“Coast Guard cutter leaves Petersburg after 32 years” –KFSK

The cutter Anacapa tied up at the Coast Guard’s mooring in Petersburg (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

There is a very nice story by local media about the departure of USCGC Anacapa from Petersburg, AK. The 110 is not being decommissioned. She is changing homeport to Port Angeles, WA, where there will be a crew turn-over.

The Anacapa’s replacement in Petersburg is an 87-foot San Francisco-based Marine Protector class cutter called the Pike, built in 2005.

Anacapa’s engines and generators are being replaced, so looks like she will be retained a few more years.

There was an earlier post that featured Anacapa, “What Does It Take to Sink a Ship, Illustrated,” when she was tasked with sinking a derelict Japanese fishing vessel, back in 2012.

Major Cutter Homeports

“Coast Guard Cutter Forward and Coast Guard Cutter Bear, homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia, finish an at-sea transfer while underway on a two-month patrol. Coast Guard Cutter Forward returned to homeport on April 10, 2021.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Recently I had to look up homeports of WMECs. I found that there did not seem to be a single comprehensive up to date list. Seemed it might be useful to share the list. I have added the Bertholf class and what we know about the basing of the Offshore Patrol Cutters as well. These are not district assets, but I found it convenient to group them by homeport district. The numbers in parenthesis are the hull numbers. First some observations.

OBSERVATIONS:

The intent is to split the Bertholf class, almost evenly between the Atlantic and Pacific Areas: five (45%) to LANTAREA and six (55%) to PACAREA.

The vast majority of medium endurance cutters are assigned to LANTAREA. All 100% of the 270s and 24 (86%) of 28 total.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the US EEZ and territorial sea (84%) falls under the Pacific Area Commander, the vast majority of large patrol cutters are based in the Atlantic Area. This is, at least in part, due to the Alien Migrant and Drug interdiction missions. It is counter intuitive, but Charleston, SC is closer to the Eastern Pacific Drug transit zones than San Diego, CA.

Once the first four OPCs reach their bases in San Pedro and Kodiak, the Pacific Area will once again have ten “high endurance cutters,” as they did before recapitalization began.

WHO BUILT THEM?:

The entire Bertholf class has been built by Huntington Ingalls of Pascagoula, MS. The lead ship was laid down in 2005 and commssioned in August 2008. The tenth is expected to be delivered 2023. The eleventh, maybe 2024.

The Bear class WMEC270s were built by two different builders. The first four ships (901-904) were built by Tacoma Boatbuilding, Tacoma, WA, with Bear laid down in August, 1979 and the last of the four commissioned in December, 1984. The remaining nine were built by Derecktor Shipbuilding, Middleton, RI. The first of these laid down June, 1982, and the last of the nine completed in March 1990.

The 16 Reliance class WMEC210s were built by four different builders, with the first laid down in May 1963 and the last commissioned August 1969, less than six years and three months later.

  • The first three, 615-617, were built by Todd Shipyards, Houston, TX.
  • The fourth, 618, by Christy Corp., Sturgeon Bay, Wis.
  • Five, 619, 620, and 628-630, were built at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, MD.
  • Seven, 621-627, were built by American Shipbuilding, Lorain, OH.

WMEC 622 and 628 have since been transferred to Sri Lanka and Colombia respectively. All underwent a major maintenance availability at the Coast Guard Yard between 1984 and 1998.

THE FORCE LAYDOWN:

FIRST DISTRICT: 2 WMEC270s

  • US Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, Kittery, ME: two WMEC270s: Tahoma (908), Campbell (909)

FIFTH DISTRICT: 9 WMEC270s, 2 WMEC210s

  • Portsmouth, VA: 9 WMEC270s: Bear (901), Escanaba (907), Forward (911), Harriet Lane (903, currently in SLEP at CG Yard), Legare (912), Northland (904), Seneca (906) , Spencer (905), Tampa (902)
  • Virginia Beach, VA: WMEC210s: Dependable (626), Vigorous (627)

SEVENTH DISTRICT: 3 National Security Cutters (2 more under construction), 2 WMEC270s, 5 WMEC210s

  • Charleston, SC: 3 NSCs: Hamilton (753), James (754), Stone (758), (two more NSCs building: Calhoun (759), Friedman (760))
  • Naval Station Mayport: 1 WMEC210: Valiant (621)
  • Cape Canaveral: 2 WMEC210s: Confidence (619), Vigilant (617)
  • Key West: 2 WMEC270s: Mohawk (913), Thetis (910)
  • St. Petersburg: 2 WMEC210s: Resolute (620), Venturous (625)

EIGHTH DISTRICT: 4 WMEC210s

  • Pensacola: WMEC210s: Dauntless (624), Decisive (629), Diligence (616), Reliance (615)

ELEVENTH DISTRICT: 4 National Security Cutters

  • Alameda, CA: 4 NSCs: Bertholf (750), Waesche (751), Stratton (752), Munro (755)

THIRTEENTH DISTRICT: 3 WMEC210s

  • Astoria, OR: 2 WMEC210s: Alert (630), Steadfast (623)
  • Port Angeles, WA: 1 WMEC210: Active (618)

FOURTEENTH DISTRICT: 2 National Security Cutters

  • Honolulu, HI: 2 NSCs: Kimball (756), Midgett (757)

SEVENTEENTH DISTRICT

  • Kodiak, AK: 1 WMEC283: Alex Haley (WMEC-39)

OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER HOMEPORTS

We have heard where the first six OPCs are expected to be homeported.

