“Coast Guard Cutter to Deploy to U.S. 5th Fleet; Escort New FRCs to Bahrain” –Seapower

CARIBBEAN SEA
09.04.2019
Courtesy Photo
U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville
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The Coast Guard Cutter James conducts Hurricane Dorian relief operations alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 6, 2019. During their 62-day counter-drug patrol, the James’ crew, along with members from Tactical Law Enforcement Team-South, Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, Cryptologic Direct Support Element and multiple partner agencies, contributed to the interdiction of 7 drug-smuggling vessels and were responsible for the seizure of more than 12,677 pounds of cocaine and 4,085 pounds of marijuana bound for the United States. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter James)

The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports that a Bertholf class cutter will escort two Webber class WPCs when they transit to Bahrain to begin the replacement of the six 110 foot WPBs that are currently there. Presumably this will be happening a couple of additional times, as the new ships are commissioned. Since typically, about 5 cutters are completed annually, deployments will likely be four to six months apart. It will be interesting to see how long the larger cutters remain in 5th Fleet’s AOR.

It would not be surprising to see them doing some “capacity building” in East Africa before returning home.

This May Be the Launcher We Need

Navy MkVI patrol boat. It it can fit on this, it can probably fit on any cutter WPB or larger. (Sorry I could not grab a photo of the launchers–you have to follow the link.)

Lockheed has new vertical launchers for JAGM, the missile that is replacing the Hellfire. Presumably it can also use the Hellfire. They seem particularly appropriate for Coast Guard applications, being small enough to mount 16 missiles atop the deckhouse of the Navy’s 85 foot MkVI patrol boat. They have a small foot print and are probably pretty light. They can be mounted in multiples of quad missile launchers; each quad launcher appears to be no more than 2′ x 3′ x 8′ tall. (That is my estimate, but I think if anything they are probably smaller. The missile itself is 7.1″ in diameter and 71″ long. For reference beam of the MkVI is only 20’6″.)

The Hellfire/JASM can successfully engage a large spectrum of potential maritime terrorist threats from small fast highly maneuverable craft (with one hit) to larger ships (assuming multiple hits), helicopters, drones, and some fixed wing aircraft.

There are two naval versions, one for mounting directly on deck and one for mounting below decks with just the muzzles above deck.

These would be an excellent addition to the Webber class being sent to replace the 110s in PATFORSWA. Probably could fit one or two quad launchers forward of the deckhouse on the Webber class on either side of the 25mm Mk38.

Thanks to Malph for brining this to my attention. 

 

“BOLLINGER SHIPYARDS DELIVERS 41st FAST RESPONSE CUTTER STRENGTHENING DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IN THE ARABIAN GULF” –Bollinger Press Release

USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE

Below I have reproduced a Press Release from Bollinger. Normally I would note the delivery of these vessels by a comment on a previous post, “Webber Class WPC Homeports,” but this is the first Webber class to be going to PATFORSWA. I hope we will see some upgrades to their weapons before they get to Bahrain.


BOLLINGER SHIPYARDS DELIVERS 41st FAST RESPONSE CUTTER STRENGTHENING DEFENSE CAPABILITIES IN THE ARABIAN GULF

FRC is first of six cutters destined for overseas operations in Manama, Bahrain

LOCKPORT, La., — (October 22, 2020)Bollinger Shipyards LLC (“Bollinger”) today delivered the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Florida. This is the 164th vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 41st Fast Response Cutter (“FRC”) delivered under the current program.

The USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE is the first of six FRCs to be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, which will replace the aging 110’ Island Class Patrol Boats, built by Bollinger Shipyards 30 years ago, supporting the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest overseas presence outside the United States.

“Bollinger is proud to continue enhancing and supporting the U.S. Coast Guard’s operational presence around the world by delivering the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE,” said Bollinger President & C.E.O. Ben Bordelon. “It is our top priority to ensure that the brave men and women of the Coast Guard stationed in PATFORSWA have the most state-of-the-art, advanced vessels as they work to build and maintain the necessary regional alliances to ensure maritime security in the region. Building ships for the Coast Guard provides critical assets to bolster our national security and advance America’s interests, both at home and abroad.”

At a PATFORSWA change of command ceremony earlier in the summer, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander Vice Adm. Steven D. Poulin emphasized the importance of the unit, saying, “During these historical times it is important, now more than ever, that we maintain maritime security operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. [PATFORSWA is] pushing forward into the unknown to protect American interests in the region.”

