How The Fleet Forgot to Fight” –CIMSEC

USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752), left, and the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell (DDG-85) maneuver in formation during Talisman Sabre 2019 on July 11, 2019. US Navy Photo

Currently the CIMSEC web site is migrating to a new server so it is off line, but they have provided something a shorthand critique of how some think the Navy has fallen short, since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Coast Guard still has Defense Readiness as one of its eleven missions. We in the Coast Guard are highly dependent on the Navy helping us know what needs doing, but I don’t think we should fail to think for ourselves.

This short five page outline of what the Navy has been doing wrong may be helpful because we have probably been making some of the same mistakes, not just in our preparation to fight a “near peer” major conflict, but in our response to the terror threat, and perhaps in our on-going war with drug smugglers.

“Nordic Allies Help Navy Improve Ship Ops in Icy Waterways as Arctic Competition Heats Up” –Military.com

http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/opa/arc/uschair/258202.htm . This map of the Arctic was created by State Department geographers as part of the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

Military.com has a report on the Navy’s increased activity above the Arctic Circle, at least on the Atlantic side. (Still have not seen much from PACFLT.) Remarks are quoted from Adm. Robert Burke, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Allied Joint Command Naples. The discussion was primarily about working with allies, but he does not fail to mention the Coast Guard. 

“Responding to a question on whether the Navy needs to have icebreakers or hardened vessels as it increases its Arctic presence, Burke said he would leave the question “up to the force providers,” adding that ship drivers are getting good at maneuvering in the challenging Arctic environment.

“He said also that icebreaking is the U.S. Coast Guard’s “core business … today, anway,” and the Navy and Coast Guard work together in many areas worldwide.

“”We’ve got great partners in the U.S. Coast Guard. … You know, if it stays in their core mission or we do some sort of shared thing, it’s going to work great,” Burke said.”

The Coast Guard, with only two polar icebreakers, has none based on the Atlantic side. We have had some indication the Coast Guard intends to base one or more of its planned three medium icebreakers (aka Arctic Security Cutters) on the Atlantic side.

To put my comment above in context, LANTFLT has much more reason for operating in the high North than PACFLT. On the Atlantic side, Russia’s most important naval bases are above the Arctic Circle, off the Barents Sea. On the Pacific side, the primary Russian naval bases are over 800 nautical miles below the Arctic Circle around Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. So the difference is perhaps understandable.

Coast Guard Cutter + Navy Reserve + Mission Module = ASW

The US is seriously short of Anti-Submarine Warfare escort vessels, but a little forethought and some cooperation between the Navy Reserve and the Coast Guard could seriously reduce the deficit, without a huge impact on either the Navy or the Coast Guard’s peacetime budget, operations, and manning.

It is a simple concept, a payload/platform solution. The Navy provides the payload. The Coast Guard provides the platform and drives “the truck.” It would allow the Coast Guard to have an important wartime role without significantly increasing its manning or training requirements. The costs to the Navy would be minimal and it would allow them to exploit their reserve pool of trained ASW personnel long before additional ships could be built.

In peacetime, the Coast Guard has been placing detachments on Navy ships. In wartime, Navy detachments could be placed on Coast Guard ships.

The essential elements are:

  • 36 Coast Guard Cutters, 11 National Security Cutters and 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters built, building, or planned.
  • Navy Reserve Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) aircraft and crews
  • An ASW mission module for each cutter
  • Navy personnel (active or reserve, officer and enlisted) trained and experienced in operating the ASW mission module equipment and ASW operations

The Threat:

If we have a non-nuclear war with a near peer, e.g. China or Russia, it is almost certain we will need more Anti-Submarine Warfare escort vessels than we currently have. The Chinese have almost 80 submarines  (60 conventional and about 19 nuclear) and they are doubling their capacity for building nuclear submarines. Russia has about 63 submarines, mostly nuclear.

US Navy ASW escorts, we are short:

The Navy’s force level goal is 156 surface combatants, out of the projected fleet of 355. These would include 104 large surface combatants (LSC, cruisers and destroyers) and 52 small surface combatants (SSC, LCS and frigates), but so far, there is no clear path to that goal. The Navy’s fleet will vary over time, but for the foreseeable future it will include less than 120 surface combatants. These include fewer than 90 cruisers and destroyers. A total of 35 LCS are built or funded, but it appears four of those may be decommissioned. Only ten LCS will be equipped as ASW escorts. The FFG(X), now FFG-62 program, is expected to produce 20 FFGs, but that program, is unlikely to produce its first ten ships before 2029.

