“10,000 Tons Patrol Vessel ‘Haixun’ Launched For China’s Maritime Safety Administration” –Naval News

Artist impression of 10,000 tons class patrol vessel Haixun

Naval News reports the launch of a 10.700 ton cutter (more than twice the size of a National Security Cutter) for the Chinese Maritime Safety Agency. We knew this was coming.

“The 165-meter maritime security patrol vessel has a displacement of 10,700 tonnes and a speed of over 25 knots (46 km / h). It can travel more than 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 kilometers) at an economical speed of 16 knots (30 km / h) and make trips of more than 90 days.”

This is not the China Coast Guard (CCG). That is a separate agency and they already have built ships that may be larger than this.

Like the China Coast Guard ships, these may have a wartime role as fast attack transports. Unlike the CCG ships, these do not appear to have significant armament.

Speed of construction is significant. “Construction of the vessel began in May 2019…and is set to enter service next year.”

“New Missions Push Old Coast Guard Assets To The Brink” –Forbes

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bruckenthal participates in a fueling exercise with the Coast Guard Cutter Campbell on the Chesapeake Bay, April 11, 2020. The Coast Guard acquired the first Sentinel Class cutter in 2012, with the namesake of each cutter being one of the service’s many enlisted heroes. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Isaac Cross)

Forbes evaluates the Coast Guard’s performance and the dangers inherent in its aging fleet.

“With all the new interest, America’s Coast Guard is transitioning from an overlooked national security afterthought into a more significant geopolitical player, befitting what is, after all, the world’s 12th largest naval force.”

But,

“It all looks pretty good so far. America’s Coast Guard can be proud of its current operational record and new strategic potential. But as the geopolitical importance of Coast Guard missions ramp up, so too will the ramifications of mission failure. The Coast Guard has a lot of fragile ships that can break at any time. The stress may already be showing…”

There is a lot of criticism of the 270 foot WMECs here. I have never been a great fan. When they were being built, the Chief Engineer made keeping the cost down a number one priority. He saw cost closely related to length. Contrary to stories that they were supposed to have been longer, in fact the original design was three feet shorter. I heard at the time, that Naval engineers went “down on bended knees” to get an additional three feet of shear on the bow.

USCGC Citrus, 1984, after conversion from buoy tender to WMEC. US Coast Guard photo.

When the 270 program began, the Coast Guard still had 18 World War II vintage WHECs and WMECs

  • Six larger, slightly faster, and much loved 327 foot cutters.
  • USCGC Storis, 230′, but actually a little larger in displacement
  • Three 213′ former Navy rescue and salvage  vessels, Escape, Acushnet, and Yacona
  • Five 205′ former Navy fleet tugs, Chilula, Cherokee, Tamaroa, Ute, and Lipan
  • three converted 180′ buoy tenders, Clover, Evergreen, and Citrus

Twelve of those, including all the 327s, were decommissioned 1980 to 1991. Tamaroa and Citrus were decommissioned in 1994, Escape in 1995, Yacona in 1996, Storis in 2007, and Acushnet hung on until 2011.

210s Courageous and Durable were decommissioned September 2001.

Until the first National Security Cutter, Bertholf, was commissioned Aug. 4, 2008, the only addition to the fleet, after the completion of the 270s, was 283′ Alex Haley, transferred from the Navy in 1999.

So at the end of 1991, the year the last 270 was delivered, we had 47 WHECs and WMECs (12 x 378s, 13 x 270s, 16 x 210s and 6 WWII vintage ships). By the time the first NSC came out, we were down to 41 (12 x 378s, 1 x283, 13 x 270s, 14 x 210s and 1 WWII vintage ship). We are currently at 37 (8 x NSCs, 1 x 378s, 1 x283, 13 x 270s, 14 x 210s) and working toward 36 (11 NSCs and 25 OPCs). I suspect we will the the number drop below that before the OPC program is complete.

USCGC Tahoma (WMEC-908)

While I always felt we would have been better off evolving an improved 327, the 270 was a net improvement. Unlike the ships they replaced, they had a helicopter deck and hangar. Even the 378s did not have a hangar at that point. The 270s introduced the digital Mk92 fire control, 76mm Mk75 gun, SLQ-32 ESM, and Mk36 SRBOC. They were a half knot slower than the 327s, but were substantially faster than the other ships they replaced, none of which were capable of more than 16 knots.

