Contracts for First OPC, Long Lead Time Items for OPC#2, and NSC#11

The Acquisitions Directorate has been busy. They report exercising a $317.5M contract option for construction of the first Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC Argus, and long lead time items (propeller and steering components, marine diesel engines, the ship integrated control system, switchboards, and generators), for the second OPC, USCGC Chase. Delivery of Argus is expected in 2021. 

They also report exercising an option for long lead time items for an as yet unnamed eleventh National Security Cutter (NSC).

“The option exercise is valued at approximately $97.1 million. This amount supports the initial order of long lead time components and material necessary to prepare for the construction of the new cutter, including steel plating, propulsion system, marine turbine/diesel engines, air search radar, ship integrated control system, switchboards and generators.”

NSC names

We currently have names for the first nine NSCs.

I am hoping we will name one for Commodore Frank H. Newcomb, who was CO of the Cutter Hudson at the Battle of Cardenas Bay. He really should have gotten the Metal of Honor. It would also give us a nice tie into the Navy since they had a heroic destroyer named for Newcomb. 

I also think Walsh would be a good choice. His Navy Cross citation.

WALSH, Quentin R., CDR, (Retired as Captain) USCG, Navy Cross, For heroism as Commanding Officer of a U.S. Naval party reconnoitering the naval facilities and naval arsenal at Cherbourg June 26 and 27, 1944. While in command of reconnaissance party, Commander Walsh entered the port of Cherbourg and penetrated the eastern half of the city, engaged in street fighting with the enemy. He accepted the surrender and disarmed 400 of the enemy force at the naval arsenal and later received unconditional surrender of 350 enemy troops and at the same time released 52 captured U.S. Army paratroopers.

Update on Coast Guard Acquisition Programs and Mission Balance and Effectiveness–Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

This is not going to flow well, I apologized for the mishmash. The video above is of a House Sub-Committee hearing that occurred on July 24. I think it is still worth a look. The video does not actually begin until just before time 19:55

Before watching the video, I would suggest a look at the “Summary of Subject Matter.” This is what the Congressional Representatives are looking at.

End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates:

Check out the charts on page 2. The second chart shows “End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates.” It illustrates the risks and loss of capacity that appears likely, if OPCs are funded at the planned rate of no more than two ships a year. It is unclear why the WMECs are to be retired in the order intended since it is not the order of their completion. Presumably it is based on an assessment of the condition of the ships, but it is very clear that they will all be well over aged. The 210s will retire first. The youngest retirement would be at age 53 and some would qualify for Social Security before replacement.  (Diligence, 66)

How they arrived at the expected service life shown is hard to understand, because every 210 is going to be 53 years old or older at the end of projected service life plus 15 year life extension. The 210s were, of course, substantially reworked during a “Major Maintenance Availability” 1986 to 1990, but no further life extension work is apparently planned based on the testimony in the video.

It may appear we are in much better shape with respect to the 270s, but these more complex ships may actually be harder to keep operational. We saw this in the number of breakdown experienced after the Haitian Earthquake eight years ago. They were commissioned between 1983 and 1991 and are expected to be replaced between 2130 and 2135. Legare, second to newest, is planned to be the first replaced, and would be “only” 40 years old. Harriet Lane one of the earliest completed is expected to be one of the last replaced and would be 50 years old. The rest fall within that range. SLEP for 270s beginning 2021, but it is not certain it will be applied to all 13 ships. 

Because ships are not being replaced as quickly as they were originally built, we see a growing gap between the end of the ship’s projected service life, even with a 15 year service life extension, and the projected date of replacement.

Cutter Capability (by operating hour):

See also Appendix A, which illustrates the current shortfall in cutter hours available compared to the “Legacy Fleet” the recapitalization program was intended to replace. The “Legacy Fleet” is based on 12 WHECs, 29 WMECs, and 49 island class WPBs. (Not sure why they used 29 WMECs, since we had 32 as recently as 2001.)

There are two charts, the first includes WPBs and Webber class WPCs as well as WHECs, WMECs, NSCs, and OPCs. The second considers on the only the larger vessels, excluding WPCs and WPBs. 

