The Navy has issued a Request for Proposal with options for up to three heavy polar icebreakers. Its not a block buy, but it is a bit of a surprise. I have copied and pasted the brief summary below. (Thanks to Tups for bringing this to my attention.)
If you were unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Symposium, but would like to see what you missed, NavyRecognition offers a series of videos. They include a number of systems that have been discussed here including, smart projectiles for the 57mm, unmanned surface vehicles, the LRASM Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, SeaRAM as a replacement for Phalanx, TRAPS Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar, MK20 Mod 1 Electro-Optical Sensor System (EOSS), TRS-3D Baseline D multi-mode radar (MMR) ordered for the ninth NSC.
If you want to look primarily at the frigate proposals as well as the proposed weapons modules for the LCS which might also be applicable to the icebreaker, there is this composite video.
Incidentally why was there no mention of this symposium on the National Cuttermen Association Chapter, Surface Navy Association website?
The Congressional Research Service has issued an updated report on Coast Guard Cutter procurement by Specialist in Naval Affair, Ronald O’Rourke. It is available in pdf format here or you can read it on the US Naval Institute site here.
Quoting from the Report,
The Coast Guard’s acquisition program of record (POR) calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard cutters and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests a total of $794 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.
NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $695 million per ship. The first six are now in service (the sixth was commissioned into service on April 1, 2017). The seventh, eighth, and ninth are under construction; the seventh and eighth are scheduled for delivery in 2018 and 2019, respectively. As part of its action on the Coast Guard’s FY2017 budget, Congress provided $95 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 10th NSC. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $54 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 10th NSC.
OPCs are to be smaller, less expensive, and in some respects less capable than NSCs. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $421 million per ship. The first OPC is to be funded in FY2018 and delivered in 2021. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $500 million in acquisition funding for the OCP program for the construction of the first OPC, procurement of LLTM for the second OPC, and certain other program costs.
FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 44 have been funded through FY2017. The 24 th was commissioned into service on October 31, 2017. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following:
whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 10th NSC in FY2018;
whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2018, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years;
whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring FRCs;
whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;
the procurement rate for the OPC program;
planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCS, and FRCs;
the cost, design, and acquisition strategy for the OPC; and
initial testing of the NSC.
Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.
Certainly good news to see the process moving along, but it is also important to remember what it is not.
It is only a draft. “Responses to the draft RFP are due Dec. 11, and the Coast Guard and Navy will release a final RFP early next year, to support a Fiscal Year 2019 contract award.”
Like all of our contracts so far, there is no apparent consideration of a block buy that would lock Congress into funding the entire program–three ships in this case. Perhaps an astute shipbuilder will include that in their ultimate response, in case the Congress wants to commit for all three.
Unfortunately I can’t comment on the draft because of its limited distribution. Hopefully because,
“…Polar icebreakers enable the U.S. to maintain defense readiness in the Arctic and Antarctic regions; enforce treaties and other laws needed to safeguard both industry and the environment; provide ports, waterways and coastal security; and provide logistical support – including vessel escort – to facilitate the movement of goods and personnel necessary to support scientific research, commerce, national security activities and maritime safety.”
They will be provided with the means to be upgraded to allow them to exercise both self-defense and a modicum of offensive capability.
Earlier I suggested that a derivative of the Offshore Patrol Cutter might fill the role of a frigate.
It now appears that a ship with the OPC’s DNA has been proposed as a frigate for the Royal Navy and has been offered to the US Navy. The Babcock Arrowhead 120 is the latest of five candidates for the Royal Navy’s Type 31e (the other four are outlined here).
The common thread is Vard designs. The family tree looks like this.
- Róisín-class patrol vessel, two ships, 1500 tons, 79 meters (259 ft) in length, 23 knots, built by Babcock, commissioned into the Irish Naval Service in 1999.
- Protector-class offshore patrol vessel, two ships, 1900 tons, 85 meters (279 ft) in length, 22 knots, built by BAE Systems Williamstown, Australia, for the New Zealand Navy, the first commissioned in 2010.
- Samuel Beckett-class offshore patrol vessel, three ships completed and a fourth under construction, 2256 tons, 90 meters (300 ft) in length, 23 knots, built by Babcock and commissioned into the Irish Navy Service in 2014.
- USCG Offshore Patrol Cutter, 4,000 tons, 110 meters (360 ft), to be built by Eastern in the US with the first expected to be commissioned in 2021.
NavyRecognition has the most complete description of the ship I have seen so far, and also has three protos of a model of the proposed ship.