It was perhaps a lost opportunity to build something better, for only a little more money, but they were an improvement. We should have built at least six more to replace the WWII built ships, and maybe another 16 to replace the 210s beginning in 1994 (perhaps a block 2 with a bit more bow). We should have awarded contracts to start replacing the 270s more than a decade ago.

Now that we do have bipartisan support in Congress, we need to translate that into consistently larger Procurement, Construction, and Improvement funding and an accelerated build rate for the OPCs. After all, we currently have only one WMEC less than 30 years old, that just barely. We really should not wait 17 or 18 years to replace them all.

 

 

“Croatian Brodosplit Shipyard held cutting-steel ceremony of new coastal patrol boats for Croatia Coast Guard” –Navy Recognition

Scale model of the coastal patrol boat for the Croatian Coast Guard. (Picture source Brodosplit Shipyard)

Navy Recognition Reports that first steel has been cut for a new class of patrol boat for Croatian Coast Guard.

The Croatian-made patrol boat will have a length of 43,16 meters (142 feet) and a wide of 8 meters. She will be armed with one 30mm automatic cannon mounted at the front deck and two 12.7mm heavy machine gun, as well as four portable anti-aircraft missiles.

This makes it only slightly smaller than the 154 foot Webber class WPCs. Closer still to the Damen Stan 4207 patrol design (used by at least eleven nations), like the Canadian Coast Guard Hero class.

Two 2525 kW engines would provide 6772HP. That is well under the 11,600 HP of the Webber class, but it should still be good for 24 to 25 knots rather than the 15 knots the report seems to indicate, in apparent confusion with range specification (“…maximum speed of 15 knots with a maximum cruising range of 1,000 nautical miles.”)

Range is notably less than that of the Webber class (2,500 nmi), but Croatia has an EEZ of only 17,211 nautical miles square.

It is unusual in having a CBRN (Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) protection system).

Map: Adriatic Sea. Created by Norman Einstein, May 20, 2005.

 

“Japan To Build Six Patrol Vessels For Vietnam’s Coast Guard” –Naval News

Japan Coast Guard(JCG) PL42 Dewa. Photo credit: Wikipedia, No machine-readable author provided. Sizuru~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims).

Naval News reports that,

The Vietnamese government signed an agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on July 28 to finance a project to build six patrol vessels for the Vietnamese Coast Guard (VCG). The vessels, based on the Aso-class of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) will be built in Japan.

There are some things that are noteworthy here.

  • Japan has started providing assistance to many of its neighbors and helping to strengthen their coast guards seems to be a favorite method. Helping the Philippines here and here. Malaysia here.
  • In this case it is in the form of a very low interest loan (0.1%) with generous repayment terms, to have ships constructed in Japan (good for the Japanese shipbuilding industry).
  • The speed of construction is also noteworthy, six ship with the last to be delivered Oct. 2025.
  • The cost of each of these 79.0 m (259 ft 2 in) cutters is about the same as that for our Webber class WPCs.

The ASO class has not been built since 2006, but they are smaller and presumably cheaper than the larger classes of Japanese Coast Guard large patrol vessels (PL) that followed. The class was built shortly after the Battle of Amami-Ōshima and apparently incorporated lessons from that engagement including a heavier weapon, the Bofors 40mm/70, and ballistic protection for selected areas of the ship. They are also relatively fast at over 30 knots.

The Navy’s New Frigate

Italian FREMM Bergamini. photo by Fabius1975–no its not going to look like this

The US Naval Institute has a one page description of the new Navy frigate in the July 2020 issue of Proceedings, including a nicely annotated side view of the ship (you can see it here). Other than the diagram and the intro, the article is behind the paywall. It not only illustrates how the ship is equipped, it also explains the differences between the US version and the Italian version. I will summarize and include some observations.

The already large FREMM frigate grows to 7,400 tons and 496 feet in length, an increase of “more than 500 tons” (700 tons according to Wikipedia) and 22 feet in length. Draft is reduced from 24 to 23 feet, but only because there is no bow mounted sonar, so the draft over the rest of the hull is likely greater.

