Sea Fighter Analysis, U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, 2007

“Sea Fighter” in Coast Guard colors

Thought perhaps this study might be of interest, and did not want to loose the link to the study. Some of the conclusions seem to bear on any discussion of the important characteristics of Coast Guard cutters, particularly as our Maritime Domain Awareness improves.

Characteristics such as speed, crew size, deployable surface and air assets, and requirements for a reconfigurable mission bay would influence the design of any possible future Cutter X. In terms of deployable air assets, it is likely a helicopter/UAS combination would be preferable to the two helicopters considered here, and would make it easier to provide hangar space.

Any requirement for extremely high speed requires careful consideration of the attendant consequences, as we have seen in the LCS program, but we have known how to reliably get speeds up to 33 knots for decades.

I have provided the Executive Summary below.

(Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.)


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction/Objective

The U.S. Coast Guard (CG) Research and Development Center (R&DC) evaluated the U.S. Navy’s Sea Fighter vessel for potential applicability to CG missions. When compared to other CG cutters, Sea Fighter has four unique capabilities/characteristics that could significantly impact CG mission effectiveness:

  • High-speed (50 kts)
  • Multiple deployable surface and air assets (three 11m Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) (Cutter Boats Over-The-Horizon (CB-OTH)) or five 7m RHIBs (Short Range Prosecutors (SRP)), two HH-60s or two HH-65s, and multiple Vertical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (VUAVs))
  • Small crew size (26 persons)
  • Reconfigurable Mission bay (accommodates 12 mission modules)

Methodology

This project evaluated Sea Fighter’s unique capabilities through a combination of engagement modeling and simulation, human systems integration modeling, and Sea Fighter crew and shiprider insights (following multiple R&DC operational test and evaluation exercises).

Results

High-speed and multiple deployable assets were evaluated using engagement modeling. Scenarios were developed to simulate fishing-like vessels (lower speed with higher density) and drug smuggling-like vessels (higher speed with lower density). The results of the analysis showed that by themselves high-speed and multiple deployable assets made little improvement in mission effectiveness. However, as Sea Fighter’s sensor detection range and/or its off-board detection capability (a vital contributor to maritime domain awareness (MDA)) improved, highspeed and multiple deployable assets did lead to significant improvements in mission effectiveness. In the simulated scenarios, improving components of MDA (off-board detection capability) was the critical performance driver, followed closely by increasing intercept speed (from 30 to 50 kts) and increasing the number of deployable assets from two to four (particularly increasing the number of deployable helicopters). These improvements result in an almost 30 percent increase in the number of high-speed targets that can be boarded.

Crew size, required functions, and fatigue associated with a typical CG patrol were evaluated through human system integration (HSI) modeling. With Sea Fighter’s highly automated bridge and engine room, a 26-person crew can sustain many of the required functions. For a typical 14-day patrol, Sea Fighter’s crew could sustain normal Condition-3 watches, multiple boardings (some simultaneously), and multiple VUAV launches. However, HSI modeling showed that Sea Fighter’s crew could not sustain regularly scheduled helicopter flight operations.

To account for these deficiencies, the crew was optimized by adding two boatswain mates and a six-person detachment—Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), or Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT). This 28+6 optimal crew was able to sustain all required functions. In a typical 14-day patrol scenario, the 28+6 optimal crew averaged three boardings, two helicopter sorties, and three VUAV sorties each day without exceeding acceptable fatigue levels.

Finally, crew and shipriders provided firsthand observations and insights relative to Sea Fighter’s unique capabilities. Some key insights are:

  • High-speed capability is a distinct advantage in a vessel accomplishing any law enforcement mission and is especially effective at intercepting fast, evasive, and uncooperative targets.
  • Sea Fighter’s ride quality at low speed (less than 15 kts) is very poor and can adversely affect operations or activities; however, ride quality significantly improves at higher speeds (20+kts). The trade off is largely due to hull design consideration made during Sea Fighter’s planning phase.
  • RHIB launch and recovery is limited to 5 kts due to the poorly designed stern ramp and vessel movements at low (less than 15 kts) speeds.
  • A crew of 26 is too small for typical CG operations.
  • Overall, ship layout and configuration are excellent. Bridge layout affords excellent visibility, internal communications, and improved situational awareness with all underway watchstanders located on the bridge. Flight deck lighting, configuration, and manning are exceptional from both a crew and pilot perspective.
  • Sea Fighter’s mission bay can provide remarkable mission flexibility, especially for deployable teams such as MSRTs or MSSTs. However, spaces for 12 mission modules seem a bit excessive for CG needs. In addition, the design of the X-Y crane prohibits moving payloads (including extra 11m or 7m RHIBs) while underway.

