“Distribute Lethality to the Cutters”–USNI Proceedings

The US Naval Institute Proceedings’ September 2018 issue has an article recommending installation of Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) on the Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) and the Argus class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), “Distribute Lethality to the Cutters,” by LCdr. Daniel M. Wilshire, USCG. Its outside the paywall; you can just click on the link.

He makes some good points.

  • The Navy does not have enough ships.
  • The Coast Guard is building 36 likely candidates.
  • Using deck mounted canister launchers it should not be too difficult to mount NSM on cutters.
  • The systems would be Navy owned and we could use Navy training.
  • Arming cutters for combat, including missiles is not new.
  • If there is a major conflict, cutters may find themselves in combat, whether they are prepared for it or not.
  • These are not a replacement for Navy construction.
  • We should not wait for the outbreak of war before arming cutters

In conclusion he says.

“The prospect of great power conflict once again looms. Though the time and nature of that conflict is not clear, one thing is certain: when the next war breaks out, Coast Guard cutters will go into harm’s way as they have done in nearly every major conflict since 1790, not only because every ship will be needed, but because doing so is part of the Coast Guard’s history and culture. Procurement and training decisions made today will dictate whether the Coast Guard enters that conflict with the weapons needed to best help deter or defeat a peer competitor. Failing to put antiship cruise missiles on the 36 cutters of the NSC and OPC classes, cutters that will serve for the next 50-plus years, is an omission that the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the nation can ill-afford.”

My only comment would be:

  • First, I would prefer to see the longer ranged, heavier Long Range Anti-Ship Missile used instead of NSM, as I believe it is better suited for our peacetime anti-terrorism mission as well as being a more effective weapon in wartime.
  • Second, while it is probably a more complex change, reviving the Coast Guard’s Wartime Anti-Submarine Warfare Mission would probably be an even more important addition to the “National Fleet” than an expanded anti-surface capability. While it probably would contribute nothing to our peacetime anti-terrorism mission, long range acoustic sensors might help our counter-drug effort.

 

SNA Symposium, Virtual Tour

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If you were unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Symposium, but would like to see what you missed, NavyRecognition offers a series of videos. They include a number of systems that have been discussed here including, smart projectiles for the 57mm, unmanned surface vehicles, the LRASM Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, SeaRAM as a replacement for Phalanx, TRAPS Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar, MK20 Mod 1 Electro-Optical Sensor System (EOSS), TRS-3D Baseline D multi-mode radar (MMR) ordered for the ninth NSC.

If you want to look primarily at the frigate proposals as well as the proposed weapons modules for the LCS which might also be applicable to the icebreaker, there is this composite video. 

Incidentally why was there no mention of this symposium on the National Cuttermen Association Chapter, Surface Navy Association website?

Coast Guard Cuttermen Association (CGCA)/Surface Navy Association (SNA) Agree to Merge

Recently recieved an email from the President of the Cuttermen Association. I am quoting it below.

Past and Present Members of the Coast Guard Cuttermen Association,

We are very excited that the Coast Guard Cuttermen Association (CGCA) and the Surface Navy Association (SNA) have agreed to merge their organizations.  This will bring new members to SNA, and will provide CGCA with the full time administrative support it needs in tracking its membership and in communicating with its members through email and online.  The potential merger was unanimously approved during CGCA’s Annual Meeting in January, and the details were approved by both organizations in June.  For those of you who have not been as deeply involved in the administration of our organization, you may not know that SNA provided significant assistance each year since our inception, and continues to do so.  There is an incredible synergy and purpose between our two organizations and our sea services, which makes this merger common sense.  We are much stronger together.

We will reach out to our membership periodically in coming months to provide more information on this effort and our progress and answer any concerns. CDR Tony Russell has volunteered to spearhead a membership drive with the chapters to encourage renewal of existing members and seek new members within our cuttermen communities.  We are planning a formal signing ceremony in September.