PATFORSWA Commander Capt. Willie L. Carmichael echoed Poulin’s comments, saying PATFORSWA “plays a key role in maritime security, maritime infrastructure protection, theater security cooperation, and counter-smuggling operations.”

PATFORSWA is composed of six cutters, shoreside support personnel, and the Maritime Engagement Team. The unit’s mission is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard Forces in support of U.S. Central Command and national security objectives. PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command in furthering their goals to conduct persistent maritime operations to forward U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment.

Bordelon continued, “The FRC hot production line continues to produce and provide stability in the industrial base for the U.S. Government and our Bollinger workforce, assuring economic benefit for our region, our vendor partners in the 40-plus states that support the FRC program, and our country.”

The last 20 weeks of the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE build occurred despite the COVID-19 global pandemic and six named storms impacting the Gulf region, all of which affected Louisiana and two of which made landfall in the state as hurricanes, including Hurricane Laura – a Category 4 storm and the strongest to hit the state since the Great Storm of 1856. Bollinger undertook precautions to ensure the health and safety of employees and maintain its delivery schedule. For the COVID-19 pandemic, Bollinger increased and enhanced sanitization practices across the shipyard, and enacted more liberal leave and remote work policies as well as altered shift schedules to promote social distancing.

Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished himself or herself in the line of duty. Born in Massachusetts in 1873, Charles Moulthrope was a member of the crew of Revenue Cutter Commodore Perry. Seaman Moulthrope gave his life in the performance of duties in 1896. Moulthrope had previously performed a heroic deed while serving on the Perry.Moulthrope rescued four of his shipmates who had fallen into the sea from the cutter’s launch after they had gone to rescue another crewman, Boatswain Alfred Halfell who had fallen overboard. He grabbed a line and leaped over the side into the freezing water to rescue the four who were rapidly succumbing to hypothermia.Moulthrope worked the line around all four of the sailors and those on board the cutter then pulled the men aboard the Perry.

About the Fast Response Cutter Platform

The FRC is an operational “game changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. FRCs are consistently being deployed in support of the full range of missions within the United States Coast Guard and other branches of our armed services.This is due to its exceptional performance, expanded operational reach and capabilities, and ability to transform and adapt to the mission. FRCs have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands—a 4,400 nautical mile trip from their homeport. Measuring in at 154-feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, state of the art C4ISR suite (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), and stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.

About Bollinger Shipyards LLC

Bollinger Shipyards LLC (www.bollingershipyards.com) is a leading designer and builder of high performance military patrol boats, ocean-going double hull barges, offshore oil field support vessels, tugboats, rigs, lift boats, inland waterways push boats, barges, and other steel and aluminum products from its new construction shipyards as part of the U. S. industrial base. Bollinger has 10 shipyards, all strategically located throughout Louisiana with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Bollinger is the largest vessel repair company in the Gulf of Mexico region.

Navy to Decommission Cyclone Class Patrol Craft

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

I learned recently that the Navy expects to decommission their 13 Cyclone class patrol craft in FY2021. This is significant for the Coast Guard for a couple of reasons.

The three based in Mayport have consistently been used to augment Coast Guard vessels, hosting Law Enforcement Detachments for drug enforcement (a recent example). .

Second, these vessels frequently partner with Coast Guard patrol boats of PATFORSWA based in Bahrain. Their decommissioning may put a greater load on the Coast Guard unit as it begins to receive Webber class as replacements for the existing six Island class patrol boats.

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 16, 2018) A MK-60 Griffin surface-to-surface missile is launched from coastal patrol ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12). (Photo by MC2 Kevin Steinberg)

For the Island class cutters in the Persian Gulf, the Cyclone class have served as better armed, big brothers, adding a bit of muscle to escort missions where Iranian Fast Inshore Attack Craft might be encountered. While the Webber class, that will be replacing the Island class, are a bit better armed than the 110s, unless they are extensively modified, they will not come close to replacing the missile armed Cyclone class. LCS are supposed to replace the Cyclone class, but they still have not demonstrated the ability to sustain a reasonable number of vessels in a remote theater. LCS are also too large to go many of the places the Cyclone class were able to.

USS Hurricane (PC-3)

These little ships have seemed to count for very little to the Navy. Regularly we see a count of “Battleforce ships”“Battleforce ships” that includes everything from aircraft carriers down to civilian crewed, unarmed fleet tugs (T-ATF), salvage ships (T-ARS), and high speed intra-theater transports (T-EPF, really aluminum hulled, high speed ferries). The Cyclone class were only included in the count one year (2014), so their loss will be largely invisible. (Significantly, this count of what many must assume is the National Fleet also makes no mention of Coast Guard assets either.)