Conclusion

A 50-kt Sea Fighter-like vessel with four deployable assets (two 11m OTH RHIBs and two HH60 helicopters) can provide significant performance improvement compared to a traditional 30-kt CG vessel (CG High-Endurance Cutter (WHEC) or CG Patrol Boat (WPB)).

A highly automated Sea Fighter-like vessel, with the crew size of a patrol boat, provides more mission capability than a WHEC. The ModCAT hullform and large mission bay provide excellent flexibility for emerging CG missions and demands. Sea Fighter’s speed and multiple deployable asset capability offer outstanding performance improvement potential for the CG; however, a critical enabler is improving detection capabilities – an element of maritime domain awareness. As MDA improves, a 50-kt patrol vessel capable of deploying four assets could provide a tremendous improvement over current and future 30-kt vessels.

Recommendations

The CG needs to continue to evaluate non-standard hull forms such as ModCAT-type vessels for both speed and modularity purposes. High-speed vessels normally have endurance problems based on their fuel consumption rates. This has been one of the perceived shortcomings of this hullform type. However, the ModCAT hullform (i.e. Sea Fighter) provides very good fuel economy and, given the typical patrol profile (12 kt patrol speed, 20 kt transit speed, and 50 kt intercept speed), the vessel is capable of remaining within the patrol area for an entire patrol period. Opportunities exist for the CG to further evaluate other Navy/DOD high-speed vessels (HSV) such as the M88 Stiletto for MSRT type missions and the HSV platforms, HSV Swift and HSV Joint Venture, for extended duration missions.

Additionally, the CG should look at ways to optimize the number and type of deployable and off-board assets through a more detailed M&S analysis. A 50 kt Sea Fighter-like cutter with four deployable assets (e.g., two 11 m OTH RHIBs and two HH-60 helicopters) can provide significant mission performance improvement compared to a standard 30 kt cutter. To maximize the benefit from embarking four deployable assets (two 11 m OTH RHIBs and two HH-60s), a revised approach to boardings would need to be established. Currently, boardings are to be conducted within two hours from the WHEC (at the WHEC’s maximum speed). Under the MSRT CONOPs, the boarding teams would need to be trained similar to MSRTs which are able to defend themselves while conducting a boarding at greater distances from the patrol vessel.

The CG needs to continue to incorporate more automated systems on-board cutters, but have contingency plans (both personnel and equipment) in place for changes in operational requirements or causalities. In order to derive optimal mission effectiveness, the patrol cutter must be able to safely navigate and operate deployable assets in varying sea states and at a reasonable speed. Sea Fighter’s automated systems allow for these evolutions to be conducted with fewer crew members and with an acceptable margin for safety.

Defending the Homeland

Air Force Magazine talks about how decisions are made when it comes to defending the “Homeland”. It is pretty unwieldy now, but there is hope that it can be streamlined.

The Coast Guard needs to be part of this, both as Maritime Domain Awareness sensors, and as potential response assets.

As new systems are designed, we need to make sure the Coast Guard is included.

Maritime Domain Awareness Executive Steering Committee, “NOAA joins federal maritime security team to support the American blue economy”

Cruise ships are docked at PortMiami, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Below is a NOAA news release about their participation in the Maritime Domain Awareness Executive Steering Committee. Have to say it was news to me that there is a Maritime Domain Awareness Executive Steering Committee. It is all about topics of concern to us. 


August 28, 2020
This month, NOAA, representing the Department of Commerce, and together with the Department of State became the two newest principal members of the Maritime Domain Awareness Executive Steering Committee.
Container ship operations at the Port of New York/New Jersey

The committee is tasked with carrying out the National Strategy for Maritime Security as well as Presidential Policy Directive 18: Maritime Security. There is a strong connection between maritime and economic security, so the group focuses on:

  • ensuring the lawful, continuous and efficient flow of commerce and activities;
  • sharing information to protect maritime activities from exploitation, disruption, and other threats;
  • and preserving our nation’s rights, freedoms, and use of the sea and airspace.

The committee originally included principal members from the Departments of Defense, Transportation and Homeland Security, along with the designated maritime member of the intelligence community from the National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office. The addition of NOAA and State representatives is the first expansion of the committee since its formation in 2010.

“We are pleased to join the executive steering committee and assist in ensuring our nation’s maritime security,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “NOAA’s expertise in countering illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, as well as big-data analytics, charting, exploration, and ocean and weather observations will be a valuable addition to the committee’s work.”