The first chart shows that we are currently down 20,450 hours (8.6%) relative to the legacy fleet, but that when the recapitalization is complete the total will be 31,970 hours (13.4%) greater than the legacy fleet. This increase is all due to the greater number Webber class and the greater number of hours each is expected to operate annually compared to 110s.

The second chart looks only at the larger ships, leaving aside the Webber and Island class WPCs and WPBs. It shows we are currently down 13,950 op hours (10%) and further, that when the program is completed, we will be down 15,030 hours (10.7%)reflecting the smaller number of large patrol cutters. If we could view this as a chart of actual cutter available on a yearly basis, it suggest that we will never be down by more than the 10.7% that shows upon completion of the program. Actually that is unlikely to be the case. The aging fleet means a higher probability of unplanned maintenance and even catastrophic failure that may result in WMECs being decommissioned prematurely and becoming parts donors like the Polar Sea.

The saving grace may be that the Webber class have proven capable of performing some WMEC like duties and they are coming on line very rapidly. In all probability, the 58 cutters in the FRC program of record will all be delivered by the end of 2024.

At some point Coast Guard leadership is going to have to tell Congress the ugly truth that we have started the OPC/WMEC replacement program much too late, and we need to double down on the production rate. As soon as the first ship is completed and tested we need to issue a Multi-Year Procurement contract and it should include building up to four ships a year, at least until all sixteen 210s are replaced and at least three ships a year until all the WMECs are replaced.

We need to tell the Congress this as soon as possible, because bad news does not get better with age. Unfortunately it did not happen in this hearing. In fact when asked about the possibility of accelerating OPC production, time 1:10:00, VAdm McAllister seemed to dismiss the possibility saying we had other higher priorities. This was the wrong answer. You don’t always get to decide how money is spent. If we should get the opportunity to accelerate OPC construction, as has happened with the FRCs, we should welcome it.

Mission Needs Statement:

You can see the “Mission Needs Statement” referred to here. It is 70 pages plus about 45 pages of Appendices, but as noted, “…  it does not identify asset gaps or a material solution to meet Coast Guard’s mission needs.”

GAO findings, failure to plan long term:

The GAO has taken the Coast Guard to task because their acquisition portfolio planning has been limited to apparently short term planning using the annual budget and five year Capital Investment Plan (CIP). That this has resulted a bow wave of unfunded requirements being pushed progressively further into the future.

“When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

I have to think GAO has a point here.

We still have not provided a 20 year acquisition plan that the Coast Guard said they would provide in 2014, much less the 30 year plan I have suggested that would parallel the Navy’s planning process.

We have only done one fleet mix study. It was completed in 2007 and included the apparent assumption of applying the now rejected Crew Rotation Concept to both the NSCs and OPCs. Even so, it is still being used as a basis for critiquing the program of record that was last re-baselined in 2005. Things change, we now have better information about how our assets actually function. It is long past time for updated planning.

The Video: 

Witnesses were:

  • Vice Admiral Daniel Abel, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony

Here is a brief outline of the topic discussed. Video actually begins 19:55.

23:00 Administration and CG leadership priorities do not demonstrate a commitment to rebuild infrastructure.

42:00 Appropriation deleted $1.4B including $750M for the Heavy Polar Icebreaker and the rest from an account to repair of replace hurricane damaged infrastructure.

46:00 Icebreaker schedule is overly optimistic.

47:00 WMEC gap.

49:00 No service life extension program for 210s. Some, but not all 270s, will have 10 year life extension.

51:00 Capabilities vs hours.

55:30 WMECs are operating at higher than anticipated tempo. Anticipate catastrophic failures within in the WMEC fleet. 5 out or 14 WMEC 210s are at high risk.

59:30 Maintenance backlog.

1:08:00 Still no 20 year plan has been provided since it was requested in 2014.

1:10:00 accelerate OPC procurement?

1:12:30 OPC homeports, of the first four, two will go to Kodiak and two to LA

1:14:00 Great Lakes icebreaking,  Mackinaw replacement? SLEP of 140′

1:15:45 Will be doing a fleet mix study for the Great Lakes.

1:17:00 Inland fleet. Doing alternatives analysis.

