Polar Security Cutters and Coast Guard ASW

The US Naval Institute Proceedings web page has a couple of Coast Guard related articles that did not appear in the print version of Proceedings,

I have reproduced my comments on these topics below.


In regard to arming the Polar Security Cutters (the author seemed fixated on cruise missiles. We did discuss this topic earlier here)

There are limits to what we want to put on ships bound for Antarctica, since they have to be open for inspection. On the other hand if we ever do have a near peer conflict involving the Arctic or Antarctic, these will become rare and essential naval auxiliaries. As such they will probably operate with other vessels, including more powerful warships if appropriate, but that does not mean they should not be able to defend themselves against the possibility of leakers. We need to make provision for last ditch defense with systems like SeaRAM.

Meanwhile the fact that they are law enforcement vessels means they should be able to forcibly stop any private or merchant vessel regardless of size. So far it seems they will have at most, 25mm Mk38 Mod3 guns.

The follow on Medium Icebreakers or Arctic Security Cutters, which are unlikely to go to Antarctica, are more likely to be more heavily armed from the start.


Coast Guard ASW (comments were generally surprisingly adverse):

It is a fact that in WWII most U-boats were sunk by aircraft, but about a third (about 230) were sunk by surface vessels, primarily those of our allies Britain and Canada.

Even when surface vessels did not sink U-boats, they often performed valuable service in blocking access to convoys and in rescuing mariners from sunken ships.

US Naval vessels only sank about 38 U-boats. Coast Guard cutters and Coast Guard manned Navy ships were involved in sinking a disproportionate number of those (ten) for various reasons. Most of the US Navy effort went into the Pacific and most of the USN effort in the Atlantic at least through mid-1943, was in escorting high speed troop convoys than largely avoided contact with U-boats.

Circumstances we will face in any near peer conflict may be very different.

The advantages provided by code breaking in WWII are unlikely.

The advantages provided by radar equipped aircraft detecting U-boats charging their batteries or transiting the Bay of Biscay on the surface during the night no longer exists.

The Chinese surface and air threat would divert the most capable USN assets from ASW tasks.

Unlike the Japanese during the Pacific campaign, the Chinese are likely to make a concerted effort to disrupt our logistics train.

We simply do not have enough ASW assets.

Augmenting Coast Guard cutters to allow them to provide ASW escort and rescue services for ships that are sunk by hostile subs, in lower threat areas, is a low cost mobilization option that can substantially increase the number of escorts at low cost.

This could be facilitated by augmenting cutter with USN Reserves. Navy reserve ASW helicopter squadrons could be assigned to fly from cutters.
LCS ASW modules could be placed on cutters and manned by reactivated Navy reservists with LCS ASW module experience.

Our few US merchant ships need to be protected and when inevitably, some are sunk, we need someone to rescue those mariners, because they have become a rare and precious commodity.

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutters Midgett (WMSL 757) and Kimball (WMSL 756) transit past Koko Head on Oahu, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2019. The Kimball and Midgett are both homeported in Honolulu and two of the newest Coast Guard cutters to join the fleet. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West/Released)


In answer to this comment from James M

Add : For (millions)

ASIST : 6.263
Mk 32 SVTT : 3.237
SLQ-25 Nixie: 1.727
AN/SRQ-4 LAMPS III: 4.625
VDS/MFTA combo: 14.802
ASW Combat Suite: 33.684
64.338 total. I am sure something could be arrived at for less. I look at this as what it takes to fit out an NSC the whole way. For one, OPC will never fit that VDS/MFTA on its stern. At best it would be a Nixie, maybe a container towed sonar we don’t yet use, and the mods for MH-60R. It would be good to know the plan for MUSV as it might help the equation. After all, the 64.338 would buy 2 MUSVs without payload. It could also buy an additional FRC.

So, we could equip ASW equip all eleven projected Bertholf class National Security Cutters (NSC) for less than the cost of a single frigate.

Why do you believe the VDS/MFTA would not fit on the Offshore Patrol Cutter? It is fully as large as the NSCs and does not have the boat launch ramp cut into the stern. They are also substantially larger than the LCSs.