This large size appears to open the possibility of a smaller combatant class of 2,000-4,000 tons which might be dual service (Navy/Coast Guard) ships, or perhaps simply an upgraded Bertholf class.

It appears the power plant is much the same as the Italian version, combined diesel electric and gas turbine. In the Italian ships, that consists of four diesel generators totaling roughly 15,000 HP, two electric propulsion motors totaling 5 MW or about 6700 HP, plus an LM2500 gas turbine rated at 32 MW or about 42,895 HP. The combination is reportedly good for more than 30 knots in the Italian frigates and the US version should not be much different despite the increase in displacement. The USNI report claims only a sustained speed in excess of 26 knots. I would note that this is slightly less total horsepower than the National Security cutters.

The one characteristic of the design that gives me pause is the cruise speed. For the Italian frigate the reported max is 17 knots, limited by the power of the electric motors. The USNI article reports a cruising range of 6,000 nmi at a speed of 16 knots in electric mode. These ships are likely to, at some point, perform escort duty for convoys or amphibious ready groups. Many modern merchant ships and all amphibious ready group ships can maintain 20+ knots. It is entirely possible that they may need to escort convoys with a base speed of 18 knots or more, which would require them to operate almost continuously on their one turbine engine which would seriously degrade their range. It is possible they have included higher power electric motors which might allow a 20 knot cruise, but there has been no indication of this. When escorting an aircarrier, they would be expected to operate on turbine virtually al the time, but in that case at least a tanker can be expected to be near by.

The systems reported on the new frigate include:

  • .50 cal. machine guns, looks like ten positions: four bow, two stern, four in the superstructure.
  • 57mm Mk110, ALaMO ammunition is mentioned as a capability.
  • 32 cell Mk41 VLS for SM-2 and quad-packed ESSM (no mention of vertical launch ASROC but that should be a possibility)
  • SPY-6(V)3 EASR multi-function radar, a smaller version of the radar being used on the latest Burke class DDGs
  • Mk20 Electro-optic gun fire control system
  • Cooperative Engagement Capability Datalink
  • UPX-29 IFF
  • SLQ-32(V)6 SEWIP EW system
  • Mk 53 Nulka decoy launchers
  • 16 (four quad) RGM-184 Naval Strike missile launchers
  • 7 meter RHIB hangar
  • 21 tube Mk49 RIM116 RAM launcher (on the hangar aft)
  • Hangar space for up to two MH-60R or one MH-60R and one MQ-8C Fire Scout
  • SQS-62 variable depth sonar
  • TB-37 multi-function towed array sonar
  • SLQ-61 lightweight tow or SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy

Construction is expected to begin in 2022, first of class delivery 2026, and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) 2030. Apparently this is a contract with options for out years rather than a “Block Buy.”

Late Addition: Contrary to what I think I remember about the supposed equipment, there was no mention of vertical launch Hellfire. Notably there are none of the weapons normally associated with dealing with swarming high speed inshore attack craft e.g. no 25mm Mk38 and no 30mm Mk46, which seems surprising. Also don’t see a position that seems likely for a laser weapon, unless it is the small area elevated one deck forward of the RAM launcher and aft of the stack.

 

“Cutting Coast Guard funds threatens our security, at home and in the Pacific” –The Hill

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (left) moves in formation with Philippine coast guard vessels Batangas (center) and Kalanggaman during an exercise on May 14. U.S. Coast Guard/Chief Petty Officer John Masson

The Hill argues for increased Coast Guard presence in the Pacific including greater interaction with the nations of the Western Pacific.

After explaining why China is a greater threat than Germany, Japan, or the Soviet Union ever were, the author, Seth Cropsey, explains:

“The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is uniquely situated to act as a bridge between U.S. combat forces and their allied counterparts precisely because of its dual political-legal role. Its engagement in answering grey zone challenges is also a helpful encouragement to the maritime services’ cooperation that allows each service to perfect its unique skills.”

He argues for the 12th NSC.

“As it stands, the Coast Guard’s long-range cutters have been cut from ten in the Pacific to only six (actually we still have six NSCs and two WHECs–Chuck). If Congress does not fund the 12th National Security Cutter, it will undermine the Coast Guard’s mission in the Western Pacific and weaken U.S. security.”

