FY2019 PC&I Appropriations

I have not been able to find a complete FY2019 Coast Guard budget as it was signed into law, but we do have at least a partial list of Procurement, Construction, and Improvement appropriations for ships and aircraft based on two Congressional Research Service reports (Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” and “Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress “) and a Homeland Security Today report.

$1,507.6M For Ships (LLTI refers to Long Lead Time Material):

  • $675M   for the first Polar Security Cutter and LLTM for the second
  • $400M   for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter and LLTM for the third
  • $340M   for six Fast Response Cutters
  • $72.6M  for the National Security Cutter program
  • $15M     for life extension work on Polar Star
  • $5M       for initial work on procuring an additional Great Lakes Icebreaker

Coast Guard C-130J

$208M For Aircraft:

  • $105 for the HC-130J program (I think that is one aircraft)
  • $95M for MH-60T recapitalization (reworking existing aircraft I believe)
  • $8M for upgrades to the MH-65s

That is $1,715M for the items above. This, hopefully, is not all. I don’t have a figure for the Waterways Commerce Cutter (a small figure at this point), no information on unmanned systems, and there should also be money to address the backlog of shoreside improvements, but this does seem to show a recognition of the real needs of the Coast Guard for recapitalization. Looks like the $2+B annually for PC&I the Coast Guard has been saying they need is within reach.

 

 

Webber class Could be the Navy’s Light Duty Pickup Truck

Coast Guard Cutter John F. McCormick (WPC 1121) crew transits through the San Francisco Bay, Saturday, March 4, 2017, during their voyage to homeport in Ketchikan, Alaska.  Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart

In 2012 the US Naval Institute published an important article by then CNO Admiral Johnathan Greenert, “Payloads over platforms: Charting a new course.” It starts off, 
“We need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection. “
He suggested that the Navy needs F150 pickups rather than Ferraris. Metaphorically the Webber class could be the Navy’s small Toyota pickup–cheap, reliable, versatile, and economical to operate. 
A strong point for the Webber class is that it is probably the smallest and cheapest combatant, being currently manufactured, that can self deploy anywhere in the world (other than the polar regions) with minimal support en route as demonstrated by their self deployment to Hawaii and Alaska and USCGC Olivier F. Berry (WPC-1124)’s successful patrol to the Marshall Islands, 2200 miles from her homeport in Honolulu.
As currently equipped there is not a lot of free space apparent on the Webber class, but removing the eight meter “over the horizon boat” would free up a large area where mission modules could be placed. We can think of it as the bed of the pickup.


180201-N-TB177-0211
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Feb. 1, 2018) Island-class patrol boats USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332), left, USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309), middle, and coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) patrol the open seas. Wrangell, Aquidneck and Firebolt are forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg/Released)

Potential Missions
 
Countering the Swarm: 
 
The Navy’s most likely first use of a Webber class could be as replacements for the Cyclone class in South West Asia. Countering the large number of Iranian fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) is a mission the Cyclone class is expected to do now, protecting both larger Navy vessels and the tanker traffic that must pass through the Straits of Hormuz. 

The Fletcher laser guided rocket launcher fires BAE’s 2.75 inch laser guided rockets known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. (Shawn Snow/Defense News Staff)

An earlier post, “Modifying Webber Class Cutters for Duty in SW Asia,” was aimed at this threat as applied to the Coast Guard Webber class that will be going to Southwest Asia. As a minimum the Navy will likely want some form of guided weapon, Perhaps the APKWS would suffice, if provided in sufficient numbers.

Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL

The 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 that are currently mounted on the Webber class might be up-gunned (30, 35, and 40mm guns are all possible) and the mount might also be modified to also launch APKWS. Alternately the Mk38 might be replaced by BAE’s 40mm/70 MK4 and the Toplite gun director c(urrently mounted on the Mk38) could be mounted on the mast to control the 40mm, as the Israelis have done with some of their installations of the system, assuming the 40mm Mk 4 does not weigh too much.  

