Austal–OPC, EMS, and Saildrone

Above is a video of interviews with representatives of Austal Shipbuilding in regard to the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) and the Expeditionary Medical Ship (EMS).

There isn’t much new here about the OPC, but there is an opportunity to get a good look at a model of the ship. Looking at the Mk38, mount atop the hangar, it appears the field of fire and, perhaps more importantly, field of view for its optics are severely limited. (Using the 30mm Mk38 Mod4 with its separately located optics might improve this situation.) It is also not clear where the .50 caliber remote weapon stations (and their associated optics) will be located since the model only includes crew served .50 mounts. Presumably at least one and probably both will be forward, below the bridge and above and behind the 57mm Mk 110 gun mount.

The EMS is a ship the Coast Guard is likely to work with during disaster response operations and possibly during capacity building efforts. Operating Coast Guard helicopters from these ships during a natural disaster would seem a natural partnership.

This video was included in a Naval News report, “Austal Diversifies Revenue Base, Announces New Contracts.” Perhaps also of interest to the Coast Guard, included in the report was the statement that Austal was now “…the exclusive manufacturer of Saildrone, Inc.’s wind and solar-powered Surveyor USV…”, a system the Coast Guard has extensively tested.

Portugal to Build a New Type of Ship–UxS Carrier

The “plataforma naval multifuncional” (multifunctional naval platform). Portuguese Navy image.

It is not often an entirely new category of ship emerges, but this seems to be the case. Perhaps it was inevitable, but it looks like the Portuguese may be the first to make it happen–a specialized, built for purpose, unmanned systems mothership.

Wish the specs in the lower right above were readable. 

First heard about this ship from Cdr. Salamander. He has some interesting ideas about how such a ship could be used. It is part research ship, part disaster response vessel, and, significantly for the Coast Guard, part Offshore Patrol Vessel. There is more about the ship from Naval News. It is not particularly large, with a crew of about 90 and accommodations for another 100. The cost is reportedly about $100M US, much less than the cost of the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Judging by the size of the helicopter (reportedly an NH-90) on the model, it appears to be 100 to 110 meters (328-360 feet) in length, about the length of the OPC, maybe less. It must be pretty broad if that is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle on the deck. The Span of the Gray Eagle is 56 ft (17 m), but it just does not look like it is in scale. Maybe they have a European sourced UAS in mind. Beam looks to be about 20 to 22 meters based on my presumptions about the length, that is 66 to 72 feet. Those proportions are similar to those of the 6,615 ton Canadian Harry DeWolf class Arctic Offfshore Patrol Ship, 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in) long and a beam of 19 m (62 ft 4 in). By comparison, the beam of both the NSC and OPC is 16m or 54 feet.

The thing that makes this ship totally unique is the runway and ski-jump designed expressly for fixed wing unmanned air systems.

Artist rendering of MQ-9B STOL landing on a big-deck amphibious assault vessel. Photo: Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical.

What might make this very useful is the newly developed STOL version of the MQ-9B with shorter span, high lift, folding wings.

Not sure I like this particular design. It is not clear how many UAS and helicopters can be carrier or if there is hangar space. The island is unnecessarily thick and looks too far forward. No indication of speed or endurance. The speed in unlikely to exceed 20 knots, between 16 and 18 knots seems likely, but the concept is novel. Look forward to seeing the ship in final form.

Late Addition: 

After posting this on Facebook, I got some additional information. This is a Google translate from Portuguese. Thanks to Pedro Mateus.

MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM SHIP Lisbon, Portugal June 20, 2022 On June 20, 2022, the Portuguese Navy launched a tender limited by simplified prior qualification, via procedure no. of a Multipurpose Vessel/Platform (N-PM), with an execution period of up to 3 years (with delivery until December 2025), for a base price of 94.5 million Euros.

This Multipurpose Ship/Platform (N-PM) will have a total length, between perpendiculars, of 100 meters, a maximum beam (at flight deck level) of 20 meters and a maximum draft of 7.5 meters. It will follow STANAG 4154 (Ed 3) standards and will be able to maintain the operation of lowering and hoisting vessels in sea state 5 on the Douglas Scale. Its garrison will be composed of 1 commander, 7 officers, 8 sergeants and 29 soldiers, in a total of 45 elements. It has accommodation sized up to 28 officers, 30 sergeants and 32 enlisted men, for a total of 90 elements (in addition to the commander). It will be dimensioned for a range of 45 days at a cruising speed of 10 knots.

