“New Royal Canadian Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel Visits Norfolk After Circumnavigating North America” –USNI

HMCS Harry DeWolf in ice (6-8 second exposure)

We have talked about the Canadian Navy’s Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS) before (more here). It is, in many ways an Offshore Patrol Vessel, that would seem right at home in the US Coast Guard. In fact, in addition to the six being built for the Royal Canadian Navy, two are being built for the Canadian Coast Guard.

I would not be surprised if the US Coast Guard opts to build something similar. This US Naval Institute News Service story provides a bit more insight into its operations and how it is being used.

The AOPS, like the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), is a VARD design. It is based on the Norwegian Coast Guard Cutter Svalbard, that was capable enough to reach the North Pole on 21 August 2019. Svalbard also completed a scientific mission for the US in the Beuford Sea in 2020, when CGC Healy had a fire in one of its main propulsion motors and was unable to recover data contained in buoys she had deployed earlier.

Most surprising for me were the comments the ship’s use of containers,

At the briefing to press in Norfolk, which was broadcast online, he noted that sea-shipping containers aboard Harry DeWolf, not usually carried on warships, can be used as laboratories for science and researchers studying changes in the Arctic.

Gleason added that at all times the ship will have two containers loaded for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to respond to emergencies when called upon.

Gleason said early on there was a key training scenario of responding in a mass casualty scenario. In it Harry De Wolf  worked with the U.S. and Canadian coast guards and naval vessels in treating and evacuating the injured aboard and taking them ashore.

On this mission to the North, Gleason said the containers had a real-time military mission. They “were used as underwater listening devices” for submarines. “Fortunately, we didn’t find any.”

I suspect the “underwater listening devices” for submarines was the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar, TRAPS system, (more here).

Finnish Navy Ice Strengthened Corvette

We began talking about this class of rather unique warships about six years ago. Since then, a lot of comments have been added. I wanted to pass along this info graphic.

What makes these really unique, and perhaps of interest to the USCG, is the Ice Class requirement which translates to non-consolidated (refrozen) ice channels with a thickness of 1.0 meter (3.3 ft) in the middle.

Compared to the Offshore Patrol Cutters, these ships will be a little longer (374 feet vice 360), but also a little lighter displacement (3900 tons vs 4500). They will have a much shorter range (3500 nautical miles vs over 10,000) and a much smaller crew (70 vs over 100), although the total accommodations are similar.

Predictably the Finnish ship is much more heavily armed.

Canada’s HMCS Harry DeWolf Class AOPS

HMCS Harry DeWolf in ice (6-8 second exposure)

The Harry DeWolf class is an almost unique type of ship. Canada is building eight, six for their Navy and two for their Coast Guard. It is derived from the similar and perhaps slightly more capable Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard, which has made it to the North Pole and recently undertook a mission the Healy was unable to complete due to a machinery casualty.

They are classified as “Artic and Offshore Patrol Ships” or AOPS, rather than icebreakers, but they are clearly designed to operate in ice and are rated Polar Class 5 (Year-round operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions). In many ways they approximate the similarly sized and powered old Wind Class icebreakers. (2012 post on the class with updates in the comments here.)

Below are another photo and a couple of videos, but first the specs.

  • Displacement: 6,615 t (6,511 long tons)
  • Length: 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in)
  • Beam: 19 m (62 ft 4 in)
  • Draft: 6.5 m (21 ft 4 in) (estimate based on that of Svalbard)
  • Propulsion Generators: Four 3.6 MW (4,800 hp)
  • Propulsion Motors: 2 × 4.5 MW (6,000 hp)
  • Speed: 17 knots
  • Endurance: 6,800 nautical miles
  • Crew: 65 (accomodations for 85)
  • Armament: one 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system modified for Arctic Conditions and two .50 cal. machine guns (I do feel this is inadequate.)

HMCS Harry DeWolf looking forward, bow and 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system.

 

“U.S. Navy Reports On Arctic And North Atlantic” –Naval News

Official portrait of Admiral Burke as Commander NAVEUR-NAVAF

Naval News reports on a Webinar conducted by Admiral Robert Burke who is Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Africa, and Commander of Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples. Previously he served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations. He is a submariner. Sounds like he spent some time under the ice.