  • Argus (915) and Chase (916) will go to San Pedro, CA
  • Ingham (917) and Rush (918) will go to Kodiak, AK
  • Pickering (919) and Icarus (920) will go to Newport, RI

 

“Coast Guard to host groundbreaking ceremony at Base Boston for Fast Response Cutter pier construction” –News Release

Below is a First District news release. This is good news for those hoping to see some new cutters in New England. We have known for a while that Webber class FRCs were going to Boston, but the surprise I see here is, “…$35 million recapitalization of current Coast Guard facilities at Base Boston and acquisition of six new Fast Response Cutters (emphasis applied–Chuck) at a cost of $380 million.”

This follows the pattern we have seen lately of these vessels being clustered, rather than being widely distributed in ones and two.

Base Boston (photo above) must certainly have much to recommend it, but as a high-cost area, it seems likely it will host no large patrol cutters in the future. It was once homeport to several High Endurance Cutters. Until recently, it hosted three WMEC270s, Escanaba, Seneca, and Spencer. All three have since moved to Portsmouth, VA. We already know the Coast Guard plans to base OPCs #5 and #6 in nearby Newport R.I. at the former US Navy base, where there had been no large cutters.

Wikipedia has a good list of Webber class WPCs and their homeports. It does not reflect the addition of two more ship to the program of record, FRCs #65 and #66, in the FY2022 budget, but it does list 64 named vessels and homeports for 50 cutters including two expected to be homeported in Boston, USCGC William Chadwick (WPC-1150) and USCGC Warren Deyampert (WPC-1151), expected to arrive in the second half of 2022. Homeports are not yet identified for 16 ships. Four of those are presumably going to Boston so where are the remaining 12 going? One is each is expected to go to Seward and Sitka. Two will go to Kodiak. That leaves eight. Some may be added to already identified homeports. One of the 50 identified includes the first ship going to St. Petersburg, FL. St. Pete will likely get at least two more. Assuming that is the case that leaves six. We also know that two will go to Astoria, Oregon. That leaves four. The recent addition of two was probably with the intention of stationing them in America Samoa. Two there would only leave two which might go to previously identified homeports, so we may not see any additional homeports added.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast

Media Advisory: Coast Guard to host groundbreaking ceremony at Base Boston for Fast Response Cutter pier construction

Editors’ Note: Media interested in attending are requested to RSVP at 617-717-9609 by 4 p.m., April 13, and should arrive no later than 9:45 a.m., Thursday.

FRC

BOSTON —The Coast Guard is scheduled to hold a media event for the Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Homeport Groundbreaking Ceremony at Base Boston, Thursday.

WHO: Rear Adm. Thomas Allan, commander, Coast Guard First District, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Congressman Stephen Lynch, and Mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu.

WHAT: Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Homeport Groundbreaking Ceremony

WHEN: Thursday, April 14, 2022, at 10 a.m.

WHERE: Coast Guard Base Boston, 427 Commercial Street, Boston, MA 02109

This ceremony marks the starts of a large Coast Guard investment in the Northeast with a $35 million recapitalization of current Coast Guard facilities at Base Boston and acquisition of six new Fast Response Cutters at a cost of $380 million. The FRCs are the Coast Guard’s newest cutter class replacing the Legacy Island Class Patrol Boats and will operate throughout the Coast Guard’s First District from New York, to the Canadian border. 

These cutters are designed for missions including:

  • search and rescue
  • fisheries law enforcement
  • drug and migrant interdiction
  • port, waterways, and coastal security
  • national defense

In addition, the Coast Guard will increase personnel presence in the area with 222 new Coast Guard members to crew and maintain the cutters. These new crews are expected to have an annual economic impact of $45 million on the local economy. 

“State of the Coast Guard 2022” (Updated)

Vice Adm. Karl L. Schultz, commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area, speaks at the Coast Guard Cutter Benjamin Dailey commissioning ceremony in Pascagoula, Miss. Coast Guard Photo

ADM K.L Schultz delivered his “State of the Coast Guard 2022” at Air Station Clearwater, today, 24 February 2022.

You can read the prepared speech here.

There is an awful lot in the 13 pages. Much of it deals with how the Coast Guard hopes to provide a better life for its members and their families. I will not attempt to summarize. I will mention a couple of revelations that I think may be new.

Three FRCs will be homeported in Tampa Bay with Sector Saint Petersburg. This will bring the final number of FRCs in the 7th District up to at least 23. We repeatedly see these little ships doing fisheries and drug and migrant interdiction missions in the waters off Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean that would have previously been performed by WMECs. This frees the larger cutters to perform missions in more demanding environments.

We have seen a growing tendency to group long range assets. Apparently, this will continue.

We’re developing geographic centers of gravity, creating more Coast Guard hubs like Portsmouth and Alameda… These new or improved operating hubs will be in  Charleston, Seattle, Pensacola, Los Angeles, and Newport, Rhode Island… These operating hubs will allow us to better support our operational assets, and to further support the geographic stability of our workforce.

To some extent these centers of gravity exploit infrastructure built by the Navy but now considered excess. This applies to at least Charleston, Pensacola, and Newport.

