More on the Scorpion ISR/Light Attack Aircraft

I did an earlier post on this aircraft because it was offered also as a potential Coast Guard ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) asset for Coast Guards, but this post seemed to offer enough new insights to justify another post.

It still appears to be a economical, highly flexible, reconfigurable alternative to land based UAVs, that can quickly put sensors where we need them, with additional potential for air-policing and an armed response to maritime terrorist attacks.

I’ll also add this quote I added to the previous post as a comment, from http://www.sldinfo.com/an-update-on-the-scorpion-weapons-separation-testing-progress/

Given all the attention the attack component of the Scorpion has received in the press, it is often overlooked that the aircraft is built around a payload bay.
The modular payload bay is impressive with great volume, electrical and cooling capacity for a wide variety of payloads/sensors.
One example is the L-3 Wescam MX-25 – now capable of full retraction into the payload bay.
The MX-25 is L-3 Wescam’s largest electro-optical/infrared camera.
For comparison purposes, the US Navy P-8 Poseidon utilizes the slightly smaller L-3 Wescam MX-20.
Aside from great payload flexibility, the Scorpion is night vision capable and both the front and rear cockpits are prepared for use with the Thales Visionix Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System.

Coast Guard Space Program

Photo: This photo shows the Norwegian student satellite NCUBE2 ready for shipment to the Netherlands for integration with the ESA student satellite SSETI-Express, photographer, Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU.

Acquisitions Directorate reports that the Coast Guard is planning to have two satellites launched to provide additional EPIRB detection capability primarily in the Arctic.

Coast Guard Preparing To Launch Its First Satellites

Dec. 14. 2017

Two small satellites, scheduled for launch in 2018, will provide the Coast Guard with the opportunity to test the effectiveness of satellite communications in supporting Arctic search and rescue missions.

These satellites, or “cubesats,” are capable of detecting transmissions from emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), which are carried on board vessels to broadcast their position if in distress. The Coast Guard will deploy the cubesats in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s Polar Scout program, the Air Force Operationally Responsive Space Office, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

There is more in the linked article. The satellites are cubes only 10 cm (3.9″) on a side. It is impossible to have geostationary satellites over the poles so coverage will be intermittent.

 

LCS Progress, Coast Guard Implications

USS Independence (LCS-2)

USNI reports that the Navy is pushing harder than ever on getting the LCS mission modules operational. In wartime these systems would likely be used to upgrade cutters. Some of these systems might be applicable to Coast Guard’s NSCs and OPCs, including particularly UAS and ASuW systems, even in peace time, so they bear watching.

There is an interesting note that, “…Freedom also conducted its first Coast Guard helicopter landing on the flight deck earlier this year and hopes to do more interoperability testing with the Coast Guard going forward.” This suggest the Navy is at least thinking about sending LCS to assist the Coast Guard in its drug interdiction efforts.

 

DARPA Tests TALONS from Webber WPC sized ship

NavyRecognition reports DARPA conducted a three day demonstration of the “Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems” (TALONS) aboard the Cyclone class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC-8).

The Cyclone class is very familiar to the Coast Guard, three of them including Zephyr, having been loaned to the Coast Guard. Ten of the class are now homeported in Bahrain alongside six USCG 110s. The remaining three are stationed in Mayport and regularly work with the Coast Guard performing drug interdiction. As built they were slightly smaller than the Webber class, but most, including Zephyr, were lengthened and are now slightly larger than the Webbers (387 tons vs 353)

We have talked about TALONS previously here and here.

Reportedly they are working toward a fully automated launch and recovery system that would make the system even easier to use. The installation on Zephyr looked rather neat.

First Coast Guard Minotaur Aircraft Conducts Search And Rescue–CG-9

The following from the CG-9 web site.

Aug. 14, 2017

The first Coast Guard aircraft outfitted with the Minotaur mission system suite – CGNR 2003, an HC-130J long range surveillance aircraft based at Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina – conducted its first operational search and rescue mission Aug. 7.

The Minotaur mission system suite integrates multiple sensor data streams and easily tracks detected targets, sending improved information to other platforms and units. CGNR 2003 is currently used to train new mission system operators and build familiarization with the system.

After receiving news of a distress signal from Sector Hampton Roads, Virginia, during a routine training flight, the aircraft located the sailboat in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, and used its sensors to determine that the vessel was disabled. The HC-130J transmitted vessel location information to the MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter launched by Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, so it could transport the sailor to the nearest hospital.

What I think significant and new here is the quality of the video, particularly as you see the small sailboat, remembering that this video is taken from a moving C-130. This is only a part of the Minotaur system that is going on all Coast Guard fixed wing search aircraft. The Minotaur system is shared with the Navy and other Federal agencies.