BAE Bofors 40mm/70 mk4

Optimally, the outfit should include Longbow Hellfire. It could probably be mounted as single tube launchers affixed along the sides of the superstructure. I have seen a mockup of such a launcher. The missile itself is only about seven inches in diameter. If willing to replace the boat with missiles, its likely Lockheed could produce a 12 round launcher based on half the launcher being installed on the LCS. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN—A Longbow Hellfire Missile is fired from Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit (LCS 7) on Feb. 28 2017 as part of a structural test firing of the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM). The test marked the first vertical missile launched from an LCS and the first launch of a missile from the SSMM from an LCS. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

Anti-Ship: 
In other theaters there is likely a desire to have a larger anti-ship missile. 
The Navy has been talking a great deal about “Distributed Lethality.” The concept has its origin in a January 2015 US Naval Institute article by then-Director of Surface Warfare Requirements (OPNAV N96) Rear Admiral Tom Rowden, RAdm. Peter Gumataotao, and RAdm. Peter Fanta. 
 
Rowden’s co-author and successor at N96, Rear Admiral Pete Fanta, continued the drum beat with the memorable phrase, “if it floats, it fights,” suggesting that anti-ship missiles should be put on virtually all units. 
On the Webber class, this would most likely the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), recently chosen by the Navy to arm its LCSs and frigates. A four cell launcher could probably replace the boat. The missile is only 13 feet long. 

A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California (USA). The missile scored a direct hit on a mobile ship target. 23 September 2014.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell

Missile Truck
The Army and Marines have tracked and truck mounted missile launchers. 
 
A new missile, “Deepstrike,” is being developed for these launchers. “The missile will be able to strike targets up to 309 miles away with precision, including moving targets both on land at sea.” (see also)
 
A Webber class equipped with these could function in the same way as the Army and Marine vehicles operating in the littorals and many river systems. Targeting would be provided by offboard sensors through networking. 
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
This is probably unlikely, but there might be a place for craft that could perform ASW patrols off ports and amphibious objective areas or around choke points. 
The Canadians have a small containerized towed array sensor that looks like it would fit.

TRAPS containerized active/passive towed array from GeoSpectrum Technologies.

 I have looked at how we might add torpedo tubes to the Webber class that could launch ASW torpedoes, but it is more likely aircraft, most likely helicopters, would be called in to make the actual attack. The ship would be primarily a sensor node, minimizing the requirement to keep ASW Helicopters airborne.
120mm Mortar for Naval Surface Fire Support:
Another truck like use would be to add this containerized large mortar as a way to provide naval fire support. This weapon is not currently in the US inventory but it does look promising. Guided projectiles are being developed for the 120 mm mortar.
Security for MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet

I am not sure what precautions the Navy has made to protect the ships of the MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet, but if I were an enemy there are might be strong incentive to destroy these ships that transport the most ready reinforcements of heavy equipment.

Webber class PCs might have a role in protecting these.

 Large Unmanned Surface Vessel. 

The Navy is seeking to procure a medium unmanned surface vessel (MUSV), 12 to 50 meters in length. The Webber class might be the basis for such a vessel. The modular systems described above might also be used on the MUSV. 

Visit, Search, Board, and Seizure: 

This is the mission these little ships are built for and, consequently, no change may be necessary. The mission might be stopping and boarding hundreds of small craft as was done off Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time, or it might be enforcing a blockade against Chinese shipping at the Straits providing access to the South China Sea. If resistance is expected there are a number of ways the vessels’ armament could be augmented, including missiles or torpedoes, but in most cases its likely air or backup could be called in. The real advantage is that the Navy would not need to tie down DDGs doing this work, and potentially risk it being damaged by improvised weapons on a vessel being boarded. For more challenging assignments two or three could be teamed with one or two providing boats and boarding teams and the other as a weapons carrier.

