99M for Shore and AtoN (Almost doubles original request of $51.1M) 
  • National Security Cutter. A total of $255,400,000 is provided for the National Security Cutter (NSC) program. The total includes $95,000,000 for procurement of long lead time materials associated with a tenth National Security Cutter, and $3,400,000 for post-delivery activities for the ninth NSC. In addition, $30,000,000 is included to support a necessary Structural Enhancement Dry-dock Availability (SEDA) for the second NSC.
  • $325M for six FRC (rather than four for $240M in the original request)
  • $55M total for the Polar Icebreaker program.
  • $90M for a missionized C-130J
  • $44.52M for shore facilities
  • Major Acquisition Systems Infrastructure. A total of $50,000,000 is provided, including $22,000,000 to support the Coast Guard’s plan to homeport OPCs in the arctic region to replace aging assets.
  • A total of $36,319,000 is provided for Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E). Includes $18M to evaluate long range shore based Unmanned Air Systems.

There is a change in ship procurement policy:

“The policy requiring the Coast Guard to obtain appropriations for the total acquisition cost of a vessel, including long lead time materials, production costs, and post-production costs, before a production contract can be awarded has the potential to create shipbuilding inefficiencies, force delays in the obligation of production funds, and require post production funds far in advance of when they will be used. The Office of Management and Budget is expected to give the Coast Guard the flexibility to acquire vessels, including the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), in the most efficient manner within the guidelines of strict governance measures.”

Funding for Coast Guard OCO/GWOT activities ($162.7M) is provided directly through the Operating Expenses appropriation instead of through the Navy’s Operation and Maintenance account.

There are some requirements incorporated in the law.

“Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Coast Guard shall brief the Committees on plans, including a funding strategy,  for improving the cybersecurity posture of the Coast Guard and balancing requirements of operating within the “.mil” domain while adhering to DHS cyber directives.”

“The Coast Guard is directed to submit to the Committees a Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for fiscal years 2018 through 2022 by June 30,2017.”

“The Coast Guard is directed to move quickly in approving additional Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS)and shall work with the Environmental Protection Agency to reexamine whether the most probable number method can be used as an alternative for testing the effectiveness of treatment systems. The Coast Guard is further directed to brief the Committees on the status of its BWMS testing efforts as set forth in the House report.”

“Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees a report on the Coast Guard’s plans to ensure long-term search and rescue coverage for the Arctic. This report shall also address the Coast Guard’s capability for conducting response missions throughout the Western Alaska Captain of the Port Zone, including the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean. The report shall provide details on pollution response equipment; spill response organizations; spill prevention and mitigation methods; and response partnerships with federal, state, and local entities.”

“The Coast Guard is directed to brief the Committees not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act on any changes expected in the funding requirement for OCO/GWOT activities during fiscal year 2017. Further, the Coast Guard is directed to include details of its current and future support to Central Command in the classified annex of the fiscal year 2018 budget request.”

“Under the new strategy, the IPO (Icebreaker Project Office–Chuck) will obtain detailed industry feedback through trade-off analyses to further refine and validate operational requirements. A report on polar icebreaker requirements, preferred design, overall acquisition strategy, and a breakout of funds necessary to support the acquisition shall be submitted to the Committees not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act.” (I personally don’t think this is a realistic deadline–Chuck)

“The Senate report encouraged the Coast Guard to explore the use of water purification systems free of bromine. Within 90 days of the date of enactment of this Act, the Coast Guard shall brief the Committees on the costs, benefits, and feasibility of adopting this new type of system.”

“The Coast Guard is directed to examine the feasibility, costs, and benefits of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in transit zones using long range/ultralong endurance, land based, unmanned aerial systems. Within the total provided for RDT &E, $18,000,000 is included for the Coast Guard, in collaboration with CBP and S&T to perform an analysts of alternatives (AoA) on available systems and mission equipment packages before conducting a proof of .. ~ concept demonstration of selected systems. The Coast Guard shall brief the Committees on its plans for conducting the AoA and proof of concept within 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act. Further, the Coast Guard, along with CBP and S&T, shall brief the Committees on the results of the demonstration within 90 days following its completion. “

“Too Small to Answer the Call”–USNI Proceedings

The May issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings is the Naval Review issue. It includes updates on the Coast Guard as well as the Navy and Marine corps that are behind the membership pay wall, but it also has an article, “Too Small to Answer the Call,” by Capt. David Ramassini, future CO of USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756) that is accessible to all, and I think is worth a read.

