New Units for Alaska, the Haley, and Nome

Northeast Russia and Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

One of our readers sent me an article from the Alaska Beacon about the need for additional housing for the military that includes some insight into the Coast Guard’s future in Alaska.

The information about the Coast Guard is toward the end of the article. This seems to be confirmation that the two FRCs in Ketchikan will be joined by four more, two in Kodiak and one each in Sitka and Seward, and that their additional supporting infrastructure is being provided.

We already knew the third and fourth OPCs, Ingham (917) and Rush (918), will be going to Kodiak.

What About USCGC Alex Haley?:

The crew of the USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC 39) transfers custody of the detained fishing vessel Run Da to a People’s Republic of China Coast Guard patrol vessel in the Sea of Japan, June 21, 2018. The Alex Haley and PRC Coast Guard crews detained the Run Da suspected of illegal high seas drift net fishing. U.S. Coast Guard photo. Petty Officer 1st Class William Colclough

The Alex Haley is currently homeported in Kodiak. When I saw that two OPCs were to be homeported in Kodiak, my first assumption was that they would replace the Haley as well as USCGC Douglas Munro also based there, but perhaps that assumption was unwarranted.

Alex Haley is nominally a medium endurance cutter, but with a 10,000 nautical mile range and a 3,484 tons full load displacement, she is more of a high endurance cutter with the crew of a 270 foot WMEC.

She is an old ship, having been originally commissioned in 1971, but still younger than any of the 210 and considerably more capable. She is well suited to the Alaskan environment, so I don’t see her being moved outside the 17th District (Alaska). She is simple, meaning she is relatively easy to maintain, but with twin shafts and four engines, she also has redundancy.

She was extensively renovated, and her engines replaced before she was recommissioned into the Coast Guard in 1999, more than eight years after the last 270 was commissioned.

The second OPC to be based in Kodiak probably will not arrive before 2028. The last 210 will probably not be decommissioned until about 2033.

If the intention is to ultimately have three OPCs in Kodiak, as I believe may be the case, there is a good possibility that the Haley could hang on until that ship arrives.

What about Nome?:

USCGC Alex Haley moored in Nome, AK.

There is also mention of the planned port expansion in Nome with a suggestion that the Coast Guard may have units there.

One tight spot may be Nome, where there are plans to expand the city port into a deepwater, Arctic-service port which Moore called a “fantastic opportunity” for Coast Guard operations.

I don’t think we will see either large patrol cutters (unless it is the Alex Haley) or FRCs based there, but moving one of the Juniper class seagoing buoy tenders there, with its light icebreaking capability might make sense. I suppose a medium icebreaker might be a possibility, but that is a very long shot.

There will probably be a seasonal air detachment stationed in Nome.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention.

“Austal USA Taps Fairbanks Morse Defense to Equip OPC WMSM-919” –Marine Link

Future USCGC Pickering (Image: Austal USA)

Marine Link reports,

Fairbanks Morse Defense (FMD)…which has been expanding its offering as single-source maritime defense contractor, said its cross-company package for WMSM-919 includes two main propulsion diesel engines through Fairbanks Morse Defense, a hangar door and stores elevator through Federal Equipment Company (FEC), reverse osmosis system through Maxim Watermakers, two all-electric davits through Welin Lambie, and various electrical components (cable trays, light supports, piping supports, down commers, stuffing tubes, etc.) through Research, Tool & Die (RT&D).

Not unexpected, but good to see movement on the project, plus, it is a good excuse to publish the graphic.

Looking closely at the graphic, on the fantail, I see two buff-colored pieces that look like the lifting equipment. I am curious about what they are for?


“New Sonar For Navy Frigates Could Turn Any Ship into Submarine Hunter, Maker Says” –Defense One

Combined Active Passive Towed Array Sonar, CAPTAS-4 in operation from a French Frigate. There are also smaller/lighter versions of the sonar. 

Defense One reports on a presentation at Surface Navy Association,

 “At the Surface Navy Association conference in Arlington, Virginia, this week, the company showed off a video of the technology being installed on a commercial ship within 48 hours, turning the vessel into an anti-submarine “asset,” Bock said.”