“Building the Fleets of the Future: Coast Guard and NOAA Fleet Recapitalization”–Senate Hearing

Congress is back in session. It is likely the current Congress will attempt to complete the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Budget before the new Congress is seated in January.

On October 11, 2018, the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a public hearing entitled,  “The Future of the Fleets: Coast Guard and NOAA Ship Recapitalization.” I feel I have been remiss in not talking about this earlier, but the topics are still in question and it appears all the major players in the sub-committee will be returning next year, although committee assignments may change. Despite the name of the hearing, the NOAA representative was unable to attend, so the entire hearing was about Coast Guard programs.

Unfortunately the hearing video was not posted on YouTube so I was unable to post it here. The Commerce Committee website with the video of the hearing, list of witnesses, and links to the prepared statements is here.

I’d like to call attention to the Congressional Research Service’s evaluation of the Coast Guard’s shipbuilding programs in the form of Mr. Ronald O’Rourke’s prepared testimony for the hearing. It is relatively short at 21 pages, and covers the Waterways Commerce Cutter (Inland tenders) and Polar Security Cutter (Heavy Polar Icebreaker) as well as the National Security Cutter (NSC), Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), and Fast Response Cutter (FRC) programs.

As he has done frequently in the past, he makes the case for procuring cutters using Block Buy or Multi-Year Procurement as the Navy has done in some of its most successful Program. I have a hard time understanding why the Coast Guard has not taken advantage of this option. We had an opportunity to do it with the NSC, another with the FRC. Now we have the option of using Block Buy for the Polar Security Cutter (heavy polar icebreaker) and Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The recent Coast Guard Authorization Bill includes authorization to use Block Buy.

Conducting the hearing were:

The video does not actually begin until about time 9:30

Senator Baldwin pushes “Made in America Shipbuilding Act” advocating that components as well as the ships themselves be made in America.

20:30 Admiral Haycock’s prepared statement begins.

26:00 GAO Ms. Marie Mak Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, Government Accountability Office began her prepared statement.

Mrs Mak of GAO is again saying we have not made a good business case for the new icebreaker and that our planning is short term. Pointed to the Navy 30 year shipbuilding plan as a good example of long term planning.

29:30 Mr. Ronald O’Rourke Specialist in Naval Affairs, Congressional Research Service began his prepared statement

An illustration of how useful long term planning can be is found in this quote from Mr. O’Rourke’s written submission, p.3:

“As one example of how…Congress has exercised its constitutional power to set funding levels and determine the composition of federal spending, during the period FY2008-FY2015, when the Navy’s shipbuilding account averaged about $14.7 billion per year in then-year dollars, there was recurring discussion about the challenge of increasing the account to the substantially higher annual funding levels that would soon be needed to begin implementing the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan. Projections were prepared by CBO showing the decline in the size of the Navy that would occur over time if funding levels in the shipbuilding account did not increase substantially from the average level of about $14.7 billion per year. Congress, after assessing the situation, increased the shipbuilding account to $18.7 billion in FY2016, $21.2 billion in FY2017, $23.8 billion in FY2018, and $24.2 billion in FY2019. These increasing funding levels occurred even though the Budget Control Act, as amended, remained in operation during those years. At the most recent figure of $24.2 billion, the Navy’s shipbuilding account is now 74% greater in then-year dollars than it was as recently as FY2010.”

Mr. O’Rourke pointed out that using Multi-Year contracting to procure the Offshore Patrol Cutters could save us $1B, enough to pay for the Polar Security Cutter (PSC or Polar Icebreaker) or the entire Waterways Commerce Cutter program.

He discussed increasing rate of OPC procurement.

He noted that there had been a reduction in the estimated cost of the Polar Icebreaker from an initial estimate of $1B to a projected cost of $2.1B for three ships. From pages three and four of his prepared statement.

