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.

“Build a Great White Fleet For the 21st Century”–USNI Proceedings

The US Naval Institute Proceedings May 2018 edition has an article, “Build a Great White Fleet for the 21st Century,” that recommends greater Coast Guard funding to support Combatant Commanders. It is written by Captain David Ramassini, USCG. The accompanying bio states,

“Captain Ramassini is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and cutterman who has served in the Pentagon as Coast Guard Liaison on the Joint Staff and also in the Office of Secretary of Defense. Captain Ramassini is slated to assume his fifth command as the plankowner commanding officer of the national security cutter Kimball (WMSL-756).”

Unfortunately the article is “members only.” If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably should also be a US Naval Institute member, but for those who are not, I’ll try to summarize his argument, including some quotations. After reviewing the article, I’ll offer some thought on how, and where, we might provide some assistance to the Combatant Commanders.

The Article

Captain Ramassini contends improved maritime governance and suppressing transnational crime is in the US interest where ever it occurs.

“As the line between terrorist and criminal activities continues to blur, the transactional connections between a wide range of unlawful organizations is likely to cloud the distinction between law enforcement and military operations.”

The Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCC) need afloat assets to aid in dealing with these problems.

Source: UNODC, responses to annual questionnaire and individual drug seizure database

The Coast Guard is uniquely qualified to leverage “vast authorities; capabilities; and interservice, interagency, intelligence community, and international partnerships” in support of Geographic Combatant Commanders (GCC).

There are not enough Coast Guard assets to do this now.

To provide additional assets funding for the fleet needs to be rebalanced, moving money from the Navy to the Coast Guard.

Rebalancing the national fleet composition would improve relationships and provide the United States and our partners advantages in a complex world filled with threats that go beyond the nation-state.

Recognizing the Coast Guard for the unique national, international, diplomatic, economic, and intelligence power that it is, the current administration has the opportunity to turn this tide and make the national fleet great again by directing a smart business decision. Specifically, prioritize Coast Guard cutter production to grow the fleet and provide a more cost-effective and adaptable instrument for the nation. A 21st-century Great White Fleet of Coast Guard cutters would begin a new era of sea power better suited to promote rule of law through cooperative partnership and distributed lethality, and allow the U.S. Navy to refocus its efforts on high-intensity conflict. It is time to rethink international engagement using the Coast Guard—an armed force at all times, but a more cooperative power known for its olive-branches-over-arrows approach.

Coast Guard national security, offshore patrol, and fast response cutters could serve as powerful instruments for GCCs. They are large enough to operate globally, yet small enough to gain access and foster cooperative partnerships. In addition, these more affordable naval assets could be produced more expediently than Navy surface combatants to build a credible national fleet. The goal of a 355-ship Navy needs to be expanded to a 400+ ship national fleet with utility across civil and military disciplines and a better return on investment.

It is time to change the costly Navy-centric approach toward peace and security and focus on restoring the underpinnings of rule of law to regain the trust and confidence of partner nations. The Coast Guard is capable of more finely tuned and less costly persistent presence. It is an affordable, accountable, and reliable instrument of national power well equipped to execute international engagement. Bolstering white hull numbers within the national fleet by doubling the number of cutters could provide a 21st century advantage to the United States and our international partners in this ever-evolving global environment.

Captain Ramassini suggests that large cutters could be upgraded so that they can fill the frigate role.

One approach worth examining is up-arming the Coast Guard’s fleet with a vertical-launch system (Mk-41 VLS) and SeaRAM close-in weapon system to provide increased warfare interoperability. Imagine a forward-deployed “international security cutter” capable of operating with a carrier strike group and/or surface action group and assuming a role historically filled by a Navy frigate.

Commentary

There are currently six Unified Combatant Commands. Two, NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM already have substantial Coast Guard assets available, although SOUTHCOM could use more. CENTCOM has the six WPBs of PATFORSWASIA. Three Unified Combatant Commands, PACOM, EUCOM, and AFRICOM, have no regular Coast Guard representation.

EUCOM (European Command) probably has far less need for a US Coast Guard presence, since they already have several sophisticated coast guard organizations among allied nations.