$5.4 trillion:

Economic activity generated by U.S. seaports annually

NOAA’s proficiency in collecting and analyzing large data sets has made it a world leader in many fields including weather prediction and understanding the marine environment. Expanding data collection capabilities by deploying autonomous marine systems and leveraging partnerships with private sector organizations gives NOAA an important perspective of the maritime domain.

NOAA supports the American blue economy and maritime commerce in various ways every day. NOAA’s efforts countering IUU fishing practices make American fisheries more competitive in the global marketplace. After severe weather, NOAA is among the first responders working to re-open ports. Furthermore, the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System (PORTS®) combined with an increasing awareness of the seafloor make the coastal economy safer and more efficient.

Media contact
Scott Smullen, 202-494-6515

“The Coast Guard Needs to Listen—Acoustically” –USNI

Source: WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION

The US Naval Institute Proceedings has an article recommending that the Coast Guard exploit acoustics to enhance its Maritime Domain Awareness.

The author provides some examples of how acoustics have proven this capability in the past.

Using SOSUS,

“In 1961, the Navy successfully tracked the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) during her transoceanic voyage from the United States to the United Kingdom, demonstrating the ability to acoustically track vessels over global distances.”

It has found a limited application within the Coast Guard,

The Coast Guard already is using passive acoustic monitoring to autonomously detect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and notify nearby mariners. Despite the program’s success, it has not expanded beyond the single Coast Guard facility in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Leveraging this remote-sensing ability would allow the Coast Guard to reduce its reliance on expensive aircraft patrol hours while providing the same level of service:

It apparently could have been used to monitor fishing activity.

 “A series of experiments supported by the Navy, Coast Guard, and National Marine Fisheries Service were conducted from 1992 to 1995 that explored the possibility of using SoSuS to track vessels fishing illegally. The experiment was a resounding success—results showed that SoSuS could be used to detect, identify, and monitor (this link is to a 468 page pdf — I did not see the article in question–Chuck) individual driftnet and trawling fishing vessels in the Bering Sea and northern Pacific Ocean. Despite promising results, the service failed to move to an acoustic-based enforcement approach.”

While I can find fault with the article, the author’s main thrust that the Coast Guard is not exploiting a part of the spectrum that could help maintain a picture of what is happening offshore is certainly true. Because we no longer have sonar or ASW expertise, we no longer have a window into what acoustic sensors have to offer.

While probably true that the Coast Guard might be able to establish acoustic surveillance over limited areas of special interest, if we are going to have a comprehensive system, we would likely have to ride the Navy’s coat tails.

A Navy system that listens for submarines could also listen for trawlers. It could detect vessels that have turned off their AIS. It might cue us that a terrorist controlled vessel is headed for a US Port; or that a merchant or fishing vessel is laying mines; or that a vessel is doing clandestine monitoring of our submarine operations.

This is also another way to track and identify vessels that may be illegally dumping.

This could even help with SAR. When I was an 8th District RCC controller in the early 70s, we had a tanker explode offshore, only we did not know that it had happened for several days. The day it happened we got a report of smoke. I sent an aircraft to investigate, but we found nothing but the smoke. Smoke was not uncommon, given all the offshore oil wells that flared gas. A few days later we got a report of a missing tanker. We searched and ultimately found its mast above water. It had been cleaning tanks closer to shore than it should have been, and had had a catastrophic explosion that ripped through 25 of its 27 cargo tanks. An acoustic monitoring system would almost certainly have picked that up. Anytime a ship sinks, the collapsing of bulkheads as air filled compartments are crushed should also be heard.

As the author points out, and as we have mentioned many times here, towed arrays on cutters could help us locate low profile drug smuggling vessels (drug subs).

 

“Why NATO Needs a Standing Maritime Group in the Arctic” –CIMSEC

NoCGV Svalbard (W303), an icebreaker and offshore patrol vessel of the Norwegian Coast Guard (Kystvakten).

A recent CIMSEC article makes a case for a standing NATO group in the Arctic.

“…NATO needs to improve its capability and capacity to operate on the Arctic front. In order to deter the Russian threat and safeguard maritime security, sustained presence in the region is needed. To this end, NATO should create a new standing maritime group dedicated to the Arctic and separate from the maritime groups focused elsewhere.


“Instead of relying exclusively on frigates and destroyers from NATO navies to form the new group, NATO should look to its coast guards as well, recognizing that many of these forces field ships that are optimized for Arctic operations.”