These “centers of gravity” suggests expansion or creation of additional Support Centers. It may also suggest where Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) will be homeported. We already know at least two OPCs each are going to San Pedro (Los Angeles), Kodiak, and Newport. Alameda already has four National Security Cutters (NSC) and Charleston will have five when all are completed. Seattle will most certainly be the homeport for three Polar Security Cutters. This suggest that at least Portsmouth, Pensacola, Los Angeles, and Newport will host large numbers of OPCs, perhaps as many as six. If that were to be the case, it would mean 14 large patrol cutters in Pacific Area (6 NSCs and 8 OPCs) and 22 in Atlantic Area (5 NSCs and 17 OPCs).

That would be close to the historic split of resources, but recent developments, including the success of the FRCs and IUU concerns in the Pacific, suggest we may have more large ships in the Pacific, perhaps a third OPC in Kodiak and up to three in Seattle or more likely Honolulu. That would make the split 18 in PAC Area and 18 in LANT Area.

(Updated: Corrected number of NSCs in each area.)

Three 270s Change Homeport from Boston to Portsmouth

“Coast Guard Cutter Forward and Coast Guard Cutter Bear, homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia, finish an at-sea transfer while underway on a two-month patrol. Coast Guard Cutter Forward returned to homeport on April 10, 2021.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Below is a news release offering media access to a triple change of homeport ceremony.

USCGC Spencer (WMEC-905), Seneca WMEC-906), and Escanaba (WMEC-907) are changing homeport from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Seneca has actually been there for about a year, but guess the ceremony makes it official. It means there are now nine 270 foot WMECs homeported in Portsmouth. The other units of the class are homeported in Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH–Naval Shipyard (908, 909) and Key West, FL (910, 913).

Why the change? I suspect to move the ships closer to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones, to consolidate maintenance for the type, and to put the crews in a lower cost area.

There is also the fact that at least some of the 270s will be going through a service life extension program. When that happens, crewmembers will be transferred either individually or as a unit, and if all the units involved share the same homeport it will be much easier on the crew members and their families, and less costly for the service.

We last looked at homeports here.

united states coast guard

Media Advisory

U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Mid-Atlantic

Coast Guard to hold joint change-of-homeport ceremony in Portsmouth, Virginia

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard is scheduled to hold a change-of-homeport ceremony at 10:30 a.m., Wednesday at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth.

WHO: Rear Adm. Laura Dickey, Coast Guard Fifth District commander, Capt. John Dewey, commanding officer of Base Portsmouth, Capt. Marc Brandt, master of ceremony, Cmdr. Benjamin Spector, commanding officer of USCGC Escanaba and Cmdr. Corey Kerns, commanding officer of USCGC Spencer.

WHAT: The Coast Guard is holding a joint change-of-homeport ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Escanaba, Spencer, and Seneca.

WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, at 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, 4000 Coast Guard Blvd., Portsmouth, Va., 23703

Media interested in attending this event are asked to contact the Atlantic Area Command Public Affairs Office at (757) 641-0763.

The USCGC Escanaba (WMEC 907) is a medium endurance cutter previously based in Boston. The ship was launched on Feb. 6, 1985, and formally commissioned on Aug. 29, 1987, in Grand Haven, Michigan, its predecessor’s homeport. Its predecessor, the USCGC Escanaba (WPG 77), sank during WWII and was originally named for the Escanaba River in Escanaba, Michigan. 

The USCGC Spencer (WMEC 905) is a medium endurance cutter previously based in Boston. On April 17, 1984, the ship was launched and commissioned on June 28, 1986, in Middletown, Rhode Island. It was named after its predecessor, the USCGC Spencer (WPG 36), a Treasury-class cutter named after John Canfield Spencer, United States secretary of the treasury from 1843 to 1844, who served during World War II was first used for search and rescue off Alaska’s fishing grounds.

The USCGC Seneca (WMEC 906) is a medium endurance cutter also previously based in Boston. On June 16, 1984, the ship was launched and commissioned on May 9, 1987, in Middletown, Rhode Island. It was named after its predecessor, the USRC Seneca (CG 17), a derelict destroyer with the mission to locate and destroy abandoned shipwrecks that were still afloat and a hazard to navigation.

The Famous-class cutters are responsible for various Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, maritime defense, and protection of the environment. The versatility of the cutter makes it a cost-effective platform in carrying out national objectives.

Media planning to participate in the event must arrive no later than 9:45 a.m. Wednesday and must follow proper CDC guidelines for COVID-19.

 

A Reevaluation, Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell, Part 2

This is the second part of a reexamination of where critical ports are in the US and where the cutters that might be needed to protect them are homeported.

Consolidated Target and Homeport List:

I have reproduced this listing from part 1. It has been changed slightly to reflect the move of USCGC Seneca from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Again, we have 31 target ports or port complexes in bold  and 23 current or planned cutter homeports with the cutters in bold. In many cases a critical port is also a homeport for cutter(s).

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH –Naval Shipyard: 2×270 (908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)

CCGD5:

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/ 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC

CCGD7:

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913), 6xFRC (1107 to 1112)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8

  • Pensacola, FL–4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

CCGD11:

  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)

CCGD13:

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210 Plan to add two FRCs (Longview, WA is a significant port, but it is 66 miles up the Columbia River, so unlikely to be a target)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD14:

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/ Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

CCGD17:

  • Ketchikan, AK: 2xFRC (1121, 1122)
  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC Plan to add 2xOPC (917, 918)
  • Planned to be based in Alaska, ports have not been identified 4xFRC
  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

The Present and Future Coast Guard Fleet: 

Bertholf class National Security Cutters: 

These ships are only based in three ports, all three of these are potential target ports.