The N-PM shall comprise a set of aviation facilities including, among others, a flight deck (a ski-jump runway, a spot for helicopter operation, with lighting system, GPI, etc.), hangar for a helicopter (with support for hydraulic maintenance stations, overhead crane, technical lighting, etc.) and a hangar for unmanned aircraft. In terms of organic helicopter, it should support the Lynx MK95A and NH90 aircraft (either in “spot” or in hangar) and EH101 (“spot”). The flight deck must allow the operation of different types of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as “drones” (Ogassa OGS42, Tekever AR3, etc.), as well as all the support required for vertical refueling operations (VERTREP).

Within the scope of semi-rigid vessels, the N-PM will have 3 vessels: a vessel with
SOLAS (“Safety of Life at Sea”) certification for operation as “Fast
Rescue Boat”, with a power of not less than 250 hp; and two non-cooperative approach vessels, with capacity for 8 equipped soldiers, with a maximum speed of 35 knots or higher and a minimum autonomy of 60 nautical miles, for inspection missions , policing, combating drug trafficking, assault and support for a small embarked force.

Following the good practices and installation and operation recommendations of the “Alliance of European Research Fleets” (EUROFLEET), in terms of support systems for scientific research, the N-PM will be designed to be able to operate subsurface Unmanned Vehicles (VENTs) and remotely operated vehicles – “Remotely Operated Vehicle” (ROV). It will have a sensor pavilion (“drop keel”) for the installation of scientific and acoustic sensors; a large volume “Rosette” CTD system (for deep water sampling, with probe capable of operating up to 6,000 m); an MVP system, “Moving Vessel Profiler”, capable of operating up to 700 meters deep with the ship sailing at 8 knots; an “Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler” (ADCP); a “Global Acoustic Positioning System” (GAPS), capable of operating up to 4,000 meters deep. In addition to these organic systems, the N-PM will have the capacity and integration for several other non-organic systems (Piston Corer – Calypso, Vibrocorer, Box Corer, Multi Corer, etc.) as well as all operating and support winches.

Under an integrated architecture of command and control, platform management, and digital information processing and management systems, this N-PM will have a set of navigation systems (IBS, DDU, TACAN, Secure GPS, etc.), with navigation radar surveillance systems, combined warning radar (ARPA capability, “Automatic Radar Plotting Aid” and IMO certification; ECM and Anti-Jamming) and IFF/W-AIS identification systems, as well as underwater surveillance systems (bathythermograph; support for XBT/XSV probe used in the Navy (XBT4, XBT5, XBT7 and MK-8 XBT/XSV) or CTD type probes). In terms of external communications, it will have, among others, satellite communication systems SATCOM and MILSATCOM, GMDSS, submarine telephone, SART, EPIRB and ICCS.

In terms of armament, the N-PM will be equipped, at least, with 4 “softmounts” for a Browning M2 .50 heavy machine gun, with a firing range limiter and respective accessories, and a base, with ballistic protection for the Browning part and respective operator; and with 2 pieces of Hotchkiss salvo. The N-PM will be equipped with magazines and armories capable of storing various portable weapons, ammunition, pyrotechnic material and demolition material and respective detonators.

Technical drawing and 3D model via the Portuguese Navy Ships Directorate
Editing and composition by “Espada & Escudo”

“All American Marine wins order for 74-foot patrol vessel” –Marine Log

California Department of Fish and Wildlife vessel will feature Teknicraft rapid RHIB launch and retrieval system, integrated into the stern

Marine Log reports,

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has awarded Bellingham, Wash., based All American Marine Inc. (AAM) a contract for the construction of an aluminum catamaran patrol vessel…Measuring 74 foot long by 27.5 feet wide…The design integrates a Teknicraft hull shape…complemented by Teknicraft’s signature integration of a wave piercer that is positioned between the catamaran sponsons to break up wave action and ensure reduced drag while conducting research missions.”

I did an 2019 post on the Texas Parks and Wildlife patrol boat this craft is based on. Notably that craft was designed to patrol up to 200 nautical miles offshore. A foil between the catamaran hulls reportedly reduces resistance and improves fuel economy.

