Russian CG and Ukrainian Navy Go to Blows.

A couple of reports of a nasty incident that culminated in the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels. This may be worth watching. It is another assault on Freedom of Navigation.

“Tension escalates after Russia seizes Ukraine naval ships”

“Russia blocks passage in Kerch Strait Near Crimea, Deploys Su-25 Jets And Ka-52 Attack Helicopters.”

 

New Russian Nuclear Powered Icebreakers

NavyRecognition provides us some information on a new class of Russian nuclear powered Icebreaker. They are, to say the least, huge.

  • Length: 209 meters (686 feet)
  • Beam 47.7 meters (156 feet)
  • Draft: 13 meters (43 feet)
  • 120 MW (160,923 HP) (More than twice that of the Polar Star)
  • Power will be provided by four props on conventional shafts.

They are planning to build three. It is claimed they will be able to break ice 4.3 meters thick and be able to continuously break two meter ice while making 11 knots. They are expected to cost 70B rubles, or about $1.04B US.

Russia to Have Floating Nuclear Power Plant Near Alaska

CORRECTION: The MarineLink report this was based on, and the virtually identical report at gCaptain, is misleading. The town, Pevek, population less than 5,000, is not “across the Bering Strait from Alaska.” It is on the North coast of Siberia. The entire region, Chukotka, has a population of about 50,000. The Russian town on Bering Strait is Uelen, population about 720. 

An interesting note from MarineLink. The Russians are deploying a floating nuclear power plant to a small community, the town of Pevek, on their side of the Bering Strait, 53 miles  (86 km) from Alaska.

Greenpeace is concerned.

“Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, said in a statement last month.

 

The National Strategy

The Administration has published a new “National Security Strategy of the United States.” You can see it here. Much has been made of the fact that it identifies China and Russia as adversaries. Not surprisingly it also calls out Iran, North Korea, and Jihadist Terrorist, but also transnational criminal organizations. (No mention of domestic terrorists.)

China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence. At the same time, the dictatorships of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran are determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and our allies, and brutalize their own people. Transnational threat groups, from jihadist terrorists to transnational criminal organizations, are actively trying to harm Americans. While these challenges differ in nature and magnitude, they are fundamentally contests between those who value human dignity and freedom and those who oppress individuals and enforce uniformity.

I did an electronic search (control f) for “Coast Guard” and there was no mention. None of the other armed services were mentioned either. An electronic search for “homeland security” found the following: 

DISRUPT TERROR PLOTS: We will enhance intelligence sharing domestically and with foreign partners. We will give our frontline defenders— including homeland security, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals—the tools, authorities, and resources to stop terrorist acts before they take place.

COMBAT RADICALIZATION AND RECRUITMENT IN COMMUNITIES: The United States rejects bigotry and oppression and seeks a future built on our values as one American people. We will deny violent ideologies the space to take root by improving trust among law enforcement, the private sector, and American citizens. U.S. intelligence and homeland security experts will work with law enforcement and civic leaders on terrorism prevention and provide accurate and actionable information about radicalization in their communities.

A search for “maritime” found the following:

Adversaries target sources of American strength, including our democratic system and our economy. They steal and exploit our intellectual property and personal data, interfere in our political processes, target our aviation and maritime sectors, and hold our critical infrastructure at risk. All of these actions threaten the foundations of the American way of life. Reestablishing lawful control of our borders is a first step toward protecting the American homeland and strengthening American sovereignty.

Secure U.S. Borders and Territory…State and non-state actors place the safety of the American people and the Nation’s economic vitality at risk by exploiting vulnerabilities across the land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains. Adversaries constantly evolve their methods to threaten the United States and our citizens. We must be agile and adaptable.

BOLSTER TRANSPORTATION SECURITY: We will improve information sharing across our government and with foreign partners to enhance the security of the pathways through which people and goods enter the country. We will invest in technology to counter emerging threats to our aviation, surface, and maritime transportation sectors. We will also work with international and industry partners to raise security standards.

Keep America Safe in the Cyber Era…America’s response to the challenges and opportunities of the cyber era will determine our future prosperity and security . For most of our history, the United States has been able to protect the homeland by controlling its land, air, space, and maritime domains. Today, cyberspace offers state and non-state actors the ability to wage campaigns against American political, economic, and security interests without ever physically crossing our borders. Cyberattacks offer adversaries lowcost and deniable opportunities to seriously damage or disrupt critical infrastructure, cripple American businesses, weaken our Federal networks, and attack the tools and devices that Americans use every day to communicate and conduct business.

Moreover, deterrence today is significantly more complex to achieve than during the Cold War. Adversaries studied the American way of war and began investing in capabilities that targeted our strengths and sought to exploit perceived weaknesses. The spread of accurate and inexpensive weapons and the use of cyber tools have allowed state and non-state competitors to harm the United States across various domains. Such capabilities contest what was until recently U.S. dominance across the land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace domains. They also enable adversaries to attempt strategic attacks against the United States—without resorting to nuclear weapons—in ways that could cripple our economy and our ability to deploy our military forces. Deterrence must be extended across all of these domains and must address all possible strategic attacks.

