Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

(As we get into this, you may want to click on the photo to get an enlarged view.)

This Spring, the first two Webber class patrol craft are expected to go to Bahrain to start replacing the six 110 foot WPBs of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA).  Two more will join them in the Fall and the last two in 2022. Back in 2018, I speculated on what might be done to modify them for duty in this more dangerous area. Apparently the Coast Guard leadership has had a few ideas of their own.

We have some very shape observers among the readers of this blog.

First Andy provided the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) above and pointed out the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD, the gray device mounted near rail on the O-1 deck just this side of the port forward corner of the bridge) and the four round sensors a short way up the mast two on each side. I note these systems were not on the ship when it was handed over by Bollinger (photo below).

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, as delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Then Secundius identified the four round sensors on the mast as Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band Radar.

From the Company web site: “RPS-42 is an S-Band tactical hemispheric air surveillance radar system. It is a member of the non-rotating, solid-state, digital radar family Multi-mission Hemisphere Radar (MHR), developed by RADA Electronic Industries Ltd.
“The RPS-42 is a pulse Doppler, software-defined radar platform, that can detect, classify and track all types of aerial vehicles – including fighters, helicopters, UAVs, transport aircraft, etc. at tactical ranges. A single radar platform provides 90º azimuth coverage. Hemispheric coverage is achieved when four radars are employed as a system. Mobile or stationary, the system can be integrated with any C⁴I system and other radars and sensors. The software is able for On-the-Move (OTM) Operation. The radar can operate either as a stand-alone or as part of a large-scale surveillance system.
“The Antenna is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) based on Galliumnitrid (GaN) Amplifiers. Its diameter is 50.4 cm , the max width is 16.5 cm. (19.8″ x 6.5″ –Chuck)
“The achievable range for detection of the smallest drones (known as Nano UAV) is 3.5 km”

These radars use Galliumnitrid (GaN), the new technology in radar, that allows the AN/SPY-6 to significantly outperform the earlier AN/SPY-1 found on most Aegis equipped warships. (Reportedly a 3000% improvement)

You can get an appreciation of what this is about from this Popular Mechanics article. This Is the ATV-Mounted Jammer That Took Down an Iranian Drone.

There is more here: Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System [LMADIS] (globalsecurity.org)

I’m only guessing, but I would think the FRC would also have the same or equivalent complementary equipment as the LMADIS, e.g. small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer (Photo below, I may be seeing the jammer–pictured below–located above and behind the port side RPS-42 radar arrays, visible between the radar arrays and the tripod legs). The cutters of this class are already normally equipped with electro-optic devices, both on the mast and on the Mk38 gun mount, which can provide a kinetic counter to UAVs.

Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer. From the company web site, “SNC’s Modi II is the most modern & highly-capable dismounted EMC system in the DOD inventory.”

This was probably what the Commandant was talking about, when he said that Coast Guard PATFORSWA had a counter UAS role in a recent interview.

I am thinking, this radar might also be used on some of our other cutters as well, perhaps the 210s and the six 270s to be FRAMed, to provide them better control of their helicopters on approach in bad weather. The 210s have no air search radar and the 270s will almost certainly lose the Mk92 fire control system which provides their only air search radar currently. Reportedly the radar has a range of up to 30km and an instrumented range of 50km at altitudes from 30ft to 30,000 feet. Apparently the Marines are also using it to direct fire for their short range air defense systems. which includes a 30mm gun and Stinger missiles.

Thanks to Andy and Secundius for kicking this off.

“Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg Tech: RDT&E’s Annual Arctic Technology Evaluation” –MarineLink

ENS Jordan Solseth runs a test for the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) 500. U.S. Coast Guard photo by SN Kate Kilroy

Marine Link reports on the Coast Guard’s evaluation of five technologies during USCGC Campbell’s Arctic cruise. Five different technologies were evaluated. All were deemed successful:

  • Insight Mini Thermal Monocular (MTM) and AN/PSQ-20 Monoculars (enhanced night vision devices) for improved law enforcement and ice detection.
  • Handheld Glare Helios laser for stand-off hailing capabilities.
  • FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle for underwater inspections in cold weather.
  • Long Range Acoustic Device 500X-RE for enhanced communication with vessels at longer distances.
  • Iridium Certus Terminal, which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area.

These systems were referred to in the earlier linked post, but there is much more information in the Marine Link article.

