“HMS Medway, U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment Seize Cocaine in Caribbean” –Seapower

HMS MEDWAY and her embarked US Coastguard Law Enforcement team interdicted a vessel carrying over 400kg of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea, 29 Sep 22. Initially spotted by a US Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the ship chased down the boat before the Coastguard boarding team discovered the drugs and detained three individuals. The operation, which lasted overnight, then concluded with the vessel being sunk by Medway’s weapons systems.

A hat tip to our Royal Navy friends. The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports,

A Royal Navy ship and U.S. Coast Guard boarding team seized more than 400 kilograms of cocaine worth around £24m on Britain’s streets from a boat in the Caribbean, the U.K. Ministry Of Defence said in an Oct. 28 release.

HMS Medway is a River Class Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessel. The Coast Guard would probably call her a medium endurance cutter. They have a relatively small crew and are faster than Coast Guard WMECs or the Offshore Patrol Cutters currently building.

There is no indication they operated with an embarked helicopter. Operating in the Caribbean they would have had adequate fixed wing support. They have a large helicopter landing area but no hangar. The helicopter in the illustration is a very large one, a Merlin, with a max take off weight of over 32,000 pounds.

The gun on these ships is the same gun and mount as the new Mk38 Mod4.

“USCGC Mohawk Arrives in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire” –SeaWaves

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

SeaWaves report,

The Famous-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913) arrived in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for a scheduled port visit August 12.

The visit demonstrates the strengthening security cooperation relationship between the United States and Côte d’Ivoire. While in Abidjan, the Mohawk crew will exchange with Côte d’Ivoire maritime forces, including medical response treatment, close quarters combat and casualty care, illegal contraband collection and handling, and Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) demonstrations.


Mohawk is forward-deployed to the U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) area of operations, while employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet. Mohawk is on a West Africa patrol to demonstrate partnership with regional partners and conduct a routine presence patrol. Since July, the Mohawk has made port calls to Senegal, The Gambia, and Sierra Leone.

This is a continuation of a voyage that initially escorted the last two Webber class WPCs bound for Bahrain, where they replace 110 foot WPBs that have long served Patrol Forces South West Asia (PATFORSWA). Some previous reporting,

“USCGC Mohawk (WMEC 913) arrives in Lisbon, Portugal”–Navy.mil–and Two More FRCs for PATFORSWA, and “USCGC Mohawk arrives in Dakar, Senegal” –SeaWaves July, 2022

This is only the latest visit by a WMEC270 to Africa. Some previous reports:

Exercise Obangame Express 2019 –Capacity Building in West Africa, Mar. 2019 and “The U.S. Coast Guard’s Mission to Africa” –USNI, Apr. 2019, USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910)

“The Long Blue Line: Operation “Relevant Ursa”–Bear training in West Africa” –Coast Guard Compass, Oct. 2020, USCGC Bear (WMEC-901)

Thetis Escorts FRCs Transatlantic, and “U.S., Spain, Morocco collaborate to conduct rescue at sea” –LANT AREA News Release, Jan. 2022, USCGC Thetis (WMEC-910)

 

“USCG’s Polar Security Cutters to Receive Mark 38 Mod 4 Guns” –Naval News

Naval News reports that the Polar Security Cutters will be armed with the new 30mm Mk38 Mod4 rather than the familiar 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 which currently arms Webber class Fast Response Cutters.

There were a couple of additional pieces of information as well.

  • Other Coast Guard vessels will also get the Mod4.
  • There are no plans to replace existing 25mm mounts with the 30mm Mod4.

The answer on the Polar Security Cutters is probably definitive because it is still three years in the future. Presumably the Navy will use up the 25mm mounts they have already purchased before installing the Mod4. The Offshore Patrol Cutter program extends so far into the future, it is likely most of them will receive the 30mm.

I would argue, vessels for which the Mk38 is the primary armament, particularly if they have only one, should receive a higher priority for the more capable Mod4 since we know the 30mm is more effective than the 25mm, and these vessels have no more powerful alternative weapon they could employ. It appears the WMEC270 that are going through the service life extension program fall in this category.

As for upgrading existing installations, there is a strong case to be made for upgrading the PATFORSWA Webber class WPCs. The 30mm offers options that are not available for the 25mm including an airburst round that can be used against UAVs and a swimmer round that is particularly effective against swarming fast inshore attack craft, both significant threats in the Persian Gulf.

The post also refers to the possibility of mounting missiles on the mount. That possibility was discussed in more detail here. I would like to see all the 25mm guns replaced by the 30mm, but if the earlier Mk38 Mod2/3 mounts were modified to mount APKWS guided rockets or Hellfire and its successor, there would be less need for the larger caliber gun.

“Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement” –CRS, Updated October 19, 2021″ –CRS

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf enters the San Francisco Bay en route to their Alameda, California homeport following a three-month multi-mission patrol, Oct. 3, 2020. Bertholf is one of four Legend-class national security cutters homeported in Alameda. (Photo by Pablo Fernicola)

The Congressional Research Service has again updated their “Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement”. (This link will always take you to the most recent edition of the report.) My last post on this evolving document was in reference to a 15 September, 2021 update. The questions raised in that report remain largely unanswered. I have reproduced the one page summary in full below. The summary does not appear to have changed, except to reflect the commissioning of the 45th FRC. But first I will highlight what I believe to be the changes since the last update. The significant changes reflect the Senate’s actions reported on pages 27 and 28.

Senate

The Senate Appropriations Committee, in the explanatory statement it released on October 18, 2021, for the FY2022 DHS Appropriations Act (S. XXXX), recommends the funding levels shown in the SAC column of Table 2. (PDF page 144 of 160) The explanatory statement states:

Offshore Patrol Cutter [OPC].—The Committee provides the requested amount of $597,000,000 for the construction of the fourth OPC and LLTM for the fifth OPC. While the Committee supports OPC procurements, the Committee remains concerned about costs for the program and continues the requirement for the Coast Guard to brief the Committee within one week prior to taking any procurement actions impacting estimated costs for the OPC program.

Fast Response Cutter [FRC] Program.—In accordance with the Coast Guard’s recapitalization plan, the Committee has completed funding for the replacement of legacy 110-foot Island Class patrol boats with FRCs that will operate similarly in the coastal zone. The Coast Guard is encouraged to notify the Committee if additional FRCs are necessary to support the Department of Defense in Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. (PDF page 69 of 160)

The explanatory statement also states:

Fleet Mix Analysis.—The Committee recognizes ongoing acquisition programs for various cutter classes that are responsible for many of, but not all, Coast Guard missions. While programs have correctly been prioritized around recapitalizing the oldest vessels in the fleet, several cutter classes are rapidly approaching the end of their service lives, while others have long surpassed their service lives. In order to best understand future capital investment needs, the Coast Guard shall provide to the Committee within 180 days of the date of enactment of this act, a comprehensive analysis that provides a fleet mix sufficient to carry out the assigned missions of the Coast Guard and other emerging mission requirements. The Coast Guard shall brief the Committee within 60 days of the date of enactment of this act on its plans to carry out this requirement.

Full-Funding Policy.—The Committee again directs an exception to the administration’s current acquisition policy that requires the Coast Guard to attain the total acquisition cost for a vessel, including long lead time materials [LLTM], production costs, and postproduction costs, before a production contract can be awarded. This policy has the potential to make shipbuilding less efficient, to force delayed obligation of production funds, and to require post-production funds far in advance of when they will be used. The Department should position itself to acquire vessels in the most efficient manner within the guidelines of strict governance measures.

Domestic Content.—To the maximum extent practicable, the Coast Guard shall utilize components that are manufactured in the United States when contracting for new vessels. Such components include: auxiliary equipment, such as pumps for shipboard services; propulsion equipment, including engines, reduction gears, and propellers; shipboard cranes; and spreaders for shipboard cranes. (PDF page 68 of 160)


Summary

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests a total of $695.0 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs, including $597 million for the OPC program.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2021 has fully funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. In FY2020, Congress provided $100.5 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 12th NSC, so as to preserve the option of procuring a 12th NSC while the Coast Guard evaluates its future needs. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $78.0million in procurement funding for activities within the NSC program; this request does not include further funding for a 12th NSC. The Coast
Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget also proposes rescinding $65.0 million of the $100.5 million in FY2020 funding for LLTM for a 12th NSC, “allowing the Coast Guard to focus investments on building, homeporting, and crewing Polar Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters.” The remaining $35.5 million appropriated in FY2020 for LLTM would be used to pay NSC program costs other than procuring LLTM for a 12th NSC. Nine NSCs have entered service; the ninth was commissioned into service on March 19, 2021.

OPCs are to be less expensive and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC and PSC programs as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $597.0 million in procurement funding for the fourth OPC, LLTM for the fifth, and other program costs. On October 11, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which the Coast Guard is a part, announced that DHS had granted extraordinary contractual relief to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of
Panama City, FL, the builder of the first four OPCs, under P.L. 85-804 as amended (50 U.S.C. 1431-1435), a law that authorizes certain federal agencies to provide certain types of extraordinary relief to contractors who are encountering difficulties in the performance of federal contracts or subcontracts relating to national defense. The Coast Guard is holding a full and open competition for a new contract to build OPCs 5 through 15. On January 29, 2021, the Coast Guard released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for this Stage 2 contract, as it is called. Responses to the RFP were due by May 28, 2021. The Coast Guard plans to award the Stage 2 contract in the second quarter of FY2022.

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 64 have been funded through FY2021, including four in FY2021. Six of the 64 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the 58-ship POR quantity for the program, which relates to domestic operations. As of October 19, 2021, 45 of the 64 have been commissioned into service. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $20.0 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request does not include funding for any additional FRCs

“Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement” –CRS, Updated September 15, 2021″ –CRS

“Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton leads the way for cutters Robert Goldman and Charles Moulthrope as they depart Puerto Rico April 1. National security cutter Hamilton is escorting the two fast response cutters (FRCs) across the Atlantic to Rota, Spain. From there, the FRCs will continue to their homeport of Manama, Bahrain.” U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sydney Phoenix.

