Fast Response Cutter / Navy MkVI Patrol Boat –Peter Ong

Today we have a guest author, Peter Ong. This is Peter’s sixth post on this blog, and he is now a regular contributor to Naval News. In this post, he reports a conversation with Coast Guard Cutter Forces about why the success of the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutter program has allowed  the Navy to cancel their MkVI patrol boat program that at one time was expected to produce 48 patrol boats.

The MkVI had only very austere galley and messing facilities, a Microwave and MREs. They were not expected to be underway more than 24 hours. The FRCs endurance, allowing days, rather than hours, on station to intercept drug and arms smugglers and their abilitiy to support counter UAS systems may be providing capabilities the MkVI simply could not have.

220822-A-KS490-1182 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 22, 2022) From the left, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144), USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Aug. 22. The cutters are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noah Martin)

When is a ship a boat and when is a boat a ship? When is an apple an orange and when is an orange an apple? Answer: they are not as these are two different and distinct things when it comes to comparing the warships of the U.S. Coast Guard to the MkVI patrol boats of the U.S. Navy.

A U.S. Navy Mark VI patrol boat with Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron TWO moves through the water prior to a live fire exercise in the Philippine Sea, Feb. 27, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Stephanie Murphy).

The U.S. Navy is divesting of their 12 in-service Mark VI Patrol Boats, which at the Surface Navy Association 2021, Major General Tracy King, USMC, Director, Expeditionary Warfare (N95) stated that the twelve Mark VIs “Were very expensive to maintain.” However, many critics and pundits of the Mark VIs’ early retirement cite that the Mark VIs still have a lot of life left in them and that their high speeds and heavy armament makes them an asset to special forces, Marines, and Navy SEALs. Mark VIs also perform capital ship escort screenings and contribute to Distributed Lethality and Distributed Maritime Operations by having a smaller vessel signature that might help U.S. Marines move around and slip ashore undetected.

In a phone interview on September 29, 2022 with United States Coast Guard (USCG) Captain John J. Driscoll, Office of Cutter Forces (CG-751), the U.S. Coast Guard captain made a comment about the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRC) substituting for the U.S. Navy’s Mark VI Patrol Boats in the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) region and other parts of the globe.

The U.S. Navy plans to replace the Mark VIs and the aging Patrol Coastal boats in the PATFORSWA region with USCG FRCs. When asked how the cutter fleet is integrated with the U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense, the captain replied that the cutter fleet is built into different operational security plans within the U.S. Department of Defense, but these plans are not discussable.

Captain Driscoll said that the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutters and the Mark VI are different assets and have different capabilities. The 65 planned FRCs have much greater range and greater endurance (5 days, 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) and are designed to be on patrol 2,500 hours per year) than the U.S. Navy’s Mark VI Patrol Boats (750 nautical miles (860 mi; 1,390 km) at 25 knots; 690 nautical miles (790 mi; 1,280 km) at 30 knots).

The captain mentioned that the FRC is tremendously capable and different in how it integrates with the Department of Defense and one can’t make comparisons between the Navy’s Mark VI and the USCG’s Fast Response Cutters because the FRC is a commissioned warship of the United States with an assigned crew whereas the Mark VI is just a patrol boat—a ship versus a boat—the ship is larger. The FRC is 154-feet long (46.9 m) with a beam of 25-feet (7.6 m) whereas the Mark VI Patrol Boat is 84.8-feet (25.8 m) long with a beam of 20.5-feet (6.2 m).

Armament is about the same between the two vessels (a Mark 38 MOD 2 25mm autocannon forward with crew-served 12.7mm heavy machine guns and grenade launcher(s) aft) with the Mark VI sporting more armament (another potential Mark 38 25mm autocannon aft and potential crew-served 40mm automatic grenade launchers or 12.7mm heavy machine guns. Some PATFORSWA FRCs will receive the Mark 38 MOD 3 with a 7.62mm coaxial chaingun to the bow 25mm autocannon and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher).

