“Navy: Mine Countermeasures Mission Packages to Be Available for Vessels of Opportunity” –SeaPower/Coast Guard Connection?

USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams launches a Knightfish unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) while at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 14, 2019. Photo: US Navy

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

“Capt. Mike Egan, branch head for mine warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, speaking May 24 in Monterey, California, at the 2022 International Mine Warfare Technology Symposium of the Mine Warfare Association, said the MCM mission package is on track to achieve initial operational capability in the fall of 2022 and the Navy plans to procure a total of 24 packages.

“The Navy plans to equip 15 Independence-class littoral combat ships with the MCM mission package, which will leave an additional nine mission packages for use elsewhere.”

USN mine countermeasures ships are being decommissioned. Soon these mission packages will be the only US naval mine clearance assets. If a US port is mined, how will the mines be cleared?

Currently all Independence class LCS are based in San Diego. With the decision to shed all but six of the Freedom class LCS, none of which will be MCM capable, it is likely at least some Independence class will be based on the East Coast, presumably at Jacksonville. Aside from these 15 LCS mounted systems, it also appears the Navy will mount one on each of the five Lewis-B. Puller-class “Expeditionary Sea Bases” (ESB). That still leaves four MCM mission packages unclaimed.

LCSs based in San Diego and Jacksonville are still a long way from many US ports. In addition to transit time, the LCSs may be deployed or may not be available on short notice. The ESBs are all expected to be forward deployed, with one probably being assigned to each Geographic Combatant Commanders with the exception of Northern Command, e.g. Africa Command, Central Command, European Command, Indo-Pacific Command, and Southern Command, so they are unlikely to be available.

These four packages could provide mine clearance for US ports. One East Coast (perhaps Norfolk area), one West Coast (Seattle?), one Hawaii (Pearl?), and one in Alaska (Anchorage?) might be a logical distribution.

We know the disasterous effect of even short term port closures. Time is critical. The mission packages should be able to be deployed by air to the port(s) of interest. Some elements of the packages could certainly operate from shore. In many cases Coast Guard bases and air stations would be logical locations for temporary relocation of Navy assets. It is not unlikely Coast Guard fixed wing aircraft might be tasked with providing the air lift.

Some elements of the mission package, like the Unmanned Underwater Vehicles are still likely to require operation from floating units. Buoy Tenders would likely be able to fill this role. It might be worthwhile exercising this option, perhaps at RIMPAC.

Surface Navy Association 2019 –Virtual Attendance

Like many of you, I was unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Conference, but I did find a number of videos which may provide some of the information that would have been available there. The Coast Guard Commandant had been scheduled to speak but cancelled, apparently in response to the partial government shutdown.

I have provided three videos, each about ten minutes, that may be of general interest, and links to four others, typically 20-25 minutes. The descriptions are from their respective YouTube pages.

The second and third videos have specific Coast Guard content, which I have identified by bold typeface with the beginning time in parenthesis. Some of the other equipment may have Coast Guard applications in the future.

Day 1 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Austal latest frigate design for FFG(X)
– Raytheon DART Variable Depth Sonar (VDS)
– Raytheon / Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM)
– Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM)

Day 2 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium.
In this video we cover:
– Fincantieri Marine Group FREMM frigate design for FFG(X)
– General Dynamics NASSCO John Lewis-class T-AO (New Oiler)
– Raytheon SM-2 restart
– Raytheon SM-3
– Leonardo DRS Hybrid Electric Drive for U.S. Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) (time 11:10)

Day 3 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Atlas North America’s solutions for mine counter measures, harbor security and unmanned surface vessels
– Lockheed Martin Canadian Surface Combatant (Type 26 Frigate, Canada’s Combat Ship Team)
Insitu ScanEagle and Integrator UAS (time 4:30)
– Raytheon SPY-6 and EASR radar programs

NAVSEA’s Moore on Improving Ship Repair, McCain & Fitzgerald, Ford, LCS

Vice Adm. Tom Moore, USN, the commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, discusses US Navy efforts to increase public and private ship repair capabilities, lessons learned from repairing USS John S. McCain and Fitzgerald, the new Ford-class aircraft carrier, getting the Littoral Combat Ship on regular deployments and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

GE Marine’s Awiszus on LM2500 Engine Outlook, Future Shipboard Power

George Awiszus, military marketing director of GE Marine, discusses the outlook for the company’s LM2500 engine that drives warships in more than 30 nations and the future of shipboard power with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

US Navy’s Moran on Improving the Surface Force, Culture, Ship Repair & Information Sharing

Adm. Bill Moran, USN, the vice chief of naval operations, discusses dialogue with China, improving the surface force in the wake of 2017’s deadly accidents, refining Navy culture, increasing ship repair capabilities, harnessing data, improving information sharing across the force and the new Design for Seapower 2.0 with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

US Navy’s Coffman on New Expeditionary Warfighting Concepts, Organizations, Unmanned Ships

Maj. Gen. David “Stretch” Coffman, USMC, the US Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare (N95), discusses new expeditionary warfighting concepts, the recent deployment of Littoral Combat Group 1 — composed of USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG-108) and USS Somerset (LPD-25) — to South America, new formations to replace the current Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit, unmanned ships, the performance of the F-35B Lightning II and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian.