Basically he is advocating using the Coast Guard internationally to build capacity and counter threats of lawlessness and poor governance in trouble spots all around the world. Below is his recommended building program.

Build a New Great White Fleet

Enhancing regional security in partnership with willing nations requires a 21st-century Great White Fleet of forward deployable (or stationed) national security cutters (NSCs), offshore patrol cutters (OPCs), and fast response cutters (FRC). The mix of platforms and duration of presence would be tailored to the distinct geographies and vary based on the receptiveness of the host nation(s), problem sets to be addressed, and mutual goals of the combatant commands and partner nations. Building on a proven bilateral approach for counterdrug operations and EEZ enforcement, the Great White Fleet would leverage existing agreements—based on the extent to which partner governments are willing—to strengthen CTOC (counter transnational organized crime–chuck) and CT (counter terrorism–Chuck) across the JIME (Joint Interagency Multinational Environment–Chuck).

From an acquisition perspective, doubling the size of both the OPC (from 25 to 50) and FRC (from approximately 50 to 100) programs equates to the projected cost of one Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78)-class aircraft carrier (approximately $13 billion). Furthermore, procuring an additional seven NSCs over the nine planned would cost the equivalent of one Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class guided-missile destroyer (approximately $4.2 billion). The NSC and OPC both offer more than three times the on-station time between provisioning than is afforded by a littoral combat ship (LCS).

Building more OPCs also could rapidly grow the National Fleet by leveraging commercial shipyards outside the mainstream industrial complex. These shipyards may be able to provide better value to the government during an economic downturn in the oil and offshore supply industry. Further leveraging this acquisition would continue to drive down the cost of the OPCs and provide an additional industrial base to build a 400-ship National Fleet of ships with far lower operating and maintenance costs than the LCS.

Redirecting proposed future LCS/frigate dollars (approximately $14 billion) to a Great White Fleet to modernize the U.S. National Fleet mix would provide a greater return on investment and more staying power abroad. For instance, building international security cutters—NSCs with Navy-typed/Navy-owned enhancements such as the SeaRAM antiship cruise missile—could offer combatant commanders a truly useful “frigate,” leveraging mature production lines that now operate at only 70 percent capacity. These estimates are for relative comparison and do not include the associated aviation, infrastructure, basing support agreements, and personnel plus-ups that are needed to provide a more credible and persistent presence across the JIME. But investing in a larger Coast Guard and the supporting infrastructure would return high dividends.

I’m not sure I agree, but it is worth considering. We should, however, keep in mind a sentiment expressed by friend Bill Wells that white paint is not bullet proof. We should not perpetuate the idea that only white painted ships can enforce laws, that is a uniquiely American concept and perpetuating it plays into the hands of the Chinese, who have more coast guard ships than any other country in the world.

Still I think there is merit to this concept. It seems to be working for PATFORSWA (Patrol Forces South West Asia). There has already been talk about a similar deployment to SE Asia. We might consider similar detachments of various sizes for West Africa, the Eastern Pacific, and the Marshall Islands.

The additional ships, 7 NSCs, and “doubling the size of both the OPC (from 25 to 50) and FRC (from approximately 50 to 100)” Is clearly arbitrary. There is very little the NSCs can do that the OPCs will not also be able to do cheaper, so I don’t see a need for more NSCs.

If we take on additional international roles it probably will not be done in one fell swoop. It will probably be done incrementally. Captain Ramassini is clearly looking at this as a near term possibility. Some movement in this direction is clearly possible, but it will take a radical change in the Administration, the Navy, and the Coast Guard for this to happen on the scale he envisions.

Meanwhile, if you look at the “Offshore and Aviation Fleet Mix Study,” the Coast Guard actually needs 9 NSCs, 57 OPCs, and 91 FRCs just to meet all of our statutory obligations. That is not far from his 16 NSCs, 50 OPCs, and 100 FRCs. The study and the “Great White Fleet” would both probide 66 large ships (NSCs and OPCs).

Actually the only way I see this happening is if there is a realization that keeping the USN constantly cycling through distant deployments may not be the best way to maintain readiness. That it wears out very expensive ships and drives people from the service, and that perhaps cutters can perform at least some of the presence missions.

My Unfunded Priority List

An earlier post reported a plea by Representative Duncan Hunter, Chair of the Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, for the Coast Guard to provide an unfunded priority list to include six icebreakers and unmanned Air System.