  • Charleston, SC two NSCs now, three additional planned
  • San Francisco Bay Complex, CA, four NSCs
  • Honolulu, HI, two NSCs

That might suggest that these ports are well protected, but as I have said, these ships don’t spend any time on standby, and when they are in port they are usually down hard.

Honolulu is also a Naval bases and has three Webber class WPCs assigned, so it is about as well protected as any port could be with our current equipment.

The Webber class WPCs:

As I have noted, currently the Webber class are potentially the most important asset for port protection.

Of the 31 potential target ports, these nine have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters assigned.

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

With four additional FRCs going to Alaska, I have to assume Anchorage, AK will be protected. Its geography protects it to a great extent. It is far up Cook Inlet. Kodiak’s position South of Cook Inlet pushes the US EEZ out, so it is much further than 200 miles from the edge of the EEZ to Anchorage. Homer, at the mouth of Cook Inlet, has been an Island class WPB in the past and may be a Webber class homeport in the future.

These seven potential target ports have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters homeported within 100 nautical miles, offering some degree of protection.

  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC (WPCs from Atlantic Beach)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port (WPCs from Miami)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage (WPCs from Galveston)
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal (WPCs from Galveston)
  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport (WPCs from San Pedro)

The following 14 potential target ports have no Webber class WPCs assigned or currently planned to be based within 100 nautical miles:

  • Bath, ME, –Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH–Naval Shipyard, currently homeport 2×270(908, 909)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Corpus Christi, TX#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Most likely future Webber Class Homeports: 47 of the planned 64 Webber class cutters have already been paired with their homeports as noted above (including six to go to Bahrain). Of the 17 remaining we know two will go to Astoria OR, and four will go to Alaska.  That leaves eleven to potentially protect other ports. Grouped two or three to a port, that means we will have no more than four or five additional Webber class homeports. In my view, the most likely additional ports are:

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH (also within 100 nmi of Boston and Bath, ME)
  • New London, CT (to protect sub base at Groton, CT might also protect the Long Island Sound approaches to Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Seattle, WA: 1xWHEC, Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Where we are naked: Potential target ports that likely will not have a Webber class within 100 nmiles:

  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/6×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

The Hudson River Complex is protected to some extent by geography, given the length of its approaches. WPCs at Cape May and New London would provide a degree of protection though both are a bit more than 100 nmi away.

The strong Navy presence in the Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA should provide a degree of protection. 

7th District has 8 of the 31 critical ports and 19 of the 58 Webber class homeported in the US (I understand they will get a 20th), but all are in three ports, Miami, San Juan, and Key West, which is not a critical port. Five ports have no Webber class within 100 nautical miles.

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

There are of course other considerations, but from the perspective of protecting ports we would be much better off redistributing all but three WPCs in Miami and three in San Juan to Charleston (which would also provide a degree of protection for Savannah), Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Tampa/St Pete. This would leave Key West without WPCs, but it does look like a good place for OPCs.

We would also have no Webber class within 100 miles of the Mississippi River Complex.

  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.

Fortunately it is protected to some extent by the long and relatively difficult passage up the Mississippi River before these ports can be reached. You are not likely to make it up the Mississippi with a ship without getting a pilot. Also Webber class at Pascagoula are only a little over 100 nautical miles from the mouth of the Mississippi.

HECs and MECs and OPCs, Oh My:

There are currently 29 WHECs/WMECs. They are to be replaced by 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Because of the nature of their operations and scheduling, they are unlikely to respond to a threat from their homeport, but they may be employed locally off shore for fisheries, drug, or Alien Migrant enforcement. Where will they be based?

We could say 25 ships divided among eight districts means three ships in seven districts and four in one. That might not be a bad way to start, but in all likelihood the OPCs will be distributed much as the one remaining WHEC and 28 WMECs are now, but some changes are likely because of tendencies observed of late.

  • There will be a tendency to base in groups, so at least two and preferably three or more will be based together.
  • There will be a tendency to move closer to the drug transit zones in order to shorten transit.
  • There may also be a tendency to put some additional emphasis on the Western Pacific.

Breaking it down by district even though they are Area assets, I will note how many in the district and what percentage of the current WHEC/WMEC fleet that constitutes.

CCGD1: 4 or 13.8%

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH 2×270(908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • (Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920))

CCGD5: 9 or 31%

  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)

CCGD7: 7 or 24.1%

  • Jacksonville complex, FL  Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913)
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8: 4 or 13.8%

  • Pensacola, FL– 4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)

CCGD13: 3 or 10.3%

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD17: 2 or 6.9%

  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC (Planned homeport for 2xOPC (917, 918))

If we distributed the 25 OPCs in the same proportion we would have:

  • D1: 3
  • D5: 8
  • D7: 6
  • D8: 3
  • D11: 0
  • D13: 3
  • D14: 0
  • D17: 2

But we already know that two OPCs will be based in San Pedro, they probably represent a movement Southward from D13, and there is a good possibility they will be joined by a third OPC.

In the same vain I think we will see one or two fewer OPCs in D5. They might go to D7, but there is also a possibility they could go to PAC Area.

This is what I think we will ultimately see, with destination of three OPCs much less certain. Possible locations for these three are in parenthesis. It is going to be a very long time (Late 2030s) before we see the last three, so much can change.