Through the merger agreement the CGCA will now be known as the National Cuttermen’s chapter of the Surface Navy Association, and the Washington Homeport of CGCA will now be the Anacostia chapter of SNA.  The New London Chapter will be become the New London chapter of SNA.  All financial resources of the National Cuttermen’s Association will be transferred to our new chapter within SNA under the signed agreement, and a final financial report will be made to our membership.

I am impressed by the efforts of Captain Tom Crabbs the prior President and his board to build towards this partnership with Surface Naval Association last year, which we have now finalized.  As your new CGCA President I am excited about the benefits of our merger with the Surface Naval Association for both organizations, and the opportunity that this effort presents to renew and grow our organization.  This partnership will resolve some of the significant administrative challenges that our organization has faced since conception.

LT Torrey Jacobsen was elected as our new Vice President.  Rear Admiral (Select) Eric Jones is our newly elected Treasurer.  Brian Perkins (CAPT, USCG ret.) serves in his new capacity as our Secretary, and has been the workhorse behind arranging this new SNA partnership.  CAPT Tom Crabbs continues to serve on our Board as our Past President.

In the next couple of days SNA will be sending an email with procedures on how past members can rejoin and current members can affiliate with a chapter of their choice.

If you have any questions please feel free to write me at Scott.W.Clendenin@uscg.mil.

Thank you for your continued interest and support of our organization.

Captain Scott Clendenin

President

National Cuttermen’s Chapter

This is probably a good thing. It another small step toward recognizing the the Coast Guard’s role in the National Fleet.  The Coast Guard is already well represented at the SNA’s annual symposium. For more information on the Surface Navy Association, their web site is here. Their next symposium, “Distributed Lethality: Enabling Sea Control,” is scheduled for January 10-12, 2017. Not sure the Coast Guard will have much to say about “distributed lethality” unless we start think about something like this.

ACERM–Another Light, Precise, Weapon to Hit Small Moving Targets

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81mm mortar used by the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era

It seems technology is making hitting small, fast, maneuverable targets with precision not only easier, but also cheaper.

We have talked before about the possibility of using small guided missiles (Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, or 70 mm guided rockets like APKWS) to allow the Coast Guard to engage small, fast, highly maneuverable threats, while minimizing the chances of collateral damage that accompany the use of unguided rounds from machineguns or auto cannon. Now there seems to be another alternative, and it even has a history of use by the Coast Guard, the 81 mm mortar.

Popular Mechanics reports the Marines will be getting a guided 81 mm round called ACERM (Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar) that will incorporate both a GPS, and potentially more importantly for the Coast Guard, a semi-active laser (SAL) guidance system that should provide a one meter circular error probability (CEP, that is 50% of the rounds will fall within one meter of where the laser is pointed). Additionally the round will have a range of about 18 kM, comparable to that of a 76 or 57 mm gun. Cost per round is expected to be about $10,000. That is more than the China Lake Spike, but range is much greater and the warhead is substantially larger.

The firecontrol computer/programmer is a two pound “Miniature Mission Setter,” in reality a rugged Android tablet.

ACERM

In addition to the Popular Mechanics post, I also found this power point presentation (pdf) that provides more detail.

The 81 mm mortars the Coast Guard used in the Vietnam era are all gone now, but they were hardly high tech, expensive, or difficult to produce.

Maybe we at least need the laser designator anyway:

Like some of the other systems considered, in addition to the mortar and mortar rounds, to use these effectively, we would need a laser designator. Based on a recent contract award, laser designators cost about $60,000 each.

Laser designators might be a good idea anyway. If we need to call in assistance from the Navy, Marine Corp, or particularly the Air Force or Army (who tend to be clueless about marine targets), one of the issues will be identifying the target, and a laser designator would be a good way to do that. Not only to identify the target, but also to show where we want them hit.

Limitations:

While the potential range of the 81mm mortar round may be over 18,000 yards, for our purposes, its effective range is probably limited by the range of the laser designator which can be further limited by atmospheric conditions like fog, rain, snow, smoke or sand storms (like might be encountered in the Persian Gulf). The Power Point brief does suggest that a small unmanned air system (sUAS) equipped with a designator, might be used to complement (and extend) the system.

