“ONR SCOUT Tests Tech for Monitoring Illicit Maritime Cargo” –Seapower

The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports,

 To improve capabilities for monitoring aircraft and vessels carrying illicit maritime cargo such as drugs, for longer periods of time and over greater distances, the Office of Naval Research-sponsored SCOUT initiative recently conducted a dynamic experimentation event at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Virginia, at the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay.
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The goal of the event was to find creative solutions to pinpoint “dark targets” — aircraft or watercraft operating with little to no radio-frequency signatures — found in maritime operating areas covered by the Joint Interagency Task Force South, ONR said in a Sept. 19 release. It sought ways to use unmanned technologies to expand intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities beyond those of traditional maritime patrol aircraft such as the P-3 Orion and P-8 Poseidon.

Notably this includes aircraft as well as surface craft.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

USNI Proceedings Coast Guard Issue

USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913), Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC-1147), and John Scheuerman (WPC-1146)

Sorry this post is going to ramble a bit.

The Prize Winning Essays: 

The August issue of the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings is again the “Coast Guard Issue,” and includes the three winning essays in their Coast Guard Essay contest.

First prize went to prolific author and repeat winner, Cdr. Craig Allen, Jr., USCG for his “Expeditionary Cutter Deployments Should Not Be a Mission to Mars.” It talks about some of the logistical difficulties encountered. His comments about the integrated C5ISR, navigation, and engineering systems and “controlled parts exchanges (taking working parts from one cutter and installing them in another) to deploy on schedule and/or remain underway” are partiuclarly troubling.

He offered three suggestions about how to make the Coast Guard more deployable.

  • Improved cutter self-sustainability.
  • Forward operating bases
  • Mission support cutter.

I would note that large cutters are probably already have more self-sustainability than their Navy counterparts making extended single ship deployments with minimal support easier for cutters than for Navy ships, but it does sound like we have made some choices that may put those capabilities at risk.

It is probably diplomatically easier to establish a Coast Guard forward operating base than one for the Navy, particularly in Latin America. Realistically we are probably only talking about a base in the Eastern Pacific, near the drug transit zone. To make that happen would probaby require some initiative from SOUTHCOM.

Elsewhere we could probably ride the coat tails of the Navy and our allies including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands.

The mission support cutter, or, more generally, a floating base might be addressed in a number of ways. Presumably SOUTHCOM will get their own Expeditionary Sea Base. Wherever it is moored will become a defacto forward operating base. There should be room aboard for priority Coast Guard unique support requirements. Unfortunately I understand, dispite their tanker origins, they don’t carry fuel for tranfer to other ships. That is unfortunate, but probably something that could be fixed. Any kind of forward operating base could make Webber class deployments to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones much more productive.

Effectively the Coast Guard has already been using buoy tenders as mission support cutters for Webber class in the Western Pacific.

One might think that a Navy owned MSC vessel might make a good mission support vessel, but the underway replenishment vessels they have currently, are far too large to be dedicated to supporting routine Coast Guard operations.

Something  to consider might be a routine teaming of Charleston based National Security Cutters (NSC) with District 7 Webber class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs). A NSC and a pair of FRCs could make a very effective team, with the NSC providing underway replenishment for the FRCs. There are three NSC in based in Charleston now and there are expected to be five when the program is completed. There are currently 20 FRCs based in district 7. These ships are the closest of their type to the Eastern Pacific Drug Transit Zones.

Second prize went to “The World’s Fishermen as a Maritime Sensor Network,” by Lieutenant Holden Takahashi, USCG, that suggest a cell phone based reporting system could provide additional eyes to Maritime Domain Awareness systems.

Third prize went to “Lost At Sea: Teaching, Studying, and Promoting Coast Guard History,” by Lt. Christopher Booth, USCG, and Mark Snell, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary contending,

“To foster pride in its heritage and promote its historic accomplishments to the public, the Coast Guard cannot continue to ignore its past. It must make a major shift in how it approaches, teaches, promotes, and preserves its history. The Coast Guard must rescue the history and heritage of “that long line of expert seamen” and their contributions to the nation, so they are no longer lost at sea.”

Other Posts of Interest:

There are also other posts that directly address the Coast Guard or at least would involve the Coast Guard.

A Campaign Plan for the South China Sea,” by Captain Joshua Taylor, U.S. Navy advocates for persistent low-end presence.

A South China Sea campaign that translates these principles into action in a resource- and diplomatically constrained—but feasible and effective—manner should be organized around the following lines of effort and accompanying messages:

  • Beat Cop. Persistent low-end presence—“The United States has skin in the game.”
  • Neighborhood Watch. Build a regional coalition— “We are stronger together.”
  • Vigilance. Information sharing—“We are always watching.”

ln terms of information sharing, also mentioned was this Maritime Domain Awareness program that I was not aware of.