OPC “Placemat”

Defending the Homeland

Air Force Magazine talks about how decisions are made when it comes to defending the “Homeland”. It is pretty unwieldy now, but there is hope that it can be streamlined.

The Coast Guard needs to be part of this, both as Maritime Domain Awareness sensors, and as potential response assets.

As new systems are designed, we need to make sure the Coast Guard is included.

A Reevaluation, Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell, Part 2

This is the second part of a reexamination of where critical ports are in the US and where the cutters that might be needed to protect them are homeported.

Consolidated Target and Homeport List:

I have reproduced this listing from part 1. It has been changed slightly to reflect the move of USCGC Seneca from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Again, we have 31 target ports or port complexes in bold  and 23 current or planned cutter homeports with the cutters in bold. In many cases a critical port is also a homeport for cutter(s).

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH –Naval Shipyard: 2×270 (908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)

CCGD5:

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/ 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC

CCGD7:

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913), 6xFRC (1107 to 1112)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8

  • Pensacola, FL–4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

CCGD11:

  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)

CCGD13:

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210 Plan to add two FRCs (Longview, WA is a significant port, but it is 66 miles up the Columbia River, so unlikely to be a target)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD14:

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/ Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

CCGD17:

  • Ketchikan, AK: 2xFRC (1121, 1122)
  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC Plan to add 2xOPC (917, 918)
  • Planned to be based in Alaska, ports have not been identified 4xFRC
  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

The Present and Future Coast Guard Fleet: 

Bertholf class National Security Cutters: 

These ships are only based in three ports, all three of these are potential target ports.

  • Charleston, SC two NSCs now, three additional planned
  • San Francisco Bay Complex, CA, four NSCs
  • Honolulu, HI, two NSCs

That might suggest that these ports are well protected, but as I have said, these ships don’t spend any time on standby, and when they are in port they are usually down hard.

Honolulu is also a Naval bases and has three Webber class WPCs assigned, so it is about as well protected as any port could be with our current equipment.

The Webber class WPCs:

As I have noted, currently the Webber class are potentially the most important asset for port protection.

Of the 31 potential target ports, these nine have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters assigned.

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

With four additional FRCs going to Alaska, I have to assume Anchorage, AK will be protected. Its geography protects it to a great extent. It is far up Cook Inlet. Kodiak’s position South of Cook Inlet pushes the US EEZ out, so it is much further than 200 miles from the edge of the EEZ to Anchorage. Homer, at the mouth of Cook Inlet, has been an Island class WPB in the past and may be a Webber class homeport in the future.

These seven potential target ports have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters homeported within 100 nautical miles, offering some degree of protection.

  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC (WPCs from Atlantic Beach)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port (WPCs from Miami)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage (WPCs from Galveston)
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal (WPCs from Galveston)
  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport (WPCs from San Pedro)

The following 14 potential target ports have no Webber class WPCs assigned or currently planned to be based within 100 nautical miles:

  • Bath, ME, –Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH–Naval Shipyard, currently homeport 2×270(908, 909)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Corpus Christi, TX#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Most likely future Webber Class Homeports: 47 of the planned 64 Webber class cutters have already been paired with their homeports as noted above (including six to go to Bahrain). Of the 17 remaining we know two will go to Astoria OR, and four will go to Alaska.  That leaves eleven to potentially protect other ports. Grouped two or three to a port, that means we will have no more than four or five additional Webber class homeports. In my view, the most likely additional ports are:

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH (also within 100 nmi of Boston and Bath, ME)
  • New London, CT (to protect sub base at Groton, CT might also protect the Long Island Sound approaches to Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Seattle, WA: 1xWHEC, Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Where we are naked: Potential target ports that likely will not have a Webber class within 100 nmiles:

  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/6×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

The Hudson River Complex is protected to some extent by geography, given the length of its approaches. WPCs at Cape May and New London would provide a degree of protection though both are a bit more than 100 nmi away.

The strong Navy presence in the Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA should provide a degree of protection. 

7th District has 8 of the 31 critical ports and 19 of the 58 Webber class homeported in the US (I understand they will get a 20th), but all are in three ports, Miami, San Juan, and Key West, which is not a critical port. Five ports have no Webber class within 100 nautical miles.