The “Battle Force 2045” plan, which was never approved by DOD, projects a need for 60 to 70 Small Surface Combatants.

In any case we are going to short of escorts. A little over two years ago, the Military Sealift Command was told that ‘You’re on your own’: US sealift can’t count on Navy escorts in the next big war.

That is really not a good plan. We already have a minimal number of logistics support vessels and only a small pool of American mariners to sail them. Maritime Patrol Aircraft might be able to provide some degree of protection for transiting logistics vessels but one thing they cannot do, is rescue mariners from ships that are inevitably sunk. Coast Guard ships might be able to rescue mariners, but without ASW equipment, they themselves would be vulnerable.

The Mission: 

I would not expect the cutters to be on the forward edge of battle, but by providing escort service from the Continental US to forward logistics bases, they would free more capable assets for areas where the threat level, particularly the air threat, is higher.

 

The Cutters: 

The Coast Guard has or is building two classes of cutters that might be useful as ASW escorts, the Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) and the Argus class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC).

USCGC Stone, the ninth National Security Cutter. Dual helicopter hangars clearly visible.  (Huntington Ingalls photo)

Nine NSCs have already been completed. Two more are building or on order. Though they lack any current ASW capabilities, the Bertholf class National Security Cutters are in many ways already equipped to serve as frigates. A modified version of the design was apparently a contender for the FFG(X) program. They are a bit faster than the new FFGs and have a longer range and greater endurance. They have a flight deck and hangars capable of handling two MH-60s or one MH-60 and UAS. Like the new frigate and the LCSs, they have a 57mm Mk110 gun, but with a better fire control system than found on the LCSs, that includes a SPQ-9B Fire Control Radar. They also have a Phalanx CIWS and a sensitive compartmented intelligence facility (SCIF). They were designed with provision to accept twelve Mk56 VLS and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. Their equipment includes:

  • EADS 3D TRS-16 AN/SPS-75 Air Search Radar
  • SPQ-9B Fire Control Radar
  • AN/SPS-79 Surface Search Radar
  • AN/SLQ-32B(V)2
  • 2 × SRBOC/ 2 × NULKA countermeasures chaff/rapid decoy launchers
  • AN/UPX-29A IFF
  • AN/URN-25 TACAN
  • MK 46 Mod 1 Optical Sighting System (WMSL 750 – 753)
  • MK 20 Mod 0 Electro-Optical Sighting System (WMSL 754 – 760)
  • Furuno X and S-band radars
  • Sea Commander Aegis derived combat system
  • Link-11 and Link-16 tactical data links

The Offshore Patrol Cutters are only slightly less capable than the National Security Cutters. They are about the same size at 4,500 tons full load. Speed is lower at 22+ knots sustained. They also have a 60 day endurance and an over 10,000 mile range. They are designed to support and hangar both a helicopter and a UAS, but while they clearly could hangar a MH-60R, it is not clear if it could also support an MQ-8. It is currently unclear if they will have a SCIF as built, but they have space for one. Their equipment includes:

  • Saab Sea Giraffe AN/SPS-77 AMB multi-mode naval radar
  • AN/UPX-46 IFF
  • AN/URN-32 TACAN
  • MK 20 Mod 1 EOSS
  • Link 22 Tactical Data Link
  • AN/SLQ-32C(V)6 Electronic Warfare System
  • 2 x MK 53 Mod 10 NULKA Decoy Launching Systems

Navy Reserve Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) squadron(s):

HSM squadrons fly both the MH-60R and MQ-8 Fire Scout UASWikipedia reports there are currently 18 HSM squadrons. They are now the only provider of shipboard airborne ASW capability. Only one of those is a Reserve squadron. Reportedly the Navy currently has 34 excess MH-60R which could equip virtually all the large cutter currently planned.

The ASW Mission Module:

The Navy apparently intends to equip ten LCS with ASW mission modules. But the new FFG-62 class will share the same ASW equipment including the TB-37U MFTA (Multi-Function Towed Array) which takes the form of a three inch cable towed behind the ship. The LCS ASW module also includes a variable depth sonar, the AN/SQS-62. This may or may not be required for the cutters’ open ocean escort mission. Even 36 complete ASW modules at the current cost of 19.8M would cost less than a single new FFG.

AN/SQS-62 Variable Depth Sonar intended for Littoral Combat ships. Photo Raytheon.

Manning the ASW Modules:

There are at least two possible sources of crews to man the ASW modules:

  • Active duty personnel assigned to rotational crews of LCS and FFGs
  • Navy Reservists

All LCS are now expected to be manned by rotating Blue and Gold crews. A similar scheme is being considered for the FFGs. Upon mobilization it is likely crew rotations will stop. That may mean experienced ASW officers and crew will be available to serve on similarly equipped ASW capable cutters.