There is a lot here about the Arctic. Keep in mind he is talking primarily about the Atlantic side rather than the waters around Alaska. This is primarily about the Russian threat, but there are concerns about China as well.

Norway’s Coast Guard Jan Mayen-class vessel

Norway’s Coast Guard Jan Mayen-class vessel (Picture source: Vard)

We have some new information on Norway’s three new very large ice capable Arctic patrol ships. Naval News reports they will be equipped with inertial navigation systems and we have the artist’s concept above I had not seen previously.

“We’re very proud to be supporting the Norwegian Coast Guard in securing Norway’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), internal and territorial waters.”, states Regis Blomme, Sales Director at iXblue. “The arctic zone, in which the new vessels will operate, is a very challenging environment and our Fiber-Optic Gyroscope (FOG) based INS and Netans NDDCS have already proven to offer highly accurate, resilient, and secure navigation in such Northern latitudes. We particularly want to thank Vard for their strong vote of confidence in our technology and look forward to our collaboration with them.”

As we noted earlier,

“Deliveries of the three vessels are scheduled from Vard Langsten in Norway in 1Q 2022, 1Q 2023 and 1Q 2024 respectively. The hulls will be built at Vard’s Tulcea, Romania, shipyard…”

Specifications are:

  • Displacement: 9,800 tons
  • Length: 136.4 meters (447.4 ft) loa
  • Beam: 22 meters (72.16 ft)
  • Draft: 6.2 meter (20.3 ft)
  • Speed: 22 knots.

Note–VARD is also the designer for the Offshore Patrol Cutters.

“Arctic Operations: We Really, Really Need the Right Equipment and an Arctic Port” –EagleSpeak

Conceptual illustration, Finland’s squadron 2020 corvette

Naval blog “EagleSpeak” decries our inability of operate surface warships in the Arctic, but this is his bottom line

“Fault finding will get us nowhere, the need is to look to our allies who operate in these waters and see if, among the hull types we need they have some ice-hardened ships whose designs we can obtain. Now.”

If we do want to do that, there is really only one choice, Finland’s new ice capable corvette we talked about here. The original post is now more than five years old, but updated information is in the comments, much of which I have linked below.

Fortunately they are already designed to us a great deal of familiar equipment much of it from US manufacturers.

They will use the same 57mm gun used by the NSC, OPC, and both classes of LCS.

They will use the Sea Giraffe radar common to the OPC and Independence class LCS.

They will use ESSM surface to air missiles, a standard item on most US surface combatants, apparently to be launched from Mk41 VLS.

The Finns will be using the Israeli Gabriel V as their surface to surface missile, but it should be relatively easy to substitute a standard US surface to surface missile, particularly the Naval Strike Missile, which is considerably smaller.

The sonars currently planned are from Kongsberg Maritime AS. If not replaced by US sourced units, they would be unique in the US fleet but the hull mounted “SS2030 sonars will be delivered to the Finnish Navy complete with hoistable hull units and ice protection to ensure safe and efficient operation in the often harsh conditions of the Baltic Sea.”  The variable depth “SD9500 is a light and compact over-the-side dipping sonar with outstanding horizontal and vertical positioning capabilities for diver detection, ASW duties and volumetric survey assignments in shallow, reverberation-limited waters.”

They would be unique among US warships in being able to both lay and counter mines.

Propulsion is CODLAG, combined diesel electric and gas turbine. Four diesel generators producing 7,700 KW (10326 HP) provide power for cruise (probably about 20 knots). A GE LM2500 gas turbine provides over 26 knot sprint speed. This is the same gas turbine that powers the NSC, Burke class destroyers, the new FFG, and numerous other ships. It is the most common gas turbine in the world.

The propellers were developed with the help of the US Navy.

“The propellers are a minor project on their own, and are set to be of a highly advanced design. This is due to the somewhat conflicting demands of high top-speed, small diameter (due to overall draught requirement), and low noise (and high cavitation margin). All this, while at the same time being strong enough to cope with ice.”

Its primary characteristics are reported to be:

  • Length: 114 m (374 ft)
  • Beam: 16 m (52 ft)
  • Displacement: 3,900 tonnes (3,800 long tons; 4,300 short tons)
  • Crew: 70 to 120 sailors
  • Speed: 26+ knots

This makes about 13% smaller than the OPC or NSC, but 30% larger than the 378s. First of class is expected to be completed 2024.

We could buy the plans and then compete procurement in a US shipyard. These might be built concurrently with the OPCs, possibly replacing some of them. Ten units could give a two squadrons, one for the Atlantic and one for the Pacific. In wartime that would almost guarantee the ability to keep three underway in either ocean.

“Renew the Coast Guard Greenland Patrol” –USNI

Orthographic projection of Greenland. Credit Connormah via Wikipedia

The US Naval Institute blog has a proposal from Ensign Philip Kiley, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve that the Coast Guard reestablish a “Greenland Patrol.” This seems to have been prompted by the recent deployments of WMECs Tahoma and Campbell to participate in Canadian sponsored Exercise Nanook.

I agree Greenland is strategically important. I also believe that if we build three heavy and three medium icebreakers, we will have one or two of the medium icebreakers on the Atlantic side, maybe all three. Its just that a Greenland Patrol, as discussed, is not an adequate rationale. At least, the thesis is not adequately developed to support the proposal.

What would the Coast Guard do that the Danes are not already doing?

Thetis-class ocean patrol vessel belonging to the Royal Danish Navy. Source: konflikty.pl, Author: Łukasz Golowanow

The Danish Navy already does a “Greenland Patrol” and they may be better equipped to do it than the US Coast Guard. They certainly have more reason to be there. The have seven ice-strengthened patrol ships, four ships of the 368 foot Thetis class and three of the 236 foot Knud Rasmussen class.

P570 Knud Rasmussen. The first of the Danish Navy Knud Rasmussen-class ocean patrol crafts. Commisioned in 2008. Photo from Flemming Sørensen

The US Coast Guard currently has no ice-strengthened patrol ships, and has no plans to build any, unless we consider the proposed medium icebreakers, aka “Arctic Security Cutter.”

When US Coast Guard was doing the Greenland Patrol in WWII, it included ice-strengthened ships with significant armaments, including ultimately Wind class icebreakers with four 5″ guns. The Danish ships are armed with 76mm guns and the ability to add StanFlex modules that might include surface to surface and surface to air missiles.

If the “Arctic Security Cutters” could fit through the St. Lawrence Seaway, they could break ice in the Great Lakes in the winter and support DOD construction in the Arctic during the Summer. Presumably, when the High Latitude study determined that the Coast Guard needed three heavy and three medium icebreakers they had enough missions planned to justify their construction without adding a Greenland patrol.

On the other hand, its entirely possible we still have much to learn from the Danes.

“Check out these otherworldly photos from a Coast Guard cutter’s trip into the Arctic” –Navy Times Observation Post

Campbell alongside the Royal Danish Navy vessel. (Seaman Kate Kilroy/U.S. Coast Guard)

The Navy Times “Observation Post” has a series of great photos taken during USCGC Campbell’s two month deployment to waters off Canada and Greenland, most of it north of the Arctic circle. The photos feature operations with the Danish Offshore Patrol Vessel HDMS Knud Rasmussen.

Below my remarks is the Atlantic Area news release on the operation, and it is extremely well done.

Comparing the two ships:

The two ships make an interesting comparison. Knud Rasmussen is almost the same displacement as Campbell, but has a smaller crew (18) than the Webber class WPCs, while the Campbell has a crew of about 100. Campbell is 20 years older. Both have flight decks, but only Campbell has a hangar.

  • Knud Rasmussen is shorter (71.8 m (235 ft 7 in) vs 270 ft (82 m)),
  • but broader (14.6 m (47 ft 11 in) vs 38 ft (12 m)),
  • and a bit slower (17 vs 19.5 knots) on almost exactly the same horsepower (7,300 vs 7,000),
  • with much less range (3000 nmi vs 9,900).

The Danish ship is “designed to operate in difficult ice conditions mainly without icebreaker assistance” (Finnish-Swedish ice class, 1A Super) including “Summer/autumn operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions” (Polar Class PC 6). The Campbell is not ice rated.

The LCP, SAR2, is approaching offshore patrol vessel EJNAR MIKKELSEN a Knod Rasmussen class sister ship. (Photo: Johnny E. Balsved)

The Knud Rasmussen is equipped with three boats, one 10.8 meter (35.4 ft) launched from a stern ramp (photo above), one seven meter (23 ft), and a 4.8 meter (16 ft). The Campbell has two boats, a 26 ft (8 meter) “Over the Horizon Cutter Boat” and a 22 ft (6.7 meter) “Cutter Boat, Large.”

Both use the same Oto Melara 76 mm gun. Both have a pair of crew served 12.7mm .50 cal. machine guns. The Knud Rasmussen uses Denmark’s StanFlex system of containerized weapons. It has two StanFlex positions, one occupied by the 76mm gun, and a second one that could be used to provide a 6-cell Mk 48 Mod 3 launcher (location is not clear). Each cell could launch one RIM-7 Sea Sparrow or two Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles (ESSM) for a total of up to 12 missiles. The Danish vessel is also equipped to launch MU90 light weight torpedoes. This is normally considered an ASW torpedo, but there is no indication the Knud Rasmussen has a sonar. There are four StanFlex modules for Thales Underwater Systems TSM 2640 Salmon variable-depth active/passive sonar, but those are most likely to go on the four Thales class patrol frigates. The torpedo does have a minimum navigational depth of only three meters (10 ft).

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Phone: (757) 452-8336
After Hours: uscglantarea@gmail.com
Atlantic Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard conducts joint Arctic operations, scientific research off Greenland

Argus Campbell smallboat and iceberg
Joint ops with the Danish navy Greenland's Premier Kim Kielsen aboard Campbell 

Editors’ note: To view more imagery or download please click images above and visit http://bit.ly/WMEC909Arctic

KITTERY, Maine — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell (WMEC 909) returned to homeport Tuesday, following a two-month deployment supporting joint Arctic operations off Greenland’s western coast.

Campbell’s crew contributed to joint exercises, research and development efforts, and critical diplomatic engagements while covering more than 11,500 miles (10,000 nautical miles).

“I am very proud of the efforts and adaptability of every one of Campbell’s crew who demonstrated the ability to operate and execute our mission aboard one of the finest Famous-class cutters in the fleet, said Capt. Thomas Crane, commanding officer of Campbell. “Their dedication to duty and commitment to the Coast Guard helps to affirm the United States as an Arctic nation. It is also a credit to the name Campbell and our five predecessors. In addition to notable narcotics seizures and being the command ship for the 1996 TWA 800 recovery, we are now the first 270-foot medium endurance cutter to earn the Arctic Service Medal.”

Campbell sailed with additional support, including an embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and aviation detachment consisting of two pilots and four aircrew, including a rescue swimmer. In all, eight shipriders augmented the 100 person crew during the patrol, assisting in operations, providing health services, and documenting the journey.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to be a part of this historic mission and am glad our crew’s experiences will be shared with family, friends, and future generations,” said Crane. “Going to sea is challenging and requires personal sacrifices both from our crew and loved ones left onshore. Still, the camaraderie, teamwork, and pride of our crew are the reasons I go to sea. Campbell is a great ship with a great crew able to execute missions of strategic national significance amid a global pandemic.”

In early August, Campbell departed Kittery for Nuuk, Greenland, to participate in joint search and rescue exercise operations with French and Royal Danish naval assets.

“This effort strengthens international partnerships and provides a foundation for standard operations in the rapidly developing Arctic maritime environment,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “As interest and maritime traffic in the area increases, the importance of the U.S. Coast Guard’s interoperability with allied partners becomes more critical to ensuring we protect national and shared security interests. Exercising our unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority, and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance is vital to the future of the Arctic.”

The Kingdom of Denmark defense force’s Joint Arctic Command Search and Rescue Exercise ARGUS included 13 simulated coastal and open-ocean scenarios, evaluating processes and interoperability through communications testing, vessel towing evolutions, rescue boat training, and helicopter sea and land operations.

Campbell’s crew employed its embarked Dolphin crew extensively, conducting joint evolutions and professional maritime exchanges with the Royal Danish navy vessels HDMS Knud Rasmussen and HDMS Triton. They also applied NATO procedures to test interoperability with regard to ship controlled approaches, launch, recovery, and hoisting. The crews conducted joint U.S.-Danish surface and air operations in Eternity Fjord and Disko Bay, Greenland, the most active iceberg-producing area globally.

Professional exchanges with HDMS Knud Rasmussen provide an opportunity to gain valuable navigation knowledge along Greenland’s coastline and fjord system. Campbell patrolled the Labrador Sea waters, Davis Strait, and the Baffin Bay, navigating Greenland’s largely uncharted western coast, including ice-laden bays and fjords, often using rudimentary sounding data as electronic charts are unavailable for the area. Throughout the patrol, Campbell safely completed over 200 helicopter evolutions, including 16 joint evolutions with the Danish navy.

In support of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, International Ice Patrol, and Coast Guard Research and Development Center, Campbell’s crew conducted testing of specialized equipment and resources in the Arctic environment. They deployed oceanographic research buoys across Baffin Bay, the Labrador Sea, and the North Atlantic to measure ocean currents and wave heights that influence iceberg drift and deterioration.

“This valuable data can provide a better understanding of the lifecycle of icebergs that impact transatlantic shipping lanes,” said Mike Hicks, of the International Ice Patrol.

IIP also analyzed 317 synthetic aperture radar and multi-spectral images from satellites to monitor iceberg danger during Campbell’s operations. This effort, led by IIP’s Lt. Don Rudnickas, denotes the first time in history, novel, scalable, and tailored iceberg warning products were produced with only satellite observations, depicting iceberg danger at higher granularity using oceanographic models to provide forecasted iceberg positions.

“This input significantly shapes the future of iceberg warning products in the North Atlantic and expands the capability of IIP to provide direct, tailorable support to vessels operating independently; an ability beyond the IIP’s statutory mission, but one that is likely to become highly desired with increasing Arctic operations,” said Hicks.

Mr. Matthew Lees was the RDC Demonstrations Liaison and coordinated technology evaluations for the patrol. These included:
– An Iridium Certus Terminal which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area;
– Two different enhanced night vision goggle devices improved law enforcement and flight operations, even integrated into ship’s display screens;
– A Long Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD, was evaluated for enhanced communications with vessels at longer distances;
– A handheld Glare Helios Green Laser tested for similar stand-off hailing capabilities.

The crew also learned essential lessons using a FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle in cold weather to conduct underwater inspections.

“As cruise ship and commercial vessel traffic increases through the Northwest Passage, Campbell’s recent patrol highlights our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Allan, commander Coast Guard 1st District. “This was also a fantastic demonstration of how we work with our partners as we seek to respect sovereignty, maximize the use of our assets, and promote environmental stewardship.”

They facilitated multiple key diplomatic engagement opportunities throughout their Arctic deployment. Campbell’s crew welcomed aboard Danish Maj. Gen. Kim Joergensen, commander of Joint Arctic Command, and Mr. Sung Choi, U.S. consul in Nuuk. Campbell’s diplomatic work was underscored by the opportunity to host Greenland’s Premier, Mr. Kim Kielsen, signifying the importance of international cooperation for the region.

“Campbell’s efforts continue the United States’ strong relationship with Greenland, furthering a positive foundation for how the Coast Guard will interact and operate in the region,” said Poulin. “As an Arctic nation, cooperation and understanding of the dynamic and ever-changing Arctic operating environment is vital. The U.S. Coast Guard is the primary polar and Arctic surface operator of the U.S. military. The Coast Guard is committed to working collaboratively with like-minded partners through exercises like ARGUS strengthening global maritime security, regional stability, and economic prosperity.”

New Zealand Adds One of a Kind Ice Class Underway Replenishment Vessel

HMNZS Aotearoa Logistics Support Vessel

Naval News reports that the New Zealand Navy has commissioned what I believe is a one of a kind vessel, a Polar class underway replenishment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa (not that it is an icebreaker, no icebreaking bow).

There is an excellent description of this ship here.

(Anyone know if the Polar Security cutters can do underway replenishment?)

Unlike US Navy replenishment ships, this will be armed and have a military crew.

I doubt the ice-strengthening and winterization really cost a whole lot. With the Arctic opening up, maybe the Navy should be thinking about something like this.