Notably All American Marine is doing service life extension (SLEP) work on Coast Guard 47 foot MLBs.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this unconventional design to my attention. 

Want to Buy an Icebreaker?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Coast Guard is planning to buy the  icebreaking, anchor-handling tug-supply vessel Aiviq, “U.S. Looks to Buy Private Icebreaker to Help Patrol Contested Arctic.” The Coast Guard has been noncommital, but it seems likely. We have been talking about this ship since 2012. It is ten years old. When attempts to drill in the Arctic ended and the ship went on the open market without a buyer, I suggested the Coast Guard consider purchase. Probably not because of my urging, but the Coast Guard did look at it, and decided it did not meet our needs. Really it probably still does not. (The geared diesel propulsion looked like it might be problematic in the ice.) Buying it would probably help a major Congressional contributor cut his losses. It is going to require a major rework, and its only selling point is that it seems to be the only alternative, but is it?

gCaptain reports,

The Finnish Government is blocking Helsinki Shipyard from delivering an icebreaker to Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel.

The shipyard, which is known for its icebreaker construction, said Wednesday it had received a “negative decision” from Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 30th related to the export license of the vessel, confirming reports in Finnish press. The shipyard’s statement did not go into specifics…the icebreaker was to be largest and most powerful diesel-electric icebreaker ever built in Finland, with an integrated dual-fuel engine that can run on both LNG and low-sulfur diesel oil.

No it is not finished, but the design is complete. “Helsinki Shipyard in January said it had completed purchasing contracts for the vessel’s main machinery and propulsion equipment and construction was expected to start this year.” Delivery had been expected in 2024.

This looks like an opportunity to get a powerful, state of the art icebreaker and help a company that has been hurt because Finland stood up against Russian aggression. Since construction has not begun, there may also be an opportunity to tweek the design to meet CG requirements. It has been less than two months since the Finnish government stopped construction. I suspect Finland could complete the ship promptly, probably by 2025. It should at least be looked at. We would need special dispensation from Congress to buy a foreign built ship, but it has been done before. There would probably still be some fitting out work to be done in an American shipyard.

Icebreaking Anchor Handling Vessel Aiviq

As for the Aiviq, we could still lease it, see how it works out, and buy it later if we like what we have seen.

 

“Why a small shipyard merger could signal bigger problems for the US military” –Breaking Defense

Polar Security Cutter. Image credit VT Halter Marine.

Breaking Defense reports,

“…there are factors specific to Halter Marine that may have made it ripe for takeover. But analysts told Breaking Defense that the merger may be a bellwether for further shipyard consolidation, limiting the Navy’s options at a time when the service is trying to grow its fleet. It’s an eventuality the Navy could forestall, if only it could get its own shipbuilding plans in order.

I would agree that the Navy needs to get their shipbuilding act together. Shipbuilding is an unreliable business in the US unless you are one of the five major shipyards that the Navy regularly deals with, but I believe this particular merger is what it is, a case of a badly managed capability being taken over by a better management team, one that has been delivering cutters like clockwork, on time and on budget, even after being hit by a hurricane. All to the good. There is no loss of building capacity. In fact, included in the deal are two shipyards that are corrently lying dormant.

I don’t see any reduction in capacity. In fact, it is likely to result in increased productivity.

Thanks to Walter for prompting me to respond to this. 

Indonesia Building Two 90 meter OPVs

Indonesia 90 meter OPV

A recent Naval News report of the choice of an Electronic Warfare System for new Indonesian OPVs, with the illustration above, prompted me to find out more about these unusually fast and apparently well armed OPVs being built for the Indonesian Navy.

Steel was cut for the first of class on 26 August, 2021. (This report may be a bit confusing in that steel was cut for two OPVs of two different classes.) This report indicates these ships will be powered by four Diesel engines developing 7,280 kW (29,120KW total). That would equate to about 39,000 HP which sounds about right for 28 knots. It is not clear from any of the illustrations where the air intakes and engine exhausts are.

Defense Indonesia provides some specifications:

  • Length: 90 meters
  • Beam: 13.5 meters
  • Draft: 4 meters
  • Speed: 28 knots
  • Accomodations: 70 + 24 troops

A 2021 Janes report provides information on their weapons, combat management system, and ASW capability. If they emerge fully armed as illustrated, with an ASW capability, some would consider them corvettes or even light frigates.

