SOUTHCOM Mothership?

HOS Mystique, 250 foot Multi-Purpose Support Vessel being chartered by the Navy for SOUTHCOM

Marine Link is reporting that the Navy has awarded a $7.4M charter to Hornbeck Offshore with the work expected to be completed 14 June 2019.

“The DOD says the multi-mission support vessel will be chartered to provide proof of concept for a single vessel to meet various training, exercise, experimentation, and operational mission support requirements.”

I am going to speculate that the intent is to support the operation of Cyclone class patrol craft in the Eastern Pacific transit zone. Perhaps Webber class WPCs as well?

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

New OPVs for France, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, and India

Four new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) projects, totaling 20 vessels, have been reported.

NavyRecognition reports the French Navy has issued a Request for Information preparatory to procurement of six OPVs to operate from French overseas territories. They are seeking 22 knot vessels about 70 meters (230 feet) in length with facilities to support a vertical take off and landing (VTOL) unmanned air system (UAS). Given France’s recent history with OPVs these may look a lot like Offshore Supply Vessels.

The Australian Customs patrol boat ACV Cape St George on Darwin Harbour in 2014, Photo by Ken Hodge

Australian Shipbuilder Austal has been contracted to build two Cape Class OPVs (illustrated above) for the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. These are 58 meter (190 foot) 25 knot vessels with a 4,000 mile range. Ten have already been built for the Australian Navy and Border Force.

It appears Austal’s yard in the Philippines may be building six 80 meter OPVs for the Philippine Navy. These would reportedly be based on the Cape Class Patrol Vessels, but would be much larger, have steel hulls, and helicopter support facilities (helo deck certainly, but not clear if that would include a hangar).

Indian Navy Photo: INS Saryu, the lead ship of her class of advanced offshore patrol vessels of the Indian Navy

India is planning to procure six “New Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels.” It sounds like these will evolve from the Saryu Class OPV which are 2,230 tons displacement, 344 feet in length, 42 foot of beam, with a 12 foot draft with a speed of 25 knots. The Saryus are armed with a 76mm Oto Melara gun and two Soviet designed AK-630, 30mm six barrel Gatling guns (just forward of the funnels in the photo). They also have a hangar and flight deck for a HAL Dhruv medium weight helicopter. The new ships should be at least equal in capability.

 

The Webber class WMECs

Since the Coast Guard chose to base six Webber class in each of three different ports (18 total in Miami, Key West, and San Juan), it has seemed apparent that the Webber class were more than “fast response cutters,” sitting in port waiting for an alarm to ring sending them rushing off to a SAR case. It seemed likely these little ships, more than twice as large as the Island class 110 foot WPBs, would be used for offshore patrols much like an MEC.

This is perhaps colored by my recollection of WMECs (and even WHECs) that had no helicopter facilities. There were at one time 165, 143, and even 125 foot WMECs.

Coast Guard Compass brings us confirmation of the offshore capability of these vessels. USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) has completed a mission to conduct operations in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, 2,200 miles from her homeport. She conducted fisheries enforcement and capacity building, and laid the foundations for future missions to the Central Pacific.

Coast Guard cutter crews visit and work in the exclusive economic zone of partner nations throughout the year to help exercise bilateral agreements protecting sovereignty and resources in the Pacific. The ability of the FRCs to patrol this region increases the number of Coast Guard assets capable of operating in the area. About 66 percent of the world’s tuna comes from the Western and Central Pacific according to the National Fisheries Institute and fisheries are the primary economic driver in the Pacific, especially for small Pacific Island Nations. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing results in losses of more than an estimated 21 to 46 percent of catch representing a $1.5 billion revenue loss in the region according to the Marine Resource Assessment Group. This loss can have a direct effect on peace, governance and a continued American presence as transnational crime may supplant traditional fishing to fill voids created by economic declines. This threat is why a robust multilateral enforcement presence is crucial.

This is an area that has been seldom patrolled in the past. China is interested in replacing American influence with their own. It is an area we should not ignore. (see also)

Republic of the Marshall Island. Illustration by TUBS from Wikipedia

Beyond our obligation to other Pacific Island nations, 29.3% of the US EEZ is around Pacific islands beyond Alaska and Hawaii,  including the Pacific Remote Islands Marine Monument which is larger than the entire Atlantic coast EEZ.