U.S. Coast Guard: Priorities for the Future–CSIS/USNI

The video above records an recent event, a “Maritime Security dialogue” presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the United States Naval Institute (USNI) featuring Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, for a discussion on the “U.S. Coast Guard’s future priorities.”

Despite the title, don’t expect a recitation of Coast Guard priorities. Most of the material is familiar, but there were a few interesting comments, including some that might be surprising. A number of things the Commandant said here made news.

  • That the NSCs could be made into frigates.
  • That the Polar Icebreaker would cost less than $1B
  • His support of transgender CG personnel.

I’ll give a quick outline of what was talked about. At the end I will rant a bit about some of my pet peeves.

The Commandant’s prepared statement is relatively short beginning at time 2m45s and ending about 11m.

6m00 In our listing of missions, the Commandant said Defense Operations should be listed first. He noted that there are 20 ships chopped to Combatant Commanders including eleven  ships operating under SOUTHCOM.

Q&A begins at 11:00.

16m20s The Commandant noted there is a Chinese ship rider on a USCG cutter off Japan and that Coast Guard aircraft are flying out of Japan.

17m30s Boarder protection/drug interdiction

20m Called the OPCs “light frigates”

22m As for priorities the Commandant noted a need to invest in ISR and Cyber

23m Cyber threat.

24m Expect return to sea duty because of length of training.

26m30s “Demise of the cutterman”/Human Capital Plan–fewer moves–removed the stigma of geographic stability

29m25s Highest percentage of retention of all services–40% of enlisted and 50% of officers will still be in the service after 20 years

30m Law of the Sea. Extended continental shelf in the Arctic.

32m30s Need for presence in the Arctic.

36m ISR, 38m15s Firescout. An interesting side note was that the Commandant seemed to quash any possibility of using the MQ-8 Firescout. He noted when they deployed on a cutter 20 people came with the system.  He called it unoccupied but not unmanned.

40m Icebreakers

43m30s Comments on transgender members

45m15s Icebreakers–will drive the price down below $1B.

47m NSC as frigate–no conversations with the Navy about this. Performance of Hamilton.

49m50s Count the NSCs toward the 355 ship Navy.

50m30s Illegal migration and virulent infectious disease

53m35s CG training teams in the Philippines and Vietnam to provide competency to operate platforms to be provided by Japan. Two patrol boats going to Costa Rica. Other efforts to build capacity.

56m DHS is the right place for the CG.

The Commandant touched on a couple of my pet peeves, specifically

  • He called the OPCs “Light Frigates,” so why aren’t they designated that way? WMSM and WMSL are just wrong in too many ways.  Give our ships a designation our partners and politicians can understand. A WLB is a cutter and also a buoy tender. The OPC can be both a cutter and a light frigate. I have suggested WPF. Maybe WFF for the Bertholfs and WFL for the Offshore Patrol Cutters. If we want to be thought of as a military service, we need to start using designations that will be seen and understood as military.
  • He mentioned the possibility of including the Bertholfs in the 355 ship fleet total. Coast Guard combatants should be included when the country counts its fleet. No, the cutters are not aircraft carriers or destroyers, but the current fleet of about 275 ships includes about 70 ships that have no weapons larger than a .50 cal. These include eleven MCM ships and about 60 ships manned by civilian crews such as tugs, high speed transports, salvage ships, underway replenishment ships, and surveillance ships. Counting the Cutters as part of the National Fleet would raise  our profile as a military service. The Navy might not like it, but it does give a better idea of our actually available assets for wartime, which is the point of such a listing.

 

 

Networking Small Units

MARSS unveils new NiDAR C2 system

NavyRecognition reports a contract for a system that might have application for the Coast Guard.

“MARSS Group have announced an important new contract with the installation of NiDAR command and control system on a flotilla of Zodiac Hurricane RIB fast patrol vessels. The contract with Zodiac Milpro, is valued at over USD 2million and was for the supply and installation of an expeditionary version of NIDAR command and control system and the complete sensors package. The NiDAR X(eXpeditionary) is to be fitted to a flotilla of 11m Hurricane RIB fast patrol and intercept vessels for an undisclosed special forces unit.

“With NiDAR X installed, the RIB’s are transformed into a fully networked wide-area surveillance system, providing a shared situational awareness picture between each of the craft. NiDAR X is completely sensor agnostic so it integrates multiple sensors from each of the craft including; cameras, radar, sonar (optional) plus AIS, digital radio, tracker and transponder inputs to detect, identify and monitor unknown and known air, surface and underwater objects.

“…With the addition of these high-performance sensors and NiDAR, this flotilla of RIBs becomes a fully integrated tactical network able to monitor, detect and respond to threats over an area of some 200 nautical square miles.

200 square nautical miles is not a huge area, about 14×14 or 20×10, more likely a 16 mile diameter circle, but it might work for a station.

More information here.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.