Balance of Power, 2030

Found this graphic on the US Naval Institute Blog.

Considering that the US Navy is spread all over the globe, with responsibilities in the Atlantic as well the Pacific, while the Chinese Navy will be concentrated in the Western Pacific, far from American Naval bases with the exception of a small number of units in Guam, Japan, and possibly Singapore, the Chinese Navy is likely  to enjoy a considerable local advantage, particularly early in any conflict.

In peacetime, it takes three CONUS based ships to maintain one in the Western Pacific. That would improve in wartime, but the Chinese would always have an advantage. Not to mention Chinese land based air and missiles.

Is there anything the Coast Guard can do to mitigate the coming imbalance in the Western Pacific?

It could be worse if US vs both China and Russia.

Breaking Defense Interviews the Commandant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to Luke for bringing this to my attention. 

Fisheries Regulation Coming to Waters Beyond the EEZ?

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Photo: The John B a fishing trawler with drum winches at Howth, Dublin, by William Murphy

Bryant’s Maritime Consulting points us to an announcement. 

In its resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015, the General Assembly decided to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

To that end, it decided to establish, prior to holding an intergovernmental conference, a Preparatory Committee, to make substantive recommendations to the General Assembly on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS, taking into account the various reports of the Co-Chairs on the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.

This raises a number of questions. Who establishes the rules? Who is going to enforce this? How will the enforcer (whoever it may be) deal with uncooperative flag states? If a perpetrator is caught, where will they be jailed? Who will try the crewmembers? The owners? Where wil they serve their sentence?

Considering the lack of success with enforcement of the ban on drift nets and China’s refusal to follow the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision regarding the South China Sea, is this just political theater? Or will someone step up and give, what I presume will be an agreement, some teeth?

UN mandates have authorized the use of force in the past. Could maritime law enforcement wear a blue beret?

Stratton to Participate in RIMPAC

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Photo: USCGC Stratton. Image, Department of Defense ID 111031-D-0193C-002

DefenseNews has published the list of participating vessels in this year’s RIMPAC exercise. USCGC Stratton, a 418 foot Waesche class cutter will be sailing for the exercise from San Diego on June 22 in company with the US cruiser Princeton, destroyer Pinckney, littoral combat ship Coronado and the Canadian frigate Calgary.

Once again there will be a significant Chinese contingent. During the last RIMPAC, in 2014, the Coast Guard had a significant role with USCGC Waesche heading up a Maritime Interdiction exercise that included three Chinese vessels as well as five other vessels. Will be interesting to see what they have Stratton doing this year.

 

New S. Korean Cutter

SKoreaLargestCutter

Jane’s 360 is reporting that the S. Korean Coast Guard has commissioned their largest and most heavily armed cutter.

Lee Chung-ho has a length of 150.5 m, a beam of 16.5 m, a loaded displacement of 6500 tonnes and a complement of 104 persons, although 140 persons can be embarked.

The hybrid propulsion system has four MTU 20V1163M94 diesels (each rated at 9,900 bhp) and two 750KW electric motors that are connected to the propellers.

How big is it?

The cutter, at 6,500 tons, is 44% larger than the Bertholf class. While its length and beam are almost identical to Japan Coast Guard’s two largest cutters, the displacement is reportedly far less. I have seen no info on the draft, so that is at least possible. In any case, it is definitely much smaller than the huge cutters the Chinese have built.

The post compares the new cutter to the slightly smaller Sambong-ho (pennant 5001), which entered service in 2002 and was previously the largest cutter in the S. Korean Coast Guard, stating it is three knots faster. That would indicate a top speed of 24 knots. The new cutter has a four diesel power plant compared to its predecessor’s two engine plant. In addition, the two 750 HP electric motors mounted on the shafts which should allow the cutter to slow cruise while the main diesels are cold iron.

Weapons: 

According to Wikipedia, S. Korean has 34 cutters over 1000 tons. All are armed with one or more 20 mm Vulcan Gatling Guns and .50 caliber machine guns. Fourteen have Bofors 40 mm guns, and one other also has a 76 mm. The 20 mm and 40 mm mounts are locally produced in S. Korea.

Looking at the armament, it may be an upgrade compared to the typical S. Korean cutter, but only slightly better armed than what appears to be, becoming a world wide standard for offshore patrol vessels–a medium caliber gun, 57 or 76 mm, and a pair of 20 to 30mm machineguns in remotely controlled weapon stations. It is really no better armed than the 1,150 ton PC-1005, the Hankang, smallest of S. Korea’s 34 cutters major cutters, commissioned in 1985.

All the weapons appear to have been recycled from previous installations. In the photo, an older model OTO Melara 76 mm, like those used on the FRAMed Hamilton class WHECs and Bear class WMECs is clearly visible on the bow. There is also a Vulcan 20 mm mount on the O-3 deck superfiring over the 76 mm mount forward of the bridge. It also appears to have a locally built twin Bofors 40 mm compact mount using an earlier version of the Bofors than the 70 caliber weapon currently offered, which appears to be atop the superstructure aft. She has no CIWS, missiles, or ASW capability.

What is it with these very large cutters?:

Japan, China, and S. Korea, have now each built two very large cutters. Why to they exist?

It is their size, not their weapons, that make them exceptional. The Russian Coast Guard has smaller, but much more heavily armed ships (Krivak III frigates and Grisha II class corvettes).

There has been a general trend for ships of all types to grow in size. Their crews are not exceptionally large, so the operating cost may not be that much more.

Still these are significantly bigger than other cutters built by the same coast guards, at the same time, apparently for the same missions.

None of these three nations has a patrol area as distant and demanding as Alaska.

Japan did have a reason for building the first of these. Shikishimacommissioned in 1992, was intended to escort plutonium transport ships between Europe and Japan, but I have seen no explanation for the ships that followed.

Is it prestige, just “keeping up with the Jones?”

Are they intended for a future shoving match? If so, they are giving up agility for presence.

Are they perhaps intended as flag ships for long term operations?

I would love to hear the reasoning from someone in the know.

 

 

 

North Korea Embargo

From the German Navy blog, Marine Forum, “2 Mar., The UN Security Council unanimously (!) decided on new sanctions on North Korea … a.o.t. closing gaps in the arms embargo that had allowed small arms and light weapons to be sent to North Korea; now full embargo on all weapons as well as any items that could directly support the North Korean armed forces (e.g. trucks that could be modified for military purposes) … all (not just suspicious) ships coming from or going to a North Korean port have to be inspected for embargoed materials.

While CG LEDETs will probably be involved, I cannot help but think that if we had enough ships, this would be a job better done by cutters than the Navy.