“While China makes Pacific islands tour, US Coast Guard is already on patrol” –CNN

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro is tied up in Suva, Fiji, during a visit to the port city April 22, 2022.  The port call was part Operation Blue Pacific, that aims to counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and strengthen relationships to enhance maritime sovereignty and security throughout the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Office of the FMSRCC, Republic of Fiji Navy)

The Coast Guard got some national recognition for its work in the Western Pacific from CNN. It is being recognized as a counter to increasing Chinese influence in the region.

The Coast Guard’s website shows cutters have spent hundreds of days and steamed thousands of miles in the past two years helping Pacific island nations.

I have not seen this website, but I would like to. I found this one, but it is not a Coast Guard website.

The story mentions the Coast Guard’s role in the administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, which goes well beyond fisheries. The Strategy was discussed here.

“Combined Maritime Forces establishes new naval group to patrol Red Sea region” –Defense News

Royal navy frigate HMS Montrose (F 236), left, Pakistan navy frigate PNS Aslat (F 254), left center, Royal navy of Oman patrol vessel Al-Shinas (Z 21), right center, and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141) sail in formation during International Maritime Exercise/Cutlass Express (IMX/CE) 2022 in the Arabian Gulf, Feb. 13. (Spc. Natianna Strachen/U.S. Army)

Defense News brings us word of the formation of another combined naval task force intended to enforce rules-based behavior, this time in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

It is not unlikely that the Coast Guard’s PATFORSWA will become involved in this, but more importantly, this is the latest in what looks like an emerging trend, and perhaps a way to deal with gray zone operations. It is not a military alliance against an opposing state, rather it is a law enforcement alliance of like-minded nations who wish to prevent the breakdown of order.

This seems to suggest something like my proposal for a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force, Pacific” is looking much more mainstream, if we could spread the concept from the CENTCOM area of operations to INDOPACOM and perhaps AFRICOM and apply it to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing.

Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro and Japan Coast Guard Patrol Vessel Large Aso, transit together in formation during a maritime engagement in the East China Sea Aug. 25, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard members aboard the Munro deployed to the Western Pacific Ocean to strengthen alliances and partnerships and improve maritime governance and security in the region. (Photo courtesy of Japan Coast Guard)

The Whitehouse has issued a new Indo-Pacific Strategy, and it specifically mentions the US Coast Guard.

The document calls out China for its aggressive behavior,

This intensifying American focus is due in part to the fact that the Indo-Pacific faces mounting challenges, particularly from the PRC. The PRC is combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world’s most influential power. The PRC’s coercion and aggression spans the globe, but it is most acute in the Indo-Pacific. From the economic coercion of Australia to the conflict along the Line of Actual Control with India to the growing pressure on Taiwan and bullying of neighbors in the East and South China Seas, our allies and partners in the region bear much of the cost of the PRC’s harmful behavior. In the process, the PRC is also undermining human rights and international law, including freedom of navigation, as well as other principles that have brought stability and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific.

It recognizes the value and values of our allies and partners,

For centuries, the United States and much of the world have viewed Asia too narrowly—as an arena of geopolitical competition. Today, Indo-Pacific nations are helping to define the very nature of the international order, and U.S. allies and partners around the world have a stake in its outcomes. Our approach, therefore, draws from and aligns with those of our closest friends. Like Japan, we believe that a successful Indo-Pacific vision must advance freedom and openness and offer “autonomy and options.” We support a strong India as a partner in this positive regional vision. Like Australia, we seek to maintain stability and reject coercive exercises of power. Like the ROK, we aim to promote regional security through capacity-building. Like ASEAN, we see Southeast Asia as central to the regional architecture. Like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, we seek to build resilience in the regional rules-based order. Like France, we recognize the strategic value of an increasing regional role for the European Union (EU). Much like the approach the EU has announced in its Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, American strategy will be principled, long-term, and anchored in democratic resilience.