PACOM probably could use more Coast Guard assets for capacity building and suppression of Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) fishing in the Western Pacific. Seventh Fleet has already asked for more Coast Guard presence to confront Chinese white hulls.

Africa has a serious problem with Maritime crime and could use training, capacity building, and more international inter-agency cooperation. The Coast Guard has sent ships to the area intermittently, but the area has been largely neglected. China is making serious inroads in Africa. We need a presence, but gray hulls are not what we need. The six boats of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA) could help address the problem in East Africa, but that would require some sharing by CENTCOM. There is an unrealized opportunity to do a lot of good in West Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea where piracy, kidnapping, IUU fishing, and other marine crimes are common.

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

To maintain a single large cutter off the West coast of Africa or in the Western Pacific would require three ships in rotation, assuming they are homeported in the US. Larger ships are more difficult to homeport in foreign ports, smaller vessels are likely more feasible.

It appears more likely we could replicate the six boat PATFORSWA organization with similar organizations in East Africa and the Western Pacific. There are several ports in each area that might be worth considering.

Obviously we would not send more now overage 110s, we would be sending Webber class WPCs. This would require extending the current program beyond the 58 in the program of record. There is already discussion about six additional WPCs to replace the six 110s assigned to CENTCOM. Adding six for AFRICOM and six for PACOM would extend the current program by two or three years. The shipbuilding costs for 12 more WPCs are on the order of $700M spread over two or three years, not much more than a single NSC. Basic personnel requirements for 12 vessels with a crew of 24 are 288 crew members. Rotational crews and supporting personnel would probably push this up to about 500, a notable increase for the Coast Guard, but “small change” in the defense budget. The PATFORSWA costs are paid for from the DOD budget, so I would expect a similar arrangement for similar squadrons assigned to AFRICOM and PACOM.

Perhaps at some point. we should also consider a similar forward deployed squadron for SOUTHCOM.

 

Coast Guard Floor Presentations at Sea-Air-Space 2018

3-View line drawing and dimensions of MQ-1B Predator UAV, – Department of the Air Force, Engineering Technical Letter (ETL) 09-1: Airfield Planning and Design Criteria for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), 28 Sept 2009

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) web site has three links that provide information presented at the Navy League’s 2018 Sea-Air-Space Symposium.

Homeports, 2035

 An email discussion with a reader got me to thinking about how our cutters might be homeported in the future. It started with a simple question, where would NSC #11 be homeported? Turns out it is not a simple question because first we do not yet know where nine and ten will go, but it also kicked off a lot of thought about how changes of fleet capabilities, mission, and maintenance philosophy will effect the future lay down of assets.
 This is not going to be a definitive document, but rather an exploration of considerations and possibilities.
Why 2035? If the shipbuilding plans proceed as expected, we will not see the last Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) delivered until 2034.
Fleet Capabilities:
To provide I baseline, I will look back on the fleet of WHECs, WMECs and Island class WPBs as it existed before the new generation started arriving and before we lost eight Island class to the 123 foot conversion disaster and six more to a continuing commitment to South West Asia. My reference is a 2000-2001 issue of “Combat Fleets of the World” which includes a notation of cutter homeports.
In 2035 we can expect to have 35 large patrol cutters, 36 if we get NSC#11. The fleet in 2000 had 44. The new ships are certainly far more capable, but quantity has a quality all its own. Fortunately we have another way to make up for numbers.
The FRCs are much more capable than the 110s and approach the capabilities of the 210 foot WMECs. Additionally they will be more numerous than the 110s they are replacing. Only 49 Island class 110 foot WPBs were built, but the program of record includes 58 Webber class WPCs. The Webber class should be able to do many of the fisheries enforcement missions currently done by 210s. They have the same ship’s boat as the larger cutters and they are as seaworthy as most of the fishing vessels. The Webber class are expected to be underway for 2500 hours per year compared to 1500 hours for the Island class. The Webber class are not just “fast response cutter,” which was what the Island class were, they are at least part time, patrol assets.
If we compare what we had in 2000, 49 Island class available 1500 hours/year for 73,500 hours, with what we are projected to have, 58 Webber class available 2500 hours/year for 145,000 hours, that is an increase of 71,500 hours. If we assume optimistically that a dedicated patrol ship is available 24 hours a day for 185 days/year, that is 4,440 hours/day so the additional 71,500 hours is the equivalent of 16.1 patrol cutters. If we give due consideration to when and where they can be used and provide land based air support, this more than makes up for the lower number of larger cutters.
The Offshore Patrol Cutters will be far more seaworthy than the WMECs. In fact they will be at least equal to, and probably superior to the 378 foot WHECs, in terms of seakeeping. Their cruising speeds will higher than that of the 378s and their effective range of operations will be similar. Unlike the 270 and 210 foot WMECs they will be usable for Alaska Patrol.
Mission Changes: 
I don’t expect any of our current missions to go away, but there will inevitably be a change of emphasis.
The Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort will likely continue, but the drug of choice may be changing from cocaine to synthetic opioids which enter the US by other routes. The Navy will also likely join the Coast Guard in Eastern Pacific drug interdiction, which may reduce the need for cutters.
The island nations of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia will be under stress as a result of sea level rise and the effects of illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. The Coast Guard is likely to be called upon to assist them.
There will be a need to assist other coast guards and coast guard like organizations, particularly in Africa and South East Asia where they have problems with piracy, drug and human trafficking and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and the Coast Guard will be increasingly asked to provide capacity building assistance.
Maintenance Philosophy:
The Coast Guard seems to have embraced the idea that there are benefits to basing ships in clusters. Clusters of at least three almost guarantees that there will be at least one vessel in port to benefit from the support facilities there. I think we may see many of  those ports that are currently expected to host two Webber class get a third when more become available. I don’t think we will see many, or perhaps any ports, with only one Bertholf, OPC, or Webber class homeported there.
In the Past:
In 2000 ships were split between the Atlantic and Pacific in ways that reflected fundamental differences in the two theaters. Looking at the WHECs, WMECs, and 110 foot WPBs as surrogates for the NSCs, OPCs’ and FRCs; LANTAREA had 63 vessels (two WHECs, 26 WMECs, and 35 WPB110s), PACAREA had 30 vessels (ten WHECs, six WMECs, and 14 WPB110s). Those 93 vessels were distributed among 38 ports, 15 in PACAREA and 23 in LANTAREA.
The Ports: 
In an earlier post, “Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell,” I identified 30 critical ports or port complexes that are likely targets for those hostile to the US (23 in LANTAREA and seven in PACAREA), including 23 military outload ports (17 in LANTAREA and six in PACAREA). Only five of these ports have a significant Navy surface ship presence. It makes sense for us to homeport vessels, particularly the Webber class, in, near, or on the approaches to those ports where there is no Navy surface ship presence. Fortunately some of these ports are in close proximity to each other. This list of ports is repeated below. I have indicated where current planning indicates NSCs and FRCs are or will be homported in bold. This accounts for eight NSCs and 43 FRCs. 
LANTAREA

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #2 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ), Strategic Seaport (Elizabeth)

CCGD5–four FRCs

  • Delaware Bay–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia) –two FRCs at Cape May
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, #14 port by tonnage, #7 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#9 port by tonnage, #10 container port, #12 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport (Norfolk and Newport News)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport –two FRCs at near by Atlantic Beach
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport (Sunny Point and Wilmington, NC)

CCGD7–Two NSCs, 18 FRCs (six in Key West in addition to those indicated below)

  • Charleston, SC–#9 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport –two NSCs
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#13 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#11 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port–six FRCs
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port–six FRCs
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port

CCGD8–Five FRC

  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #12 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder –two FRCs replacing Decisive.
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–#14 container port,#10 Cruise Ship port (NOLA), #1 port by tonnage (South Louisiana), #6 port by tonnage (NOLA), #8 port by tonnage (Baton Rouge), #10 port by tonnage (Port of Plaquemines)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#11 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by –tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)–Three FRC going to Galveston when Dauntless departs.
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

PACAREA

CCGD11–Four NSCs, two (assumption) FRCs

  • San Diego–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme) –FRC(s)at San Pedro
  • San Francisco Bay complex–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord) –Four NSCs

CCGD13–Two FRCs planned for Astoria, OR

  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)

CCGD14–Two NSCs, Six FRCs, Two in Honolulu, + Four planned

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor–Major Naval base, including submarines–Two NSC, Two there now, Two FRCs + a third planned
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport–Three FRCs planned

CCGD17–Six FRCs, Two in Ketchikan, + Four more planned

  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

Next we will talk about where the remaining NSCs and FRCs, and where all the OPCs might be going.