1:20:00 Homeport for icebreakers has not been decided. Working on homeport decisions for the entire fleet.

1:23:00 UAS

1:24:00 Counter UAS capability. The six WPBs in CENTCOM have some capability.

1:25:00 Manpower analysis

—-

Opening Statement of the Sub-Committee Chair:

The Subcommittee is meeting today to review how the Coast Guard is integrating their acquisition, manpower, and maintenance plans to align to their mission needs and assure the Service has the assets, personnel, and expertise needed to carry out its missions.

On June 1, 2018, Admiral Karl Schultz became the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard.  His guiding principles for the Service are: Ready, Relevant, and Responsive.  He said, “These guiding principles frame my direction and will support the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense and Combatant Commanders, and other national and global maritime interests.”  Admiral Schultz and his senior leadership team are in the midst of reviewing the status of the Coast Guard and making changes to align the Service with those guiding principles.  Today, we will hear from two members of that team, and look forward to better understanding their perspectives on the status of the Coast Guard.

The ongoing recapitalization of the Service’s cutters was planned two decades ago to address mission demands at that time.  The world and the demands on the Coast Guard have since changed and it is critical that the Service be ready to respond to the demands of today, as well as those that will exist in decades to come. It is also important that the Coast Guard is prepared to manage capability gaps that are occurring and likely to continue to occur as recapitalization continues.

The decisions being made today will shape the Coast Guard of the future.  The cutters being built today have a planned 30-year service life and will probably serve longer, and the final OPC is projected to be patrolling the seas until 2064. Like Admiral Schultz, Congress wants to ensure the Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive for years to come.  In order to do so, we need accurate information from the Service to determine whether current plans will provide the capabilities to meet future demands.

Even more important than Coast Guard ships and aircraft are the people who operate them.  The Coast Guard’s active duty workforce is only slightly larger than that of the New York City police department and less than ¼ the size of the next smallest U.S. Armed Force.  Congress has encouraged the Coast Guard to better understand and articulate its workforce needs to meet current and emerging needs. Looking forward, it is likely that the Service will need to make tough, strategic decisions regarding how Coast Guard personnel are allocated.  Even before the advent of a new cybersecurity operating domain, the Coast Guard was struggling to meet mission demands; creating a cybersecurity workforce while also conducting legacy operations poses an additional challenge that must be addressed immediately.

In addition to our focus on Coast Guard assets and personnel, this Subcommittee has continually pushed the Service to improve its shore infrastructure made up of approximately 43,400 assets nationwide.  Unfortunately, even after several years of us stressing the need for action, much of that property is in dire need of rebuilding or repair.  While Coast Guard leaders consistently stress the importance of investing in shore infrastructure, the budgetary trade-offs being made within the Coast Guard and the Administration do not reflect a genuine commitment to address this need.  For example, despite a shore infrastructure backlog of more than $1.5 billion, the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request only includes $30 million to address those projects.

Shore infrastructure is critical to every Coast Guard mission – cutters need piers, aircraft need runways, inspectors need buildings, etc. – and if the Service truly desires to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive, it needs to find ways to address these critical needs.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a number of reports since 2012 reviewing Coast Guard acquisition programs and providing recommendations to improve those programs.  Over the years, the Coast Guard has agreed with many of those recommendations and agreed to take action on them.  However, the new GAO report released today notes that the Coast Guard has not fully implemented those prior recommendations.  Hopefully, today’s hearing will help us understand why that is.

A new senior leadership team brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new priorities.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how they see the Coast Guard and how we can best position the Service for success going forward.

“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.

 

ALCOAST 268/18 – AUG 2018 SOLICITATION FOR CUTTER NAMING SUGGESTIONS

First Lieutenant, Frank H. Newcomb, USRCS

Would like to call attention to an ALCOAST that solicits names for future Coast Guard cutters which I have reproduced at the end of the post. It refers specifically to naming cutters for people but I have to believe they will consider names of previous cutters for the Offshore Patrol Cutters as well.

Of the planned 58 Webber class WPCs, 54 have been named. That leaves at least four to be named, plus an additional six if they are built additional boats to replace the 110s in Bahrain.