Coast Guard’s Non-Use of Multiyear Contracting

In connection with my work on ship acquisition, I maintain the CRS report on multiyear procurement (MYP) and block buy contracting. In both that report and in testimony I have given to other committees in recent years on Coast Guard ship acquisition, I have noted the stark contrast between the Navy— which uses multiyear contracting (in the form of MYP or block buy contracting) extensively to reduce its ship- and aircraft-procurement costs by billions of dollars—and the Coast Guard, which to date has never used multiyear contracting in one of its ship or aircraft acquisition programs.

The Navy in recent years, with congressional approval, has used multiyear contracting for, among other things, all three of its year-to-year shipbuilding programs—the Virginia-class attack submarine program, the DDG-51 destroyer program, and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. The Navy has been using multiyear contracting for the Virginia-class and DDG-51 programs more or less continuously since the 1990s. Savings from the use of MYP recently have, among other things, helped Congress and the Navy to convert a nine-ship buy of DDG-51 class destroyers in FY2013-FY2017 into a 10-ship buy, and a nine ship buy of Virginia-class attack submarines in FY2014-FY2018 into a 10-ship buy. The Navy is also now using block buy contracting in the John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler program, and is considering or anticipating using them for procuring LPD-17 Flight II amphibious ships, FFG(X) frigates, and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. The Navy’s use or prospective use of multiyear contracting for its year-to-year shipbuilding programs is arguably now almost more of a rule than an exception in Navy shipbuilding. For Congress, granting approval for using multiyear contracting involves certain tradeoffs, particularly in connection with retaining year-to-year control of funding. In the case of Navy shipbuilding, Congress has repeatedly accepted these tradeoffs.

In contrast with Navy practice, the Coast Guard often uses contracts with options in its ship-procurement programs. Contracts with options can be referred to as multiple-year contracts, but they are not multiyear contracts. Instead, contracts with options operate more like annual contracts, and they cannot achieve the kinds of savings that are possible with multiyear contracts. Like the other military services, the Coast Guard has statutory authority to use MYP contracting and can be granted authority by Congress to use block buy contracting.

Questioning began time 33:00 I will try to summarize some of the discussion, but this is in no way complete.

Senator Sullivan

33:30 questioned how the CG could meet increasing challenges with nearly 14,000 fewer major cutter OP Hours.

RAdm Haycock says new assets are more capable. (He might have noted that FRCs are more capable than Island class and can conduct some missions previously conducted only by major cutters.) He did favorably compare FRCs with existing 110s in Alaska, but perhaps missed an opportunity to push for more assets and/or higher rate of construction.

37:30 Senator Sullivan push to use shipyard in Ketchikan.

Senator Baldwin

42:30 Why are we using predominately foreign made outboards rather than Mercury or Evinrude which are made Wisconsin?

Ans. We want to use American made products, but we also employ competition. We could create a demand signal that is not sustainable. Builders choose components, but must comply with Buy American requirements.

49:30 Senator Sullivan:

Suggestion that perhaps we could lease.

Ans. Design time has decreased as has price due to Navy assistance and use of parent design. Ship and power plant can be smaller than previously thought without loss of capability. Icebreaker will be based on Parent design. Cooperation with the Canadians. This has shortened time line and cost has come down. There are still some risks.

59:30 We have looked exhaustively at foreign designs. Our missions are very different. Our design will be based on yet unbuilt Canadian design (CCGS Diefenbaker).

1:01:30 Baldwin:

Great Lakes Icebreaker–not enough resources, push to build a Great Lakes Icebreaker at least as capable as Mackinaw, some funding provided for design of a Great Lakes icebreaker, what are we doing?

We are looking at requirements. 140s are going through service life extension.

1:04:40 More on made in American requirements.

Ans. Sometime foreign made components can be problematic over lifecycle. 

1:07:00 Senator Wicker

The Senator pushing for 12th NSCs.

NSCs are having a profound impact as we push border south

1:09:00 Polar Security Cutter, what about the fact funding is not included in House budget?