Mine Countermeasures Modular Mission Packages for Cutters

Types of Naval mine.A-underwater,B-bottom,SS-Submarine. 1-Drifting mine,2-Drifting mine,3-Moored Mine,4-Moored Mine(short wire),5-Bottom Mines,6-Torpedo mine/CAPTOR mine,7-Rising mine–by Los688

Earlier I suggested that LCS Modules, manned my Navy Reservists, might provide a mechanism that could cut mobilization time for Cutters from months to weeks. I also noted, 

There are very few Navy mine counter measures assets in the US and those we have are not spread out geographically. If there were to be a peacetime mining incident in US waters, it might be possible to airlift an MCM module to the nearest cutter to allow the problem to be dealt with more quickly.

The US Naval Institute News Service has provided access to the “Littoral Combat Ship Mission Package Annual Report, and there is a note included that addresses this possibility. Nine Mine Countermeasures Mission Packages (MCM MP) are to be provided “for use on other Vessels of Opportunity (V OOs) to meet the warfighting capability requirements and account for MCM maintenance cycles.”

If there is a mining incident at a US port, the air and, in some cases, the unmanned surface vessel portion of the package could be operated from shore. Those portions that might need to operate from a ship could possibly be operated from buoy tenders or other cutters, not just the large patrol cutters.

We probably ought to be exercising this once the MCM MPs become available.

 

How the Coast Guard and Navy Could Plan to Mobilize the Cutter Force in a Major Conflict

The Coast Guard has a rich military history, but we should recognize that, while we may be an “armed service,” we are not prepared for war.

We took the opportunity presented by the apparent end of the Cold War in the early ’90s to cut cost and overhead by removing recently installed  anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and Harpoon launching equipment from the 378s and eliminating entire Sonar Tech (ST) rating.

Unfortunately, the holiday from worrying about a possible major conflict is over. China is challenging us, and Russia is resurgent. While it appears the Coast Guard has planned to provide some resources to address contingencies, it also appear we have no real direction as to what the Coast Guard will do if we have a major conflict. Certainly the new major cutters, the NSCs and OPCs, could be turned into credible escort vessels, but it would take months and their crews would need to be trained.

The development of modular systems for the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) may provide a mechanism for rapidly upgrading our ships while Navy Reserves might provide the personnel and expertise to cut mobilization time from months to weeks.

The Navy currently has over 100,000 reservists, either Selected Reservists or Individual Ready Reservist, subject to recall. A number of them have expertise not resident in the Coast Guard, but useful upon mobilization. At one time these reservists might have gone to man Navy reserve frigates, but there are currently no navy combatants in reserve. As the number of LCSs increase the number of reservists with experience operating and maintaining the mission modules will increase. In addition all LCSs have two complete crews, so in wartime when they will presumably stop rotating crews, they will have an excess of active duty crews training in the mission module systems.

The primary mission modules planned for the LCSs are Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (SuW), and Mine Counter-Measures (MCM). It would not take much to make cutters capable of accepting all or parts of these mission modules, perhaps an OPC “B” class and during overhauls.

There is a very real possibility of inter-service synergy here.

A mission package of equipment, aircraft, sensors, and personnel could be loaded aboard for exercises, providing training for both the Navy and Coast Guard personnel.

The acoustic sensors from the ASW module might be deployed on a cutter bound for a drug interdiction mission in the Eastern Pacific, to help locate drug running semi-submersibles or if they are out there, submarines.

There are very few Navy mine counter measures assets in the US and those we have are not spread out geographically. If there were to be a peacetime mining incident in US waters, it might be possible to airlift an MCM module to the nearest cutter to allow the problem to be dealt with more quickly.

Common (Unmanned Unit) Control System

It now seems obvious that Unmanned Systems (air and possibly surface and subsurface) will play a part in the Coast Guard’s future, but the service has been, perhaps understandably hesitant to commit to any particular system.

Because of the variety of proprietary systems, integrating the control systems into the organization of the controlling unit, particularly ships and aircraft, and then integrating the resulting information into a common operating picture has been problematic.

Eaglespeak reports, it looks like DOD, through the Office of Naval Research, is moving in the direction of a platform agnostic software application that will permit common hardware to control different unmanned system.

This might permit Coast Guard units which commonly control small unmanned aicraft (sUAS) to be quickly adapted to

  • Control a much more capable UAS.
  • Hunt for mines using unmanned surface (USV) or subsurface (UUV) systems.
  • Control optionally manned surface craft to search for smugglers or enhance asset protection.
  • Control UUVs towing acoustic arrays, searching for submarines.
  • Direct a USV equipped with AIS, lights, and signals into position to serve as a temporary aid-to-navigation.