Until ten of the class found a home in Bahrain, the Navy seemed to have had a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Originally intended to support the special warfare community, they were considered to large for that mission. Of the original fourteen one was transferred to the Philippine Navy. Five had been temporarily commissioned as Coast Guard cutters.

Other than the far larger LCS, the navy has no plans to replace these little ships, that have reportedly been the busiest ships in the Navy.

DAHLGREN, Va. (Nov. 6, 2004) Coast Guard Cutter Shamal (WPC-13) . USCG photo by Joseph P. Cirone, USCG AUX

“SEAOWL TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS completes sea trials of its IPD aboard La Confiance-class patrol vessel” –Naval News

We talked about this device earlier here and here. I have to believe these devices have more uses than just target designation including navigation and man-overboard recovery. It quickly, quietly, and accurately passes information to the bridge, CIC, or remote weapons operator.

Both the text and video talk about 3D designation. I have to assume that means range and elevation as well as bearing. They also claim to have solved the potential parallax problem (differences in target bearing when taken from different locations on own ship).

This could be particularly useful for the Webber class going to PATFORSWA where they might be confronted with the asymmetric threat of large numbers of fast inshore attack craft.

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, Updated April 15, 2020” –CRS

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has again updated their “Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress.” The last updated edition of this analysis, that I reported on here, was dated 28 Jan. 2020. The FY2021 PC&I request includes funding for OPC#3 and long lead time material for #4, plus small amounts for the NSC and FRC program. Not addressed here is the second Polar Security Cutter for which funding is also requested, addressed in a separate CRS report. There is a good breakdown of the entire request for vessels here.

As noted earlier, eight Marine Protector class, 87 foot WPBs are to be decommissioned without replacement. 

Congress has routinely added Webber class Fast Response Cutters to previous budgets. I have to believe the Congress will fund four additional FRCs, if not in FY2021 then in 2022, so that we can ccomplete the program of record and replace all six Island class WPBs of PATFORSWA. A 12th NSC seems much less likely, but not impossible. The summary for the 15 April edition is quoted below. 

Summary

The Coast Guard’s 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 FY2021 budget requests a total of $597 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs. It also proposes a rescission of $70 million in FY2020 procurement funding that Congress provided for the NSC program.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2020 has fully funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. In FY2020, Congress provided $100.5 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 12th NSC, so as to preserve the option of procuring a 12th NSC while the Coast Guard evaluates its future needs. The funding can be used for procuring LLTM for a 12th NSC if the Coast Guard determines it is needed. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $31 million in procurement funding for activities within the NSC program; this request does not include further funding for a 12th NSC. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget also proposes a rescission of $70 million of the $100.5 million that Congress provided for a 12th NSC, with the intent of reprogramming that funding to the Coast Guard’s Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program. Eight NSCs have entered service; the seventh and eighth were commissioned into service on August 24, 2019. The 9th through 11th are under construction; the 9th is scheduled for delivery in 2020.

OPCs are to be 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 and PSC programs as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $546 million in procurement funding for the third OPC, LLTM for the fourth, and other program costs. On October 11, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which the Coast Guard is a part, announced that DHS had granted extraordinary contractual relief to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of Panama City, FL, the builder of the first four OPCs, under P.L. 85-804 as amended (50 U.S.C. 1431-1435), a law that authorizes certain federal agencies to provide certain types of extraordinary relief to contractors who are encountering difficulties in the performance of federal contracts or subcontracts relating to national defense. ESG reportedly submitted a request for extraordinary relief on June 30, 2019, after ESG’s shipbuilding facilities were damaged by Hurricane Michael, which passed through the Florida panhandle on October 10, 2018. The Coast Guard intends to hold a competition for a contract to build OPCs 5 through 15.

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 $65 million per boat. A total of 60 have been funded through FY2020, including four in FY2020. Four of the 60 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the Coast Guard’s 58-ship POR for the program, which relates to domestic operations. Excluding these four FRCs, 56 FRCs for domestic operations have been funded through FY2020. The 36th FRC was commissioned into service on January 10, 2020. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2021 budget requests $20 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request does not include funding for any additional FRCs.

Are PATFORSWA WPBs Being Equipped With a Target Designation System?

Crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Adak (WPB-1333) raise the American flag. Adak is assigned to CTF 55, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Frank Iannazzo-Simmons

NavyRecognition has some more details about the multi-unit exercise that prompted recent Iranian harassment of Navy and Coast Guard vessels, “U.S. Navy Surface Forces and Army Helicopters Conduct Live Fire Exercise in North Arabian Gulf.”