The post also sees a standing NATO Group as a counter to Chinese militarization of the Arctic as well,

“How China might move to militarize the Arctic is anyone’s guess, but its 2018 white paper on the Arctic, as summarized by Lieutenant Commander Rachel Gosnell, USN, clearly states China’s interests in the region, and it has plans to protect them. While much of the paper touts adherence to international law, the world has very little reason to believe China will do so. One example of how China could move to militarize the Arctic is on the back of its seemingly benign fishing fleet. China has stated it has inherent rights to the fish migrating to the Arctic because of its large population. And where China’s fishing fleet goes, militarization will soon follow, as has been demonstrated already by Chinese fishing “militias.””

My take:

While I earlier I suggested something similar for the Western Pacific, a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific,” a maritime law enforcement alliance between Asian nations and other interested parties (probably including the US, Australia, France, and New Zealand) to ensure a rules based maritime environment in the Western Pacific, the situation in the Arctic is very different. 

A picture taken on November 16, 2011 from a South Korean helicopter shows Chinese boats banded together with ropes, chased by a coastguard helicopter and rubber boats packed with commandoes, after alleged illegal fishing in South Korean waters in the Yellow Sea.
Credit: Dong-A-Ilbo

In the Western Pacific, multi-unit cooperation is desirable to push back against Chinese bullying of her neighbors. Huge numbers of fishing vessels including many that are Chinese maritime militia, backed by Chinese Coast Guard vessels, can overwhelm and intimidate individual enforcement vessels. They have even been known to be violent. Having numerous international witnesses on scene can counter the Chinese narrative. So far we are not seeing huge Chinese fishing fleets in the Arctic.

Certainly we can benefit from international cooperation and coordination in the Arctic, for now at least, a wide ranging dispersal of assets, rather than concentration seems more appropriate.

A Combined Interagency Task Force (or maybe two), modeled on our Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) but including staff from other Arctic nations rather than a grouping of ships, might be a better near term solution. (In considering a “Freedom of Navigation Operation” through the Northern Sea Route, former USCG Commandant, Admiral Zukunft, even suggested formation of a JIATF–Arctic based on an augmented JTF Alaska.)  Missions potentially include SAR, Environmental Protection, and Fisheries Protection. Those concerns, have been to some extent addressed by the Arctic Coast Guard Forum. For now at least, Russia shares those interests. 

The limits:

In the CIMSEC article, there is discussion about the possibility of “Freedom of Navigation Operations” through the Northern Sea Route. Canada is likely to side with Russia on this question, because they consider the North West Passage Canadian internal waters.

Communications in the far North are still difficult. Recently the Commandant noted the difficulty of maintaining communications with USCGC Healy.

Western nations’ access to the Arctic is limited to widely separated Pacific and Atlantic Approaches. Inevitably we have to see the Arctic as two separate theaters. The Arctic Ocean that we approach from the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean approached from the Pacific.

While Russia actually has naval bases in the Arctic, Western nations generally do not. The only exceptions are Sortland Norway where the Norwegian Coast Guard has their headquarters and Northern base, and Nanisivik, where Canada has converted a former mining site to a refueling station near the Eastern Entrance to the North West Passage.

The US has no Navy bases in Alaska. On the Atlantic side, the US Navy has no surface vessels based north of the Virginia Capes. The US Coast Guard has no ice-capable vessels larger than large buoy tenders (WLBs) based on the Atlantic side. Basing for future USCG medium icebreakers has not be made public. 

Canada is building eight Harry DeWolf class ice-strengthened “Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships,” six for the Navy and two for their Coast Guard.

Canada has no true naval bases in the Arctic, though their bases are further north than those of the US. Denmark patrols Greenland waters from Naval Base Frederikshavn on the Jutland peninsula. Sweden and Finland extend above the Arctic circle, but they have no coast line on the Arctic Ocean. Iceland is just below the Arctic Circle.

What we can do: 

A comprehensive common NATO operational picture of the Arctic and its approaches is desirable and doable. There are probably economies possible in maintaining air surveillance over the Arctic access points.

Icelandic Coast Guard Cutter Thor. Photo credit: Claus Ableiter

What is in place?:

We have the Arctic Coast Guard Forum.

Denmark has a Joint Arctic Command for the defense of Greenland and the Faroe Islands Area.

Canada has a Joint Task Force (North) and exercises annually under the name Operation Nanook. The US Coast Guard has participated in Operation Nanook at least three times.