Since 2016, the United States has invested more than $425 million through the Maritime Security Initiative to help Indo-Pacific countries develop the ability to “sense, share, and contribute” to a regional recognized maritime picture (RMP). While some of these funds have purchased secure communication systems, the standout success story has been the U.S. Department of Transportation’s unclassified web-based SeaVision maritime domain awareness and coordination tool. Drawing on government and commercially contracted datastreams, SeaVision fuses information from terrestrial and satellite Automated Identification System data, the satellite Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, satellite synthetic aperture radar, and—soon—satellite electronic signal detection to form a high-quality unclassified RMP that could support a countercoercion campaign in the South China Sea. Indeed, naval services throughout Southeast Asia already use it—with the notable exception of the U.S. Navy.

(My own ideas for a persistent low-end presence are here, Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific.)

The Coast Guard’s Firefighting Fiction,” by Chief Boatswain’s Mate Phillip Null, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) suggests the Coast Guard should take a more active role in marine fire fight.

“Recent tragedies have shown the need for the Coast Guard to revisit its stance on firefighting, not to supplant municipalities or absolve them of their responsibilities, but to support them with real capabilities and expertise and to provide capability in unprotected waters to avert tragedy. The Coast Guard trains and equips its cutter crews to combat fires on board their own vessels, the success of which was recently demonstrated on board the cutter Waesche (WMSL-751) during a Pacific transit.8 Now it needs only to increase the capacity and foam-delivery capability of the pumps carried on its boats, expand the training and equipment available to its boat crews who operate in coastal regions where fire poses the greatest threat, and revise policies that limit involvement and inhibit on-scene decision-making even in unprotected waters.

While on the topic of maritime firefighting, take a look at this post by Cdr Sal, “How Many Fireboats Can You Buy for $1.2 Billion?” that discusses the Navy’s lack of fireboats. In so many cases, a less than optimal resourse on scene in a timely manner is far better that the perfect resource arriving late. Perhaps Coast Guard assets could have helped.

Some people in the Coast Guard are thinking about major ship fires, “Coast Guard, Long Beach and LA fire departments train for maritime fires.

“Coast Guard awards contract for C-130J missionization” –CG-9

Coast Guard C130J

This isn’t your father’s C-130.

Below is an announcement of a contract by the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9).

Just take a moment to consider that the Coast Guard is spending an additional $24.5M on each brand new C-130J to increase their capability. These are not ASW aircraft, but they are serious maritime patrol aircraft with state of the art capability for maritime domain awareness.

Their unique capabilities need to be included in planning for any future major naval conflict.


Coast Guard awards contract for C-130J missionization

The Coast Guard awarded a contract to L-3 Communications Integrated Systems LP (L3Harris) July 12 for the missionization of up to six C-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft.

The firm fixed price contract is for the production, installation and delivery of the Minotaur Mission System Suite and a Block 8.1 upgrade for the 17th and 18th C-130J aircraft in the fleet. The contract also includes options for missionization of aircraft 19-22, which will have the Block 8.1 upgrade installed during baseline production at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Potential total value of the contract is $147 million.

Work will be completed at L3Harris’ Waco, Texas, facility. Minotaur incorporates sensors, radar and command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment necessary to carry out Coast Guard missions and offers significant increases in processing speed and memory capacity.

The Block 8.1 upgrade adds new and advanced capabilities, including enhanced inter-communication system, enhanced approach and landing systems, expanded diagnostics, civil GPS and additional covert lighting.

The HC-130J carries out many Coast Guard missions, including search and rescue, drug and migrant interdiction, cargo and personnel transport and maritime stewardship. The aircraft is capable of serving as an on-scene command and control platform or as a surveillance platform with the means to detect, classify and identify objects and share that information with operational forces.

For more information: HC-130J Long Range Surveillance Aircraft Program page

“U.N. campaign targets illicit fishing” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

A picture taken on November 16, 2011 from a South Korean helicopter shows Chinese fishermen wielding sticks to stop an attack by South Korean coastguard commandoes armed with clubs aboard rubber boats during a crackdown on alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea off the southwestern coast county of Buan. South Korea’s coastguard mobilised 12 ships, four helicopters and commandoes for a special three-day crackdown on illegal fishing by Chinese boats this week. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT AFP PHOTO / DONG-A ILBO (Photo credit should read DONG-A ILBO/AFP/Getty Images)

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum reports that today is the United Nations’ “International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.”

The humanitarian and economic fallout of illicit fishing is significant in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere. Each year it deprives the world’s oceans of 11 million to 26 million metric tons of fish and other seafood worth an estimated U.S. $10 billion to $23 billion.