Nonetheless, one can see the huge difference in operational range. Furthermore, the success of the 65 planned Coast Guard FRCs eclipses the 12 Mark VI U.S. Navy Patrol Boats in terms of production numbers. Furthermore, the Mark VI is propelled by waterjets to 45 knots (52 mph; 83 km/h) whereas the FRC has propellers that drive it at 28+ knots. Repeated requests to the U.S. Navy asking for explanation on “[The Mark VIs are] very expensive to maintain” were not answered, but one can assume that it takes a lot of time, labor, and money to clean out the Mark VI’s waterjet intakes and impellers compared to the more easily accessible external shaft and propellers on the Fast Response Cutters when operating in littoral waters potentially teeming with flotsam and seaweed.

FRC range and endurance are important. Captain Driscoll stated that the FRCs are working in the Papua New Guinea and Indonesian region to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and are working with partner nations to address the competition for maritime resources.

As for possible up-arming of the FRCs with the Mark 38 MOD 4 30mm autocannon, that is a retrofit possibility, noted the captain, although the upcoming Polar Security Cutter (PSC) heavy icebreakers will receive the 30mm autocannons first, two on each PSC. Captain Driscoll mentioned that the 30mm autocannon is in the U.S. Navy acquisition system and that the USCG and U.S. Navy both decide on future cutter armament. Programmable and airbursting 30mm ammunition options are not discussable although if the U.S. Navy has the specialized and advanced 30mm ammunition in its inventory, the USCG can also use it depending on the cutter’s mission parameters.

The new Mark 38 Mod 4 30mm naval gun system on display on MSI Defence stand at Sea Air Space 2022. It can, in theory and with funding, be retrofitted aboard existing USCG cutters if agreed upon between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard. Photo: NavalNews

“All American Marine wins order for 74-foot patrol vessel” –Marine Log

California Department of Fish and Wildlife vessel will feature Teknicraft rapid RHIB launch and retrieval system, integrated into the stern

Marine Log reports,

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has awarded Bellingham, Wash., based All American Marine Inc. (AAM) a contract for the construction of an aluminum catamaran patrol vessel…Measuring 74 foot long by 27.5 feet wide…The design integrates a Teknicraft hull shape…complemented by Teknicraft’s signature integration of a wave piercer that is positioned between the catamaran sponsons to break up wave action and ensure reduced drag while conducting research missions.”

I did an 2019 post on the Texas Parks and Wildlife patrol boat this craft is based on. Notably that craft was designed to patrol up to 200 nautical miles offshore. A foil between the catamaran hulls reportedly reduces resistance and improves fuel economy.

Notably All American Marine is doing service life extension (SLEP) work on Coast Guard 47 foot MLBs.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this unconventional design to my attention. 

“Laser-Guided Rockets Are Getting New Highly-Versatile Anti-Armor Warhead” –The Drive

The Drive reports on a test of a new warhead for the “Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System” (APKWS)

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, or APKWS, laser guidance kit designed by BAE Systems has been tested in a surface-to-surface role with a new highly versatile, multi-purpose warhead that is capable of taking on armor and other targets. The new warhead is provided by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems. The test demonstrated added flexibility for not only the APKWS itself, which is most often employed in air-to-ground applications against more lightly armored targets, but also for all platforms that are capable of firing APKWS rockets.

A screenshot from the General Dynamics video showing the launcher configuration used during the test. Credit: General Dynamics

The test also demonstrated a new launcher.

The report was quite complete, providing background and an update on the entire program.

If you have been reading this blog regularly, you know I think APKWS would be a good fit for the Coast Guard as a precision weapon that would be highly effective against small, fast, highly manueverable threats while minimizing the possibility of collateral damage. Its relatively new proximity fuse also makes it effective against Unmanned Air Vehicles which appear to be an emerging threat. APKWS might even be effective against small ships if used in quantity.

For larger threats Hellfire or its replacement, JAGM, would be a better choice, but because this is so much cheaper and available in larger quatities, it appears much more likely. APKWS would probably be a better choice for PATFORSWA where the threat includes large numbers of small craft and UAVs.

We may have seen the video below, but it does suggest that the system is suitable for the 85 foot Navy MkVI patrol boat, so its certainly suitable for cutters of similar size and larger.

“Ukraine’s New U.S. Supplied Combat Boats Already Patrolling Black Sea” –Naval News

Metal Shark 40 Defiant

Naval News reports,

6 U.S. Navy type patrol vessels have recently been supplied to Ukraine. These are already active in the Black Sea where they face a much more powerful adversary in the Russian Navy. But the Ukrainian Navy is building a reputation as an effective asymmetric force.