Pacific Area Coast Guard, Third Fleet, and Canada’s Maritime Forces Pacific have been in discussion, but it does not appear that the Arctic was high on their agenda.

What we lack:

Seems a good next step would be a standing staff, to maintain maritime domain awareness of activities in the Arctic, and coordinate cooperative international monitoring efforts.

Do we include the Russian? Good question, but they may currently have the best information about what is going on in the Arctic.

“Cooperative Maritime Law Enforcement and Overfishing in the South China Sea” –CIMSEC

Republic of Korea Coast Guard vessel #3006 in company with U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in August 2007. This forum was created to increase international maritime safety and security in the Northern Pacific Ocean and its borders. The Boutwell worked with the Korean coast guard while on their way to Yokosuka, Japan. The Japanese coast guard is one of the six nations involved in the forum.

CIMSEC brings us a discussion of the possibility of cooperative fisheries enforcement in the South China Sea to stop both overfishing and Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing and perhaps bring China into a more mutually beneficial relationship with her neighbors.

Earlier, I had a suggestion about how we might form an instrument of cooperative enforcement by forming a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific,” a law enforcement alliance rather than a military one.

Probably before that could be fully realized, the various nations with competing claims to the waters of the South China Sea, need to take their claims to the UN’s International Tribunal. The more nations use it, the more pressure on China to participate. If, they do not present a cases before the international their claims will be weakened.

 

“Hellenic Coast Guard Testing Tethered Aerostat for FRONTEX Mission” –Naval News

Aerostat being tested by the Hellenic Coast Guard for FRONTEX.

Naval News reports that the Hellenic Coast Guard is doing something of a 28 day comparison test between land based and Aerostat based surveillance systems on the island of Samos.

Putting a radar at 1000 meters should provide a radar horizon of about 70 nautical miles and allow detection of a 50 foot high target at up to 79 miles.

Maritime Domain Awareness–Indian Style

Display of maritime traffic provided by AIS. Only vessels equipped with AIS are displayed, which excludes most fishing boats, pleasure craft, inland navigation and vessels less than 300 tons. Location: Dover Straits/English Channel. Author: fr:User:Pline

NavyRecognition provides some information on what India is doing to maintain Maritime Domain Awareness.

Since the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, they have made a strong effort to monitor marine traffic. An earlier discussion and links to related topics here.

Capacity Building in North Africa

Photo: Maritime Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class Joe Kelly, a U.S. Coast Guardsman, demonstrates tactical combat casualty care during a training session at Phoenix Express on March 26, 2019.
ARIF PATANI/U.S. NAVY

Stars and Stripes reports on Exercise Phoenix Express 2019 and apparently the Coast Guard was there. It makes sense because this, like Exercise Obangame Express, was a law enforcement capacity building exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). I have reproduced a Navy news release below.

——-

CASABLANCA, Morocco (NNS) — Exercise Phoenix Express 2019, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), concluded with a closing ceremony held at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center, April 6.

Phoenix Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

The complexity of today’s security environment and the interconnectedness of a global economy demand that we operate together to deter maritime threats,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Zirkle, Chief of Staff, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. “An effective global security strategy therefore must be collaborative in order to disrupt the flow of illicit trafficking and prevent the spread of violent extremism.”

This year’s exercise control group was hosted at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center located in Casablanca, Morocco with training taking place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters off the coast of northern African nations.

The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking. Additionally, forces participated in a port exercise (PORTEX), which incorporated Moroccan law enforcement into the scenario.

“Exercises like Phoenix Express are about working together to combat threats at-sea that impact safety and security ashore,” said Capt. Matthew Hawkins, U.S. exercise lead for Phoenix Express. “Our modern challenges are far too complex for any one nation to resolve and it is my hope that the scenarios practiced here and the addition of new training like the PORTEX are value added for all participants.”

“Many years after it started Phoenix Express has proven that regional cooperation is the best way to face maritime threats and issues,” said Royal Moroccan Navy Inspector General, Rear Admiral Mostapha El Alami. “AFRICOM and Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) have spent a lot of time, effort, and energy to bring together most of the maritime states in the Mediterranean basin in order to enhance military cooperation between them and allow them to work as one team.”

“Exercise Phoenix Express is the most enduring event of all the Express-series exercises. It incorporates complex scenarios, which evolve year over year just as the maritime threats we all face continue to evolve,” said Zirkle. “It is my sincere hope that your navies were enriched by this immensely valuable opportunity to operate together.”

Nations who participated in Phoenix Express 2019 included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States.

Phoenix Express, sponsored by AFRICOM and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.