While mounting the sonar on merchant ships might be useful, wouldn’t it make sense to mount it first on Coast Guard National Security or Offshore Patrol Cutters that could also host an anti-submarine helicopter and are already equipped with Navy compatible secure communications?

On a cutter or a merchant ship there is the question of who would man it? Every year trained personnel, including sonar technicians and ASW helicopter flight crews, leave the active-duty Navy and become part of the Reserve. Upon mobilization, they can be recalled to active duty to man these systems.

Austal–OPC, EMS, and Saildrone

Above is a video of interviews with representatives of Austal Shipbuilding in regard to the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and the Expeditionary Medical Ship (EMS).

There isn’t much new here about the OPC, but there is an opportunity to get a good look at a model of the ship. Looking at the Mk38, mount atop the hangar, it appears the field of fire and, perhaps more importantly, field of view for its optics are severely limited. (Using the 30mm Mk38 Mod4 with its separately located optics might improve this situation.) It is also not clear where the .50 caliber remote weapon stations (and their associated optics) will be located since the model only includes crew served .50 mounts. Presumably at least one and probably both will be forward, below the bridge and above and behind the 57mm Mk 110 gun mount.

The EMS is a ship the Coast Guard is likely to work with during disaster response operations and possibly during capacity building efforts. Operating Coast Guard helicopters from these ships during a natural disaster would seem a natural partnership.

This video was included in a Naval News report, “Austal Diversifies Revenue Base, Announces New Contracts.” Perhaps also of interest to the Coast Guard, included in the report was the statement that Austal was now “…the exclusive manufacturer of Saildrone, Inc.’s wind and solar-powered Surveyor USV…”, a system the Coast Guard has extensively tested.

“SEWIP Roll-Out Continues To US Fleet / Northop Grumman Tests Ultra-Lite Electronic Attack System” –Naval News

Cropped version focusing on the AN/SLQ-32(V)6 suite, USS Porter (DDG-78). Photo by Johan Fredriksson CC-BY-SA

Naval News provides an update on Electronic Warfare (EW) modernization. The paragraph of particular interest to the Coast Guard is below.

A compact SEWIP Lite variant, known as AN/SLQ-32C(V)6, has been developed for smaller ships. Initial deliveries of this scaled version – designed to provide early detection, signal analysis and threat warning for small ships – are supporting the US Coast Guard Heritage class Offshore Patrol Cutter program and the navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

There is a second Naval News report that may be related, “Northop Grumman Tests Ultra-Lite Electronic Attack System,”

The Ultra-Lite EA System is a scaled-down, onboard EA system for anti-ship missile defense for smaller ships.

Presumably, those smaller ships are again the Heritage (Argus) class Offshore Patrol Cutters and the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships.

OPC #1 and #2 May Be Delayed

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

Two articles report that additional delays to both the future USCGC Argus and USCGC Chase appear likely.

The Marine Log article refers to the Forbes article but appears focused on drive shaft irregularities,

“We received shafting for OPC Hulls 1 and 2 that were not in compliance with the NAVSEA requirements called for in the OPC vessel specifications. These two sets of shafting were delivered to our facility with signed and stamped certificates of approval from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), the U.S. Government-mandated certification authority for the OPC Program, certifying that they were in physical compliance with the ABS approved design artifacts,” said Eastern Shipbuilding Group President Joey D’Isernia. “We later discovered that both shipsets of shafting were non-compliant due to having out of tolerance physical dimensions. This issue was discovered during shaft installation on OPC Hull 1. The Coast Guard, Rolls-Royce [the supplier of the shafts] , and ABS were made aware of the problem immediately and they each had on-site representatives overseeing shaft installation. We are working closely with ABS, Rolls-Royce, and the USCG to resolve this issue as soon as possible. In the meantime, we are coordinating with the Coast Guard to advance post launch production and test activities to be completed prior to launch, in order to mitigate delivery schedule impacts and launch the ship at an even greater level of completion.”

The Forbes article is a more comprehensive look at Eastern progress, or lack there of,  on the project. Its worth reading both.