Ans. Will impact scheduling and the interest of the industrial base.

1:12:00 Senator Blumenthal

Concern about opioids, what additional assets do we need?

Talked about Unmanned Air Systems but really did not specifically address opioids intel which I would assume has more to do with importation by merchant ships through our ports.

1:15:00 CG museum. Committed to location at New London.

1:16:30 Admissions at the CG Academy–concern about possible discrimination

1:17:30 Senator Baldwin

1:18:00 More on “Made in America” components

1:20:00 Specifically referenced need to buy propulsion pods for Polar Security Cutter from Scandinavia.

1:21:30 Timeline for Inland tenders? Possibility of using parent craft?

Our needs are different. Have to have more people because of our missions, we need more range, mixed gender birthing. Probably nine months to complete analysis and a year before we start to contract. In service 2023. We are moving as fast as we can.

(Was pleased to note that RAdm Haycock made a strong witness and appeared both competent and cooperative.)

 

 

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –Congressional Research Service


Mr. O’Rourke has been busy (as usual). Also on 26 Oct. 2018, the Congressional Research Service also Issued an updated version of his study of Coast Guard Cutter procurement programs, specifically for National Security Cutters (NSC), Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), and Fast Response Cutters (FRC). Again I have reproduced the summary here. I do think it is strange that we are still talking about initial testing of the NSCs more than ten years after the first of these was commissioned (see page 14).

The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests a total of $705 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 12 aged Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $682 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring a total of 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2018 has funded 11 NSCs, including two (the 10th and 11th) in FY2018. Six NSCs are now in service, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth are scheduled for delivery in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $65 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 12th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, less expensive, and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC program as the service’s top acquisition priority. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $391 million per ship. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The first OPC was funded in FY2018 and is to be delivered in 2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $400 million in acquisition funding for the OPC program for the construction of the second OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2022) and procurement of long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2023).

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $58 million per boat. A total of 50 have been funded through FY2018. The 28th was commissioned into service on July 25, 2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.

The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following: 

  • whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 12th NSC in FY2019;
  • whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2019, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years;
  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;
  • the procurement rate for the OPC program;
  • the impact of Hurricane Michael on Eastern Shipbuilding of Panama City, FL, the shipyard that is to build the first nine OPCs;
  • planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs; and
  • initial testing of the NSC.

Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base. .

Modifying Webber Class Cutters for Duty in SW Asia

USCG Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA

The first two of the probably six Webber class WPCs that will replace the 110s in PATFORSWA have been funded. Before they go, there will likely be some changes in how they are equipped.

When the 110 were deployed they had some relatively minor changes:

During the delay in Hampton Roads, each of the WPBs received upgrades for overseas service. First, maintenance crews addressed all of the cutters’ mechanical problems. These crews also added two .50 caliber machine gun mounts aft of the pilothouse to supplement the firepower of the forward-mounted MK38 25mm gun. Most of the modifications fell within the area of communications, including new high-frequency transceivers, installation of satellite telephones and a number of improvements designed to reduce electromagnetic interference. Work crews installed new highstrength Kevlar lifelines around the decks and Forward-Looking Infrared Receivers (FLIR) on the cutters’ masts for nighttime operations. Each WPB also received night vision goggles; a translating bullhorn; and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) gear.

Coast Guard planners also increased the patrol boats’ boarding capability. Each cutter received four Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) personnel to bring crew size up to full combat readiness. Coast Guard planners expected this crew augmentation to improve the WPBs maritime interception operations (MIO) capability, which would help the cutters to fulfill their primary mission in the Arabian Gulf. Work crews also added extra bunks in the aft berthing area of each WPB to provide for the war-time crew complement. Even so, certain crewmembers still had to practice “hot bunking,” with different watches sharing the same bunks

Now there is more time to plan and make upgrades. These ships also might serve as prototypes for equipment changes to the rest of the Coast Guard’s Webber class fleet either in response to the terrorist threat or in the future, in anticipation of an armed conflict.

