“Coast Guard, DHS S&T Venture into Space with Polar Scout Launch” –CG-9

The Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, launched two 6U CubeSats from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, as part of the Polar Scout project. Photo courtesy of SpaceX.

The following is a release from the Acquisitions Directorate

Coast Guard Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), today launched two 6U CubeSats from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The launch is part of the Polar Scout project to evaluate the effectiveness of space-based sensors in support of Arctic search and rescue missions. Knowledge gained from this demonstration will be used to inform satellite technology recommendations for many potential applications within the Coast Guard and across DHS.

Jim Knight, the Coast Guard deputy assistant commandant for acquisition, said in ceremonies leading up to the launch, “The Polar Scout project presents an opportunity to evaluate the most efficient way to ensure that the United States can project surface presence in the Arctic when and where it is needed while filling an immediate Search and Rescue capability gap in these remote areas.”

The CubeSats, dubbed Yukon and Kodiak, were launched into a low-earth polar orbit on a rideshare with other spacecraft from 17 different countries. This economical alternative to a costly single-mission launch ensured dozens of spacecraft from various organizations reached orbit. Success of the mission was due to public and private sector collaboration throughout the process, from developing the CubeSats to propelling them into space.

“In order to demonstrate, test and evaluate the viability and utility of CubeSats for Coast Guard missions, the Coast Guard RDT&E Program has partnered with DHS S&T to conduct on-orbit testing of CubeSats using the Mobile CubeSat Command and Control (MC3) ground network,” said Holly Wendelin, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance domain lead.

Developed as a potential capability bridge between the current 20-year-old international search-and-rescue architecture and its future successor, “CubeSats serve as a much smaller, more cost-efficient solution that can be easily implemented over a short period of time. Each are only about the size of a shoebox,” said John McEntee, director of Border Immigration and Maritime at S&T.

In the 18 months leading up to the launch, DHS S&T handled the fabrication of Yukon and Kodiak, which are tailored specifically to detect 406 MHz emergency distress beacons. At the same time, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) deployed two ground stations – one at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and one at University of Alaska Fairbanks – using the MC3 architecture and network. The ground stations will receive all of the signals from the CubeSats during the demonstration.

DHS will begin testing and demonstrations using emergency distress beacons in the Arctic beginning in early 2019 and continuing through the summer. “The demonstrations will include downlinking 406 MHz emergency distress beacon data from the CubeSats using the deployed MC3 ground stations,” Wendelin said. “We will set the beacons off, the satellite should detect it and send signals back to the ground station.” The testing period is expected to provide critical knowledge on how CubeSat technology can be used to enhance Coast Guard and DHS mission performance.

The Polar Scout project is providing valuable insight on the process, cost and feasibility of acquiring and using organic satellites. The Coast Guard and DHS will use the knowledge gained from Polar Scout and the MC3 installs, market research and space mission design and assessments to develop satellite technology recommendations.

As Coast Guard missions become more challenging and complex, the use of small and inexpensive satellites has the potential for great impact. Potential uses for satellites include improving communication in the arctic environment, monitoring large areas for illegal activity and helping to locate persons lost at sea. Additionally, the use of satellites has the potential to reduce the time and resources spent on intensive aircraft searches as well as the risks associated with placing personnel in hazardous situations that only need sensors and communications on scene.

“Undoubtedly, the results and knowledge gained by the Polar Scout Satellite Project will lead to force-multiplying solutions for the Department, which is a big priority in this age of complex threat cycles,” said Bill Bryan, senior official performing the duties of undersecretary for the Science and Technology Directorate.

Through Polar Scout’s robust search-and-rescue satellite solution, the Coast Guard may be empowered to respond to maritime disasters with unprecedented speed, preserving lives and even cargo, along trade routes in the Arctic Circle.

Canada’s New 62 foot Motor Lifeboat

Canada is building twelve large, relatively fast, self-righting Motor Lifeboats. These are the “Bay” class and the first are now making an appearance.

Reportedly they will be “capable of safe operation in extreme weather up to Beaufort Force 12 conditions and are able to survive in 12 meter (40 foot) seas.”

