Commandant’s Strategic Intent, Mid-Term Report

Coast Guard Capt. Douglas Nash, commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Sation Sacramento, salutes a Coast Guard C-27J pilot during a change of watch ceremony at Air Station Sacramento's hanger in McClellan Park, Thursday, July 1, 2016. The ceremony marked the final day that an HC-130 Hercules crew stood the watch at Air Station Sacramento and introduced the newest aircraft. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Loumania Stewart

Procurement of 14 C-27J aircraft was one of the achievements sited. C-27Js replace C-130s at CGAS Sacramento. 

The Commandant has issued a mid-term update on his earlier published “Strategic Intent, 2015-2019” (pdf). The new document is available in pdf format. You can find it here: “United States Coast Guard Commandant’s Strategic Intent, 2015-2019, Mid-Term Report.”

It is relatively short and readable at 21 pages. The recurring themes of the Commandant’s administration are all there, starting with TOC (transnational organized crime) and its deleterious effect on Western Hemisphere governance and prosperity. It does read a little like an Officer Evaluation Report input.

There is nothing particularly surprising here, but even for me, the enumeration of the scope the Coast Guard’s authorities, responsibilities, and international contacts is still mind boggling.

I am not going to try to summarize the report, but there were a few things that struck me.

The Commandant mentions service life extension programs for the seagoing buoy tenders (already begun), the 47 foot MLBs, and the 87 foot WPBs (in the future), but there is no mention of what we will do about the inland tender fleet. There will also be a life extension program for helicopters before they are finally replaced.

“Extend the service life of our rotary wing assets and align with DOD’s Future Vertical Lift initiative.”

There is mention of a program I was not aware of, the “Defense Threat Reduction Agency National Coast Watch System project.” The Defense Threat Reduction Agency attempts to track and reduce the WMD threat. It is not really clear what our role is here. We know about the container inspection programs in foreign ports. Is that it, or is there more to this? (that can be discussed at an unclassified level.)

Webber Class WPC Homeports

FRC-graphic

Click on the graphic to enlarge

The Acquisitions Directorate has a story on the commissioning of the 17th Webber class WPC, USCGC Donald Horsley (WPC-1117).

Included in the post was the graphic above, which gives us an indication of where future cutters will be homeported:

  • Ketchikan, AK
  • San Pedro, CA
  • Pascagoula, MS
  • Atlantic Beach, NC
  • Cape May, NJ

One more WPC is expected to go to San Juan, so in about six months we should see a Webber class go to Ketchikan. Certainly its improved sea keeping compared to the 110s will be appreciated.

This is not, I’m sure, a complete list of future homeports, given that we expect 41 more of this class. I’m not privy to the home porting plan or how many will be in each port, but this looks like it will cover at least the next 18 months. It may cover a much longer period if more than one Webber class will be assigned to some of these ports, and that seems likely.

I would note that these homeports look good from a Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security perspective. Ketchikan and the inland passage has a lot of cruise ship traffic. San Pedro is near the huge Los Angeles port complex and the strategic ports of Long Beach and Port Hueneme. Pascagoula based ships potentially protect the ports of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico including the eastern approaches to the Mississippi River port complex and the strategic port of Gulf Port, MS. Atlantic Beach, NC is close to Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras, but it is also close to the strategic ports of Morehead City, Sunny Point, and Wilmington. WPCs in Cape May, NJ could provide protection for Delaware Bay, including the strategic port of Philadelphia.

If any of our readers has access to the homeporting plan, and it is public knowledge, I would appreciate the information.

LRASM for Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security

Lockheed Martin supplied Navy Recognition with the first image showing a deck-mounted quadruple Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) launcher. According to our source, this "top side" launcher graphic is a notional concept that could be used on an appropriately sized surface vessel, such as the Arleigh Burke class (DDG 51) or Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) classes.

Discussion on an earlier post suggesting the Coast Guard might want to fit our new major cutters “for but not with” Long Range Anti-ship Missiles (LRASM) has prompted me to rethink the suggestion and advocate for equipping them with the missile in peacetime.

One of the Coast Guard’s peacetime missions is of course Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security (PWCS).

“The PWCS mission entails the protection of the U.S. Maritime Domain and the U.S. Marine Transportation System (MTS) …prevention and disruption of terrorist attacks… Conducting PWCS deters terrorists from using or exploiting the MTS as a means for attacks on U.S. territory, population centers, vessels, critical infrastructure, and key resources.”

I have been concerned that the Coast Guard has not had adequate weapons to deal with a terrorist attack using a medium to large sized merchant ship, and currently I don’t believe there is any other organization capable of answering this threat in the 30 or more port complexes terrorists might find worthwhile targets, in a timely manner. Navy surface forces are too geographically concentrated. The over 200 nautical mile range and the ability to strike selected locations on a target ship suggest LRASM could possibly provide an answer.

If we had LRASM on all National Security Cutters (NSC) and Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPC), in perhaps a dozen ports on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, Honolulu and Kodiak, its over 200 mile range fired from cutters, including possibly those in port, could cover all of these ports (except Guam), and have a weapon on target within about 20 minutes of launch.

To effectively counter the threat, I think we need to get a weapon on target within an hour of positive identification of the threat. This would require improved coordination between units. In addition to providing a datum, course, and speed, presumably an intercepting unit, boat or aircraft, would need to transmit a photograph of the target to be incorporated in the missiles memory and aim points would be chosen some time during mission planning. We would need to coordinate with air traffic control. A command decision to authorize use of the weapon and updates on the target position course and speed would also be needed. Because we might have 40 minutes or less from threat identification to launch, these steps would likely have to proceed in parallel with mission planning progressing prior to authorization.

New units appear to be on the way to developing the kind of common tactical picture we need to facilitate both decision making and targeting. We could start developing the capability with the National Security Cutters based at Alameda (San Francisco Bay) and Charleston, SC, even if the system could not be completed until the last OPCs are delivered in about 2034.