In addition, the Navy’s Cyclone class patrol craft are coming to the end of their service life, and suitably modified Webber class might serve as a replacement.

Missions:

Originally eight Island class cutters were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, four in the Mediterranean and four in the Persian Gulf. They were to provide force protection. In addition they participated in the capture of an Iraqi vessel attempting to clandestinely mine the Gulf. Later they escorted humanitarian relief supplies up the rivers. They protected Iraq’s off shore oil terminals. Now there are six stationed in Bahrain. In addition to continuing force protection duties, they provide training to Navy ships as they enter the area. They promote capacity building in the navies and coast guards of SW Asia and East Africa. They have conducted counter piracy operations off the Horne of Africa.

Threats: 

Most of the duties these ships encounter are similar to those of continental US vessels, but there are some significant threats in the are we might want to consider.

Revolutionary elements in Yemen have been using unmanned explosive remotely controlled motor boats to attack ship in the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits

The Navy of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp has a force of about 1500 fast inshore attack craft ranging from simple rocket equipped speed boats to torpedo and missile boats. If there is a conflict, they are expected to be used in swarming attacks. My take is that the majority of these boats serve primarily as a distraction and screen to facilitate the attacks of the torpedo and missile armed craft, but some may be used as suicide improvised explosive devices.

Weapons: 

None of these projected threats require large warhead weapons to deal with them, but they do require a short time critical, high probability of kill. The Iranian threat also means there is a need to deal with multiple threats, from multiple directions simultaneously. Attacks could be prolonged, so running out of ammunition could be problem.

The easiest change is to convert the four single .50 caliber mounts to twins. This doubles the ammunition on each mount and provides redundancy if a weapon jams. I think I may have seen that this was already done on the 110 in PATFORSWA.

We might want to give those .50 cal. machine guns the best possible sights. 

Twin or single we need to provide ballistic protection for any exposed gun crews, although putting shield around the forward mount positions might hamper forward vision from the bridge.

We might want to replace some or all of the crew served .50 caliber machine guns with the more accurate, stabilized Mini-Typhoon Mk49 Mod1 ROSAM remote weapon station which is already on four Coast 87 foot cutters used for Force Protection of Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines. This mount is also expected to be installed on the Offshore Patrol Cutters. Their electro-optic devices could also improve situational awareness, particularly at night. 

They will need a laser target designator even if there are no laser guided weapons on the cutter, to allow it to designate targets for other US and allied platforms, perhaps provision for one mast mounted and one hand held.

I would like to see the 25mm gun in the Mk38s replaced by the 30mm which is longer ranged, more accurate, and harder hitting, but that is unlikely to be an option.

To dispatch threats, quickly and effectively, these vessels really need small guided weapons in addition to guns. 

The only small missile installations the Navy has made are Sea Griffin on the Cyclone Class patrol craft and a relatively large 24 round installation on the Littoral Combat Ships.

Sea Griffin lost out to the Hellfire Longbow for installation on the LCS. Hellfire and APKWS have been declared among six “preferred munitions” being procured at maximum production rates, literally thousands of rounds per year. With Sea Griffin falling in size between APKWS and Hellfire, this probably means Sea Griffin does not have a great future. 

As a minimum I think our cutters need a number of APKWS, Hellfire may also be desirable for its longer range, greater hitting power, and fire and forget capability. It would be best if we could use either and trade them off. Unfortunately right now there is no system in the Navy inventory, other than perhaps Sea Griffin, that could readily be installed on our cutters.

The Israeli’s have attached missile launch tubes to their versions of both the Mk38 gun mount that we have on the Webber class and on their mini-Typhoon which is in USN and Coast Guard service as the Mk49 mod1. (Both systems are also expected to be on the OPC.)

Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL

Rafael Mini Typhoon 12.7mm RWS (MK49 mod1 in USN) and Spike-ER missile launcher recently tested by the USN on an unmanned surface vessel. (photo : Rafael)

This looks doable:

I would suggest these little ships should be armed with a Mk 49 remote weapon station taking the place of, at least the two crew served .50 cal. mounts on the aft corners of the superstructure, perhaps the two forward as well. In addition, the Mk38 mod3 and the Mk49s should be modified to also support a pair of four tube APKWS launchers, similar to the one pictured below. (Perhaps seven or even 19 round launchers in the case of the Mk38.) Assuming we replace only after Mk49 mounts, and have two four round launchers on each mount, this would provide at least 24 guided rockets ready to launch.

Unfortunately, while the Navy has done a test with the Mk49 and has been talked about adding missiles to the Mk38, they have never followed through.  We need to convince the Navy to rapidly push development of this additional capability. They should also have an interest in doing this, since Mk38s are mounted on their destroyers, Cyclone patrol craft, Mk VI patrol boats, and a number of other vessels.  BAE should be all in, they make both the MK38 gun mount and the APKWS. Plus these modified Webber class may be the next Navy PC as well.

The Fletcher laser guided rocket launcher fires BAE’s 2.75 inch laser guided rockets known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. (Shawn Snow/Defense News Staff)

Other Options:

I have seen a mockup of small Hellfire Vertical Launch Systems that might it might be possible to mount on the outer superstructure bulkheads in the form of multiple single launch tubes. There are other launch systems like the one below that fit on vessels much smaller than the Webber class.

At the Improv–Marines on Cutters

If we don’t provide guided weapons for these cutters, and the situations deteriorates, adding a fire team or even a squad of Marines to augment the crew with their weapons might be a short term option. In additions to rifles, they might bring with them machine guns, Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Carl Gustaf recoilless rifles that the Marines are now pushing down to the squad level (and which may soon get guided projectiles), or  even Stinger Man Portable Air Defense Systems (MADPAD).

Other Things to Think About:

The Cyclone class have light weight EW systems including decoys, some of them have small unmanned air systems, and they have provision for employing Stinger man portable air defense systems.

A Link16 capability would be nice, even if read only.

Other Reading:

“Switchblade Loitering Munition Puma-Switchblade Sensor to Shooter Capability” July 8, 2018

“Guided Weapons Made Easy,” Oct. 21 2017, which discussed the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)

“Guided Weapons–Getting Closer,” July 18, 2014, which discussed dual mode Hellfire, Brimstone, and Sea Griffin

“Weapons Effectiveness Testing–25mm vs 30mm,” Aug. 25, 2017 Which seemed to show that the 30mm equipped Mk38 mod2, would be much more effective than the 25 mm version.

“Fletcher/APKWS, a Pocket Missile System Made in America,” May 12, 2018 Looks at a simple launcher for Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS)

“At Last, a New Sight for the .50 cal.” Oct. 10,2017

“Navy Chooses Longbow Hellfire,” Oct. 5, 2015

“ASuW Hellfire Test Success–Operational Late 2017,” Aug. 1, 2015

“New Weapon for Patrol Craft,” Jan.24, 2013, specifically about Sea Griffin

 

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.

Contract awarded for FRC #45-50

The primary thrust of the Acquisitions Directorate post is on what Webber class WPCs are doing in response to recent hurricanes, but it also mentions that a contract option for six more has been exercised bringing the program to 50 cutters.

The service exercised a contract option on Aug. 9 worth just over $294.4 million with Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana, for production of six more Sentinel-class FRCs and eight shipsets of rudders as spares. Keeping spares on hand enables greater mission readiness by minimizing operational downtime in the event that some systems need repair or replacement.

This option brings the total number of FRCs under contract with Bollinger to 50 and the total value of the contract to nearly $929 million. The contract has a potential value of $1.42 billion if options to procure all 58 cutters are exercised.