It calls for action in five areas:

  1. ADVANCE A FREE AND OPEN INDO-PACIFIC
  2. BUILD CONNECTIONS WITHIN AND BEYOND THE REGION
  3. DRIVE REGIONAL PROSPERITY
  4. BOLSTER INDO-PACIFIC SECURITY
  5. BUILD REGIONAL RESILIENCE TO TRANSNATIONAL THREATS

There is mention of the Coast Guard is in the section “BOLSTER INDO-PACIFIC SECURITY” on page 13.

We will also innovate to meet civilian security challenges, expanding U.S. Coast Guard presence, training, and advising to bolster our partners’ capabilities. We will cooperate to address and prevent terrorism and violent extremism, including by identifying and monitoring foreign fighters traveling to the region, formulating options to mitigate online radicalization, and encouraging counterterrorism cooperation within the Indo-Pacific. And we will strengthen collective regional capabilities to prepare for and respond to environmental and natural disasters; natural, accidental, or deliberate biological threats; and the trafficking of weapons, drugs, and people. We will improve cybersecurity in the region, including the ability of our partners to protect against, recover from, and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

Coast Guard roles presumably extend beyond interdiction and fisheries to include assistance with intelligence, port security, and maritime industry cybersecurity.

The strategy refers to ten lines of effort that are to be pursued in the next 12 to 24 months. The first is “Drive New Resources to the Indo-Pacific” (p.15),

Building shared capacity requires the United States to make new regional investments. We will open new embassies and consulates, particularly in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, and increase our strength in existing ones, intensifying our climate, health, security, and development work. We will expand U.S. Coast Guard presence and cooperation in Southeast and South Asia and the Pacific Islands, with a focus on advising, training, deployment, and capacity-building. We will refocus security assistance on the Indo-Pacific, including to build maritime capacity and maritime-domain awareness.

Sounds like this may include Coast Guard attachés attached to diplomatic staffs and possibly some new basing.

There is a second line of effort that will undoubtably involve the Coast Guard, “Partner to Build Resilience in the Pacific Islands” (p.17),

The United States will work with partners to establish a multilateral strategic grouping that supports Pacific Island countries as they build their capacity and resilience as secure, independent actors. Together, we will build climate resilience through the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility; coordinate to meet the Pacific’s infrastructure gaps, especially on information and communications technology; facilitate transportation; and cooperate to improve maritime security to safeguard fisheries, build maritime-domain awareness, and improve training and advising. We will also prioritize finalization of the Compact of Free Association agreements with the Freely Associated States.

A Maritime Executive post, New U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy Singles Out China’s “Coercion”, notes,

In the security arena, the new strategy reiterates that the United States has maintained “a strong and consistent defence presence necessary to support regional peace, security, stability, and prosperity”, pointing to the South China Sea and the East China Sea as a priority. However, it is interesting that while the document underscores the importance of freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific, not a single paragraph mentions the US Freedom of Navigation Operations Program (FONOPS) carried out by the US Navy, which has stirred controversy. Conversely, the strategy emphasises the importance of the Coast Guard to lead maritime security cooperation in the region, in “advising, training, deployment, and capacity-building … including to build maritime capacity and maritime-domain awareness”. Indeed, in 2021, the US Coast Guard announced a joint maritime training centre with the Indonesian Coast Guard in Batam.

The emphasis on coast guard cooperation can be seen as a positive gesture since it will be less provocative and sensitive compared to a military presence in the region. And more importantly, coast guard operations in Southeast Asia are very much required to tackle maritime security threats such as illegal fishing.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention. 

“Japan-U.S. alliance ‘cornerstone of peace and prosperity’ in Indo-Pacific” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Ships from the U.S. Coast Guard and Japan Coast Guard conducted exercises near the Ogasawara Islands of Japan, Feb. 21, 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball and Japan Coast Guard Ship Akitsushima, two of the respective services’ newest and most capable vessels, operated alongside helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to practice interdicting foreign vessels operating illegally inside Japanese waters. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball/Released)

Some recognition for what the Kimball has been doing in the Western Pacific from the Indo-Pacific Command web site Indo-Pacific Defense Forum, including a really nice photo.