RETAIN A FULL-SPECTRUM FORCE: The Joint Force must remain capable of deterring and defeating the full range of threats to the United States. The Department of Defense must develop new operational concepts and capabilities to win without assured dominance in air, maritime, land, space, and cyberspace domains, including against those operating below the level of conventional military conflict. We must sustain our competence in irregular warfare, which requires planning for a longterm, rather than ad hoc, fight against terrorist networks and other irregular threats.

Priority Actions POLITICAL: Our vision for the Indo-Pacific excludes no nation. We will redouble our commitment to established alliances and partnerships, while expanding and deepening relationships with new partners that share respect for sovereignty, fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law. We will reinforce our commitment to freedom of the seas and the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes in accordance with international law. We will work with allies and partners to achieve complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and preserve the non-proliferation regime in Northeast Asia.

MILITARY AND SECURITY: We will maintain a forward military presence capable of deterring and, if necessary, defeating any adversary. We will strengthen our long-standing military relationships and encourage the development of a strong defense network with our allies and partners. For example, we will cooperate on missile defense with Japan and South Korea to move toward an area defense capability . We remain ready to respond with overwhelming force to North Korean aggression and will improve options to compel denuclearization of the peninsula. We will improve law enforcement, defense, and intelligence cooperation with Southeast Asian partners to address the growing terrorist threat. We will maintain our strong ties with Taiwan in accordance with our “One China” policy, including our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide for Taiwan’s legitimate defense needs and deter coercion. We will expand our defense and security cooperation with India, a Major Defense Partner of the United States, and support India’s growing relationships throughout the region. We will re-energize our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand and strengthen our partnerships with Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others to help them become cooperative maritime partners.
Europe

A search for Arctic found:

A range of international institutions establishes the rules for how states, businesses, and individuals interact with each other, across land and sea, the Arctic, outer space, and the digital realm. It is vital to U.S. prosperity and security that these institutions uphold the rules that help keep these common domains open and free. Free access to the seas remains a central principle of national security and economic prosperity, and exploration of sea and space provides opportunities for commercial gain and scientific breakthroughs. The flow of data and an open, interoperable Internet are inseparable from the success of the U.S. economy. and an open, interoperable Internet are inseparable from the success of the U.S. economy.

There was no mention of Antarctica, polar, or climate change.

Traffic and derivatives of it, e.g. trafficking or trafficers, are mentioned six times.

Cyber and its derivatives are mentioned 46 times.

Terror and its derivatives are mentioned 82 times.

Laser Icebreaker?

Project 23550, Ivan Papanin class icebreaking patrol vessel, with towing capability and containerized cruise missiles.

The National Interest is reporting that the Russians are planning to use lasers as a way to facilitate icebreaking.

…. “Later this year, scientists aboard the Dixon, a Russian diesel-powered icebreaker operating in the White Sea, will begin testing of a 30-kilowatt ship-based laser, designed specifically for easing the movement of ships operating in the Arctic environment,” Sputnik News said. “The project involves experts from the Moscow-based Astrofizika Design Institute, with the assistance of St. Petersburg’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.”

A Russian physicist told Russian media that the new laser is designed as an ice cutter rather than a weapon. “We’re talking about easing as much as possible navigation through northern regions. In addition, it’s necessary to test empirically calculations, create the system, measure energy consumption and calculate many other parameters. For the first stage this is enough.”

The author of the post may be a bit confused. He refers to,

More details are emerging about Russia’s trump card for control of the Arctic: laser-armed, nuclear-powered “combat icebreakers.”

But he refers to the Project 23550 (Ivan Papanin) class icebreaking patrol vessels which we talked about earlier, armed but relatively small (for an icebreaker) and definitely not nuclear powered icebreaking patrol ships with provision for mounting containerized cruise missiles.

The author seems to have assumed that the laser could also be used as a weapon although the mounting and targeting requirements for a laser weapon would be much different.

Despite the author’s apparent confusion, this is the first I have heard of using lasers to facilitate icebreaking. Using one to open a crack in the ice before the bow hits might be worthwhile. Whether it is even feasible ought to be something that could be determined mathematically.

Sounds like something worth looking at.

International Court of Arbitration Rules for Green Peace over Russia

Green Peace Photo and Caption. “A Russian Coast guard officer is seen pointing a knife at a Greenpeace International activist as five activists attempt to climb the ‘Prirazlomnaya,’ an oil platform operated by Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom platform in Russias Pechora Sea.” 

gCaptain reports,

Russia rejected a ruling by an international arbitration court which said Moscow must pay damages for seizing a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace vessel, saying on Thursday that the decision would only encourage illegal protests.

We tracked this incident earlier. In this case I think the Russians may have a point. It is very difficult to distinguish between a “peaceful protest” that involves what may appear to be an assault and an actual attack.

The Russians may have made a mistake in not participating in the proceedings.