Bertholf Class National Security Cutters:

In 2000 the twelve 378s were distributed ten to the Pacific and two to the Atlantic. Homeports in 2000 were Charleston (2), Seattle (2), Alameda (4), and Honolulu (2). The program of record was for eight National Security Cutters, but ten have been funded and it appears there may be an eleventh. Homeports for the first eight include four in Alameda, CA, two in Charleston, SC, and two in Honolulu, HI. I don’t expect that there will be any other homeports assigned. It is likely that numbers nine and ten will go to Honolulu and Charleston, bringing them to three each. This will give LANTAREA more every long range assets both to support drug interdiction and capacity building in West Africa. 

Number eleven will probably go to the Pacific. Alameda could probably accept it, but I suspect a growing recognition of responsibilities in the Western Pacific will mean, if procured, it will go to Honolulu, if not initially, at least by 2035. . 

Offshore Patrol Cutters:

I don’t think OPCs will go to the same ports as the NSCs. Based on where other WHECs or multiple WMECs were based (and an unused naval base at Corpus Christi), likely homeports for OPCs include:

  • Boston, MA
  • Portsmouth, VA
  • Key West, FL
  • St. Petersburg, FL
  • Corpus Christi (Naval Station Ingelside), TX
  • San Diego, CA
  • Kodiak, AK

If we assume at least three ships in each, that accounts for 21. What of the remaining four? They could be added to the ports above or perhaps added to other ports.

I think a case can be made for putting a higher percentage of the large cutters in PACAREA. After all, less than 16.2% of the US Exclusive Economic Zone is in LANTAREA’s area of operation. 

Currently there are only four medium endurance cutters in the Pacific and 24 in the Atlantic. There are only 25 OPCs in the program of record. Obviously this will not be a one for one replacement 

In the year 2000 PACAREA had 16 large patrol cutters (10 WHECs and six WMECs), currently they have 13 (five NSCs, four WHECs, and four WMECs). Considering the apparent growing responsibilities of PACAREA, the projected maximum of no more eight NSCs, and the ability of the Webber class to assume some of the fisheries protection duties of the WMECs in the Atlantic, it is likely PACAREA WMECs will be replaced with OPCs on a better than one to one basis that would have left PACAREA with only 12 large patrol ships. I suspect PACAREA will be assigned at least six OPCs, and that it should have at least nine (17 of the total of 36 large ships (8 NSCs and 9 OPCs), if we get 11 NSCs homeported as above).

It is extremely likely at least two OPC will go to Kodiak to replace 378 foot WHEC Douglas Munro and 283 foot WMEC Alex Haley. It seems likely that this could ultimately grow to three OPCs. Locating them close to ALPAT areas.

San Diego was homeport to two 378s. It is closer to the Eastern Pacific drug transit zones than other Pacific ports, and it has both excellent training facilities and shipyards.

Seattle seemed a likely location for OPCs but since it is the likely homeport for three new Heavy Polar Icebreakers as well as USCGC Healy (and/or other medium icebreakers) it appears they may not have the room.

Assuming three OPCs in Kodiak and three in San Diego, if additional OPCs go to the Pacific where would they go? Additional ships in San Diego or nearby Terminal Island in San Pedro (Long Beach) appear likely.

This leaves 16 to 19 OPCs to be assigned to LANTAREA. Three each in Boston, MA, Portsmouth, VA, Key West, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Corpus Christi (Naval Station Ingelside), TX would account for 15, leaving only one to four to find a home. One more port, perhaps Miami, or just add ships to the ports above. Certainly there is space in Portsmouth and Little Creek, VA.

I will assume six in San Diego and/or San Pedro (Long Beach), four in Portsmouth, VA and three each in Boston, Key West, FL, St. Petersburg, FL, Corpus Christi, TX, and Kodiak, AK.