“Bangladesh, U.S. and regional organizations discuss shared maritime domain awareness goals” –IndoPacificDefenseForum

A report from IndoPacificDefenseForum about an aspect of the CARAT exercise with Bangladesh, with emphasis on Maritime Domain Awareness and Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported fishing.

There is no mention of the Coast Guard, but you can be sure Coast Guardsmen were involved and the vessel, seen in the distance, in the accompanying photo (above) is a former USCG 378, BNS Somudra Avijan, the former USCGC Rush, one of two Hamilton class now serving in the Bangladesh Navy.

Polar Security Cutters and Coast Guard ASW

The US Naval Institute Proceedings web page has a couple of Coast Guard related articles that did not appear in the print version of Proceedings,

I have reproduced my comments on these topics below.


In regard to arming the Polar Security Cutters (the author seemed fixated on cruise missiles. We did discuss this topic earlier here)

There are limits to what we want to put on ships bound for Antarctica, since they have to be open for inspection. On the other hand if we ever do have a near peer conflict involving the Arctic or Antarctic, these will become rare and essential naval auxiliaries. As such they will probably operate with other vessels, including more powerful warships if appropriate, but that does not mean they should not be able to defend themselves against the possibility of leakers. We need to make provision for last ditch defense with systems like SeaRAM.

Meanwhile the fact that they are law enforcement vessels means they should be able to forcibly stop any private or merchant vessel regardless of size. So far it seems they will have at most, 25mm Mk38 Mod3 guns.

The follow on Medium Icebreakers or Arctic Security Cutters, which are unlikely to go to Antarctica, are more likely to be more heavily armed from the start.


Coast Guard ASW (comments were generally surprisingly adverse):

It is a fact that in WWII most U-boats were sunk by aircraft, but about a third (about 230) were sunk by surface vessels, primarily those of our allies Britain and Canada.

Even when surface vessels did not sink U-boats, they often performed valuable service in blocking access to convoys and in rescuing mariners from sunken ships.

US Naval vessels only sank about 38 U-boats. Coast Guard cutters and Coast Guard manned Navy ships were involved in sinking a disproportionate number of those (ten) for various reasons. Most of the US Navy effort went into the Pacific and most of the USN effort in the Atlantic at least through mid-1943, was in escorting high speed troop convoys than largely avoided contact with U-boats.

Circumstances we will face in any near peer conflict may be very different.

The advantages provided by code breaking in WWII are unlikely.

The advantages provided by radar equipped aircraft detecting U-boats charging their batteries or transiting the Bay of Biscay on the surface during the night no longer exists.

The Chinese surface and air threat would divert the most capable USN assets from ASW tasks.

Unlike the Japanese during the Pacific campaign, the Chinese are likely to make a concerted effort to disrupt our logistics train.

We simply do not have enough ASW assets.

Augmenting Coast Guard cutters to allow them to provide ASW escort and rescue services for ships that are sunk by hostile subs, in lower threat areas, is a low cost mobilization option that can substantially increase the number of escorts at low cost.

This could be facilitated by augmenting cutter with USN Reserves. Navy reserve ASW helicopter squadrons could be assigned to fly from cutters.
LCS ASW modules could be placed on cutters and manned by reactivated Navy reservists with LCS ASW module experience.

Our few US merchant ships need to be protected and when inevitably, some are sunk, we need someone to rescue those mariners, because they have become a rare and precious commodity.