The Congressional Research Service has again updated their “Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement”. (This link will always take you to the most recent edition of the report.) My last post on this evolving document was in reference to a 17 August, 2021 update. I have reproduced the one page summary in full below. But first,

I missed this addition in my last look at the report. From page 22/23:

August 2021 House Committee Request for GAO Review

In a letter dated August 16, 2021, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee requested GAO to review the management of the OPC program and the Coast Guard’s efforts for managing its existing medium endurance cutters. The letter stated:

Initially projected to cost about $12 billion over its 30-year life cycle, the [OPC] program recently experienced significant cost and schedule delays….

In addition to construction of the OPC, the Committee continues to remain concerned about the operational gap between the end of service life for the aging Medium Endurance Cutters and the delayed delivery of the OPCs….

Given the significant budgetary commitment that the Congress, DHS, and Coast Guard have made for the OPC program to date, continued oversight is necessary to ensure the OPC program does not continue to experience cost growth or additional schedule delays. As such, the Committee requests that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the management of the OPC and Medium Endurance Cutters acquisition programs including, but not limited to:

  • The status of the Phase 1 (the first four hulls) and Phase 2 (hulls 5 through 25) OPC acquisition programs, including what steps are being taken to manage the program within the revised cost and schedule commitments; and
  • The status of the Medium Endurance Cutters and level of maintenance needed to keep the fleet operating to minimize the operational gap until the OPCs are incrementally delivered.

This is new. From page 27:

FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4350) House
The House Armed Services Committee’s report (H.Rept. 117-118 of September 10, 2021) on H.R. 4350 states:

Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter

The committee looks forward to reviewing the Navy’s updated force structure assessment and shipbuilding plan. The committee understands the Navy intends to change the fleet architecture reflected in the 355-ship force-level goal to reflect a more distributed fleet mix with a smaller proportion of larger ships and a larger proportion of smaller manned ships as well as unmanned vessels. The committee supports incorporating a mix of smaller manned ships into the fleet and encourages the Navy to consider the capabilities the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter could provide to the fleet and the concept of operations and associated requirements that would support acquisition of these vessels.

Further, the committee is aware the U.S. Coast Guard has contract options for 12 additional Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters with firm fixed pricing in place until May of 2023. Exercising these contract options in advance of their expiration would lock in favorable pricing on Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters should the Navy determine that they add value to the fleet.

Given the successes of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter in support of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet as a part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the committee believes there are similar roles for Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters in other areas of responsibility. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretary of the Navy to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than February 1, 2022, that details the current mission sets and operating requirements for the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter and expands on how successes in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility would translate to other regions, including the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Further, the committee directs the Secretary of the Navy to assess the requisite upgrades to the Sentinel class Fast Response Cutter required to meet Navy standards and evaluate the concept of operations for employing these vessels in Southeast Asia. This report should be unclassified but may include a classified annex. (Page 21)

The Summary page is reproduced below:


Summary

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests a total of $695.0 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs, including $597 million for the OPC program.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2021 has fully funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. In FY2020, Congress provided $100.5 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 12th NSC, so as to preserve the option of procuring a 12th NSC while the Coast Guard evaluates its future needs. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $78.0million in procurement funding for activities within the NSC program; this request does not include further funding for a 12th NSC. The Coast
Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget also proposes rescinding $65.0 million of the $100.5 million in FY2020 funding for LLTM for a 12th NSC, “allowing the Coast Guard to focus investments on building, homeporting, and crewing Polar Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters.” The remaining $35.5 million appropriated in FY2020 for LLTM would be used to pay NSC program costs other than procuring LLTM for a 12th NSC. Nine NSCs have entered service; the ninth was commissioned into service on March 19, 2021.

OPCs are to be less expensive and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC and PSC programs as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $597.0 million in procurement funding for the fourth OPC, LLTM for the fifth, and other program costs. On October 11, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which the Coast Guard is a part, announced that DHS had granted extraordinary contractual relief to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of
Panama City, FL, the builder of the first four OPCs, under P.L. 85-804 as amended (50 U.S.C. 1431-1435), a law that authorizes certain federal agencies to provide certain types of extraordinary relief to contractors who are encountering difficulties in the performance of federal contracts or subcontracts relating to national defense. The Coast Guard is holding a full and open competition for a new contract to build OPCs 5 through 15. On January 29, 2021, the Coast Guard released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for this Stage 2 contract, as it is called. Responses to the RFP were due by May 28, 2021. The Coast Guard plans to award the Stage 2 contract in the second quarter of FY2022.

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 64 have been funded through FY2021, including four in FY2021. Six of the 64 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the 58-ship POR quantity for the program, which relates to domestic operations. Forty-four of the 64 have been commissioned into service. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $20.0 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request does not include funding for any additional FRCs