  • D1: 3 (we already know two are going to Newport, RI. Probably the third as well.)
  • D5: 6 (presumably all in Portsmouth)
  • D7: 6 (+1 or 2) (Most likely in Key West and St. Petersburg, possibly Mayport or Charleston)
  • D8: 3 (presumably in Pensacola)
  • D11: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to San Pedro, CA. Probably a third as well)
  • D13: 0 (+2) (If it happens, Port Angeles, WA)
  • D14: 0 (+2) (Honolulu)
  • D17: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to Kodiak. A third is less likely here.)

Historically the Coast Guard has based two thirds of its large cutters in Atlantic Area and one third in the Pacific Area. If that were to be the case, PAC Area should get six OPCs in addition to the six NSCs they have now, and LANT Area should have 19 OPCs in addition to the five NSCs currently planned.

If you look at the distribution of the US EEZ, I think there is a strong case for more ships in the Pacific.

  • Total US EEZ: 11,351,000 km2
  • East Coast EEZ: 915,763 km2
  • Gulf Coast EEZ: 707,832 km2
  • Puerto Rico EEZ: 177,685 km2
  • Total LANT Area EEZ: 1,801,280 km2 15.9%
  • Total PAC Area EEZ: 9,549,720 km 84.1%

With the increased emphasis on IUU and capacity building in the Western Pacific, we may see up to eight OPCs going to PAC AREA.

Alternative Mission Set:

PAC Area has been very aggressive in the use of their resources for drug interdiction, sending FRCs down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones off Central and South America, but PAC AREA could have more cutter time for operations in the Western Pacific, without adding cutters, if LANT AREA took full responsibility for the Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort. There are good reasons, that might be desirable.

  • East Coast ships, particularly those based in the South East, are generally closer to the drug transit zone than PAC Area ships.
  • Forth Fleet is the Naval component commander for SOUTHCOM. Fourth Fleet is part of LANT Fleet and is headquartered in Mayport, Jacksonville, FL.  SOUTHCOM is located in Doral, FL, part of greater Miami.
  • LANT AREA is the Coast Guard counterpart of LANT Fleet and so should be the primary point of contact between Navy and Coast Guard for the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone.

US Navy Fleet Organization

The Missing Class–Response Boat, Large–the WPB replacement:

All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop a terrorist controlled vessel. Currently the Webber class WPCs seem to be the most likely craft to be in a position to take on that role, but in many scenarios they simply would not be up to the task. In addition we know that about half the critical ports or port complexes will have no Webber class homeported there so that they might respond most rapidly in the case of an attack.

We still need to replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. As we have discussed here and here, properly equipped, a vessel half the size of the Webber class could take on this job.

There were 74 Marine Protector class built. Wikipedia indicates there are 73 currently active and we know there is a proposal to decommission eight in the belief that their missions will be performed by Webber class and response boat, mediums. That would still leave 65.

Assuming we put two WPB replacements in position to protect each of the 31 critical ports, so that we could always have one either on standby or underway near by, it would only require 62. It the Webber class were better armed, and we only needed to protect those critical ports with no Webber class homported there, we would need no more than 34. If we also redistributed the D7 Webber class as suggested we would need only 26.

Seneca Moves From Boston to Portsmouth, VA

Below is a First District news release. This is the latest in a pattern showing two trends:

  • Clustering ships of a class, and
  • Ships moving South to be closer to the drug transit areas.

Thing is, Seneca was one of three 270s in Boston, so she was in a cluster. Since this leaves only two in Boston, I suspect this is only the first to leave and that ultimately the other 270s will leave Boston as well.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast
Contact: 1st District Public Affairs
Office: (617) 223-8515
After Hours: (617) 717-9609
1st District online newsroom

Boston-based Coast Guard cutter to end 33-year homeport tenure in Massachusetts

The 270-foot medium endurance Coast Guard Cutter Seneca sits moored at Coast Guard Integrated Support Command in Boston as the sun rises over the city May 16, 2008. The Seneca and its namesake cutter are both rich with maritime history. The original Revenue Cutter Seneca was the first cutter to engage in official ice patrol duties after the RMS Titanic sank in 1912. Shortly thereafter, Seneca was called on to protect convoys from submarine attacks between Gibraltar and Great Britain in World War I. Today, the Seneca, homeported in Boston, continues to carry out law enforcement, search and rescue, alien migration interdiction, and homeland security missions. (Coast Guard photo/PA3 Connie Terrell)

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

BOSTON — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Seneca departed Coast Guard Base Boston Wednesday, en route to their new homeport in Portsmouth, Virginia.

After 33 years homeported in Boston, Seneca will continue service with six other 270-foot, medium endurance cutters, homeported at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth. This will allow the Coast Guard to better leverage efficiencies gained by clustering vessels of the same class.

Seneca was formally commissioned in Boston on May 9, 1987. Since then, Seneca’s crew has conducted nearly all of the Coast Guard’s missions throughout New England, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, all while calling Boston home.

In the late 1990s, Coast Guard Cutter Seneca, along with Coast Guard Cutter Galatin, was part of Operation New Frontier, a counter-narcotics operation that tested the use of high-speed pursuit boats and armed helicopters. The operation was successfully completed March 13, 2000, and lead to the creation of the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron in Jacksonville, Florida.

More recently, Seneca’s crew assisted in the rescue of 187 Haitian migrants approximately 17 miles southwest of Turks and Caicos Islands on December 22, 2019. The Coast Guard, Royal Bahamas Defense Force, and Turks and Caicos Islands Police worked together to rescue all 187 people after they were spotted onboard a single 30-foot vessel.