Because this is a high angle weapon, with the projectile designed to strike the target in a vertical dive, and because the warhead uses “High Density Pre-Formed Fragments” that would presumably spread out horizontally, it probably would not be particularly effective against medium to large ships. It seems to be intended primarily as an antipersonnel weapon. The danger radius for fragments might even be an issue in some circumstances.

It is still a crew served weapon with the crew highly visible and exposed.

Advantages:

Unlike some missile in a box systems, this looks like a gun. It might have some deterrent value in some circumstances.

Reportedly it makes the 50 cal. mounted piggy back more accurate.

If we were in a situation like Market Time, where patrol boats might incidentally support troops ashore, this might be a good option.

Is it the “best” alternative?:

We have an array of possible systems to address the possibility of a maritime terrorist threats. Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, APKWS, the China Lake Spike, this smart 81 mm mortar round. All would probably be effective against smaller targets. None are likely to be fully effective against larger targets.

For the larger threats, I have been suggesting WPCs, and probably WPBs, be equipped with light weight torpedoes or even a variant of the anti-torpedo torpedo, to use as a ship stopper that could home on the target’s propellers,

LRASM might also be an alternative. Coordinating a long range LRASM strike is more complex and probably more expensive than the torpedo alternative. On the other hand, it would bring along with it a new naval wartime capability that would support the Navy’s “Distributed Lethality Initiative.”

We really need a set of capabilities that provide a high probability against any element of a spectrum of threats, because if any one element is not addressed, that is likely the element terrorists will select.

LRASM for Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security

Lockheed Martin supplied Navy Recognition with the first image showing a deck-mounted quadruple Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) launcher. According to our source, this "top side" launcher graphic is a notional concept that could be used on an appropriately sized surface vessel, such as the Arleigh Burke class (DDG 51) or Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) classes.

Discussion on an earlier post suggesting the Coast Guard might want to fit our new major cutters “for but not with” Long Range Anti-ship Missiles (LRASM) has prompted me to rethink the suggestion and advocate for equipping them with the missile in peacetime.

One of the Coast Guard’s peacetime missions is of course Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security (PWCS).

“The PWCS mission entails the protection of the U.S. Maritime Domain and the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) …prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks… Conducting PWCS deters terrorists from using or exploiting the MTS as a means for attacks on U.S. territory, population centers, vessels, critical infrastructure, and key resources.”

I have been concerned that the Coast Guard has not had adequate weapons to deal with a terrorist attack using a medium to large sized merchant ship, and currently I don’t believe there is any other organization capable of answering this threat in the 30 or more port complexes terrorists might find worthwhile targets, in a timely manner. Navy surface forces are too geographically concentrated. The over 200 nautical mile range and the ability to strike selected locations on a target ship suggest LRASM could possibly provide an answer.

If we had LRASM on all National Security Cutters (NSC) and Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), in perhaps a dozen ports on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, Honolulu and Kodiak, its over 200 mile range fired from cutters, including possibly those in port, could cover all of these ports (except Guam), and have a weapon on target within about 20 minutes of launch.

To effectively counter the threat, I think we need to get a weapon on target within an hour of positive identification of the threat. This would require improved coordination between units. In addition to providing a datum, course, and speed, presumably an intercepting unit, boat or aircraft, would need to transmit a photograph of the target to be incorporated in the missiles memory and aim points would be chosen some time during mission planning. We would need to coordinate with air traffic control. A command decision to authorize use of the weapon and updates on the target position course and speed would also be needed. Because we might have 40 minutes or less from threat identification to launch, these steps would likely have to proceed in parallel with mission planning progressing prior to authorization.

New units appear to be on the way to developing the kind of common tactical picture we need to facilitate both decision making and targeting. We could start developing the capability with the National Security Cutters based at Alameda (San Francisco Bay) and Charleston, SC, even if the system could not be completed until the last OPCs are delivered in about 2034.