“Stage 2 of the Coast Guard offshore patrol cutter moves forward” –CG HQ News Release

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

Below is a news release. Just minutes before I saw this, I recieved an email from Jessica Ditto, Eastern’s VP, Communications

As you might have seen, ESG is going to the Court of Federal Claims (COFC) to challenge the OPC stage II award decision. COFC is not an appeal, but a new proceeding that allows ESG to seek the disclosure materials that have been withheld by the government in the GAO protest. Here is our statement:

“The federal procurement process is designed to be fair and transparent. Ordinarily, the government discloses reasonable justification for its award decisions to the attorneys representing the parties in a protest. The government has declined to voluntarily disclose the information that might offer that justification. As a result, we are seeking the information and justification through a different legal pathway,” said Joey D’Isernia, President of Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters
Contact: Headquarters Public Affairs

Stage 2 of the Coast Guard offshore patrol cutter moves forward

WASHINGTON — The Coast Guard today issued a notice to Austal USA, the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) Stage 2 contractor, to proceed on detail design work to support future production of OPCs. The Coast Guard issued the notice following the withdrawal of an award protest filed in July with the Government Accountability Office by an unsuccessful Stage 2 offeror.

The Coast Guard on June 30, 2022, awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract through a full and open competition to Austal USA to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters. The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.

The Coast Guard’s requirements for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production were developed to maintain commonality with earlier OPCs in critical areas such as the hull and propulsion systems, but provide flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance.

The 25-ship OPC program of record complements the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters, fast response cutters and polar security cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy. The OPC will meet the service’s long-term need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented non-citizens, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting ports.

For more information: Offshore Patrol Cutter Program page.


Some of you might be interested in responding to this. It also seems to suggest the future USCGC Argus is pretty far along.

Maybe something similar was done earlier, but it seems late in the game to do this sort of design review. Even so, seems like a good idea. Maybe not too late to incorporate ideas in the “B class” OPCs.

As you all probably know by now, I don’t think any current or planned cutter meets the implicit requirement of being able to forcibly stop any ship, regardless of size, and my belief this is entirely possible for cutters as small as patrol boats (WPBs).