The eight day transit to and from the Marshall Islands was facilitated by USCGC Walnut (WLB-205) which transferred 8,000 gallons of fuel during two underway replenishments.

CCGD14 was in deed thinking outside the box, but maybe it will lead to other things. Webber class are already doing drug enforcement missions far South into the Caribbean. It appears, with a little support from larger vessels, the 18 District Seven Webber class ought to be able to continuously provide three FRCs in the Eastern Pacific.

Incidentally I am not suggesting a designation change. The WPC designation for the Webber class is the only one we have done since the start of the “Deepwater” program that makes any sense

 

 

CIMSEC Event Invite: 20 JUN DC Discussion: The USCG in the SCS

Join CIMSEC’s DC chapter for an evening happy hour discussion on the challenges and opportunities presented by the potential for an expanded role of the U.S. Coast Guard in Southeast Asia, and in particular a focus on the question of what role, if any, it should play in the South China Sea.  Discussants will be announced shortly.

Time: Wednesday, 20 June, 6:00-8:00pm

Place: Fuel Pizza Farragut Square, 1606 K St NW, Washington, DC 20006 (via Farragut North or West Metro Station).

RSVPs not necessary but appreciated: director@cimsec.org

China Disinvited from Participating in 2018 RIMPAC Exercise–USNI

The People’s Republic of China Chinese Navy multi-role frigate Hengshui (572) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) transit in formation during Rim of the Pacific 2016 on July 28, 2016. US Navy photo.

The US Naval Institute news service is reporting that the Chinese have been “disinvited” to participate in the 2018 RIMPAC exercises.

Citing actions in the South China Sea that run counter to international norms and a pursuit of free and open seas, Department of Defense spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would not be participating in the exercise despite its participation in submarine safety and other non-warfighting components of the exercise in previous years.

Patrol Craft Drug Interdiction in the Eastern Pacific

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

CoastGuardNews reports a drug interdiction incident that occurred in the Eastern Pacific on April 7. I don’t usually talk about individual drug busts, but this was a bit unusual.

The vessel involved wasn’t a cutter, it was a Navy Cyclone class patrol craft, the USS Zephyr (PC-8). Using Navy vessels for drug interdiction has become rare, but that was not what I think makes this significant, it is that the vessel was essentially the same size as the Webber class WPCs (387 tons full load for the Zephyr, after it was lengthened, and 353 tons for the Webber class).

If the Navy can run a PC from Florida to the Eastern Pacific transit zones, so can the Coast Guard.

We don’t have enough large cutters to exploit all the intel we have on the target rich transit zone. Perhaps we could use Webber class.

We have 18 of the class in 7th District, with six each homeported in Miami, Key West, and San Juan.

This suggest that we could keep at least three Webber class in the Eastern Pacific transit zone by rotating one from each port

 

 

Indonesia Uses Google to Stop Fish Pirates

The Indonesian Navy and the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries blow up an illegal fishing vessel near Tanjung Batumandi, Pangandaran, West Java, on March 14, 2016. Photo credit: REUTERS/Adeng Bustomi/Antara Foto

gCaptain reports Indonesia has had great success in using Google to crack down on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“After hunting down violators and blowing up their boats in public spectacles, Pudjiastuti’s approach has become more sophisticated. In a global first, the minister has teamed up with Google to use satellites to spot illegal fishermen from space. It’s paying off: Indonesia’s fish stocks have more than doubled in two years, and an industry plundered by foreigners for decades is once again contributing to economic growth, which Widodo has pledged to boost to 7 percent.

“See Also: Scientists Use AIS Data to Map Global Fishing Activity in Extraordinary Detail

“In a sprawling archipelago of 17,000 islands, the potential is vast. While fishing currently accounts for just 2.6 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product, that portion has grown about 40 percent since Pudjiastuti started her role. At that time, there were some 10,000 foreign vessels fishing illegally in Indonesia’s territory. She says they’re now all but gone.

Here is an earlier post on the Google system.