Of the 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters, only eleven names have been identified.

Of the Bertholf class “National Security Cutters”, only nine names have been identified for the eleven funded, with the possibility of a twelfth, opening the possibility of two or three names.

Noticeably missing from the list are:

Newcomb, Frank H, captain of the cutter Hudson when it rescued the Navy torpedo boat Winslow.  The man was so respected the Navy named a destroyer after him. That destroyer managed to torpedo a Japanese battleship at the Battle of Surigao Strait and  subsequently survived five Kamikaze hits.

USS Newcomb (DD-586), awarded eight battlestars, was struck by five Kamikazes off Okinawa, but survived.

Cutter Hudson, itself

BREWSTER, Caleb, Revolutionary War/War of 1812 (One of the characters on the television series “Turn, Washington’s Spies.) Revolutionary War Spy, 20 years in the Revenue Cutter Service, and CO of the Revenue cutter Active during the War of 1812. http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2014/07/caleb-brewster-revolutionary-war-hero/ also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caleb_Brewster

Lt. Thomas Crotty

CROTTY, Lt Thomas James Eugene, WWII, Mine warfare expert. Captured by the Japanese on Corregidor and died in POW Camp.

DEXTER, Dwight, CO of NOB Cactus, (Guadalcanal, WWII). Silver Star, “In action against an armed enemy as commanding officer of the Naval Local Defense Force and Anti-Submarine Patrol, Guadalcanal-Gavutu, Lieut. Comdr. Dexter landed with the Marines on August 7, 1942, and established and administered the Naval Local Defense Forces in these occupied islands until November 5, 1942, on which date he was evacuated due to illness. During the three months while he was in command of this unit, he was subjected to almost daily aircraft bombing attack and, for many weeks, to an almost nightly naval bombardment. Throughout this entire period, his courage, determination and zeal made it possible to maintain in operation a signal station and a boat operating organization which was essential to the successful unloading.”

WALSH, Quentin R., CDR, (Retired as Captain) USCG, Navy Cross, For heroism as Commanding Officer of a U.S. Naval party reconnoitering the naval facilities and naval arsenal at Cherbourg June 26 and 27, 1944. While in command of reconnaissance party, Commander Walsh entered the port of Cherbourg and penetrated the eastern half of the city, engaged in street fighting with the enemy. He accepted the surrender and disarmed 400 of the enemy force at the naval arsenal and later received unconditional surrender of 350 enemy troops and at the same time released 52 captured U.S. Army paratroopers.

There are a whole slew of candidate names listed here.

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. American soldiers encountered the newly formed German 352nd Division when landing. During the initial landing two-thirds of Company E became casualties.

Along with cutter names, it might also be appropriate to reprise names of Navy ships that were Coast Guard manned. Reference (a) para 5.b.(1) does state cutters may be named after “… other service ships that were manned by Coast Guard personnel.” Examples would include USS Wakefield (AP-21), USS Samuel Chase (APA-26), USS Hunter Liggett (APA-14), USS Leopold (DE-319) (sunk after being hit by an acoustic homing torpedo, 9 Mar. ’44, 171 dead), USS Menges (DE-320) (hit by an acoustic homing torpedo but survived), or USS Lowe  (DE-325/WDE-425) (which sank U-866 under CG command and was later transferred to the CG), USS Serpens (AK-97) (14,250 tons, destroyed as a result of an apparent internal explosion of its cargo, 29 Jan. ’45, 196 CG fatalities. Largest single loss of CG personnel)

I urge you to respond with your recommendations. It certainly would not hurt for the board to see the same name(s) recommended more than once.