These are the same 44 foot patrol boats the Navy has been buying.

Previous discussion of other boats being transferred to Ukraine here.

“U.S. Coast Guard decommissions Bahrain-based USCGC Baranof” –LANTAREA

220926-A-EQ028-1234 MANAMA, Bahrain Seaman Alexander Moyes lowers the Union Jack aboard USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) during the ship’s decommissioning ceremony in Manama, Bahrain, Sept. 26, 2022. Baranof decommissioned after 34 years of service. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Frederick Poirier)

A bitter sweet day. End of an era. The last of six Island class cutters assigned to PATFORSWA is now decommissioned. The force has now been reequipped with six Webber class Fast Response Cutters.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area

U.S. Coast Guard decommissions Bahrain-based USCGC Baranof

U.S. Coast Guardsmen conduct a decommissioning ceremony for USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) in Manama, Bahrain, Sept. 26, 2022.

ice Adm. Kevin E. Lunday, commander of Coast Guard Atlantic Area, arrives at the decommissioning ceremony for USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) in Manama, Bahrain, Sept. 26, 2022. USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) is moored pierside in Manama, Bahrain, Sept. 26, 2022, prior to its decommissioning.

Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.

MANAMA, Bahrain — The USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318) was decommissioned during a ceremony aboard Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Monday.

Vice Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, presided over the ceremony.

“USCGC Baranof’s exemplary service to our nation is a testament to both the Island-class platform and the crews that have manned Baranof over the past 34 years,” said Lunday. “Whether it was conducting law enforcement and search and rescue in the Caribbean, or deploying to the present-day homeport of Bahrain to support U.S. Central Command, those that have manned Baranof have continually met the needs of America.”

Baranof was commissioned into service on May 20, 1988 at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach in Miami. The 18th of 49 Island-class patrol boats, Baranof received orders to the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002. Shortly after their arrival in Bahrain, Baranof’s crew was underway conducting maritime interdiction operations in the North Arabian Gulf.

Baranof was replaced by the USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147), which arrived at NSA Bahrain on Aug. 23, 2022. As part of the Coast Guard’s fast response cutter program, the service is acquiring 65 Sentinel-class fast response cutters, with six of those assigned to U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia.

PATFORSWA, the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the United States, oversees the cutters in Bahrain. The ships are forward deployed to U.S. Fifth Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. The 154-foot long vessels feature advanced communications systems, and improved surveillance and reconnaissance equipment.

PATFORSWA, which is operationally attached to Fifth Fleet’s Commander Task Force 55, is composed of six FRCs, shoreside mission support personnel and a maritime engagement team. The unit plays a crucial role in maritime security, maritime infrastructure protection, and regional theater security cooperation. The unit also supports other U.S. Coast Guard deployable specialized forces operating throughout the Middle Eastern region.

“South Korea Unveils High-Speed Interceptor Craft – HSIC” –Naval News

Naval News reports,

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) developed a “high speed interceptor craft” (HSIC) dubbed “Phantom” capable of reaching a top speed of 60 knots.

Specifications include:

  • Displacement: 20 tons
  • Length: 20 meters (65.6′)
  • Beam: 4 meters (13.1′)
  • Range: 300 nautical miles
  • Crew of up to 12 plus 2 ton payload

Apparently, the  high performance is made possible by carbon fiber composite construction. The US Coast Guard really doesn’t have anything of comparable length  that I can compare it to, but we have had much smaller 35 foot “Long Range Interceptor” alluminum hull cutter boats that displaced 12 tons and 45 foot “Response Boat, Medium” boats that displaced 18.4 tons (light). (I don’t have current specs. This information from my nine year old Combat Fleets of the World.)

Bet the Vampire APKWS guided rocket system would fit on the cabin roof in place of the remote weapon station with 12.7 to 30mm gun.

“These Are The Riverine Patrol Boats Ukraine Is Getting From The U.S.” –The Drive

Riverines attached to Riverine Squadron 2 in a SURC at Haditha Dam Forward Operating Base conduct a patrol in Haditha, Iraq, December 20, 2007. Members of RIVRON 2 patrol Haditha’s dam and surrounding waterways, denying their use by insurgents, which in turn provides security to local fisherman. Location: Haditha Dam FOB, Anbar Province Iraq. (United States Navy, MC2 Kirk Worley) The package includes two of these.