Webber class WPCs:
The program of record includes 58 Webber class. As noted above homeports for 39 have been identified, of the remaining 19 four will go to Alaska. Lets look at each in turn.
CGD1
In 2000 there were seven Island class in the First district, two in Portand, ME, two in Woods Hole, MA, one at Glouchester, MA, and two in Sandy Hook, NJ. I would presume there will be Six Webber class in the First District.
In order to cover all the Critical port in the First District, we will probably put two in Sandy Hook, NJ to protect the Hudson River port complex, two in S. Portland, ME that would cover Bath ME and two at the East end of Long Island Sound that would protect the Sub base at Groton. Woods Hole might work, but I would hope they would be based closer either at Newport, RI or in New London.
CGD5
In 2000 there were only thee Island class in the Fifth district, one in Portsmouth, VA and two in Atlantic Beach, NC. We already have four Webber class going to the District, two in Cape May, NJ, and two in Atlantic Beach, NC.
CCGD7
In 2000 there were 23 Island class based in the Seventh district, six in Miami, seven in Key West, six in San Juan, one in Port Canaveral, and three in St. Petersburg. We already have 18 Webber class assigned to the Seventh District, six in Miami, six in Key West, and six in San Juan. Notably there are no Webber class on the Seventh District’s Gulf coast, so I would anticipate we will see three more homeported in St. Petersburg. 
CGD8
In 2000 there were only two Island class WPBs homeported in the Eighth district, one in Mobile, AL and one in Corpus Christi, TX. We already know two will go to Pascagoula, MS, and three will go to Galveston, TX.  We probably want at least two more in Corpus Christi, TX to cover that Strategic Port and the Western Gulf of Mexico.
CGD11
In 2000 there were three Island class in the Eleventh District. All three were homeported in San Diego. We already know one or more Webber class will go to San Pedro. I anticipate there will ultimately be two in San Pedro, CA. It seems likely there will also be two based in the San Francisco Bay complex to cover this strategic port and the Northern California coast.
CGD13
 In 2000 there were two Island class in the Thirteenth district, one in Port Angeles, WA and one in Coos Bay, OR. We already know two will go to Astoria, OR. I think we also need two in Port Angeles, WA to cover the Puget Sound port complex and the Washington coast.
CGD14
IN 2000 there were four Island class WPBs in the Fourteenth district, two in Honolulu, HI, one in Hilo, HI, and one in Guam. We already know there will be three Webber class in Honolulu and three in Guam. I don’t anticipate any more.
CGD17
In 2000 there were five Island class WPBs in the Seventeenth district, one each in Seward, Ketchikan, Auke Bay, Petersburg, and Homer. We already have two Webber class in Ketchikan, and we know the district will get four more. I anticipate we will see at least two somewhere in Cook Inlet to cover the strategic port of Anchorage, either in Homer or in Anchorage itself. The last two will probably go to Auke Bay, Juneau or add one more to Ketchikan and Cook Inlet. 
The Overview:
I think this is fairly close to the way we will end up in 2035.
CGD1…three OPCs…six Webber class
  • S. Portland, ME: …two Webber class
  • Boston, MA: …Three OPCs
  • East end of Long Island Sound (Woods Hole, MA, Newport, RI , or New London)…two Webber class
  • Sandy Hook, NJ:…two Webber class

CGD5…four OPCs…four Webber class

  • Cape May, NJ…two Webber class
  • Portsmouth, VA…Four OPCs
  • Atlantic Beach, NC…two Webber class

CGD7…three NSCs…three OPCs…21 Webber class

  • Charleston, SC…three NSCs
  • Miami, FL…six Webber class
  • Key West, FL…Three OPCs…six Webber class
  • San Juan, PR…six Webber class
  • St. Petersburg, FL…Three OPCs…three Webber class

CGD8

  • Pascagoula, MS…two Webber class
  • Galveston, TX…three Webber class
  • Corpus Christi (Naval Station Ingelside), TX…Three OPCs…two Webber class

CGD11

  • San Diego and/or San Pedro (Long Beach),… six OPCs…two Webber class
  • San Francisco Bay/Alameda Complex…four NSCs…two Webber class

CGD13

  • Astoria, OR…two Webber class
  • Port Angeles, WA…two Webber class

CGD14

  • Honolulu…four NSCs…three Webber class
  • Apra, Guam…three Webber class

CGD17

  • Ketchikan…two Webber class
  • Auke Bay (Juneau)…two Webber class
  • Kodiak, AK…Three OPCs
  • Cook Inlet (Homer or Juneau)…two Webber class

How does this square with the list of critical ports? It is a good start, but there are too many ports between Pascagoula and Galveston. and between Charleston and Miami. Either we need more Webber class or we need the smaller WPBs that will replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs to also be able to also protect these ports.