Seneca shares its name with the Revenue Cutter Seneca, the first cutter to engage in official ice patrol duties after the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, and one of five Coast Guard cutters that made up Squadron 2 of Division 6 of the Atlantic Fleet Patrol Forces during World War I.

Offshore Patrol Cutters to be Based in Newport, RI

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

Below is a Coast Guard Headquarters news release reproduced in its entirety, announcing two Off Shore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) will be homeported at Newport. That the first two OPCs would be based in San Pedro (Long Beach) and the second pair in Kodiak has already been announced, so presumably these are numbers five and six. These would be the first OPCs based on the East Coast, and also the first of the OPCs completed under the not yet awarded second construction contract. Delivery is expected in FY2026 and 2027.

Ultimately I would expect that most basing locations would ultimate support at least three ships. There seems to be a trend in this direction, and it makes sense for engineering and technical support. It also seems to follow a trend of the Coast Guard moving into moorings largely vacated at existing or former US Navy bases, e.g. Charleston, Pensacola, and Corpus Christi.

united states coast guard

 News Release  

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
Contact: Headquarters Public Affairs
Office: (202) 372-4630
mediarelations@uscg.mil
Headquarters online newsroom

 

U.S. Coast Guard announces Offshore Patrol Cutter homeport

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard announced today that Naval Station Newport, R.I. will be home to future Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs).

“I am excited to announce the homeporting of two Offshore Patrol Cutters at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. “NAVSTA Newport provides strategic operational reach and significant logistics support to our Service, helping secure our national interests in the Atlantic. I am grateful to the community and its leadership for their continued support of the U.S. Coast Guard and our families assigned to the region”. 

OPCs are the Coast Guard’s top acquisition priority and will provide the majority of the Coast Guard’s offshore presence, bridging the capabilities of the 418-foot National Security Cutters and the 154-foot Fast Response Cutters. OPCs will conduct missions including law enforcement, drug and migrant interdiction, search and rescue, homeland security, and defense operations. Each OPC will be capable of deploying independently or as part of a Task Group, and be capable of serving as a mobile Command and Control (C2) platform for surge operations such as hurricane, mass migration, or other contingency response operations.  

-USCG-

Memorandum on Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the Arctic and Antarctic Regions

The President has issued a memorandum, dated 9 June, 2020, regarding the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter Program. The Memorandum is relative short and is duplicated below. I have added emphasis to what I see as some of the more important points by making some of the text bold. Below that, I will provide my comments.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE
THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
THE SECRETARY OF ENERGY
THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY
THE DIRECTOR OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND
BUDGET
THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL
SECURITY AFFAIRS
SUBJECT:    Safeguarding U.S. National Interests in the
Arctic and Antarctic RegionsTo help protect our national interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to retain a strong Arctic security presence alongside our allies and partners, the United States requires a ready, capable, and available fleet of polar security icebreakers that is operationally tested and fully deployable by Fiscal Year 2029.  Accordingly, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:Section 1.  Fleet Acquisition Program.  The United States will develop and execute a polar security icebreaking fleet acquisition program that supports our national interests in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

(a)  The Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), shall lead a review of requirements for a polar security icebreaking fleet acquisition program to acquire and employ a suitable fleet of polar security icebreakers, and associated assets and resources, capable of ensuring a persistent United States presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions in support of national interests and in furtherance of the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy, as appropriate.  Separately, the review shall include the ability to provide a persistent United States presence in the Antarctic region, as appropriate, in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty System.  The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Director of OMB, in executing this direction, shall ensure that the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) Offshore Patrol Cutter acquisition program is not adversely impacted.

(b)  The Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Commandant of the Coast Guard, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, acting through the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of Energy, as appropriate, shall conduct a study of the comparative operational and fiscal benefits and risks of a polar security icebreaking fleet mix that consists of at least three heavy polar-class security cutters (PSC) that are appropriately outfitted to meet the objectives of this memorandum.  This study shall be submitted to the President, through the Director of OMB and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, within 60 days from the date of this memorandum and at a minimum shall include:

(i)    Use cases in the Arctic that span the full range of national and economic security missions (including the facilitation of resource exploration and exploitation and undersea cable laying and maintenance) that may be executed by a class of medium PSCs, as well as analysis of how these use cases differ with respect to the anticipated use of heavy PSCs for these same activities.  These use cases shall identify the optimal number and type of polar security icebreakers for ensuring a persistent presence in both the Arctic and, as appropriate, the Antarctic regions;

(ii)   An assessment of expanded operational capabilities, with estimated associated costs, for both heavy and medium PSCs not yet contracted for, specifically including the maximum use of any such PSC with respect to its ability to support national security objectives through the use of the following:  unmanned aviation, surface, and undersea systems; space systems; sensors and other systems to achieve and maintain maritime domain awareness; command and control systems; secure communications and data transfer systems; and intelligence-collection systems.  This assessment shall also evaluate defensive armament adequate to defend against threats by near-peer competitors and the potential for nuclear-powered propulsion;

(iii)  Based on the determined fleet size and composition, an identification and assessment of at least two optimal United States basing locations and at least two international basing locations.  The basing location assessment shall include the costs, benefits, risks, and challenges related to infrastructure, crewing, and logistics and maintenance support for PSCs at these locations.  In addition, this assessment shall account for potential burden-sharing opportunities for basing with the Department of Defense and allies and partners, as appropriate; and

(iv)   In anticipation of the USCGC POLAR STAR’s operational degradation from Fiscal Years 2022-2029, an analysis to identify executable options, with associated costs, to bridge the gap of available vessels as early as Fiscal Year 2022 until the new PSCs required to meet the objectives of this memorandum are operational, including identifying executable, priced leasing options, both foreign and domestic.  This analysis shall specifically include operational risk associated with using a leased vessel as compared to a purchased vessel to conduct specified missions set forth in this memorandum.