IUU fishing accounts for 1 in 5 fish caught worldwide, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports.

The short report provides an overview of the problem, identifies the Chinese fishing fleet and the most agrediuous perpetrator, and discusses what is being done to address the problem.

One of the recent steps taken is the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA) discussed here. Perhaps an additional step could be something like my proposal for a Combined Maritime Security Task Force.

“US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation” –PAC AREA News Release / “Royal Navy and US Coast Guard to Forge Closer Bonds”

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)

The Coast Guard has been busy increasing its international visibility. Below is a news release concerning increased cooperation with the Japanese Coast Guard that came out yesterday. Today, I see a SeaWaves report, also dated yesterday that,

“The Royal Navy and US Coast Guard have vowed to work more closely to fight crime and protect the planet. The two services already combine to stop drugs traffickers in the Caribbean and Middle East, assist each other with operations in the polar regions, run exchange programs for sailors and frequently work and train side-by-side around the globe.”

The new relationship with the Royal Navy includes expanded personnel postings that began back in 2014.

There are also plans to build on already successful exchange programs, which allows USCG engineers to work with the Royal Navy but will soon also allow pilots and aircrew to do the same. (emphasis applied–Chuck)

Perhaps we are not too far from exercising something like my proposed “Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific” with a US Coast Guard Cutter, a Japanese Coast Guard Cutter, and a Royal Navy River Class OPV working with navies and coast guards of SE Asia to protect their EEZ. Perhaps the Indian Coast Guard will join as well.

News Release

May 19, 2022
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation

US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation US, Japan coast guards formally expand cooperation

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

TOKYO — The United States and Japan coast guards formally expanded cooperative agreements and established a new perpetual operation during a ceremony Wednesday in Tokyo.

Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, and Vice Adm. Yoshio Seguchi, Japan Coast Guard vice commandant for operations, represented their respective services during the historic document signing ceremony and celebration at Japan Coast Guard Headquarters.

Although a memorandum of cooperation between the sea services has existed since 2010, strengthened relationships, increasing bilateral engagements and continued focus on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific necessitated expansion of the memorandum.

The new operation’s name, SAPPHIRE, is an acronym for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule of law based Engagement, and it honors the gem regarded as an emblem of integrity and affection found throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Operation Sapphire encompasses all the annual interactions between the Japan and U.S. coast guards, with the goal of increasing interactions over time.

To formalize the expanded cooperation, annexes were added to the existing memorandum of cooperation outlining Operation Sapphire to include standard operating procedures for combined operations, training and capacity building, and information sharing.

“We rely on our partners, allies, and like-minded nations to achieve our shared missions,” said McAllister. “As evidenced by this agreement, our relationship with the Japan Coast Guard is stronger than ever, and I am looking forward to many more decades of partnership and collaborative operations in the Indo-Pacific.”

“We will conduct smooth cooperation in the fields of joint operation, capacity building and information sharing by this agreement” said Seguchi. “Sapphire embodies the rule-of-law based engagement between the coast guards, and we will expand the principle of Free and Open Indo-Pacific to other nations.”

 

“Obangame Express 2022 Promotes Cooperation To Fight Sea Crime” –ADF Magazine

Members of the U.S. Navy share critical care techniques with the Senegalese Navy during Obangame Express 2022. U.S. NAVY

I got a reminder that the Obangame Exercise 2022 had concluded (Brazil sent an OPV), so I went looking for some information about possible Coast Guard participation. I found none, although I feel sure at least some special teams were involved.

This report from AFRICOM’s African Defense Forum does include an interesting note,

One important element of the exercise is practicing the use of SeaVision, a maritime domain awareness tool that helps professionals in the operations center track vessels at sea. Created in 2012 by the U.S., this tool is used by about 25 African countries to monitor their waters.

Is this system system something the Coast Guard uses? Is it used by our friends in Latin America? SE Asia? Sounds interesting.

“U.S. forges maritime technology collaborations to improve domain awareness” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum brings us news of a Navy sponsored Maritime Domain Awareness program that may be very useful to the Coast Guard.

Recent successes include the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL’s) new program, called Proteus, to identify, query and filter maritime vessels based on user-defined criteria and the Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU’s) international competition, known as xView3, to create machine learning models to locate and distinguish maritime vessels with synthetic aperture radar.

“Artificial intelligence combined with satellite imagery provides a new capability to detect suspected IUU fishing vessels that may otherwise elude U.S. and partner nations fisheries enforcement agencies. This increased maritime domain awareness can be shared with like-minded partner nations to enable them to protect their sovereignty.”

The NRL’s Proteus software, pictured, monitors sea vessels so stakeholders can “collaboratively discover and investigate suspicious and illegal maritime activity throughout the world in ways never before possible,” said Cameron Naron, the U.S. Maritime Administration’s maritime security director.