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Midgett (WMSL 757) and Kimball (WMSL 756) transit past Koko Head on Oahu, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2019. The Kimball and Midgett are both homeported in Honolulu and two of the newest Coast Guard cutters to join the fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released)


In answer to this comment from James M

Add : For (millions)

ASIST : 6.263
Mk 32 SVTT : 3.237
SLQ-25 Nixie: 1.727
AN/SRQ-4 LAMPS III: 4.625
VDS/MFTA combo: 14.802
ASW Combat Suite: 33.684
64.338 total. I am sure something could be arrived at for less. I look at this as what it takes to fit out an NSC the whole way. For one, OPC will never fit that VDS/MFTA on its stern. At best it would be a Nixie, maybe a container towed sonar we don’t yet use, and the mods for MH-60R. It would be good to know the plan for MUSV as it might help the equation. After all, the 64.338 would buy 2 MUSVs without payload. It could also buy an additional FRC.

So, we could equip ASW equip all eleven projected Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) for less than the cost of a single frigate.

Why do you believe the VDS/MFTA would not fit on the Offshore Patrol Cutter? It is fully as large as the NSCs and does not have the boat launch ramp cut into the stern. They are also substantially larger than the LCSs.

OPC “Placemat”

New Addition to “Recommended Blogs” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) sales alongside the Indian coast guard ships Abheed and Shaurya (16) Aug. 23, 2019, while transiting in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Chennai, India. The Stratton is participating in a professional exchange with the Indian coast guard that includes operational exercises at sea and on shore. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Esterly)

I have made an addition to my “Recommended Blogs” page (which is also my daily reading list) that you may find interesting, the Indo-Pacific Defense Forum.

Below I have duplicated the self description from their “About Us” page. The page also includes contact information not duplicated here.

In addition to English, this site is also published in Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Korean, and Japanese.

Not all the content is Coast Guard related, but it seems much of it is.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.


About Us

IPDefenseForum.com is the online version of Indo Pacific Defense Forum magazine and is sponsored by the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

Our Mission

Indo-Pacific Defense Forum is a professional military magazine published quarterly by the Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command to provide an international forum for military personnel of the Indo-Pacific areas. The opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily represent the policies or points of view of this command or any other agency of the United States government. All articles are written by IPD Forum staff unless otherwise noted.

The site features articles from the IPD Forum magazine staff as well as news from across the region and analysis, interviews and commentary by paid IPDefenseForum.com correspondents and contributors.

The Secretary of Defense has determined that publication of this magazine is necessary for conducting public business as required of the Department of Defense by law.

More Coast Guard in the Western Pacific, “U.S. Coast Guard Mulling More Operations in Oceania” –USNI

COLONIA, Yap (July 4, 2019) The U.S. Coast Guard Island-class patrol boat USCGC Kiska and Mark VI patrol boats assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2, Coastal Riverine Group 1, Detachment Guam, moored in the Micronesia port of Yap. CRG 1, Det. Guam’s visit to Yap, and engagement with the People of Federated States of Micronesia underscores the U.S. Navy’s commitment to partners in the region. The Mark VI patrol boat is an integral part of the expeditionary forces support to 7th Fleet, capability of supporting myriad of missions throughout the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasen Moreno-Garcia/Released)

The US Naval Institute News Service reports comments by the Commandant”

“KUALA LUMPUR — The U.S. Coast Guard is looking at longer deployments to the Western Pacific region following the successful execution of the Operation Aiga deployment to Samoa and American Samoa, commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told reporters on Monday.

This is in reference to an operations discussed in a previous post. Earlier USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) also supported by the USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) had completed a similar mission to the Republic of the Marshall Islands

The Commandant apparently sees this as a prototype for future operations.

“We are looking at taking that proof of concept 30-day operation and pushing that probably into a little longer duration in the future,” he said.

This is only the latest statement from Coast Guard officers at the highest levels indicating that the Coast Guard’s intent to put more emphasis on operations in the Western Pacific: the Commandant: July 23, 2019; Commander, Pacific Area: August 17, 2019.