R 241556Z AUG 22 MID200080150110U
ALCOAST 307/22
SSIC 5102
1. This ALCOAST solicits volunteers to participate in a six-day
Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Operational Assessment (OA) in Panama
City, FL from 31 October to 05 November 2022. The OA is a review
and analysis of cutter design data to determine the operational
capability and effectiveness expected to be delivered by an OPC.
2. Background: The OPC will constitute a significant percentage of
the USCG’s major cutter fleet, and is designed to have new
capabilities for maritime homeland security, law enforcement and
national defense missions. OPCs, designated as the Maritime
Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM), will replace existing Medium
Endurance Cutters (WMECs) and fill a critical operational gap
between the USCG’s Fast Response Cutter (FRC) and the National
Security Cutter (NSC). The first OPC will be delivered in FY 2023.
3. The OA, facilitated by the Operational Test and Evaluation Force
(OPTEVFOR), is primarily a tabletop documentation review by
experienced active duty members who are currently serving, or have
recently served on WMECs, WHECs, WSMLs, or have experience with
planned OPC systems and major cutter support. The OA will also
provide SMEs an opportunity to walk an OPC currently in production
to supplement their assessment of capabilities. SME input will
assist OPTEVFOR in assessing suitability of systems on an OPC and
will culminate in an OA report submitted to the Vice Commandant and
DHS’ Office of Test and Evaluation to assess OPC capabilities.
4. Following are the OPC assessment groups and the corresponding SME
experience needed for the OA:
a. DECK – Current or recent major cutter First Lieutenant (BOSN).
Boatswain’s Mate with current or recent major cutter experience as
Deck Leading Chief Petty Officer. Enlisted ratings with current or
recent major cutter experience as coxswain, boarding officer, boat
deck operator/supervisor/safety, flight deck crew, and underway
replenishment crew/supervisor/safety.
b. ENGINEERING – Current or recent major cutter Engineer Officer,
Main Propulsion Assistant, and Damage Control Assistant. Senior
enlisted with current or recent experience as Engineering Leading
Chief Petty Officer. Machinery Technicians, Electrician’s Mates,
Electronics Technicians, and Damage Controlmen with current or
recent major cutter experience.
c. OPERATIONS – Current or recent major cutter Commanding
Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, and Electronic
Materials Officer. Boatswain’s Mates with current or recent major
cutter experience with navigation duties and visual signaling.
Operations Specialists with current or recent major cutter
experience with Sea Commander and electronic warfare systems.
Electronics Technicians with current or recent major cutter
experience with electronics systems maintenance. Information
Systems Technician with current or recent major cutter experience.
Intelligence Specialist with recent major cutter intelligence
support experience.
d. SUPPORT – Current or recent major cutter Support Officer.
Storekeeper, Yeoman, Culinary Specialist, and Health Services
Technician with current or recent major cutter experience. Port
Engineer, Asset Manager, Availability Project Manager, and Logistics
Specialist with current or recent experience in supporting major
e. WEAPONS – Current or recent major cutter Weapons Officer, and
Tactical Action Officer or Combat Systems Officer. Electronics
Technicians with current or recent major cutter experience as Mk 48
GWS operators/maintainers. Gunner’s Mates with current or recent
major cutter experience maintaining and operating Mk 110, Mk 38, and
small arms maintenance.
f. AVIATION – Current or recent major cutter Helicopter Control
Officer and Landing Signals Officer. Helicopter pilots with current
or recent shipboard deployments as Senior Aviator or HITRON pilot.
Enlisted aviation ratings with current or recent experience in major
cutter deployments with responsibilities for aircraft maintenance.
5. Volunteers must be available for the entire six-day event and be
free of normal duties to allow focus on this Operational Assessment.
Participants can anticipate travel on 30 October and 06 November.
SMEs will be provided read-ahead documents in preparation for their
role to ensure the OA is completed within the allotted time. A
detailed schedule of events will be provided via email after
participants have been identified.
6. Interested participants should contact the OPC Sponsor’s
Representative, LT Sam Williams, by 19 September 2022 via email,
noting relevant experience and desired mission area from paragraph
7. Members must include a copy of their employee summary sheet from
CGBI in-board view as an attachment. Email must be forwarded from
your unit CO or XO to demonstrate command approval for
participation. COMDT (CG-9322) will issue travel orders to members
selected to participate.
8. Point of contact: LT Sam Williams, COMDT (CG-751), 202-372-2324,
9. RADM Todd C Wiemers, Assistant Commandant for Capability (CG-7),
10. Internet release is authorized.

Why Did USCGC Midgett Embark an ASW Helicopter For RIMPAC 2022?

PACIFIC OCEAN (July 30, 2022) U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Humberto Alba, a naval aircrewman tactical-helicopter, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 37, deployed on U.S. Coast Guard Legend-class cutter USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757), looks down at a USCGC crewmember after taking off during flight operations during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Bacon)

The Drive reported on Cutter Midgett’s participation in RIMPAC 2022 with a look at flying Navy MH-60R ASW helicopters from the National Security Cutters. I wanted to talk about why this might have been done, but first let’s clarify something.

This and other reports may have left the impression that a Coast Guard Officer leading a task force at RIMPAC was a first and that it was the first time a Navy H-60 had flown from an NSC. Neither is not really the case.

  • During RIMPAC 2020, USCGC Munro embarked a Navy MH-60S, the surface warfare and logistics counterpart to the MH-60R. It is not clear if they ever hangared it.
  • Reportedly USCGC Bertholf headed a Task Force during RIMPAC2018.
  • In RIMPAC 2014 USCGC Waesche also headed a task force. “The maritime interdiction operation involving the Chinese destroyer, frigate and oiler was referenced in December by the Navy as being under the Coast Guard cutter Waesche and including two Royal Brunei Navy ships, a French frigate, a U.S. frigate and the Pearl Harbor-based cruiser USS Port Royal.”