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

There are of course other considerations, but from the perspective of protecting ports we would be much better off redistributing all but three WPCs in Miami and three in San Juan to Charleston (which would also provide a degree of protection for Savannah), Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Tampa/St Pete. This would leave Key West without WPCs, but it does look like a good place for OPCs.

We would also have no Webber class within 100 miles of the Mississippi River Complex.

  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.

Fortunately it is protected to some extent by the long and relatively difficult passage up the Mississippi River before these ports can be reached. You are not likely to make it up the Mississippi with a ship without getting a pilot. Also Webber class at Pascagoula are only a little over 100 nautical miles from the mouth of the Mississippi.

HECs and MECs and OPCs, Oh My:

There are currently 29 WHECs/WMECs. They are to be replaced by 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Because of the nature of their operations and scheduling, they are unlikely to respond to a threat from their homeport, but they may be employed locally off shore for fisheries, drug, or Alien Migrant enforcement. Where will they be based?

We could say 25 ships divided among eight districts means three ships in seven districts and four in one. That might not be a bad way to start, but in all likelihood the OPCs will be distributed much as the one remaining WHEC and 28 WMECs are now, but some changes are likely because of tendencies observed of late.

  • There will be a tendency to base in groups, so at least two and preferably three or more will be based together.
  • There will be a tendency to move closer to the drug transit zones in order to shorten transit.
  • There may also be a tendency to put some additional emphasis on the Western Pacific.

Breaking it down by district even though they are Area assets, I will note how many in the district and what percentage of the current WHEC/WMEC fleet that constitutes.

CCGD1: 4 or 13.8%

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH 2×270(908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • (Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920))

CCGD5: 9 or 31%

  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)

CCGD7: 7 or 24.1%

  • Jacksonville complex, FL  Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913)
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8: 4 or 13.8%

  • Pensacola, FL– 4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)

CCGD13: 3 or 10.3%

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD17: 2 or 6.9%

  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC (Planned homeport for 2xOPC (917, 918))

If we distributed the 25 OPCs in the same proportion we would have:

  • D1: 3
  • D5: 8
  • D7: 6
  • D8: 3
  • D11: 0
  • D13: 3
  • D14: 0
  • D17: 2

But we already know that two OPCs will be based in San Pedro, they probably represent a movement Southward from D13, and there is a good possibility they will be joined by a third OPC.

In the same vain I think we will see one or two fewer OPCs in D5. They might go to D7, but there is also a possibility they could go to PAC Area.

This is what I think we will ultimately see, with destination of three OPCs much less certain. Possible locations for these three are in parenthesis. It is going to be a very long time (Late 2030s) before we see the last three, so much can change.

  • D1: 3 (we already know two are going to Newport, RI. Probably the third as well.)
  • D5: 6 (presumably all in Portsmouth)
  • D7: 6 (+1 or 2) (Most likely in Key West and St. Petersburg, possibly Mayport or Charleston)
  • D8: 3 (presumably in Pensacola)
  • D11: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to San Pedro, CA. Probably a third as well)
  • D13: 0 (+2) (If it happens, Port Angeles, WA)
  • D14: 0 (+2) (Honolulu)
  • D17: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to Kodiak. A third is less likely here.)

Historically the Coast Guard has based two thirds of its large cutters in Atlantic Area and one third in the Pacific Area. If that were to be the case, PAC Area should get six OPCs in addition to the six NSCs they have now, and LANT Area should have 19 OPCs in addition to the five NSCs currently planned.

If you look at the distribution of the US EEZ, I think there is a strong case for more ships in the Pacific.

  • Total US EEZ: 11,351,000 km2
  • East Coast EEZ: 915,763 km2
  • Gulf Coast EEZ: 707,832 km2
  • Puerto Rico EEZ: 177,685 km2
  • Total LANT Area EEZ: 1,801,280 km2 15.9%
  • Total PAC Area EEZ: 9,549,720 km 84.1%

With the increased emphasis on IUU and capacity building in the Western Pacific, we may see up to eight OPCs going to PAC AREA.