“Bollinger to acquire Halter Marine and STEHMO” –Marine Log/Polar Icebreaker Progam in Trouble?

Photo of a model of Halter Marine’s Polar Security Cutter seen at Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exhibition have surfaced. Photo credit Chris Cavas.

There are two closely related posts here that are significant for the Polar Security Cutter (heavy icebreaker) program. The first is an announcement that Bollinger is acqiring VT Halter and ST Engineering Halter Marine and Offshore, Inc from Singapore’s STE. The second article is from Forbes by industry observer Craig Hooper, published shortly before the announcement. It reports that, it appears VT Halter underbid the PSC contract and was headed for a disasterous loss. The schedule of delivery has slipped more than once. VT Halter has still not started cutting steel for the ship more than three years after the contract award.

I can’t say this is exactly good news, but solutions begin by recognizing you have a problem. We have had a series of warning signs and at least now there seems to be a change in management to a team with a proven track record.

OPC #1 and #2 May Be Delayed

Artists rendering from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

Two articles report that additional delays to both the future USCGC Argus and USCGC Chase appear likely.

The Marine Log article refers to the Forbes article but appears focused on drive shaft irregularities,

“We received shafting for OPC Hulls 1 and 2 that were not in compliance with the NAVSEA requirements called for in the OPC vessel specifications. These two sets of shafting were delivered to our facility with signed and stamped certificates of approval from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), the U.S. Government-mandated certification authority for the OPC Program, certifying that they were in physical compliance with the ABS approved design artifacts,” said Eastern Shipbuilding Group President Joey D’Isernia. “We later discovered that both shipsets of shafting were non-compliant due to having out of tolerance physical dimensions. This issue was discovered during shaft installation on OPC Hull 1. The Coast Guard, Rolls-Royce [the supplier of the shafts] , and ABS were made aware of the problem immediately and they each had on-site representatives overseeing shaft installation. We are working closely with ABS, Rolls-Royce, and the USCG to resolve this issue as soon as possible. In the meantime, we are coordinating with the Coast Guard to advance post launch production and test activities to be completed prior to launch, in order to mitigate delivery schedule impacts and launch the ship at an even greater level of completion.”

The Forbes article is a more comprehensive look at Eastern progress, or lack there of,  on the project. Its worth reading both.

“Damen Lays Keel Of First OPV 2600 For Pakistan Navy” –Naval News

OPV 2600 multi-mission patrol vessel rendering (Source: Damen)

Naval News reports,

On October 12, 2022, Damen Shipyards ceremonially laid the keel of the first multi-purpose patrol vessel OPV 2600 for the Pakistan Navy. At the same ceremony, the first steel plates were cut for the construction of the second OPV 2600.

This is only the latest in a long line of Damen OPVs. Details of this 98 meter, 2600 ton, 24 knot design can be found here. Get an overview of their OPV programs here.

“Russia Launches Project 23550 Patrol Ship ‘Purga'” –Naval News

Official scale model of the Project 23550 ice-class patrol ship “Purga” for the Russian Coast Guard presented during the commissioning ceremony. Picture by Curious / forums.airbase.ru

Naval News reports the launch of a 9,000 tons, 114 meter icebreaker patrol ship for the Russian Coast Guard.

We have talked about this class before. Artist depictions of the class mounting containerized Kalibr cruise missile systems caused a bit of a stir, but we have yet to see containerized weapons on this class, nor have we seen Kalibr launched from containers against Ukraine. At this point, Russia may not have enough missiles to fully outfit its more capable combatants.

This is the first of the class for the Russian Coast Guard. The first two ships of the class were for the Russian Navy.

As I noted earlier, I really don’t think we need to mirror the Russian capability to put containerized missiles on our icebreakers, but the Polar Security Cutters will be valuable, almost irreplaceable auxiliaries, and unlike the Russians, we have very few icebreakers, so we need to be able to quickly upgrade their defensive capabilities.

These ships are in many respects similar to the Canadian Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, but they are reportedly slightly faster at 18 knots and much better armed–but only to a level similar to the OPCs, unless containerized weapons are added. I expect our Artic Security Cutters may be more like these than the Healy, though they probably will be larger than the Russian ships.