Arrowhead 120 has a length of 120 meters, a breadth of 19 meters for a displacement of 4000 tonnes. Its speed is 24+ knots and range is 6000 nautical miles at 15 knots. Crew complement is 80 (plus 40). The vessel was design with commercial standard with applied naval engineering standards.
Missions bays: Space for numerous containerized units within the optimally located mission bays. Facilities for launch & recovery of UXVs. Flexible, reconfigurable infrastructure.
Missile options: Deck space for up to 8 surface to surface guided weapons. Up to 16 cells VLS.
Small calibre guns: Design provision for SCGs up to 30mm with associated EO sensors and magazine arrangements. Weapons can be fitted at a number of upperdeck positions.
Medium calibre guns: Design provision for MCG up to 5 Inch (127mm) with associated infrastructure.
Aviation: Flight deck sized for AW-101 Merlin/MH-60 Seahawk. Hangar capable of accommodating a medium organic naval helicopter (e.g. Seahawk or NH90) or a lighter helicopter plus a VTOL UAV (e.g. AW-159 Wildcat & MQ-8C Firescout). Design can accommodate all envisaged customer naval aircraft.
Babcock is offering the design to meet the US Navy’s frigate requirement.
Among companies vying for the Type 31e design contract is Babcock International, which this week unveiled proposals for a 120-meter, 4,000-ton rapidly reconfigurable warship with multiple mission bays; deck space for eight surface-to-surface missiles, 16 vertical launch cells and a 5-inch gun; a flight deck large enough for a V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and hanger for MH-60 Seahawk helicopter; and launch/recovery facilities for unmanned vehicles.
Babcock claims that its Arrowhead 120 design will reduce through-life costs by embedding real-time equipment health monitoring sensors during the build process, allowing information about key systems to be gathered during deployments to inform subsequent maintenance periods.
With transatlantic exports in mind, the company also points to its collaborative venture with Florida-based Eastern Shipbuilding to design a new offshore patrol cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard. (emphasis applied–Chuck)
Craig Lockhart, the managing director of Babcock’s Naval Marine business, said that an advisor for U.S. naval procurement had expressed interest in the Arrowhead design, and specifically its innovative ‘iFrigate’ platform monitoring system, at the DSEI event.
The length is up ten meters compared to the OPC, as I thought might be the case, but I am a bit surprised at the reported beam, 19 meters. Since the OPC is 4,000 tons full load and the Arrowhead proposal is both ten meters (33 ft) longer and 2.5 meters (8 ft) greater in beam, the full load displacement of the Arrowhead would likely be considerably greater. The 4,000 tons reported may be a light displacement, meaning this ship is actually larger than the FFG-7 class.
Given the relatively small stacks and the 24+ knot speed, this is obviously an all diesel ship. It will be economical to run and have a long range at relatively high cruising speeds. While I think 24+ knots may be enough, most of the ships to be escorted make 20 knots or less, a speed well below the 29 knots of the FFG-7 class will be a hard sell to the US Navy.
NavyRecognition also has news of another of the Type 31e competitors, the BMT Venator-110 also apparently being proposed to meet the US Navy requirement.
Meanwhile BAE is also offering the much larger and more expensive Type 26 to the USN as well, however with its size and cost (U.S. $4.9 billion for the first three British ships) approaching that of a Burke class DDG, I think that is a long shot.
By contrast the Type 31e is being designed to a price of 250M Pounds or about $340M. That much lower price may be the Type 31e’s best selling point.
Bairdmaritime brings us news of a new patrol boat being built for a private security company that is protecting Nigeria’s offshore oil industry. Looks like a possible replacement for the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. Yes it is bigger, but all our vessels have gotten bigger. It is also faster, but the crew is no larger, although more accommodations are provided.
Is it too early to start looking at a replacement class? Actually we may already be a year or two late starting the process.
Our 73 Marine Protector class 87 foot WPBs were commissioned over an eleven year period from 1998 to 2009. If we want to replace them when they reach 25 years old, the first new cutters should be commissioned in 2023. If it were possible, it could fit well into our shipbuilding program since it appears likely the last of the programmed 58 Webber class will be funded in FY2020 and the first of the new class could be funded in FY2021.
Additionally we probably would want to start with an initial low rate production until the bugs have been worked out, and we get DHS approval to enter full-rate production. At that point, we should enter into a Multi-year Procurement. We don’t want to get into a situation where we have to rush a crash program to replace overage vessels.
Unfortunately it looks like we are once again “behind the power curve.” It takes us ten years to procure a large ship. Maybe we can move a little faster on these smaller vessels, but if you look at the way we are doing ship contracts,
- there will be a year for market research/requests for information
- a year of competition to select three preliminary designs
- a year to refine and select from among the preliminary designs
- a year to complete the winner’s detail design
- at least two years construction before the first ship is commissioned.
