“Militias: US sailors in Bahrain ‘legitimate targets’ after Soleimani slaying” –Navy Times

The current crisis in SW Asia of course brings to mind the Coast Guard members in that area, PATFORSWA, based in Bahrain.

NavyTimes has an assessment of the risks that Iranian backed militias in Bahrain might retaliate against US service members in Bahrain or their families.

Assignment to PATFORSWA is an unaccompanied tour, but apparently members are berthed off base in leased housing.

Generally the assessment is that Bahrain’s internal security forces are very good, but there are militants there and that 100% security is impossible.

Apparently the head of a Bahrain Shia militia was one of the victims of the US attack that killed Soleimani, so they might have additional motivation for an attack.

If any of our PATFORSWA personnel are looking in on the blog. Take care.

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS, October 11, 2019

Busy as always, the Congressional Research Service has already updated their examination of the Coast Guard’s cutter procurement program to reflect the results of the contract relief extended to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) and the intention to re-compete for contracts to construct OPC#5 and later. You can see the new report here. 

Significant changes are found on pages 8-10 under the title “October 2019 Announcement of Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition,” and pages 13-15 under the title “Issues for Congress–Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition for OPC Program.”

Delays in the execution of the OPC program might be seen as justification for NSC#12 particularly if it is seen as a trade-off for a future OPC.

Not new to this edition, but looking at “Table 1. NSC, OPC, and FRC Funding in FY2013-FY2020 Budget Submissions” on page 13, raises a question about how many Webber class FRCs are to be built. The Program of Record is 58, but this did not include replacements for the six vessels assigned to Patrol Forces SW Asia. Adding six for PATFORSWA should bring the total to 64. So far 56 Webber class have been funded, including four to replace 110 foot patrol boats assigned PATFORSWA. There is $140M in the FY 2020 budget request, which would fund two more, but there are insufficient funds in the out years to fund even a single additional FRC. This appears to mean the program will end with a total of 58 vessels unless Congress steps in.

 

“US Builds Global Coalition to Protect Gulf Shipping” –Global Security

USCG Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA

Global Security reports that the US is attempting to build a coalition to escort merchant ships through the Straits of Hormuz.

We would almost have to assume that the WPBs of PATFORSWA would be involved.

It would not be surprising to see the Coast Guard contribute up to six already commissioned Webber class WPCs in the near future. These could ultimately replace the current 110s stationed in Bahrain rather than waiting for FRCs specifically procured to replace the PATFORSWA WPBs, but for the duration of escort mission, they would augment them.

I would like to see some modifications done to these vessels before they go, but it is a question of urgency.

The Webber class could make the trip on their own bottoms if needed, especially if escorted by an National Security Cutter.

 

 

Protecting the Gunner, Protects the Ship, Protects the Mission

190703-N-LN093-1104
COLONIA, Yap (July 3, 2019) Mark VI patrol boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2, Coastal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, arrive to Colonia, Yap. CRG 1, Det. Guam’s visit to Yap, and engagement with the People of Federated States of Micronesia underscores the U.S. Navy’s commitment to partners in the region. The Mark VI patrol boat is an integral part of the expeditionary forces support to 7th Fleet, capability of supporting myriad of missions throughout the Indo-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasen Moreno-Garcia/Released)

OK, This is a pet peeve of mine, but to me, not providing ballistic protection to the crews of deck mounted .50 calibers, that we make a target by putting them on exposed crew served mounts, is irresponsible and frankly, lazy and unconscionable. It is just not that hard.

We have talked about this before, here, and here.

If you look at the photo above, you will see simple flat plates outboard of the .50 caliber mounts. Now look at the photo below (you might need to click on the photo to enlarge it). There is no comparable protection. This does not have to be heavy if you think that might be a problem. Kevlar reinforced plastic can provide protection against machinegun fire.

The Coast Guard Cutter Lawrence Lawson crew mans the rail during sea trials off the coast of Miami, Florida, on Dec. 12, 2016.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Eric D. Woodall)

There is talk of escorting merchant ships through the Straits of Hormuz. I don’t know if our WPBs there have any form of ballistic protection, but the pictures I have seen in the past showed no such protection.

This is about more than simply protecting the gunner. The gunner protects the ship; the ship is needed for the mission. Take out the gunner, the ship is vulnerable. If the ship is vulnerable, it may not be able to complete the mission.

 

Webber Class for the Navy?

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

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

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

Small Vessel Hellfire Vertical Launch System

Photos: Above, Modular Missile Launcher, also seen below amidships on the Textron CUSV (Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle). Note relatively small size and innocuous appearance. 

Textron Systems’ CUSV with Surface Warfare payload at SAS 2019

Naval News reports that, at this year’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Textron showed one of their Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) craft equipped with a remote weapon station and a modular vertical launch system for the Longbow Hellfire.

I find the Hellfire VLS particularly interesting, as it might find application on Coast Guard cutters. The launcher appears to be about 2’x2’x7. The missile itself is 64″ long (1.6 meters), 7″ in diameter (17.8 cm), with a 13″ span (33 cm).

The CUSV is about 39′ (12 meters) in length. The CUSV’s load space is reportedly 20.5′ x 6.5′.

This earlier report indicates a missile shoot from a CUSV is expected in 2019. 

There would of course be concerns about how to mount these missiles on a cutter. The effects of the smoke at launch on he crew and the possible effects of the engines ingesting the smoke would have to be considered.

The planned transfer of six Webber class cutters to Bahrain, to replace the six Island class cutters assigned to PATFORSWA, might provide the incentive necessary to plan and test a Hellfire installation on this class.

Contact Interview with Task Force 55 Commander Capt. Pete Mirisola, USN –Defense Media Network

USCG Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA

Defense Media Network has an interesting post about the operations of Task Force 55 which includes the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, a Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Advanced Interdiction Teams (AIT), and a Maritime Engagement Team (MET).

There are also brief comments on the 25mm Mk38 mod2, the Puma small UAV, and the Griffin small surface to surface missile system.