Having ships in the right place is not enough. As I’ve noted several times, I don’t think any of our ships are adequately armed to perform the Maritime Security role, meaning they need to be able to counter both small, fast, highly maneuverable craft and larger vessels. I don’t really think the guns we have now are capable of reliably doing either. Hopefully sometime before 2035 our vessels will be properly equipped for the Homeland Security mission.

 

“Rewrite the Playbook on Maritime Homeland Defense”–USNI Proceedings

Navy photo. MH-60R “Knighthawk” helicopters conducts an airborne low frequency sonar (ALFS) operation during testing and evaluation

The March, 2018 issue of the US Naval Institute Proceedings has an article by Commanders Timothy Kerze and Dana Brooke Reid, USCG, that advocates reinstating the Coast Guard’s ASW mission.

Specifically they suggest that the ten National Security Cutters (NSC) and 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC) be equipped and configured to operate the MH-60R in the ASW role. They contend that all 35 ships in the program of record could be so equipped for $122.5M, far less than the cost of a single Navy frigate.

They also refer briefly to the possibility of adding a sonar. I feel adding a long range detection capability would be a necessity. The ASW helicopters would be much more useful if the cutters could provide an around the clock cueing. Even adding this capability, perhaps in the form of LCS ASW module components to be manned by Navy Reservists when the need arises, would still likely keep the total cost of the program less than that of a single FFG, now expected to cost $800M.

As for employment, surface ships patrolling for submarines has never been very effective. Escorting other ships has always been the most effective tactic for countering submarines, because it draws the submarines to the escorts and because the subs must frequently abandon their most stealthy mode of operation to make an attack. ASW equipped cutters could be assigned to escort duties in areas away from the enemy’s air and surface threats.

Navy Awards FFG Conceptual Design Contracts for FFG(X)–Speculation on a NSC Derivative

The US Naval Institute has the best report I have seen on the recent award of five contracts to five different vendors for development of conceptual designs for the projected FFG (X).

I’ll look at the parent craft and offer some speculation about what Huntington Ingalls might be doing to make their NSC based offering more attractive.

There are five venders but actually only four shipyards involved since Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisc. is both the primary for an offer based on the Fincantieri Italian FREMM, and the build yard for Lockheed’s offer of a Freedom class LCS design.

Parent Designs:

Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship:

USS Independence (LCS-2)

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) derived designs are the light weights in the competition. They both come with large open spaces that might be converted, but as built, they have limited crew accommodations. They will likely take substantial redesign to serve as FFGs. This class has exceptional aviation facilities, and functionally I find it preferable to the monohull Freedom class. Still it seems to have a fatal flaw, in that many do not like the aluminum hull and superstructure, but the Navy has not ruled out the design.

Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship:

USS Freedom (LCS-1)

My primary problem with this class is its short range. Their engineering spaces are crowded and their seakeeping has been criticized. There is a good chance that their FFG(X) variant may have a lengthened hull. What that will mean for the ships’ range is unclear. This class, with its semi-planning hull, may not take kindly to the additional weight envisioned for the FFG.

Fincantieri Italian FREMM:

Italian FREMM Bergamini. photo by Fabius1975

These and the Navantia F-100 are the high end candidates. At about 6,700 tons full load the FREMM is about twice as large as the LCS derived designs. The FREMM comes in several versions, ASW, General Purpose, and AAW. Some of them have capabilities for land attack and Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (ABMD). The Italian versions have an active electronically scanned array radar, but this would likely be replaced by an American system. They have a double helicopter hangar. While the Italian version has at most 16 VLS, the French version of the same ship, which do not have the 5″64 gun have up to 32 VLS cells. The latest versions have a 20 knot cruise on diesels. In addition they have two 3,000 HP electric motors which can provide very quiet slow cruise (my guess, about 15 knots). It also means they have substantial reserves of electrical power for future weapons like lasers and rail guns. Neither the French or Italian versions have more than eight anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) but the Italian ASCMs are bulkier than likely American counterparts. The speed has been variously reported as 27 and 30 knots, but given that they only have LM2500 gas turbine, 27 knots is probably a realistic expectation. Because these ships’ systems are European, they may require substantial redesign. If these ships have a weakness it is likely that their cost will likely be near the but still under the Navy’s declared upper limit of $950M.