Russia had originally declined to take part in arbitration, arguing that it was acting within its sovereign rights to seize the ship in international waters where Russia enjoys exclusive economic rights.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise departs from Murmansk, Russia, August 1, 2014. The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise departs from Murmansk, Russia, August 1, 2014. Photo (c) Dmitri Sharomov/Greenpeace

Hearing: Coast Guard Requirements, Priorities, and Future Acquisition Plans (FY-2018)

 

May 18, the Commandant, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, addressed the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. The recorded testimony is above. It is fairly long (1h40m). The Commandant’s initial statement, following the introductions, begins at 8m40s and ends approximately minute 14.

The administration’s FY 2018 budget request was not available, but the Commandant was there to discuss future priorities, requirements, and programs. The Department Secretary, General Kelly, is expected to address the Subcommittee on May 24 at 3PM Eastern.

I will just mention a few of the items I thought significant.

Admiral Zukunft noted that Huntington Ingalls has begun cutting steel for NSC #9. Questioned about NSC#10, he said, if it were funded, the Coast Guard would of course use it, but that the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) is the Coast Guard’s #1 priority. His response, that another NSC would have an effect on long-range operating cost, seemed to suggest anticipated significantly lower operating costs for the OPC. Significantly, there has been no mention of reducing the OPC program by one ship to offset the addition of NSC #9. (There is already a strong push to build more NSCs, a bill to authorized a multi-year buy of three more.)

He contended that the Coast Guard has taken a harder hit, due to budget restrictions, than other armed services and would need 5% annual growth and at least $2B annually for Acquisitions, Construction, and Improvements (AC&I). Later he stated that this annual AC&I appropriation would included about $300M annually for shore facilities. He pointed to a need to restore 1100 Reserve Billets and add 5,000 active duty military billets while retaining current levels of Civilian staff.

Apparently the FY2918 budget will begin a program to replace 35 Inland tenders at an estimated cost of approximately $25M each ($875M total). (Even if, in the unlikely event, this program were funded in only five years, that would only average $175M/year, so it is not a big program, but one that should have begun at least a decade ago.)

Cyber security for ports was discussed. The Commandant sees the Coast Guard role as decimating best practices, rather than imposing regulation. We now have a cyber program of record–still very small, two CG Academy graduates going directly into the program. The fact that two billets is worth mentioning, is probably the best indication of how really small the program is. A much smaller pre-World War II Coast Guard probably had more people working on breaking German and Japanese codes. 

Marine Inspection was addressed. The Commandant noted the increased demand for Inspections because 6,000 tugs have been added to inspection program. He noted a need for more stringent oversight of 3rd party inspectors, who in some cases have not been as meticulous as they should have been. He also noted that the US flag merchant fleet, notably the MSC’s Afloat Prepositioning Fleet, will need replacement, which will also raise demand for marine inspectors.

The Commandant also voiced his support for the Jones Act. He noted, we only have three shipyards building Jones Act ships in the US, and their loss would be short-sighted.

There was much discussion about the Arctic and the Icebreaker Fleet. Looks like follow-on funding for icebreaker program (at least after the first) will have to come from CG AC&I rather than the Navy budget. This may be difficult, but it is the way it should be. The chair of committee expressed his reservations about attempting to fund such big-ticket items through the DHS budget. The Commandant stated that the Coast Guard is still considering the acquisition of the commercial Icebreaker Aiviq (but apparently they are doing it very slowly–the chairman of the committee seemed a bit irritated about this).

The committee members seemed to latch onto the idea that the USCG, rather than the Navy, would be responsible for enforcing US sovereignty in the Arctic (which by US definition includes the Aleutians), and seemed to be asking if the Coast Guard was prepared to fight the Russians and/or Chinese in the Arctic. The Commandant suggested instead, that our role was to provide presence in the pre-conflict phase in order assert US sovereignty. He acknowledged that the National Security Cutters are only armed defensively and are not suitable for conventional naval warfare against an enemy combatant.

The Commandant acknowledged that, at some point it may be desirable to arm Polar Icebreakers, meaning they should be built with space, weight, and power reservations for additional weapons.

(I am all for keeping open the option of arming our icebreakers, so that they can defend themselves and do their part, if there is a conflict in a polar region, but there did not seem to be recognition among the Congression Representatives, that an Arctic conflict is most likely to be determined by submarines and aircraft. The icebreakers’ role is likely to be primarily logistical.)

The Commandant apparently does expect that there may be disagreements with regard to the extent of the US authority over certain areas of the Arctic.

In discussing the need for land based Unmanned Air Systems, there was a curious note at minute 40 about go-fast boats going south. Where are they going?

Alien Migrant Interdiction (AMIO). We have gone for seven weeks without a single Cuban Migrant being interdicted. This is because of the end of Wet Foot/Dry Foot Policy. This has allowed reallocation of resources to drug interdiction South of Cuba and human trafficking from the Bahamas

A Congressional Representative, from Texas pointed out there is no CG presence on the Rio Grande River, in spite of it being an international waterway. There was no mention of it, but perhaps he was thinking of the Falcon Lake incident in 2010 when an American was allegedly shot in the head by Mexican drug runners. Maybe something we should reconsider.

The Commandant promised the CG would have an unfunded priority list for FY2018.