The Drive/The War Zone has the best expanation I have seen so far as to the 18 boats that are to be transferred to Ukraine as part of the latest aid package.

A Sea Ark Dauntless patrol boat operating in San Diego. The type has been a very common sight at locales where U.S. Navy ships operate from for years now. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Moriatis/Released. Ten of these 34 foot boat are included in the aid package. 

While the 35 and 34 foot boats have been identified as to type, the six 40 foot boat have not. The post speculates that these may be of a type exported under Foreign Military Sales in 2020. I think, it is not unlikely these may be the new Navy 40 foot force protection patrol boats. They are an improvement on the 34 foot Sea Ark boats. They can be armored. They have an electro-optic system on the mast. They would be particularly useful if they had the remote weapon system on the bow they were designed to carry.

“U.S. Navy’s New 40-Foot Defiant Patrol Boat” –Naval News, Plus FMS Patrol Boat

The 40PB shows its speed in this photo and is armed with a .50cal M2 heavy machine gun at the bow, 7.62mm miniguns and acoustic devices amidships, and a M240B at the stern. The radar, electro-optical camera, and FLIR are visible on the short mast above the cabin. Metal Shark photo.

Naval News brings us a bit more informaton about the Navy’s new 40 foot force protection patrol boat. Most significantly,

NAVSEA: A total of 56 [40-foot Patrol] boats have been awarded to Metal Shark Boats and as of 9 May 2022, 20 boats have been delivered to the U.S. Navy.

In 2017 we discussed the program here and revisited it in 2019 here. The last indicated boats were being delivered at a rate of one every four weeks, meaning Metal Shark will likely be building these boats through early 2025.

Metal Shark calls this model the “40 Defiant” although it is actually 44 foot. Their description is here.

The 85-foot Defiant-class Near Coastal Patrol Vessel (NCPV) is being acquired by NAVSEA for Foreign Military Sales. Metal Shark photo.

There is also a some discussion of the Metal Shark “85 Defiant” patrol boat that is being produced for Foreign Military Sales. This is an evolution of the same design that gave the US Coast Guard its 87 foot “Marine Protector” WPBs (it too is actually 87 foot loa). The Navy calls this class Near Coastal Patrol Vessels or NCPV. We discussed this class in 2017. We noted at the time that Metal Shark had been award a contract,

“…potentially worth upwards of $54 million, Metal Shark will build up to thirteen 85-foot Defiant-class welded aluminum cutters for the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and other United States partner nations. Additionally, Metal Shark will supply electro-optical infrared sensors, diagnostic equipment, in-country reactivation, crew familiarization, and test support to NCPV operators.

Metal Shark’s website has a description of the vessel here.

“ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY RETIRES PATROL BOAT MAITLAND” –Baird Maritime

HMAS Maitland conducts a passage exercise with USCGC Kimball during Operation Solania. Photo: Seaman Isaiah Appleton

Baird Maritime reports, the Australian Navy is retiring one of their Amidale class patrol boats, HMAS Maitland. The vessel is relatively young by USCG standards, having been commissioned in 2006. It seems the class was stressed by high tempo, long distance, alien migrant interdiction deployments. This is the third of the original 14 vessels of the class to be decommissioned. One was as a result of a fire in 2014. The second was decommissioned March 2021.

These vessels are to be replaced by a class of 12 much larger OPVs, but in the meantime, the Australian Navy is also procuring, in many ways similar, 190 foot Cape Class patrol boats. The decommissioning follows closely on the delivery of the first of these “evolved” Cape class.

“Coast Guard cutter leaves Petersburg after 32 years” –KFSK

The cutter Anacapa tied up at the Coast Guard’s mooring in Petersburg (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

There is a very nice story by local media about the departure of USCGC Anacapa from Petersburg, AK. The 110 is not being decommissioned. She is changing homeport to Port Angeles, WA, where there will be a crew turn-over.

The Anacapa’s replacement in Petersburg is an 87-foot San Francisco-based Marine Protector class cutter called the Pike, built in 2005.

Anacapa’s engines and generators are being replaced, so looks like she will be retained a few more years.

There was an earlier post that featured Anacapa, “What Does It Take to Sink a Ship, Illustrated,” when she was tasked with sinking a derelict Japanese fishing vessel, back in 2012.