Navantia Álvaro de Bazán-class F100 Frigate:

HMAS Hobart, photo by Nick-D

There are actually three versions of this ship, Spanish, Norwegian, and Australian. The Australian ships are the latest version, so I would assume the offering is based most closely on these. These ships already use primarily American equipment including the Aegis system and a 48 cell Mk41 VLS. At 6,250 tons full load, they approach the size of many countries’ destroyers, and, in fact, that is the way the Australians and Spanish classify them. This already looks like an American design. The propulsion is CODOG with two 7,580 HP diesels and two LM2500 gas turbines for a max speed of 28+ knots. As currently configured all three versions of the design have hangars for only one H-60. All three versions are also equipped with no more than eight ASCMs. The likely stumbling block for this class is cost. When the Hobart class was constructed in Australia the three ships cost total was $9.1 B Australian, so they cost more than Burke class DDGs. The cost of the last of five F100s built by the more experienced Spanish shipyard was probably more representative, but even there the cost was $1B US. The US shipyard offering this is Bath Iron Works, a yard known more for quality than for low cost. There is perhaps the option of building a version of the smaller 5,290 ton Norwegian version of this design which mounts only a 16 cell Mk41 VLS.

The Bertholf class National Security Cutter:

Interestingly the USNI post reports, “Out of the competitors involved in the competition, HII was the only company that did not present a model or a rendering of its FFG(X) at the Surface Navy Association symposium in January.”

HII has already shown several models of NSC based frigates so perhaps they are doing something a bit different.

I suppose it is possible HII could build a stripped down version of the Burke class DDG or perhaps some other frigate design, but I will presume they will base their frigate on the Bertholf class cutter, but why the mystery?

I will speculate that they plan to make some significant changes relative to their previous presentation and they did not want to tip their hand. I’ll get to the likely changes in a moment.

The post has a short summary of the systems expected to be included in the FFG(X), I have noted the systems already included on the Bertholf class by having them in bold face.

“Many of the required weapons systems are pulled from the previous FF requirements: the COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System, which pulls software from the same common source library as the Aegis Combat System on large surface combatants; the SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system (currently a Phalanx, but the SeaRAM is a drop in replacement–Chuck); a canister-launched over-the-horizon missile; the surface-to-surface Longbow Hellfire missile; the Mk53 Nulka decoy launching system; the Surface Electron Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2 program with SLQ-32(V)6; and a slew of undersea warfare tools such as the AN/SLQ-61 light weight tow, AN/SQS-62 variable depth sonar and AN/SQQ-89F undersea warfare/anti-submarine warfare combat system. It also requires use of the MK 110 57mm gun with the Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance (ALaMO) projectile being developed for the LCS and frigate,”

An NSC derived frigate may occupy the sweet spot between the too small LCS derived designs and the too expensive FREMM and F100 designs that are about the largest combatants (other than flat tops and amphibs) in their respective navies. .

In order to make it more competitive with the high end frigates, I suspect HII is making some changes. Here is a list of things that might be done.

  • Increase the length to make room for additional features, but keeping it under 5,000 tons full load.
  • Using the additional length provide for more VLS, perhaps 48, or even 64.
  • Provide for 16 canister launched anti-ship cruise missiles.
  • Increase the generator power to allow future use of systems such as rail guns and lasers.
  • Provide electric motors for quiet and economical cruise and loiter (which would also use the additional generator capacity. (HII put two 5,000HP/3,700kW auxiliary propulsion motors on USS America and some other big amphibs.)
  • Use an active electronically scanned radar array.
  • Use the extra length to put another davit amidships and free the fantail and stern for ASW systems.