Alternative Mission Set:

PAC Area has been very aggressive in the use of their resources for drug interdiction, sending FRCs down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones off Central and South America, but PAC AREA could have more cutter time for operations in the Western Pacific, without adding cutters, if LANT AREA took full responsibility for the Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort. There are good reasons, that might be desirable.

  • East Coast ships, particularly those based in the South East, are generally closer to the drug transit zone than PAC Area ships.
  • Forth Fleet is the Naval component commander for SOUTHCOM. Fourth Fleet is part of LANT Fleet and is headquartered in Mayport, Jacksonville, FL.  SOUTHCOM is located in Doral, FL, part of greater Miami.
  • LANT AREA is the Coast Guard counterpart of LANT Fleet and so should be the primary point of contact between Navy and Coast Guard for the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone.

US Navy Fleet Organization

The Missing Class–Response Boat, Large–the WPB replacement:

All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop a terrorist controlled vessel. Currently the Webber class WPCs seem to be the most likely craft to be in a position to take on that role, but in many scenarios they simply would not be up to the task. In addition we know that about half the critical ports or port complexes will have no Webber class homeported there so that they might respond most rapidly in the case of an attack.

We still need to replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. As we have discussed here and here, properly equipped, a vessel half the size of the Webber class could take on this job.

There were 74 Marine Protector class built. Wikipedia indicates there are 73 currently active and we know there is a proposal to decommission eight in the belief that their missions will be performed by Webber class and response boat, mediums. That would still leave 65.

Assuming we put two WPB replacements in position to protect each of the 31 critical ports, so that we could always have one either on standby or underway near by, it would only require 62. It the Webber class were better armed, and we only needed to protect those critical ports with no Webber class homported there, we would need no more than 34. If we also redistributed the D7 Webber class as suggested we would need only 26.

“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.

“Metal Shark set for full-rate production of Navy’s next-gen patrol boats” –MarineLog

MarineLog reports that the Metal Shark Defiant 40 foot patrol boat, selected by the Navy to replace its Force Protection patrol boats is nearing completion of its Operational Test and Evaluation phase and is now ready for full rate production (one every four weeks).

Earlier we discussed this boat and compared it to the RB-M. Significant features are a remotely operated weapons system and ballistic protection for the crew.

British Royal Navy adds Missiles to 30mm Gun Mount

Martlet Light Multirole Missile launchers mounted on 30mm gun mount

Britain’s Royal Navy reports they have successfully tested the “Martlet” Light Multirole Missile from their 30mm DS30M auto cannon mount, a mount similar to the Mk38 Mod2/3 used by the Coast Guard on the Webber class and planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutter.

This is certainly not the first time we have seen missile launchers attached to a gun. The Israelis have been doing it for years using the Typhoon gun mount which is the basis for the current 25mm Mk38s as used on the Webber class. .

Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL

The dimensions of the British missile and American APKWS and Hellfire are provided for comparison.

  • Martlet LMM: Length: 51 in. (1.3 m), Diameter: 3 in. (76 mm), Weight: 28.6 lb (13 kg), Range: 8,000 meters
  • APKWS: Length: 73.8 in (1.87 m), Diameter: 2.75 in (70 mm), Weight: 32 lb (15 kg), Range 5,000 meters
  • Hellfire: Length: 64 inches (1.6 meters), Diameter: 7 inches (180 mm) (17.8 cm), Weight: 100–108 lb (45–49 kg), Range: 8,000 meters

The Martlet has the option of proximity fusing and Laser Beam Rider guidance (in addition to semi-active and IR homing), that probably makes it more effective against air targets, particularly smaller ones like drones. It has been used successfully against a target drone. It also has a longer range than APKWS, but is probably more expensive. Its biggest disadvantage from our point of view is that it is not in the USN inventory.

I am not advocating for this particular weapon, but both Israel and the Royal Navy have seen the wisdom of combining missiles with auto cannon.

  • It minimizes manning requirements in that a single operator can control both missiles and guns.
  • It minimizes space requirements
  • It eliminates the need to pass the targeting information from one fire control to another as the target enters gun range.