I think that we are going to start seeing the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) on all our cutters. We really should have them on our Webber class bound for PATFORSWA. In addition to its communications capabilities, it can be an effective less than lethal weapon for discouraging approach or breaking down resistance to a boarding. (Remember when we played rock music for Noriega down in Panama.)

The Iridium Certus Terminal helped communications that are always difficult in the Arctic, and probably provided in major morale boost for the crew.

While I see the utility of the night vision devices, for the larger ships I would really like to see us take a look at this. It appears it could do everything the night vision devices can do, plus allow transmission of bearing and elevation information, along with its nominal function of quickly bringing weapons to bear on a visually detected threat. Maybe another good addition for Webber class going to SW Asia.

“Seeing Below The Surface: Ladar Trials Promise Enhanced Vessel Safety” –Maritime Executive

Ladar allows Color Line’s officers to perform safe deviation from the set course, maximizing fuel efficiency without increased risk of grounding.

Maritime Executive reports that,

Norwegian operator Color Line has been trialing Ladar, a light-based laser technology anti-collision system designed to identify floating objects on or under the surface of the water, including drifting fishing nets, logs, containers and ice, as well as plastic and other flotsam.

Wonder if this might be useful in finding people in the water, especially in rough weather and at night?

“The system we tested was better at detecting smaller items than we had anticipated, but not as good on metal objects in still water.”

The reason for this: waves caused by wind increase disturbance in the water around an object, making it easier to detect. “This includes up to storm level winds,” Dokken confirms. “The more activity in the water, the better.”

Frequently we need to go close to shore to execute a rescue. This could conceivably allow us to get closer without running aground, than we would using charts alone.

Might also be useful for the Waterways Commerce Cutters that operate in rivers with shifting bottom contours.

Really the Navy and Marines should be interested in this too.

Sounds like a good project for the R&D Center.

Swedish Patrol Boat ASW System

Photo: Tapper-class Fast Patrol Boat, displacement of 62 tons, 22 meters (72′) in length (Credits: Swedish Armed Forces)

Naval News reports that the first of six Trapper class fast patrol boats has completed an upgrade that will allow these small vessels to hunt submarines. At 62 tons full load, these vessels are about 2/3s the size of the Coast Guard’s 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs (91 tons). 

Sweden has a history of suspected or known intrusions by submarines, midget submarines, and/or swimmer delivery vehicles, presumably from the Soviet Union/Russia.

What they seem to have done here is to use technology similar to the Sono-buoys used by airborne ASW units. While surface units do not have the speed of aircraft in getting to the scene, they are potentially more persistent, and because the buoys themselves do not have to fit within ejection tubes, they can be made larger with batteries that provide longer life. 

Photo: Tapper-class enhanced ASW capabilities mainly rely on new sonobuoy integration (Credits: Swedish Armed Forces)

The post makes no mention of weapons or hull mounted sonars. When built in the 1990s, this class, originally of twelve vessels, based on a Swedish Coast Guard vessel design, had a searchlight sonar and small Anti-Submarine mortars that went by the designation RBS-12 or ASW600. The mortar projectiles were relatively small, only 100mm (3.95″) in diameter, weighing 4.2 kilograms (9 pounds 4 oz.), far smaller than the 65 pound (29.5 kilo) Hedgehog or Mousetrap weapons of WWII, but, unlike those systems, they did have a shaped charge. Apparently the weapon was removed at some point, but reportedly the weapon was reintroduced in 2018 on the Koster-class mine countermeasures vessels so it is possible it has been reintroduced here as well. 

Anti-submarine mortar system Elma LLS-920 (SAAB RBS12 ASW600) on the Swedish patrol boat HMS Hugin. Rearview with some mortars unattached. Photo by Dagjoh

While the post seems to emphasize passive detection, the last paragraph suggest there is an active component.

“The Kongsberg Maritime sonar selected for this upgrade is being used for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Mine and Obstacle detection and Navigation (emphasis applied–Chuck), and is designed for use in shallow water.”

“A Tale of Two FLIRs” –Naval News

“This image, captured with Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf’s forward-looking infrared, or FLIR, shows the national security cutter moving in on a suspect vessel. U.S. Coast Guard photo.”

Naval News has a post that discusses the advances in FLIR technology over the last two generations.

FLIR has proven very useful. Hopefully we are keeping up with improvements.

Visiting aboard a Webber class WPC, there was a FLIR mounted in the Mast. I ask about it, and was told that it was not as good as the one incorporated in the Mk38 mod3 mount.