(c)  In the interest of securing a fully capable polar security icebreaking fleet that is capable of providing a persistent presence in the Arctic and Antarctic regions at the lowest possible cost, the Secretary of State shall coordinate with the Secretary of Homeland Security in identifying viable polar security icebreaker leasing options, provided by partner nations, as a near- to mid-term (Fiscal Years 2022-2029) bridging strategy to mitigate future operational degradation of the USCGC POLAR STAR.  Leasing options shall contemplate capabilities that allow for access to the Arctic and Antarctic regions to, as appropriate, conduct national and economic security missions, in addition to marine scientific research in the Arctic, and conduct research in Antarctica in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty System.  Further, and in advance of any bid solicitation for future polar security icebreaker acquisitions, the Secretary of State shall coordinate with the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify partner nations with proven foreign shipbuilding capability and expertise in icebreaker construction.

(d)  The Secretary of Defense shall coordinate with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to continue to provide technical and programmatic support to the USCG integrated program office for the acquisition, outfitting, and operations of all classes of PSCs.

Sec2.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of OMB relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP
Commentary:
Notably this is in reference to both Arctic and Antarctic. There are a number of issues raised here:
  • Optimal number and type of polar security icebreakers
  • What does “persistent United States presence” mean?
  • How the Medium icebreakers will be used differently from the Heavy icebreakers?
  • Expanded operational capabilities
  • Defensive armament
  • Nuclear power
  • Basing: “two optimal United States basing locations and at least two international basing locations”
  • “Leasing options, both foreign and domestic”
  • “Identify partner nations with proven foreign shipbuilding capability and expertise in icebreaker construction.”
In most cases these topics are not new. With few exceptions, the Coast Guard has certainly considered these topics and should have well thought out positions.

Basing “two optimal United States basing locations and at least two international basing locations”

The Basing question seem the most original and may suggest the US may want to have icebreakers based in the Atlantic. First it is not clear what is meant by bases. Does it mean homeports, permanent US Navy/Coast Guard overseas bases, or just a place to replenish?
We already know the Coast Guard plans to base the first Polar Security Cutters (PSC) in Seattle.
When bound for Antarctica, icebreakers operate out of Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island. At one time there was consideration of basing icebreakers there, but it seems unlikely New Zealand would actually welcome a year round Navy or Coast Guard base, and there seems to be little reason to seek one. Perhaps this could qualify as a base if we are only talking a regular replenishment station.
The US unlike the rest of the world includes the Aleutians and Bering Sea as part of the Arctic, although they are below the Arctic Circle. There has been a lot of discussion about an “Arctic (really near Arctic) Base” for the Navy and Coast Guard. Likely candidates are Adak, Port Clarence, or Nome. We talked about it here, here, and here.
Seattle, Christchurch, and the Alaskan Arctic base might account for three of the four bases referred to, two domestic and one “international,” all on the Pacific side of the World. What about the fourth base? I don’t see need for another base in the South Pacific. Could he actually be thinking about having icebreakers based on the Atlantic side? There might be reason to base some icebreaking capability with easier access to the Atlantic side. We discussed that here. If that is the case, he is really talking two homeports, one on the Pacific and one on the Atlantic or perhaps Great Lakes, plus two supporting locations, one in the South Pacific and one closer to the Arctic on the Atlantic side. (We don’t need an “international” base to access the Pacific side of the Arctic.) An Atlantic support base could mean Canada, Greenland, Iceland, or least likely, Norway. If we wanted to count the proposed Alaskan near Arctic base that would mean two homeports and three support locations.

Optimal number and type of polar security icebreakers:

The High Latitude Study, now at least eight years old, has been what the Coast Guard has hung its hat on for an establish requirement, specifically three heavy and three medium icebreakers.  Based on the rule of thumb, that you need three ships to keep one fully operational (one in maintenance, one in training, work-up, or standby, and one operational), that would mean we could have one heavy and one icebreaker underway essentially year round. Problem is that we need heavy icebreakers for both the Arctic winter and the Antarctic summer which occur at the same time. We might even need heavy icebreakers to operate in the Arctic Spring and Fall, and we would really like to have two heavies go south to provide a rescue capability.

This suggest that since the price of the Heavy PSC has come down to close to what we had anticipated for the Medium PSC, perhaps we should simply continue building the more capable ship.

Six Heavy PSC would still not provide any icebreaking capability on the Atlantic side and would preclude the possibility of ever using the ships in the Great Lakes. Maybe there is a place for medium icebreakers there?

What does “persistent United States presence” mean?

Do we really need an icebreaker in Antarctic waters year round? We do have a presence in the form of people who winter over in Antarctica.

In reference to the Arctic, presence might be in the form of a continuous Icebreaker presence, but it also might be in the form of surveillance with an icebreaker on call somewhere below the Bering Strait which the US considers the Arctic, where it might be useful for SAR and fisheries enforcement.

Does Presence include an Atlantic side presence? We need some better definitions here.

How the Medium icebreakers will be used differently from the Heavy icebreakers?