Thought perhaps I would list my own “unfunded priorities.” These are not in any particular order.

PLATFORM SHORTFALLS

Icebreakers: We have a documented requirement for three heavy and three medium icebreakers, certainly they should be on the list. Additionally they should be designed with the ability to be upgraded to wartime role. Specifically they should have provision for adding defensive systems similar to those on the LPD–a pair of SeaRAM and a pair of gun systems, either Mk46 mounts or Mk38 mod 2/3s. We might want the guns permanently installed on at least on the medium icebreakers for the law enforcement mission. Additionally they should have provision for supporting containerized mission modules like those developed for the LCS and lab/storage space identified that might be converted to magazine space to support armed helicopters.

110225-N-RC734-011 PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

110225-N-RC734-011
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

Unmanned Air Systems (UAS): We seem to be making progress on deploying UAS for the Bertholf class NSCs which will logically be extended to the Offshore Patrol Cutters. So far we see very little progress on land based UAS. This may be because use of the Navy’s BAMS system is anticipated. At any rate, we will need a land based UAS or access to the information from one to provide Maritime Domain Awareness. We also need to start looking at putting UAS on the Webber class. They should be capable of handling ScanEagle sized UAS.

File:USCGC Bluebell - 2015 Rose Festival Portland, OR.jpg

Photo: The Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell sits moored along the Willamette River waterfront in Portland, Ore., June 4, 2015. The Bluebell, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, is one of many ships participating in the 100th year of the Portland Rose Festival. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.)

Recapitalize the Inland Tender Fleet: This is long overdue. The program was supposed to begin in 2009, but so far, no tangible results. It seems to have been hanging fire for way too long.

Expand the Program of Record to the FMA-1 level: The Fleet Mix Study identified additional assets required to meet the Coast Guard’s statutory obligations identifying four asset levels above those planned in the program of record. Lets move at least to first increment.

Alternative Fleet Mix Asset Quantities

————–POR       FMA-1      FMA-2      FMA-3       FMA-4
NSC                8             9                 9                 9                  9
OPC              25           32               43                50               57
FRC              58           63               75                80               91
HC-130         22            32               35                44               44
HC-144A       36            37               38                40               65
H-60              42            80               86                99             106
H-65             102         140             159              188            223
UAS-LB           4            19                21                21              22
UAS-CB        42            15                19               19               19

At the very least, looks like we need to add some medium range search aircraft (C-27J or HC-144).

Increase Endurance of Webber Class Cutters: The Webber class could be more useful if the endurance were extended beyond five days (currently the same as the 87 cutters, which have only one-third the range). We needed to look into changes that would allow an endurance of ten days to two weeks. They already have the fuel for it.

MISSION EQUIPMENT SHORTFALLS

Seagull_torpedo_trial_1

Ship Stopper (Light Weight Homing Torpedo): Develop a system to forcibly stop even the largest merchant ships by disabling their propulsion, that can be mounted on our patrol boats. A torpedo seems the most likely solution. Without such a system, there is a huge hole in our Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security mission.

121211-N-HW977-692

Photo: SeaGriffin Launcher

Counter to Small High Speed Craft (Small Guided Weapon): Identify and fit weapons to WPB and larger vessels that are capable of reliably stopping or destroying small fast boats that may be used as fast inshore attack craft and suicide or remote-controlled unmanned explosive motor boats. These weapons must also limit the possibility of collateral damage. Small missiles like SeaGriffin or Hellfire appear likely solutions.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

Improved Gun–Penetration, Range, and Accuracy: The .50 cal. and 25mm guns we have on our WPBs and WPCs have serious limitations in their ability to reach their targets from outside the range of weapons terrorist adversaries might improvise for use against the cutters. They have limited ability to reach the vitals of medium to large merchant vessels, and their accuracy increases the possibility of collateral damage and decreases their probability of success. 30, 35, and 40 mm replacements for the 25 mm in our Mk38 mod2 mounts are readily available.

Laser Designator: Provide each station, WPB, and WPC with a hand-held laser designator to allow them to designate targets for our DOD partners.

CONTINGENCY PLANNING SHORTFALLS

Vessel Wartime Upgrades: Develop plans for a range of options to upgrade Coast Guard assets for an extended conflict against a near peer.

 

How Does the Program of Record Compare to Historic Fleets

 The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

A question from a reader prompted me to look at how the “Program of Record” (POR) compares with Coast Guard patrol fleets of the past.