That is six years, meaning we needed to start the contracting process in 2018, but there is nothing in the FY2018 budget that would move us toward a WPB procurement.
Even before the procurement process begins, we really need to look at what characteristics the new WPBs should have. I think the documentation is still called ROC and POE, for Required Operational Characteristics and Projected Operating Environment.
Surely we would want a better ship’s boat (the same 26 foot over the horizon boat used on the Webber class) and probably more speed and greater range.
Is it going to be just a SAR and LE asset, or will we consider Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) and our newly remembered Defense Readiness missions?
If so, I would suggest that they provide at least one Mk38 mod3 mount with provision for mounting a second Mk38 mod3, a guided weapon (which might be on the Mk38 mount) to deal with small, fast, highly maneuverable threats, and weight and space for a pair of tubes for light weight torpedoes to deal with the largest terrorist threats and . We might also consider a pilot house armored against small arms, like that on the Nigerian boats.
We ought to be able to get all that in a boat less than half the displacement of a Webber class, eg, about the same size as the Island class 110s.
The video above records an recent event, a “Maritime Security dialogue” presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the United States Naval Institute (USNI) featuring Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, for a discussion on the “U.S. Coast Guard’s future priorities.”
Despite the title, don’t expect a recitation of Coast Guard priorities. Most of the material is familiar, but there were a few interesting comments, including some that might be surprising. A number of things the Commandant said here made news.
- That the NSCs could be made into frigates.
- That the Polar Icebreaker would cost less than $1B
- His support of transgender CG personnel.
I’ll give a quick outline of what was talked about. At the end I will rant a bit about some of my pet peeves.
The Commandant’s prepared statement is relatively short beginning at time 2m45s and ending about 11m.
6m00 In our listing of missions, the Commandant said Defense Operations should be listed first. He noted that there are 20 ships chopped to Combatant Commanders including eleven ships operating under SOUTHCOM.
Q&A begins at 11:00.
16m20s The Commandant noted there is a Chinese ship rider on a USCG cutter off Japan and that Coast Guard aircraft are flying out of Japan.
17m30s Boarder protection/drug interdiction
20m Called the OPCs “light frigates”
22m As for priorities the Commandant noted a need to invest in ISR and Cyber
23m Cyber threat.
24m Expect return to sea duty because of length of training.
26m30s “Demise of the cutterman”/Human Capital Plan–fewer moves–removed the stigma of geographic stability
29m25s Highest percentage of retention of all services–40% of enlisted and 50% of officers will still be in the service after 20 years
30m Law of the Sea. Extended continental shelf in the Arctic.
32m30s Need for presence in the Arctic.
36m ISR, 38m15s Firescout. An interesting side note was that the Commandant seemed to quash any possibility of using the MQ-8 Firescout. He noted when they deployed on a cutter 20 people came with the system. He called it unoccupied but not unmanned.
43m30s Comments on transgender members
45m15s Icebreakers–will drive the price down below $1B.
47m NSC as frigate–no conversations with the Navy about this. Performance of Hamilton.
49m50s Count the NSCs toward the 355 ship Navy.
50m30s Illegal migration and virulent infectious disease
53m35s CG training teams in the Philippines and Vietnam to provide competency to operate platforms to be provided by Japan. Two patrol boats going to Costa Rica. Other efforts to build capacity.
56m DHS is the right place for the CG.
The Commandant touched on a couple of my pet peeves, specifically
- He called the OPCs “Light Frigates,” so why aren’t they designated that way? WMSM and WMSL are just wrong in too many ways. Give our ships a designation our partners and politicians can understand. A WLB is a cutter and also a buoy tender. The OPC can be both a cutter and a light frigate. I have suggested WPF. Maybe WFF for the Bertholfs and WFL for the Offshore Patrol Cutters. If we want to be thought of as a military service, we need to start using designations that will be seen and understood as military.
- He mentioned the possibility of including the Bertholfs in the 355 ship fleet total. Coast Guard combatants should be included when the country counts its fleet. No, the cutters are not aircraft carriers or destroyers, but the current fleet of about 275 ships includes about 70 ships that have no weapons larger than a .50 cal. These include eleven MCM ships and about 60 ships manned by civilian crews such as tugs, high speed transports, salvage ships, underway replenishment ships, and surveillance ships. Counting the Cutters as part of the National Fleet would raise our profile as a military service. The Navy might not like it, but it does give a better idea of our actually available assets for wartime, which is the point of such a listing.