Unlike separate systems it probably also means you cannot engage two targets simultaneously.

We need a gun for the signaling, the proverbial shot across the bow, but it is not the best way to neutralize a threat. In an installation like this, the missile is more accurate, has longer range, and is less likely to cause collateral damage.

My feeling is that the Coast Guard would be better off with Hellfire than APKWS. We probably will not have to engage a large number of small targets as the Navy might, but our targets might be larger and this might be the largest weapon available to us. Either APKWS or Hellfire would be an improvement over what we have. The nominal effective range of the 25mm Mk38 is 2,700 yards (2,457 m). The APKWS would double this and the Helfire would triple the effective range. Either would allow us to engage from outside the likely effective range of any improvised weapon system that might be used in a terrorist attack, which I estimate would not exceed 4,000 yards.

When the Mk38 Mod3 was announced, there were indications BAE intended to add a capability to launch APKWS from the mount. I am still hoping.

Capacity Building in North Africa

Photo: Maritime Enforcement Specialist 2nd Class Joe Kelly, a U.S. Coast Guardsman, demonstrates tactical combat casualty care during a training session at Phoenix Express on March 26, 2019.
ARIF PATANI/U.S. NAVY

Stars and Stripes reports on Exercise Phoenix Express 2019 and apparently the Coast Guard was there. It makes sense because this, like Exercise Obangame Express, was a law enforcement capacity building exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). I have reproduced a Navy news release below.

——-

CASABLANCA, Morocco (NNS) — Exercise Phoenix Express 2019, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), concluded with a closing ceremony held at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center, April 6.

Phoenix Express is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

The complexity of today’s security environment and the interconnectedness of a global economy demand that we operate together to deter maritime threats,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Zirkle, Chief of Staff, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. “An effective global security strategy therefore must be collaborative in order to disrupt the flow of illicit trafficking and prevent the spread of violent extremism.”

This year’s exercise control group was hosted at the Royal Moroccan Naval Simulation and Training Center located in Casablanca, Morocco with training taking place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters off the coast of northern African nations.

The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking. Additionally, forces participated in a port exercise (PORTEX), which incorporated Moroccan law enforcement into the scenario.

“Exercises like Phoenix Express are about working together to combat threats at-sea that impact safety and security ashore,” said Capt. Matthew Hawkins, U.S. exercise lead for Phoenix Express. “Our modern challenges are far too complex for any one nation to resolve and it is my hope that the scenarios practiced here and the addition of new training like the PORTEX are value added for all participants.”

“Many years after it started Phoenix Express has proven that regional cooperation is the best way to face maritime threats and issues,” said Royal Moroccan Navy Inspector General, Rear Admiral Mostapha El Alami. “AFRICOM and Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) have spent a lot of time, effort, and energy to bring together most of the maritime states in the Mediterranean basin in order to enhance military cooperation between them and allow them to work as one team.”

“Exercise Phoenix Express is the most enduring event of all the Express-series exercises. It incorporates complex scenarios, which evolve year over year just as the maritime threats we all face continue to evolve,” said Zirkle. “It is my sincere hope that your navies were enriched by this immensely valuable opportunity to operate together.”

Nations who participated in Phoenix Express 2019 included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States.

Phoenix Express, sponsored by AFRICOM and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

 

The 87 foot WPB Replacement, an Addendum

The discussion on earlier posts, “The 87 Foot WPB Replacement –Response Boat, Large –Interceptor” and “57mm ALaMO Round” has prompted some additional thoughts that seem to require more than a comment, mostly regarding the 57mm Mk110 and its new ALaMO guided projectile.