Most importantly, as we have done several times here, he calls for a reevaluation of the services needs and recurrent long term planning.

Even more broadly, U.S. policymakers – within the Coast Guard, the Armed Forces, and the Pentagon – must consider the Coast Guard’s strategic role. The USCG has not produced a fleet plan, termed the “Fleet Mix Analysis,” since 2004. Even in 2008 and 2012, when it revisited the document, it concluded that its fleet could only meet three-fifths of its missions. In 2004, Chinese fighter aircraft seldom conducted night operations, North Korea had not yet tested a nuclear weapon, and the U.S. had toppled Iraq’s Saddam Hussein just a year before; Hamas was a small but noted Palestinian terrorist organization, while al-Qaeda in Iraq was still consolidating power.

After 16 years, any service’s missions and equipment must change as it adapts to new threats; the same is true for the Coast Guard. A robust force review is in order, potentially modeled off the Navy’s 30-year plan which will generate a new fleet capable of meeting the demands of great-power competition, especially in the Asia-Pacific.

France Allocates One Billion Euros to Build Ten Offshore Patrol Vessels

Marine Nationale photo, FS Lieutenant_de_vaisseau_Lavallée, one of seven 80 meter (263′) 1,270 ton D’Estienne d’Orves-class avisos or corvettes being used as Offshore Patrol Vessels that are to be replaced.

France has been building a lot of Coast Guard Cutter like vessels recently and it looks like they will be building more. Naval News reports:

Ten new generation OPVs will replace the A69 type (D’Estienne d’Orves-class) PHM (formerly Aviso / light frigates and then reclassified as patrol vessels) based in Brest (Atlantic Coast–Chuck) and Toulon (Mediterranean- Chuck) and the PSP patrol boats based in Cherbourg (English Channel-Chuck).

Cormoran (P677), one of three 23 knot, 54 meter (177′), 477 ton French navy PSP patrol boats. Brest, Finistère, Bretagne, France. Photo by Gary Houston (Notice the striping similar to that carried by USCG cutters)

The one billion Euro contract awarded to Naval Group (formerly DCNS) would mean a unit cost of approximately 100M Euros ($112M).

Rendering of the future “POM” OPV of the French Navy.

Apparently, based on price, they will be larger than the six recently contracted 70 meter, 22knot “POM” patrol vessels. (224 million euros, 37.3 Euros or about $42M each)

Not long ago Naval Group and ECA group was given a 2B Euro contract to produce twelve 2800 ton Mine Countermeasures ships for the Dutch and Belgium Navies. Given that ship yard prices for similarly complex ships tend to be proportional to their displacement, and that these ships are probably less complex than the MCM, I would suspect that the new OPVs will be about 1,680 tons. That would make them similar in size to the WMEC 270s. Given the ships they are replacing and the character of recent construction, they will probably a bit longer and faster than the 270s, probably about 90 meters long, at least 20 knots but probably more, with a flight deck for a medium helicopter like the NH90, a hangar for a smaller helicopter similar to the H-65 and probably the 700 kilo rotary wing unmanned aircraft planned for POM. There will probably be space for containers. The crew will be small by Coast Guard standards, maybe less than 50, but will likely have additional accommodations for about 30 in addition to the crew.

Weapons: It will almost certainly have the Nexter Narwhal 20 mm cannon and .50 caliber machine guns, but there is no indication if they will have anything larger. French Navy vessels that wear the “Coast Guard Stripe” apparently have no weapons larger than .50 cal. (12.7mm). The seven A69 corvettes to be replaced have 100mm guns, but these ships were not originally designed as law enforcement vessels, and once also had Exocet anti-ship cruise missiles, so a medium caliber gun may not be seen as a requirement. If they wanted to put a medium caliber gun on these at small cost, the French Navy almost certainly has numerous, surplus, still very effective 100mm guns, but their newer ships mount the Super Rapid 76mm, which weighs less than half as much. The quoted French Ministry of Armed Forces statement might suggest they see a need for stronger armament.

“In a context marked by the increase in maritime traffic and the toughening of threats at sea, patrol boats fulfill a very broad spectrum of missions: support for deterrence, presence in areas of sovereignty and interest, evacuation, protection, escort and intervention in the framework of State action at sea.”