—–

ALCOAST 268/18 – AUG 2018 SOLICITATION FOR CUTTER NAMING SUGGESTIONS

R 011457 AUG 18
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-092//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS//N05700//
ALCOAST 268/18
COMDTNOTE 5700
SUBJ: SOLICITATION FOR CUTTER NAMING SUGGESTIONS
A. Policy for Naming of Cutters and Shore Facilities, COMDTINST 5726.10 (series)
1. The Coast Guard is recapitalizing its cutter fleet, continuing a process now entering its second decade. Each new cutter requires a name.
2. The Standing Board for the Naming of Cutters and Shore Facilities is soliciting nominations for worthy names of these new cutters. The Naming Board requests submissions from across the spectrum of Coast Guard stakeholders, including active, reserve, auxiliary, civilian, retired, family members, commercial maritime industry, and port partners.
3. Guidelines for acceptable submissions are outlined in REF (A). Specifically, “the actions of the individual must reflect Honor, Respect, Devotion to Duty, and must be in keeping with the highest traditions of the Coast Guard. The individual must be considered a distinguished Coast Guard person or someone who had a great influence on Coast Guard history. The individual must be deceased with sufficient time lapsed to ensure that the name will withstand the ‘test of time.’”
4. Such namesake submissions should have distinguished themselves and brought great credit upon the service by their actions. Others may have served as important leaders or as significant role models, path-reakers or trailblazers for those who might otherwise be underrepresented. The Naming Board encourages the submission of possible namesakes from across the spectrum of Coast Guard history, to include the junior ranks and less well known figures in Coast Guard history who have made important contributions to the service.
5. The Naming Board looks for submissions that will resonate with today’s Coast Guard personnel. Prospective cutter names should represent the diversity of our service and our rich heritage.
6. Please submit your nominations to Mr. Joshua Buck at Joshua.M.Buck@uscg.mil. Your nomination should include the individual’s name and a brief narrative summary of why you believe the individual would merit this honor. Please limit the summary to one page. The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2018.
7. The Naming Board encourages those who have already submitted names to resubmit their nominations for this latest cutter naming effort under this ALCOAST.
8. The Naming Board will publish a list of all names submitted in a future ALCOAST. Names not selected for the latest round of new cutters will be kept on file for future use.
9. For a list of names recently selected, please see:
https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHSCG/bulletins/1cbb0e6
10. For more information please see REF (A) at:
https://media.defense.gov/2017/Mar/14/2001716387/-1/-1/0/CI_5726_10C.PDF
11. For questions please contact Scott Price, Chief Historian, at Scott.T.Price@uscg.mil or
call (202) 372-4653.
12. RDML Melissa Bert, Director of Governmental and Public Affairs, sends.
13. Internet release authorized.

 

Coast Guard Contract for sUAS for Bertholf Class Cutters

Insitu ScanEagle small Unmanned Air System (sUAS)

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) has announced a contract award to Insitu, to provide a capability to operate a small unmanned air system from the Bertholf class National Security Cutters.

“…The service contract covers installation and deployment of sUAS for approximately 200 hours per 30-day operational patrol period.

“Installations of sUAS capability on NSCs are planned at a rate of about two per year. Total value of the contract including the seven option years is approximately $117 million.”

It does not say which airframe Insitu will be providing. They have more than one, but it is likely to be Scan Eagle which was the small UAS used by Stratton during the trials.

200 hours per 30 day operational patrol period might be 20 sorties of 10 hours each or 25 sorties of 8 hours, but in all probability it will include a few shorter flights to provide documentation and over-watch during boardings. 

The Coast Guard is contracting out the operation and maintenance of the systems rather than training Coastguardsmen to perform these functions. Hopefully, in time that will change.

Also there is no reason these systems should not also operate off of smaller cutters and icebreakers. Operating from 210s should be relatively easy, although it might preclude operating a helicopter, and with a little engineering they could probably operate from Webber class WPCs.

If you want to trace some of the progress on this issue, here are some earlier posts.

Report to Congress on U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Procurement, 23 May 2018

OPC “Placemat”

Mr. O’Rourke has been busy, in addition to the report on Icebreakers, the latest edition of the Congressional Research Service report on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement, also by Ronald O’Rourke, was also published on 23 May, 2018. You can see it here. 

I have reproduced the summary immediately below.  Note that the price for the OPCs is already surprisingly low. 