This might be a back door way to ask if we really need two different classes? One of my impressions was that the while Heavy icebreakers might go North or South, the medium breakers would operate exclusively in the Arctic. The lack of treaty obligations gives us more flexibility in how to equip ships that would not be subject to inspection, so medium breakers might have heavier weapons, ESM, classified sensors, or intelligence spaces. None of this however precludes equipping Heavies this way, if they will not be going South.

Expanded operational capabilities:

The memorandum specifically mentions unmanned aviation, surface, and undersea systems; space systems; sensors and other systems to achieve and maintain maritime domain awareness; command and control systems; secure communications and data transfer systems; and intelligence-collection systems.

The heavies are large vessels with lots of space, plus organic weight handling equipment. They should be readily adaptable for operation of unmanned systems. Maritime Domain Awareness in the Arctic is challenging, but unmanned air systems should expand the ship’s horizons. There should be space for command and control systems; secure communications and data transfer systems; and intelligence-collection systems but what they actually carry and the choice of installed or containerized system would depend on anticipated employment.

Defensive armament:

It may be significant that it specifies defensive armament. The Commandant has referenced the Russian’s building of Project 23550 armed icebreakers illustrated with containerized cruise missile systems on their stern. Adm. Zukunft suggested that given the unpredictability of the situation in the Arctic the Coast Guard might need to add Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM) and consequently the PSCs were being built with reserves as a hedge against such future additions.
So far the only armament seen on illustrations of the PSCs appear to be 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 mounts like those being fitted to the Webber class WPCs. That is probably adequate for law enforcement.
Given the Navy’s desire to have distributed lethality, it might make sense to put ASCMs on icebreakers that do not go South to Antarctica.
All icebreakers should have the option of adding defensive systems. If we ever have a conflict in ice covered area, the icebreakers will be critically important, perhaps irreplaceable. There should be provision for providing adequate defense including perhaps two SeaRAM, Electronic Warfare systems, decoys, and torpedo warning system and countermeasures,
Nuclear power:
The Coast Guard did consider this, quite a while a go (back when I was a cadet). The Navy at that time had, not only nuclear powered carriers and submarines, but also a number of nuclear powered surface combatants. Since then, the Navy has backed away from nuclear power except for subs and carriers. After serious consideration, the Coast Guard decided they could not maintain a cadre of nuclear trained engineers.
Nuclear power is very expensive, especially if you take into account the cost of disposing of the waste at the end of the vessels life.
There is also the consideration that nuclear powered ships are not welcome at all ports.
We have apparently succeeded in providing sufficient endurance for the Polar Class icebreakers that they could winter over in Antarctica if necessary, so it does not appear there is a strong case for nuclear powered icebreakers.
“Leasing options, both foreign and domestic”:
The question of leasing has come up repeatedly in Congressional hearings. The options are limited and none can do what the Polar Star can do when its operational. The Coast Guard has decided to invest in keeping the Polar Star operational until the second PSC is fully operational.
Should the Polar Star have a catastrophic failure that leaves her stuck in the ice the Coast Guard have to hustle to find a way to get her out, but the same would apply to any leased icebreaker.
There might be an opportunity to lease vessels to fulfill the Medium PSC role, but so far the Coast Guard has not moved in that direction.
“Identify partner nations with proven foreign shipbuilding capability and expertise in icebreaker construction.”
I think the Coast Guard has done that. Building Coast Guard icebreakers in a foreign yard is against established policy and would probably be a non-starter politically–too many jobs at stake. In developing the PSC the Coast Guard cooperated with Canada and it appears sought advice around the world.
Conclusion: 
The Coast Guard is probably ready to answer this memorandum. Most of these questions were addressed in preparation for the PSC contract. I don’t think there is anything here that will require a contract modification to the existing PSC program.
Still, I am a bit mystified by the basing question.

Thanks to the readers alerted me to this topic and particularly Tups who found the original memorandum.

NSC #11 to Go to Charleston

USCGC Stratton moored in San Diego, California. Photo by BryanGoff

The following is a Coast Guard HQ news release. It appears the final laydown for the NSC fleet is Charleston five, Alameda four, Honolulu two. I am a bit surprised more did not go to the Pacific but Charleston is closer to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones than Alameda.

U.S. Coast Guard announces homeport of newest National Security Cutter

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard today announced that Charleston, South Carolina will be the home of the Service’s newest National Security Cutter.

“I am pleased to announce that Charleston, South Carolina will be the home of the Coast Guard’s 11th National Security Cutter,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard. Construction on the 11th National Security Cutter is scheduled to begin by Spring of 2020. Charleston is already home to two of the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters, the JAMES and HAMILTON. In 2017, the Coast Guard announced that the ninth and tenth National Security Cutters, currently under construction at Huntington Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, will join the Charleston-based National Security Cutter fleet in the coming years. Admiral Schultz further noted: “I am confident that the Charleston community is the right place for our Coast Guardsmen and their families to base these highly capable National Security Cutters with the global reach to respond to complex maritime threats and challenges.”

National Security Cutters are the most technologically-advanced vessels in the Coast Guard. They are capable of supporting maritime homeland security and defense missions. They safeguard the American people and promote our security in a complex and persistently-evolving maritime environment.

Grouping cutters of the same class is one critical variable in selecting homeports. Grouping cutters in the same location improves maintenance proficiency, streamlines logistics, and provides increased personnel flexibility.

The cutter is scheduled to arrive in 2024; its name has not yet been selected. This will be the fifth National Security Cutter assigned to Charleston.