The linked Naval News post mentions the European Patrol Corvette program as a possible basis for this program, but given their projected displacement of 3000 tons, they would be beyond the projected budget.

There is a good chance these ships will emerge as an upgraded version of the the 87 meter (285′), 1450 ton L’Adroit (above) which was sold to Argentina along with three similar ships. The Naval News post indicates that the projected cost of the new OPVs is almost twice the cost so of the L’Adroit class, but they were designed for export. Meeting Navy standards with better equipment and improved survivability can substantially increase cost. When the Royal Navy built their River Batch II OPVs it was based on OPVs originally ordered by Trinidad and Tobago. Modifying the design to meet Royal Navy standards caused a great increase in price. The three vessels were built for Trinidad and Tobago cost £150M pound (US$237.8 M). When the Royal Navy contracted for three ships that met their standards, the outwardly almost identical ships came in at a fixed price of £348 million–a few years later, but more than double the price.

“Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Updated June 8, 2020, CRS

The Congressional Research Service has updated their analysis of the FFG(X) program. You can view the 38 page pdf here.

The FFG(X) equipment lists, which you might be better able to see here constitutes a list of possibilities for upgrades to the Polar Security Cutters, Coast Guard National Security Cutters, and Offshore Patrol Cutters.

 

A Cutter X for Malta, the P71

Another cutter design fitting about half way between the Offshore Patrol Cutter and the Fast Response Cutter. An unusual feature of this one, is its hybrid propulsion system. Also found it interesting that it used the ABS classification system. Before COVID-19 this vessel was expected to be delivered this year.

The characteristics of the vessel are as follows:
Length Overall – 74.8m (245.3′)
Moulded breadth – 13m (42.6′)
Speed – More than 20 Knots
Displacement – 1800 tons full load
Draught – 3.8m (12.5′)
Classification Society – ABS
Propulsion – 2 x 5440 kW Hybrid with PTI (14,590 HP)
Propellers – 2 x CPP

Given that it will have twice the horsepower of a WMEC270 and is nearly the same displacement, its maximum speed is likely to be about 23 knots.

The hybrid propulsion includes electric motors capable of propelling the ship at up to 12 knots.

It is expected to have a crew of 48 and additional accommodations for 20.

It is expected to operate two 9.1 meter RHIBs, one from a stern ramp and one from a davit, starboard side. It is also expected to operate an AW139, an approximately seven ton gross weight helicopter. No hangar is fitted.

The construction contract, signed 10 Oct. 2018, is for EUR48.6 million (USD56.2 million) funded 75% by the European Union Security Fund.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Sources:

“Growing Missions, Shrinking Fleet” –USNI

The US Naval Institute has an argument in favor of funding National Security Cutter #12

The author talks about the shortage of ships both because of the failure of the crew rotation concept and because of the shortfall revealed in the Fleet Mix Study. This has been discussed in the Congressional Research Service report on Cutter Acquisition.

What I found new, was information about SOUTHCOM interceptions,

In congressional testimony last year, Admiral Craig Faller, Commander, U.S. Southern Command, noted: “The Coast Guard’s presence any given day is six to eight cutters. . . . But, keep in mind, we’re talking about covering areas the size of the United States—with from six to 10 ships. And so, the interdiction percentage with the current assets we have is about 6 percent of the detections. So, we need more ships.”

that is a lower interception rate than previously reported, and impact on jobs,

The NSC is an indispensable national asset. The economic impact of the NSC production line touches nearly 500 suppliers across 39 states. An additional ship order would help jumpstart the U.S. economy and have an immediate and profound effect on a host of U.S. suppliers, who stand ready to deliver. Moving forward with a 12th NSC is low risk.

If we had been further along with the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), I would say, just build another OPC instead of a twelth NSC, but we were way behind in starting the OPC program and the difficulties at Eastern put us even further behind.

The OPC program is so far behind, that the Bertholf is likely to be 30 years old before the 25th OPC is ready for its first operational mission. Plus we really do need more than 36 large patrol cutters, but the fact we have not done a new Fleet Mix Study in almost ten years does not help our case.