I also had intended to mention the fact that, if the WPB replacement included provision for stern launch of an 8 meter over-the-horizon boat, as was done with the Webber class FRC, then any mission modules that might developed for the Webber class to take the place of the boat, as discussed in the post, “Webber class Could be the Navy’s Light Duty Pickup Truck,” would probably also be apply to the WPB replacement. These might include anti-ship cruise missiles, Unmanned systems, or small towed array sonar systems

While the Iran swarming boat attacks are the normal justification for developing the ALaMO round, the emerging threat, unmanned surface vessels (USV) used to make “suicide” attacks may have also been a consideration. As can be seen above, small fast unmanned surface vessels can be hard to kill, and they have proven an effective weapon as can be seen below. One method of attempting to deal with the swarming boat threat has been to have the projectile burst above the boat, showering it with shrapnel. These airbursts could work pretty well against manned boats by killing the exposed boat operators, but the technique is less effective against unmanned craft. It may even be possible to shield critical components of unmanned craft against the effects of shrapnel. This is also a threat the Coast Guard may want to consider since unmanned explosive motor boats are relatively easy to construct.

Video: Houthi attack on Saudi Al Madinah-class frigate using unmanned explosive motor boat. 

The new ALaMO projectile may have been developed with this Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) threat in mind. This suggest to me that the projectile would be designed to home on the heat generated by the craft’s engine. This would work equally well against manned craft. If the ALaMO round is IR homing, then perhaps it would also home on the heat of a larger vessel’s engines as well, making it more useful for countering larger vessels. 

If the 57mm Mk110 gun’s projectiles have made it a reliable counter to small, fast, highly maneuverable threats and perhaps some midsized threats, and if it can discriminate between its intended target and other traffic that may be in the area, it may be worthwhile to consider its inclusion in the WPB replacement. I still do not see it capable of countering large or even many medium sized threats. I still think we need to know more about how the round works before we can assume this is correct, but assuming it is correct, can we put this weapon on a vessel this small? I think we can.

This brought to mind how some earlier craft that had had relatively large guns. I will discuss some of the them and point out what I believe were notable features.

Spica Class (Sweden):

Swedish Torpedo Boat T121 “Spica” Photo by Pressbild. “Tidskrift i Sjöväsendet”. 1966. November. Sid 595. Swedish and US public domain

If you look at the Spica class above, it is a bigger than the likely WPB replacement (139 ft loa and 235 tons full load, 40 knots, 12,750 HP). It is 2/3 the size of the FRC, and about 29% more than my assumed maximum (182 tons) for the WPB replacement. It was a steel ship. It was equipped with an earlier version of the same 57mm gun found on the National Security Cutter (NSC) as well as the 9LV combat system which was the basis for the Mk92 Firecontrol system used on the 378 FRAM, and six heavy weight torpedo Tubes. The Torpedoes each weighed approximately 1800 kilos or about two tons, while the gun weighted about seven tons, so the vessel had over 19 tons of weapons. The fire control,  ammunition, launchers, and Electronic Warfare equipment would have added to the payload weight. By comparison, if our WPB included the current model 57mm (16,535 lbs/7,500 kg), two Mk54 torpedoes (608 lbs/276 kg each), and eight Longbow Hellfire (108 lbs/49 kg) the total weight of weapons would only be a little over nine tons (18,615 lb/ about 8,461 kg) plus ammunition, launchers, Electronic Warfare equipment, and firecontrol systems. The Over-the-Horizon boat, a primary “weapon,” may add as much as four tons, so the full “weapons load” would be about 13 tons. (I could not find a weight for the Over-the-Horizon boat, but the larger Response Boat, Small weighs a bit over 8 tons.) That is about 68.4% of the weight of systems on the Spica. It is not a complete accounting, but I think it is indicative and I will continue to use this format below.

One thing I liked about this, and the next two designs, is that the bridge and operations rooms are located at or near the center of pitch (which seems to have been done with the FRC as well). This makes it more comfortable for the watch. It also results in a long foc’sle. This allows the gun to be well back from the bow while still being far enough forward of the superstructure to allow a wide arc of fire. That is, it is capable of firing well abaft the beam.