The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) 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 FY2019 budget requests a total of $705 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 12 aged Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $682 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring a total of 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2018 has funded 11 NSCs, including two (the 10th and 11th) in FY2018. Six NSCs are now in service, and the seventh, eighth, and ninth are scheduled for delivery in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $65 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 12th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, 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 program as the service’s top acquisition priority. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $391 million per ship. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The first OPC was funded in FY2018 and is to be delivered in 2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $400 million in acquisition funding for the OPC program for the construction of the second OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2022) and procurement of long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third OPC (which is scheduled for delivery in 2023).

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 $58 million per boat. A total of 50 have been funded through FY2018. The 27th was commissioned into service on April 20, 2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.

The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following: 

  • whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 12th NSC in FY2019; 
  • whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2019, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years; 
  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs; 
  • the procurement rate for the OPC program; 
  • planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs; and 
  • initial testing of the NSC.

Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.

From the LCS Mission Modules, What We Might Want, What We Might Need

The US Naval Institute News Service has provided access to the second “Annual Report to Congress for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mission Module Program.” Some of these systems should be of interest to the Coast Guard, either as regular equipment for peacetime law enforcement and counterterrorism missions, for temporary use, as in the case of a naval mining incident, or as wartime add-ons if the Coast Guard is mobilized for a major conflict.

Keep in mind, the procurement cost of these systems would presumably come out the Navy budget.

Mine Countermeasures Mission Package

The Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Packages (MP) has already been addressed. 24 are planned including nine to be built for “Vessels of Opportunity.” These nine extra packages probably meet any peacetime augmentation requirement and provide a reserve for mobilization. Testing is expected to continue through FY 2022. Production is expected to continue well into the future as less than half the packages will have been delivered by FY2023.

ASW Mission Packages for NSCs and OPCs

An earlier post discussed the possibility of using mission modules and Navy reservist to augment large cutters. In a protracted conflict against a near peer naval power like Russia or China, our large patrol ships are most probably going to be needed to perform open ocean ASW escort duties.

Only ten ASW Mission Packages are planned. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is expected in FY 2019, but testing will continue through 2020. The Multi-Function Array is already a fielded system. Deliveries are expected to begin in FY2021 at a rate of two systems per year. If that rate is continued, the ten planned systems will be complete in 2025.

At an estimated cost of less than $20M the ASW Mission Package is the least expensive of the three types of Mission Packages. Adding this system as a mobilization capability or perhaps even as a peacetime capability to 35 or more large cutters would provide a higher return on investment than just about any other Naval program.

It might even help us locate semi-submersibles.

Vertical launch Hellfire

As I have noted before, the Coast Guard has a potential need to be capable of countering terrorist efforts to use a wide spectrum of vessels to make an attack. These craft range between small, fast, highly maneuverable boats on one extreme, to large ocean going vessels at the other. Our ability to counter these threats must be widely available, quickly effective, and have both a probability of success approaching 100% and do so with minimal danger to innocents who may be in the vicinity. Guns do not meet these criteria.

Hellfire missile have the potential to meet these criteria, at least against the lower half of the threat spectrum, and, using more than one round, might have a degree of success even against the largest vessels.

Apparently the SSMM Longbow Hellfire testing is going well, with 20 out of 24 successful engagements, and there’s a software fix for the root cause of the 4 failures.

ATLANTIC OCEAN—A Longbow Hellfire Missile is fired from Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit (LCS 7) on Feb. 28, 2017 as part of a structural test firing of the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM). The test marked the first vertical missile launched from an LCS and the first launch of a missile from the SSMM from an LCS. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

A recent US Naval Institute News Service report quoted LCS Mission Modules Program Manager Capt. Ted Zobel “all of our mission packages…are finishing up development, proceeding into test, and then from test into production and ultimately deployment.”

“…surface-to-surface missile module (SSMM) will add a Longbow Hellfire missile to increase the lethality of the LCS. Testing begins this month on USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) and will move to USS Detroit (LCS-7) over the summer. Testing should wrap up by December, Zobel said, with Detroit planning to bring the SSMM with it on its maiden deployment about a year from now. Written testimony from the Navy at a March 6 House Armed Services Committee hearing states that IOC is planned for Fiscal Year 2019.”