Since NSCs are skippered by Captains, while the US Navy and our allies captain Burke class DDGs and similar ships with commanders, it is not uncommon for the Coast Guard commanding officer to be the senior officer among the captains of a group ships, if there is no commodore assigned. So, frequently, the Coast Guard CO is task force commander by default. This happened to 327 skippers early in WWII as well. For a period, Spencer’s CO was an escort group commander until the Navy assigned a Commodore. Fortunately Spencer got some good training allowing her to sink two of the less than 40 U-boats sunk by US surface ships.

So what was the reason an ASW helicopter was embarked on Midgett? The Coast Guard’s motivation and the Navy’s?

Could be as simple as because they could, but I don’t think so. Both services expected to get something out of this.

Interoperability is always nice, so Navy helo on CG cutter allows both to get some training. Still think there must be more to it than that.

The Navy wants to more widely distribute their forces so this might have been something of a dry run to see what they could do in terms of command and control from a Frigate sized ship and crew.

For the Coast Guard, it could have been an opportunity to get used to operating an H-60 with folding tail from a Bertholf class. It was certainly a rare opportunity to exercise LINK 16. We might have wanted to find out if a system included in the MH-60R should also be included in Coast Guard H-60s.

Or it might have been a first small step toward reviving a Coast Guard ASW mission. Unless the National Security Cutters could operate an ASW helicopter there would be no point in trying to add an additional ASW capability such as a towed array. Confirming ship/helo compatibility would be a first step, along with identifying what changes might be necessary to provide for the helicopters’ additonal needs for weapons, sonobuoys, etc.

Maybe Supporting MH-60R helicopters is reason enough

The US Navy has alot of H-60s. The numbers I have seen are 237 MH-60S (the surface warfare and logistics type) and 291 MH-60Rs (the multi-mission/ASW type). It is probably a bit less than that now, but about 500 plus the MQ-8 helicopter drones that they will also want to take to sea.

The Navy obviously does not have as many ships capable of hosting H-60s as they would like. Every US Navy surface combatant commissioned in the 21st century (DDG and LCS–there have been no cruisers or frigates) has had the capability to hangar two H-60s, and the planned FFGs will have this capability as well.

Navy requirements seem to be always changing,

  • The proposed 355 ship navy included 104 large surface combatants (cruisers and destroyers) plus 52 small surface combatants (frigates and LCS).
  • The latest from July 2022 calls for 96 large and 56 small.

Let’s say a minimum of 116 ASW capable escorts, probably about 120. Right now they have about 90 with no ASW capable LCS, 22 cruisers all now 22 to 36 years old (five of which are slated for retirement in the current budget), and about 70 Burke class DDGs of which 13 will reach 30 years old by the end of 2025 while the first FFG is not expected until 2026. Clearly the number is ASW capable escorts is unlikely to increase significantly any time soon and number may actually decline.

So how many MH-80R/MQ-8 spots are there?

The ten carriers typically host about six MH-60R. The cruisers and Burke class flight IIA and III have two each, but 28 of the Burke class DDGs (Flights I and II), almost a third of our large surface combatants, have flight decks and LAMPS ASW electronics, but no hangar. So roughly 72 ships with 204 spots. Eleven National Security Cutters would provide 22 additional spots, about a 11% increase. The Offshore Patrol Cutters protentially offer another 25 spots about 12% more.

With the Navy hoping to more widely distribute their surface combatants, rather than keeping them firmly attached to a carrier, a couple of additional MH-60Rs could substantially improve ASW capabilities of a small surface action group (SAG).




“Eastern Shipbuilding protesting Austal’s cutter win, cites ‘unfair competitive advantage’” –Breaking Defense

Future US Coast Guard’s Heritage class cutter Argus (Picture source: Eastern Shipbuilding Group)

Breaking Defense reports,

WASHINGTON: Eastern Shipbuilding Group is formally protesting a Coast Guard shipbuilding contract potentially worth billions that was awarded late last month to Austal USA, in part due to what ESG claims was an “unfair competitive advantage and conflict” among other issues.

This may further delay this much delayed program. Can’t help but wonder if OPC #1, the future USCGC Argus, will be delivered before the end of FY2022 as it had been scheduled. If not, it is going to undermine Eastern’s case as to their own competence.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.