The program of record is
8 NSCs
25 OPCs
58 FRCs
—————

91 vessels total

1990: Looking back at the “Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991” the Fleet was:
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMECs (16×210′, 10×270′ (three building), Storis, 3×213′, 3×205′)
34 WPB 110′ (plus 15 building)
3 WSES 110′ surface effects ships
4 WPB 95′
——————-
85 vessels total
(There were also five Aerostat Radar Balloon tenders.)
 –
2000: “The Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001” showed
 –
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMEC (13×270′, 16×210′, Alex Haley, Storis, Acushnet)
49 WPB 110′
——————-
93 vessels total.
 –
2013: “The Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition,” copyright 2013 listed:
 –
3 NSCs
8 WHEC 378′
28 WMEC (13×270′, 14×210′, Alex Haley)
4 FRCs
41 WPB 110′
——————–
84 vessels total
 –
Comparing the Program of Record (plus NSC #9) to the fleet of 2000: You can look at it this way,
  • 9 NSCs and 3 OPCs is more than adequate replacement for the 12 WHEC 378s
  • 49 of the FRCs is more than adequate replacement for 49 WPB 110s (and we have only had 41 anyway since the WPB 123 screw up)
  • That leaves 22 OPCs and 9 FRCs to cover for the 32 WMECs.
Conclusion: 
I think we would all be pretty happy, if we had the Program of Record fleet in place right now. It really would be a substantial improvement, but while the NSCs and the FRCs are well on the way, the first of the long-delayed OPCs will not be delivered until 2021, and, if everything goes according to plan, the last probably not before 2034, at which time even the newest 270 will be 44 years old. A lot can happen between now and then.
The 2000 fleet was, I believe, the benchmark against which the program of record was measured in the Fleet Mix Study. By 2013 we were already down nine vessels. By my estimate, by the time the last 210 is replaced it will probably be 60 years old. That is expecting a lot. Can we possibly expect that none of these ships will become unserviceable before they are replaced? Building no more than two OPCs a year is really too slow. Once the first ship is built, tested, and approved for full rate production, we should accelerate construction to the maximum. That can’t happen until at least FY2022, probably FY 2023.
By the end of FY2022 we should have already funded 7 ships. The remaining 18 would take nine years, if we buy them at the currently projected schedule. Instead we could fund the entire remaining program from FY2023-2027 by doing a single Multi-Year Procurement of 18 ships. If Eastern alone could not do it, Marinette, which like the designer VARD, is also a Fincantieri company, would probably be more than willing to build an additional couple a year, particularly if the Navy stops building Freedom class LCS/frigates.
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We could have the program complete by FY2030, four years early.
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Thanks to Peter for initiating this line of thought. 
uscgc_citrus_1984

USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), USCG photo

storisfoam

USCGC Storis WMEC-38)

USCGC Acushnet

USCGC Acushnet (WMEC-167), USCG photo

 

Breaking Defense Interviews the Commandant

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft (right) meets with then-Southern Command chief Gen. John Kelly, now Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft (right) meets with then-Southern Command chief Gen. John Kelly, now Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security.

Breaking Defense’s Robbin Laird has an Interview with the Commandant and speculates on the prospects for the Coast Guard under the new administration and DHS selectee General John Kelly.

Trump, Kelly, & The Coast Guard: Exclusive Interview With Adm. Zukunft

Its a good one, and even the comments are worth reading. There is much of the same we have heard before. The Commandant has a clear and consistant message and agenda, but there is more detail about a possible role in the far Western Pacific.

“I have discussed with the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, the senior officer in the Navy) the concept that we would create a permanent USCG presence in the South China Sea and related areas,” Zukunft said. “This would allow us to expand our working relationship with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. We can spearhead work with allies on freedom of navigation exercises as well.”

This is the first time I have seen the phrase “permanent USCG presence in the South China Sea and related areas.” Does that mean we will have a CG patrol squadron working out of Sinagpore or Okinawa (or Cam Ranh Bay), like the one in Bahrain? Or are we just looking at the Webber class WPCs we already know are going to Guam? (Must be more to it than that.) I do think we should put some OPCs in Guam, if only to patrol the EEZ in the Western Pacific.

Until recently we might have considered the possibility of basing in the Philippines, but that no longer looks like a possibility.

What ever you may think of the incoming administration, for the Coast Guard at least, it looks promising.

Thanks to Luke for bringing this to my attention.