Changes are coming that will make maintaining that presence a bit easier. Three Webber class Fast Response Cutters will replace two 110 foot WPBs in Guam, that will give CCGD14 six Webber class WPCs, three homeported in Honolulu in addition to the three in Guam. Two National Security Cutters were recently commissioned in Oahu. The switch to longer ranged J model C-130s equipped with Minotaur will make providing air reconnaissance easier and more effective.

I do have some concerns about the ability to exploit these additional Webber class. The long range WPC and WPB operations have been supported by 225 foot buoy tenders, but there are only two in the Fourteenth District, one each in Guam and Hawaii. They may have already reached their limit in the amount of support they can provide. Other large ships might be able to take on this role and aviation asset in support are certainly desirable.  A second WLB in Guam would be very useful. They are almost ideal for disaster response to small island communities, but there are no new ones being built and all are likely fully committed where they are. Some of these operations have been conducted in cooperation with assets from Australia and New Zealand. France also has interests in the region. They could provide both material support and an air element. An ultimate solution might be Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) based in Guam.

In order to continue NSC operations with the 7th Fleet similar to those undertake recently by Bertholf and Stratton, a third NSC in the Fourteenth district would be useful, either the potential NSC#12 or one of the five currently expected to be homeported in Charleston. The need for this, would of course, go away if we had two or three OPCs in Guam.

 

 

“It’s Time for a ‘Quad’ of Coast Guards” –Real Clear Defense

A Japan Coast Guard helicopter approaches an Indian Coast Guard patrol vessel during a joint exercise off Chennai, India, January 2018 (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty)

Real Clear Defense has an article which first appeared in the Australian think tank Lowy Institute‘s publication “The Interpreter,” advocating greater cooperation between the Coast Guards of Australia, India, Japan, and the US.

“The so-called Quad group of Indo-Pacific maritime democracies – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – is a valuable grouping, although it is still under utilized in many ways. One of the most effective ways that these countries could work together to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific would be through coordinating the work of their coast guard agencies.”

While India in particular, is adverse to committing to a military alliance, these nations share a commitment to a rules based international system.

Quadrilateral cooperation through the countries’ coast guards could provide an answer to this political problem. As principally law-enforcement agencies, coast guards can provide many practical benefits in building a stable and secure maritime domain, without the overtones of a military alliance.

Using ship-riders, this sort of cooperation could go beyond capacity building and uphold the norms of international behavior. It might lead to the kind of standing maritime security task force I advocated earlier. When coast guards are in conflict, having multiple coast guards on scene could insure that instead of a “he said, she said” situation, we could have a “he said, we say” situation that would show a united front against bullying.

Given Bertholf and Stratton‘s stay in the Western Pacific and Walnut and Joseph Gerczak‘s support of Samoa, which was coordinated with Australia and New Zealand, it appears we may already be moving in this direction.

 

“Schultz: Coast Guard Expanding Western Pacific Operations” –USNI

USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750) crew members observe the stars from Bertholf’s flight deck as the cutter and crew patrol the South China Sea on April 21, 2019. US Coast Guard Photo

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

KUALA LUMPUR – The U.S. Coast Guard will increase its presence and deployments to Asia – particularly around Oceania and U.S. Pacific territories – and test out a new operational deployment concept in the region, service head Adm. Karl Schultz told reporters on Thursday.

We have been seeing this happening. The Coast Guard has begun spending more time in and around the Western Pacific, particularly around US Western Pacific territories and Oceania.

The reference to use of a buoy tender as a mothership to support patrol craft operations looks like a test to see how useful the proposed basing of three Webber class cutters in Guam might be.

The Commandant suggested that the tender might partner with Australian, New Zealand, or Japanese vessels as well. He promised,

““In the face of coercive and antagonistic behavior, the United States Coast Guard offers transparent engagement and partnership,…”

There is no reason this should not work, hopefully it will lead to similar multi-unit operations in the Eastern Pacific drug transit areas where the Webber class could augment larger cutters.