The Norrkoping Class (Sweden):

Swedish Norrköping class fast attack craft (missile and torpedo) HMS Ystad R142, 3 September 2010 Photo by Reedhawk

The Norrkoping class was derived from the Spica class and sometimes referred to as the Spica II class. It gained a little weight, being 143 ft loa and 255 tons (41 knots, 12,750 HP). Initially it was armed like the Spica class, but subsequently the four of the torpedo tubes aft of the superstructure were replaced by four RBS-15 missiles. These weigh in at about 800 kg or 1760 lb. Consequently the weapons load is almost a ton lighter than that of the Spica, but still over 18 tons plus ammunition, launchers, Electronic Warfare equipment, and firecontrol systems. At the same time the missiles were installed, the 9LV system’s radar was replaced by the Sea Giraffe which is the radar installed on the Independence class LCS and planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), US designation AN/SPS 77 V(1). This radar is also used on the Swedish Visby class corvettes completed 2002 to 2015. 

Willemoes Class (Denmark):

A danish navy Willemoes-class fast attack craft (missile + torpedoes) HDMS Sehested (P547) as a museum ship at the Holmen naval base. Photo by Flemming Sørensen

The Willemoes class were similar, slightly larger vessels (46 m/150 ft 11 in loa and 260 tons full load, 40 knots, 12,750 HP). Originally they were equipped with four torpedo tubes in addition to the Oto Melara 76mm gun. The after pair of torpedo tubes was replaced by launchers for eight Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles (1,523 lb / 691 kg with booster). Its weight of weapons after installation of the Harpoons was just over 15 tons, plus ammunition, launchers, Electronic Warfare equipment, and firecontrol system (also a 9LV).

The unique feature of this class was that they had small diesel engines for cruising at up to 12 knots.

The Storm Class (Norway:

The Storm Class, (120 ft loa, 138 tons, 30 knots, 7200 HP) is illustrated above, fully armed and launching a Penguin missile, and below in a later configuration after removal of missiles and transfer from the Norwegian Navy to Lithuania. It is considerably smaller than the vessels above, at the lower end of what I expect the WPB replacement to displace, but still capable of mounting considerable weaponry, in this case six Penguin anti-ship missiles, and 76 and 40 mm guns. The missiles weighed 385 kg (849 lb). The 40 mm weighed about 3.5 tons. I was unable to find the weight of this 76mm gun. It would not have weighed as much as the Oto Melara, but it has to be at least 6 tons, so a total weapons weight was at least 12 tons.

Lithuanian Naval Force, Norwegian built, Storm class patrol boat P33 “Skalvis”. Missiles removed. Photo by Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania

Conclusion:

If we chose to do so, it appears we could build something like a slightly scaled down version of the Spica that could mount a 57mm Mk110 forward and still provide an 8 meter Over-the-Horizon boat aft. The firecontrol could be as simple as the electro-optic unit from the Mk38 Mod2 or as capable as the SeaGiraffe which would give us a true all weather capability. In addition, it could probably mount tubes for two light weight torpedoes and eight Longbow Hellfire in vertical launchers. (I would think the Hellfires offset to one side, at the back of the superstructure. Foot print for a 2×4 cluster of missiles would likely be only about 4 x 3 feet.) I know the torpedoes are an unconventional approach, but it seems the surest way to stop a large ship and supposedly the Mk46 Mod5 and later torpedoes have an anti-surface capablity.

Replacing the Marine Protector class WPBs with vessels equipped like this would give the Coast Guard a robust and truly capable Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security capability.

 

 

China Developing Containerized Cruise Missile Launchers

Above: Marketing video for comparable Russian system

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that China is developing containerized cruise missiles launch systems for a land attack version of its 290 mile range YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile which is a reverse engineered version of the Russian Klub-K cruise missile.

“China is building a long-range cruise missile fired from a shipping container that could turn Beijing’s large fleet of freighters into potential warships and commercial ports into future missile bases.”


“China operates or is building deep water ports in several strategic locations, including Bahamas, Panama, and Jamaica that could be used covertly to deploy ships carrying the YJ-18C.”

The Washington Free Beason may not be the gold standard in reporting, but I would have been surprised if the Chinese were not developing such systems. The Russians have been marketing such systems for about a decade. The Israelis have launched semi-ballistic missiles from a merchant ship and are marketing such a system.

In China, every enterprise is ultimately an arm of the State, ready to do the States bidding. We have seen their fishing fleet serve as a naval militia, it is likely their merchant marine would also serve military purposes beyond simply carrying cargo. In fact they have announced that that is their intent.