This again brings to mind the fact that at some point we will need to replace the four 52 foot MLBs and we may also want to use the replacement class in other areas where exceptional seakeeping and longer range than the 47 footers is desirable. We did discuss this possibility earlier including some other alternatives and got lots of comments.

Chantier Naval Forillon and Hike Metal were awarded contracts totaling $89.2 million (Candian presumably, about $67.5M USD–Chuck} to build twelve of the new SAR lifeboats.

These self-righting, 20-meter (65.6 ft–Chuck) boats are powered by a pair of MTU 1600 HP marine Diesel engines providing a speed of up to 24 knots in extreme weather conditions. These vessels are primarily a day boat and will be operated by a crew of up to five Coast Guard seamen.

The vessel’s particulars are as follows:

  • Length overall: 19.0 metres
  • Length DWL: 17.5 metres
  • Beam, moulded: 6.3 metres
  • Depth, moulded, at midship: 2.58 metres
  • Hull draft, nominal: 1.67 metres
  • Power: 2,400 kW
  • Speed: 23.5 kts

New British Motor Surf Boat

gCaptain reports the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has a new class of 13 meter motor (Surf) Lifeboats that are unique in being waterjet propelled.

Comparing Wikipedia descriptions, the Shannon class are composite compared to aluminum construction for the Coast Guard’s 47 foot MLB. Displacement is lower (14.6 tons vs 18 tons). Length is slightly less (44’7″ vs 47’11”). Beam is slightly greater (14’11” vs 14’0″). Draft is less (2’6″ vs 4’6″). Speed is slightly higher (27 knots vs 25). Range is up (250 vs 200)

The RNLI vessel Shannon being recovered. RNLI photo

As reported in the Wikipedia description of the class,

Most Shannons are launched by a newly-designed launch and recovery system by which a tractor propels the lifeboat on its cradle into the water. The cradle is then tilted and acts as a mobile slipway as the boat is launched by release of a single chain from the wheelhouse, rather than the old carriage launched method of four chains being released by crew members on deck. Recovery is bow first onto the cradle, which then rotates through 180 degrees, enabling the boat to be launched again within ten minutes. Some Shannons will be kept afloat at moorings or a pontoon berth and the boats are also capable of being slipway launched, although only Swanage currently has a slipway launched Shannon. The boat at Workington uses the same unique davit crane system as the previous Tyne class boat.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.

Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific

Republic of Korea Coast Guard vessel #3006 in company with U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in August 2007. This forum was created to increase international maritime safety and security in the Northern Pacific Ocean and its borders. The Boutwell worked with the Korean coast guard while on their way to Yokosuka, Japan. The Japanese coast guard is one of the six nations involved in the forum.

War on the Rocks offers a suggestion as to how to build greater cooperation and trust and support international norms in the Western Pacific.

“…establishment of a Combined Maritime Task Force Pacific that would be modeled off the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic construct that NATO operated in the 1970s and 1980s… It included 6-10 surface ships (destroyers, cruisers, frigates and support ships) that attached to the squadron for up to six months at a time…the real utility was that its permanent and consistent nature allowed contributing navies to work together to build interoperability during peacetime…it was always signaling contributing navies’ growing alignment and desire to work together.”

This seems like a pretty good idea, but I would suggest one change. Make the purpose of the force Law Enforcement (particularly fisheries), SAR, and Disaster Relief/Humanitarian Assistance and use primarily Offshore Patrol Vessels instead of conventional warships.

Signaling a shared belief in the norms of international behavior, and a determination to uphold those norms, would be the primary objective.

There are lots of potential participants beside the USCG, they might include navies or coast guards of Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, S. Korea, and the Philippines. COM7thFleet has already asked for a USCG presence, but this would not be under the COCOM. It would be a cooperative enterprise between participating nations, in most cases, coast guard to coast guard.

Vietnamese Coast Guard Damen 9014 Offshore Patrol Vessel. Photo: lancercell.com

All the vessels involved could host ship riders from the nation(s) where the force is operating.