The Surface to Surface Mission Module (SSMM) planned for the Littoral Combat Ship, seen above, can store and launch up to 24 missiles. 24 missiles would weigh about 2,500 pounds. As a very rough estimate, Its foot print appears to be about 9×12 feet (late note–a little photo analysis suggest the three mission module positions on each LCS are about 15-16′ square), probably not too large for an NSC, OPC, or icebreaker, but probably too large for the Webber class WPCs where I really think we really need the capability. They are after all, much more likely to be in the right place, at the right time. For them we probably need a smaller system.

In the video above, beginning at time 2m58s there is a model of a 12 meter unmanned surface vessel mounting a four tube Hellfire vertical launch system. Knowing that the Hellfire is only 7 inches in diameter and 64 inches long, it appears this installation would have a footprint of no more than 6×8 feet and probably would be no more than seven feet high. It seems likely we could find a place for one or two of these on each Webber class and at least one when we build the replacements for the 87 footers.

I have often seen missiles compared unfavorably to guns, based on the cost of the projectiles, but cost of providing a system like Hellfire pales in comparison to the cost of a medium caliber gun, its ammunition allowance, and the maintenance, training, and technicians required to keep it operational. Compared to the guns we have used in the past:

  • Maximum range of almost 9,000 yards is less than the maximum range of the 5″/38, 76mm, or 57mm, but it is very near the effective range of these medium caliber weapons. This range is likely more than enough to remain outside the effective range of improvised weapons installations that might be used in a terrorist attack.
  • Effective range is more than three times greater than that of the 25mm Mk38 mod2/3
  • Warhead appears to be more effective than even the 5″ rounds.
  • Every round will likely be a hit.
  • Those hits will come very quickly.
  • It may be possible to accurately target specific vulnerable areas on the target.
  • They require only minimal training and maintenance compared to medium caliber guns.
  • If the target is within range, its only real disadvantage is the limited number of rounds.

While I have never seen it claimed official, I have seen reports that Hellfire can be used against slower aircraft such as helicopters and UAVs.

 These small missiles could allow our patrol vessels to hit like much bigger vessels.

30 mm Mk46 Gun Mission Module (GMM)

Gun Mission Module by Northrop Grumman

The “Gun Mission Module” (GMM) could be one way to arm the icebreakers relatively quickly when needed, while allowing the option of removing the weapons before going to Antarctica if desired.

Production of these units is quickly running its course, and if we want to use these on the icebreakers, it may be desirable to have our needs added to the production schedule before the production is shut down. The last two are expected to be delivered in FY2020.

How important this is will depend on the Coast Guard’s intentions and the alternatives.

Setting up the installations in the same format as found on the LCSs means improvements or alternative systems developed to LCS systems could be easily incorporated in the icebreakers as well.

On the other hand, the included 30mm Mk46 gun weapon system is not limited to the LCSs. It is or will be mounted on the three Zumwalt DDG-1000 class destroyers, 13 San Antonio (LPD-17) class, and probably 13 LX(R)/LPD-17 Flight II class still to be built, about 58 mounts in addition to the 20 planned for the LCSs.

It doesn’t look like it would be too difficult to remove or re-install just the gun mount (seen below) if that would meet our needs. It would of course require a dedicated space, permanent installation of supporting equipment, and a way to seal the opening for the mount long term when the mount is removed.

Although it is not as effective as the Mk46 mount, because of the smaller 25 mm gun currently used, the Mk38 Mod2/3 is also an alternative, and has the advantage of already being in the use with the Coast Guard. It is even more widely used, “As of 2016, 307 MK 38 MOD 2 systems have been delivered. There are 50 MK 38 MOD 3s on contract. The total POR (program of record–Chuck) is for 517 systems.”

Still the 25mm gun is markedly inferior to the 30mm in that its effective range is considerably less and the individual projectiles are far less potent. The Mk46 mount also has many more rounds on the mount compared to the Mk38 mod2/3. Upgrading the Mk38s to mount 30mm guns would address much of the current inferiority.

The inferiority of the Mk38 would also be much less of a concern if the Icebreaker had an additional, more powerful anti-surface weapon system, like the Hellfire Surface to Surface Missile Module or Anti-Surface Cruise Missiles. These might be useful if it is ever necessary to provide Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) in the Arctic or Antarctic.