The ships involved in the event included Navy Expeditionary Landing Base ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), coastal patrol ships USS Sirocco (PC 6), USS Whirlwind (PC 11), USS Firebolt (PC 10 ), USS Tempest (PC 2), Coast Guard patrol boats USCGC Adak (WPB 1333), USCGC Maui (WPB 1304), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332), and guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60).

In addition, there were Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters operating from USS Lewis B. Puller. What I found particularly interesting was:

On the ships involved without organic aircraft control capabilities, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) was embarked to communicate directly with the aircraft and provide targeting information.

Does this mean that the Island class WPBs are getting a form of data link to allow them to pass targeting information to the Army attack helicopters? Other DOD aircraft?

Will the Webber class WPCs expected to go to PATFORSWA going to get these?

“IRGCN Vessels Conduct Unsafe, Unprofessional Interaction with U.S. Naval Forces in Arabian Gulf” –US CENTCOM

NORTH ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. Military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf. U.S. forces are conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo)

The following is a news release from US Fifth Fleet Public Affairs: (I bet one of those long range acoustic projectors could be really unpleasant if someone shouted over one of them at you at close range. Maybe every cutter should have them.)

On April 15, eleven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches of the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) while the U.S. vessels were conducting joint integration operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.

The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.

After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them.

The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) “rules of the road” or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area.

The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the North Arabian Gulf since late March.

U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.

NORTH ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. Military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf. The expeditionary mobile sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) is conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo)

“GeoSpectrum Launches Low Frequency Active VDS Deployable by USVs”

Geospectrum’s new, compact version of the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) suitable for Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs)

NavyNews reports that Canadian Company GeoSpectrum has developed a version of their “Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar” (TRAPS) that is scaled to fit vessels as small as 12 meter Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV).

We talked earlier about an earlier version of this system. If it fits on a 12 meter (39’4″) USV, then it should certainly be able to fit on anything WPB or larger. If we should ever have to go to war, this might be a capability we would want to protect our harbor approaches from submarines. We would probably also want to add an ASW torpedo launching capability.

It might be worth doing some experimentation to see how it works, and if desirable, draw up plans for adding this or a similar system for mobilization. First of course we should take a look at the results of Canada’s tests.

Might also be desirable to have something like this for the Webber class cutters going to PATFORSWA, since the Iranians have a large number of small conventionally powered submarines.

Maybe it could help us find semi-submersibles smuggling drugs as well. 

Explosive Boats –In Yemen, and a Look Back

Naval News reports on the continued threat of remotely controlled explosive motor boats to vessel traffic around Yemen. We have talked about this before, here, here, and here. Historically explosive boats have had some success even against heavily armed opponents.

Heavy Cruiser, HMS York, run aground by her own crew to prevent her sinking, after being struck by two explosive motor boats (Italian: barchini esplosivi) of the Italian Regia Marina assault Flotilla, Decima Flottiglia MAS, Souda Bay, Crete, 26 March, 1941.

There was, of course, the suicide attack on USS Cole.

The semi-submersible ship M/V Blue Marlin carrying damaged USS Cole. 31 October 2000. U.S. Navy photo by PH2 Leland Comer.

As I have noted before, remote controlled attacks could be planned and carried out relatively easily using readily available remote control devices and remote viewing systems in wide spread use.

Will we see these threats emerge in the US, or perhaps in the Persian Gulf where they might be encountered by PATFORSWA?

Any number of platforms might be used as the basis for this type of threat from shrimp boats to jet skis. It would be advantageous to the attacker, if they could blend in with local traffic.

Off shore, in SW Asia, the Houthi typically control the attack boat from another boat, within line of sight radio range of the remote controlled boat, but in a US harbor it might be controlled from shore.

If the threat is against a moving target, soft kill systems designed to counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) should be equally effective, but they might not work against a threat targeting a fixed point like a moored vessel. Hard kill systems might work as a defense, but it raises the question, how close do you want to get, since the operator could presumably detonate the charge at any time? Success with a 7.62mm machine gun might require a lucky shot to take out a critical component.

Explosive motor boat of the type used by the Israeli Navy in the Independence War, in the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa, Israel. Possibly an Italian MTM (Motoscafo da Turismo Modificato). Photo from Wikipedia Commons. User:Bukvoed.

How to handle this sort of threat is squarely in the Coast Guard’s “Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security” mission wheelhouse. Hopefully we are putting some thought into it.