We already plan to have most of the Bertholf class cutters in the Pacific, and putting three OPCs in Guam could further facilitate the arrangement.

This avoids the complications of a military alliance, but strengthens the hand of SE Asian nations that might otherwise be intimidated by China.

Photographs taken during day 3 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. The Bruneian patrol vessel Darulaman moored in Sydney Harbour. Australia is building 12 similar ships. Photo by Saberwyn.

 

Canadian SAR Helos

RCAF EHI CH-149 Cormorant. Photo by John Davies

The Canadian Coast Guard does not operate SAR aircraft the way the USCG does. Canadian SAR aircraft are operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). They have a fleet of 14 AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101) helicopters. According to Wikipedia,

In June 2011, several US VH-71s, which are also based on the AW101, were purchased by Canada to be used as spare parts for the CH-149 fleet.

In 2017, the Liberal government announced funding for the mid-life upgrade of the fleet, to be led by ‘Team Cormorant’, a team composed of Leonardo Helicopters and IMP Aerospace and Defense. Estimated at around C$1.5bn, the programmes will offer a common fleet featuring latest avionic and mission systems, advanced radars and sensors, vision enhancement and tracking systems as well as a new 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) GE CT7-8E engine. On May 10, 2017, a report by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recommended the government move forward with a proposal to expand the Cormorant fleet by upgrading the 14 CH-149 aircraft and converting seven VH-71 airframes currently in storage to the same operational capability. This would expand the Cormorant fleet to 21 aircraft, and keep them operational until 2040. All of the upgraded helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2024.

But now Defense News reports that Sikorsky will be offering the civilian version of their S-92 (known as the CH-148 in Canada) claiming to be “more affordable at acquisition and thoughout the entirety of the lifecycle.”

These helicopters are larger than the USCG MH-60 Jayhawks (empty weight 14,500 lb (6,580 kg)/max take-off weight  21,884 lb (9,926 kg))

  • Sikorsky S-92 (empty weight 15,500 lb (7,030 kg)/max take-off weight 27,700 lb (12,568 kg))
  • CH-149 (empty weight 23,149 lb (10,500 kg)/max take-off weight 32,187 lb (14,600 kg))

The RCAF has already begun operating the CH-148 as a replacement for 50 year old SeaKing (H-3) helicopters. Navy Recognition reports a navalized ASW variant of the S-92, has recently completed a series of test with the Canadian Navy, operating day and night from Canadian frigates HMCS Montréal and HMCS Halifax (12% larger than the National Security Cutter) in up to and including Sea State Six seas.

Key among the design features for the Cyclone, Sikorsky engineered:

a retractable probe on the belly of the aircraft to more securely cinch the 29,300-lb. Cyclone to the ship’s flight deck in high sea states;
a ground support tool with an articulating arm that, with the Recovery, Assist, Secure and Traverse (RAST) system, allows the deck crew to remotely align the aircraft’s nose prior to guiding the helicopter into the hangar.

This program was plagued by developmental delays and may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Canadian procurement personnel, but there would be undoubted advantages in operating a common type of helicopter.

A decision is expected soon.

Coast Guard to Recieve Two Satellites, Launch Expected This Year

Cube shaped satellite, 100mm (3.9″) on a side. This photo shows the Norwegian student satellite NCUBE2 ready for shipment to the Netherlands for integration with the ESA student satellite SSETI-Express, photographer, Bjørn Pedersen, NTNU.

National Defense is reporting that the Air Force is building two “Polar Scout” SAR satellites for the Coast Guard, expected to be launched this year.

An earlier post referenced a Acquisitions Directorate report on this R&D Center project.

These satellites, or “cubesats,” are capable of detecting transmissions from emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), which are carried on board vessels to broadcast their position if in distress. The Coast Guard will deploy the cubesats in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s Polar Scout program, the Air Force Operationally Responsive Space Office, and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

These two satellites will only provide intermittent coverage of EPIRB signals from the polar regions so more satellites may follow.

This appears to be first fruit of a growing cooperation between the Coast Guard’s R&D Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory which has been formalized by a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the heads of the two organization on April 12, 2018.