As of Sept 30, 2019, the Navy’s Ready Reserve Force included over 100,000 members, 59,658 Selected Reservists (SELRES) and 44,020 Individual Ready Reservists (IRR). Currently I doubt there are organized reserve units prepared to operate ASW mission modules, but that might be a future option that would allow them to operate with cutters during training and exercises, while maintaining their training using simulators. There will certainly be recently separated IRR members, trained in the operation of the relevant systems who could be recalled to active duty.

Conclusion: 

This is a simple low cost way to add about 30% more ASW capable surface combatants to the fleet, putting it much closer to its projected requirements. They may not be ideal ASW escorts, but they may be good enough to make a difference.

Webber Class for the Navy?

The US Naval Institute News Service has a short post that discusses LCS funding, but there is also something there about the possibility of the Navy buying Webber class Fast Response Cutters as well.

“Meanwhile, the HASC approved a requirement for the Navy to study the prospect of buying a version of the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutter, submitted by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.). chair of the tactical air and land forces subcommittee.

“The idea is for the Navy to consider basing these smaller patrol vessels in Bahrain where they would operate in the littoral waters of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Coast Guard is already planning to base four fast response cutters in Bahrain, to replace the aging Island-class patrol boats the service currently has patrolling the Persian Gulf.”

2018 Aviation Order of Battle–USNI

Would like to point to a nice summary of aviation assets that is available on line from the US Naval Institute (USNI, unfortunately behind the pay wall–see late addition below). It is the work of a friend, Jim Dolbow, who many years ago encouraged me to blog. He now works for the USNI and is responsible for the two latest editions of the Coast Guardsman’s Manual.

Included are aircraft of the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations, and NOAA as of 31 July, 2018

Navy and Marine units list aircraft type, squadron, and base but don’t actually list numbers of aircraft.

Coast Guard aircraft numbers, by type, are listed below, but the article goes on to identify number and type at each CG air station. It also notes there are 160 civilian CG Aux. aircraft.

Coast Guard aviation as of 31 July 2018 consisted of 7 different types of aircraft representing 207 airframes based at 27 different locations, including:

(17)     HC-130H Hercules

(9)       HC-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft

(18)     HC-144 Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance aircraft

(14)     HC-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft

(2)       C-37A Gulfstream V

(45)     MH-60T Jayhawk medium range recovery helicopter

(102)   MH-65D/E Dolphin short range recovery helicopter

I was a bit surprised to find the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations had more aircraft than the Coast Guard, 97 fixed wing and 128 helicopters (vs 60 fixed wing and 147 helos for the CG). Numbers of each type is provided but no information on basing.

NOAA has nine manned fixed wing aircraft, identified by number and type, all operated out of NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, FL.


Late addition:

Just realized the USNI post is only available to USNI members (You really should be a member). Hopefully they will forgive me if I copy and paste a good chunk of the CG portion below.

Current Asset Laydown of USCG Aircraft:

USCG Air Station Cape Cod, MA

(3) HC-144A

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Atlantic City, NJ

(11) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Washington, DC

(2) C-37A

USCG Air Station Elizabeth City, NC

(6) HC-130J

(3) MH-60T

(5) HC-27J

USCG Aviation Logistics Center, Elizabeth City, NC

Aircraft undergoing depot maintenance/support:

(4) HC-130H

(3) HC-130J

(3) HC-144

(2) HC-27J

(6) MH-60T

(10) MH-65D

(2) MH-65E

USCG Air Station Savannah, GA

(5) MH-65D

USCG Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville, FL

(10) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Miami, FL

(5) MH-65D

(5) HC-144A

USCG Air Station Clearwater, FL

(4) HC-130H

(10) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Borinquen, PR

(4) MH-65D

USCG Aviation Training Center Mobile, AL

(3) HC-144A

(4) MH-60T

(9) MH-65D/E

USCG Air Station New Orleans, LA

(5) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Houston, TX

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Corpus Christi, TX

(3) HC-144A

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station San Diego, CA

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station San Francisco, CA

(7) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Humboldt Bay, CA

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Sacramento, CA

(6) HC-27J

USCG Air Station North Bend, OR

(5) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Astoria, OR

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Port Angeles, WA

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Detroit, MI

(5) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Traverse City, MI

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Sitka, AK

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Kodiak, AK

(5) HC-130H

(6) MH-60T

(4) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Barbers Point, HI

(4) HC-130H

(3) MH-65D