A description here by the US Naval Research Laboratory.

“PROTEUS is an exciting new U.S. government Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) system providing a powerful array of MDA information and analysis tools,” said Cameron Naron, Director of Maritime Security, US Maritime Administration. “This system enables MDA stakeholders to collaboratively discover and investigate suspicious and illegal maritime activity throughout the world in ways never before possible.”

  • Additional actions supported by PROTEUS include: Counter Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF)
  • Maritime Protected Areas (MPAs)
  • Search and Rescue (SAR)
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • Environmental Protection & Response
  • Maritime Law Enforcement
  • Counter smuggling (drugs, weapons, money, people)

This could be of assistance to any nation attempting to counter Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported fishing, including the island nations of the Western Pacific, who are desperately short on resources to monitor their ocean assets.

“Predicting illegal fishing activity is tip of the iceberg for mature AI technology” –BAE

BAE Systems technology applies machine learning analytics to automate low-level detection of activities of interest, such as fishing, from available data streams.

Below is a company press release, but it is an interesting one, with relevance to Coast Guard missions. The Obangame Express Exercise is one the Coast Guard has participated in, in the past. More info on the exercise here and here.


BAE Systems technology applies machine learning analytics to automate low-level detection of activities of interest, such as fishing, from available data streams.

The old “finding a needle in a haystack” analogy doesn’t begin to articulate the challenge associated with illegal fishing detection and identification. While a ship may be larger than a needle, the ocean is certainly larger than your biggest haystack. Add the need to not only find the ship, but determine its recent activities, anticipate future movements, and compare them with all other ships in the area — and do it in near real-time using open source data feeds.

At the Obangame Express event, which is the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western Africa, BAE Systems’ Multi-INT Analytics for Pattern Learning and Exploitation (MAPLE) as a Service, MaaS for short, was integrated with SeaVision, the U.S. Navy’s premier tool for unclassified interagency and coalition maritime data sharing. SeaVision is a maritime situational awareness tool that ingests maritime vessel position data from various government and commercial sources and simultaneously displays them on the same screen in a web browser.

“Military organizations use illegal fishing as a model application due to the unclassified nature of the available data,” said Neil Bomberger, chief scientist at BAE Systems’ FAST LabsTM research and development organization. “Successful detection of illegal fishing activity helps address a serious challenge and highlights another use case for our mature artificial intelligence technology.”

Giving depth to data

While manual analysis of individual vessel tracks is possible, it gets exponentially more challenging and time-consuming for large numbers of vessels. BAE Systems technology applies machine learning analytics to automate low-level detection of activities of interest, such as fishing, from available data streams. This enables analysts to quickly answer time-sensitive questions, prioritize manual data analysis activities, identify higher-level trends, and focus on decision-making instead of manual data analysis.

During the event, BAE Systems’ MaaS technology processed streaming data and automatically detected vessel behavior events that SeaVision displayed as an additional data layer to support user-friendly and timely analysis. The technology provides full visibility into the data to allow the users to check whether the detected behavior warrants further investigation. This helps build trust in the automation and supports additional analysis.

Decades in the making

BAE Systems’ FAST Labs maritime sensemaking capabilities are rooted in artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. Backed by nearly two decades of development, their behavior recognition and pattern analysis capabilities continue to show significant utility in real-world environments.

The cloud-based artificial intelligence technology was matured via work on the Geospatial Cloud Analytics (GCA) program. In the months since the successful event, the FAST Labs organization has continued to develop and mature its autonomy portfolio. Elements of its autonomy technology have proven successful in multiple domains including air, land, and sea.

“This successful event delivers on the promise of mature artificial intelligence technology – easy to integrate, incorporating trust, and providing fast and actionable information in a real-world scenario,” continued Bomberger. “The event showcased how our artificial intelligence technology can be deployed in a cloud environment, integrated with a government tool, and used to address relevant maritime activities.”

“U.S. upgrades Bahamas’ maritime security” –The Watch

Source: CIA, The World Factbook, 2004.

NORTHCOM’s on-line magazine, “The Watch,” reports,

“The United States recently bolstered maritime security in the Bahamas by delivering a radar system to its partner in the Caribbean region.

“The U.S. $2.4 million-dollar MSS (Maritime Surveillance System–Chuck) is part of a commitment of more than $10 million to empower the Bahamas to better ensure the safety and security of its vast archipelago, the news release said. The radar is the second MSS installed with funding from USNORTHCOM, the first having become operational on the island of Great Inagua in 2019. Third and fourth systems have been proposed for Ragged Island and Great Exuma.”

There is more of course.

Now, do we have comparable systems on Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands?