“Arctic Operations: We Really, Really Need the Right Equipment and an Arctic Port” –EagleSpeak

Conceptual illustration, Finland’s squadron 2020 corvette

Naval blog “EagleSpeak” decries our inability of operate surface warships in the Arctic, but this is his bottom line

“Fault finding will get us nowhere, the need is to look to our allies who operate in these waters and see if, among the hull types we need they have some ice-hardened ships whose designs we can obtain. Now.”

If we do want to do that, there is really only one choice, Finland’s new ice capable corvette we talked about here. The original post is now more than five years old, but updated information is in the comments, much of which I have linked below.

Fortunately they are already designed to us a great deal of familiar equipment much of it from US manufacturers.

They will use the same 57mm gun used by the NSC, OPC, and both classes of LCS.

They will use the Sea Giraffe radar common to the OPC and Independence class LCS.

They will use ESSM surface to air missiles, a standard item on most US surface combatants, apparently to be launched from Mk41 VLS.

The Finns will be using the Israeli Gabriel V as their surface to surface missile, but it should be relatively easy to substitute a standard US surface to surface missile, particularly the Naval Strike Missile, which is considerably smaller.

The sonars currently planned are from Kongsberg Maritime AS. If not replaced by US sourced units, they would be unique in the US fleet but the hull mounted “SS2030 sonars will be delivered to the Finnish Navy complete with hoistable hull units and ice protection to ensure safe and efficient operation in the often harsh conditions of the Baltic Sea.”  The variable depth “SD9500 is a light and compact over-the-side dipping sonar with outstanding horizontal and vertical positioning capabilities for diver detection, ASW duties and volumetric survey assignments in shallow, reverberation-limited waters.”

They would be unique among US warships in being able to both lay and counter mines.

Propulsion is CODLAG, combined diesel electric and gas turbine. Four diesel generators producing 7,700 KW (10326 HP) provide power for cruise (probably about 20 knots). A GE LM2500 gas turbine provides over 26 knot sprint speed. This is the same gas turbine that powers the NSC, Burke class destroyers, the new FFG, and numerous other ships. It is the most common gas turbine in the world.

The propellers were developed with the help of the US Navy.

“The propellers are a minor project on their own, and are set to be of a highly advanced design. This is due to the somewhat conflicting demands of high top-speed, small diameter (due to overall draught requirement), and low noise (and high cavitation margin). All this, while at the same time being strong enough to cope with ice.”

Its primary characteristics are reported to be:

  • Length: 114 m (374 ft)
  • Beam: 16 m (52 ft)
  • Displacement: 3,900 tonnes (3,800 long tons; 4,300 short tons)
  • Crew: 70 to 120 sailors
  • Speed: 26+ knots

This makes about 13% smaller than the OPC or NSC, but 30% larger than the 378s. First of class is expected to be completed 2024.

We could buy the plans and then compete procurement in a US shipyard. These might be built concurrently with the OPCs, possibly replacing some of them. Ten units could give a two squadrons, one for the Atlantic and one for the Pacific. In wartime that would almost guarantee the ability to keep three underway in either ocean.

“Omnibus Spending Bill Funds Four Additional Fast Response Cutters” –Seapower

USCGC Joseph Doyle (WPC-1133)

The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, reports,

President Trump on Dec. 27 signed into law the omnibus spending bill for fiscal Year 2021, which included funding for four more Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), allowing Bollinger Shipyards to build and deliver four more FRCs to the U.S. Coast Guard, the company said in an Dec. 28 release. This increases the total number of funded boats to 64.

This would complete funding for both the 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRC) included in the Program of Record and the six required to replace the six Island Class 110 foot WPBs currently based in Bahrain, serving with the 5th Fleet as PATFORSWA.

There has been some discussion of basing FRCs in Palau. That could mean additional ships. We could conceivably replicate the PATFORSWA organization using three FRCs in Guam and three in Palau.

“Boost Coast Guard Fleet For Pacific Partnerships” –Breaking Defense

The crew of USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) prepare to moor at the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Aug. 3, 2019. They will conduct a joint fisheries patrol with NOAA Fisheries and American Samoa Marine Police members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Breaking Defense has an oped from Bollinger President and CEO Ben Bordelon, who also serves as chairman of the Shipbuilders Council of America. We all know, he has a financial interest in additional cutter construction, but that does not mean he is not right. After decades of neglect, the Coast Guard can use some influential support, and the mission is important. With permission from Bollinger, I am publishing it in full below.


Boost Coast Guard Fleet For Pacific Partnerships

By: Ben Bordelon

For decades, China has deployed its fishing fleet – the largest in the world – as a maritime militia, systematically asserting and expanding Beijing’s influence throughout the Indo-Pacific.

The fleet routinely operates in areas where there is little to no enforcement and willfully engages in aggressive, predatory practices to intimidate lawful local fishermen, undermine maritime governance, and destabilizing the global blue economy.

China is not alone in these actions. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing occurs under a number of flags. The practice is so pervasive, in fact, that one in five fish caught around the world –  between 11 million and 26 million metric tons of fish – is done illegally, robbing legal fishermen of tens of billions of dollars every year. But IUU is first and foremost a maritime and national security threat. The erosion of global norms and standards by the Chinese is a direct affront to global stability and threatens the ability of sovereign nations to manage and defend their resources. (One of the most easily understood examples for Americans would be the predations that occur in Bahamian waters by fishermen from the Dominican Republic and other countries.)

The Coast Guard is uniquely positioned for this and similar missions, not just in the Pacific, but across the globe. The Coast Guard occupies the sweet spot on the diplomatic spectrum between the State Department on one end and the Department of Defense on the other. The distinctive white hulls and red racing stripe of the Coast Guard are able to move through international waters and Exclusive Economic Zones without being viewed as overly aggressive or provocative, making them a prime candidate for cooperative policing and security. They can deescalate and mitigate, without their simple presence escalating the situation. They symbolize safety, maritime order and the protection of economic and environmental resources.

Across Asia, as China continues to grow economically and militarily, we’ve seen countries shy away from traditional joint naval operations in the region for fear of drawing Beijing’s ire – or worse armed conflict. White hulls, however, have been embraced as a much better alternative with an intrinsic freedom for positive cooperation that cannot be confused or conflated with aggression.

IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime threat and often is connected with other illegal activities, including human trafficking, forced labor and narcotics trafficking. Last year, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area Commander Vice Admiral Linda Fagan stated that Washington intends to engage in “law enforcement and capacity-building in the fisheries enforcement realm.” Earlier this month, the Coast Guard made good on its commitment and released its first IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook, which outlines its efforts to combat IUU fishing over the next decade.

The Coast Guard identifies enhanced enforcement operations and expanded multilateral cooperation as the keys to countering IUU. To successfully conduct this mission, the Coast Guard will be relying heavily on its growing fleet of small and medium high-endurance vessels.

Earlier this year, the first of three 154’ Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutters were sent to Santa Rita, Guam where they will be stationed in support of Operation Aiga in an effort to strengthen island nations in Oceania, including through fishery patrols and enforcement. Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz has acknowledged the importance of this homeporting, saying, “by placing an ocean-going Coast Guard buoy tender and FRCs, we will promote ‘rules-based order,’ build capacity and affirm the United States’ positive and enduring role in the region.” Schultz has also said that “you’re going to see more of those vessels in those parts of the world.” This is in line with and affirms the emphasis the United States set in its 2018 National Defense Strategy on countering U.S. strategic competitors and adversaries.

The Coast Guard has the opportunity to establish itself as the preferred partner in the region. Already it has successfully embarked on a number of joint initiatives, such as its Theater Security Cooperation effort and Shiprider program, that combine efforts with partner nations to build cooperation and goodwill with defense and security capacity building, while simultaneously meeting development goals and furthering the strategic objectives of the United States and its allies. In a dynamic global arena, the Coast Guard continues to successfully demonstrate that white hull diplomacy should be looked to more and more as a complementary arrow in the whole-of-government quiver.

Should the Coast Guard’s mission continue to expand, the maritime defense industrial base stands ready to construct and deliver the high-quality and high-endurance vessels necessary to carry out and perform the mission at hand. This community is dedicated and available to modernize, maintain and expand the U.S. fleet.

Patrolling the vast reaches of the Pacific, as well as patrolling its home waters, may require a larger fleet as the expanded presence of white hulls around the globe helps further the regional partnerships and alliances necessary to curb the creeping influence of America’s strategic competitors and adversaries and reaffirm its leadership and commitment to rules-based order and maritime governance around the world.

“JAPAN BOOSTS ASIA’S MARITIME FORCES IN PURSUIT OF REGIONAL SECURITY BALANCE” –Baird Maritime

Baird Maritime reports on Japanese efforts to boost Maritime Security capabilities of nations of South East Asia. Check out their report. Below I provide some pictures and informational links.

The Japanese are assisting in two ways. They are providing older ships from their own inventory, and they are providing very long term, low interest loans for ships built in Japanese shipyards which helps their ship building industry.

The US could do something similar. Yes we have passed along several older cutters, but the US Coast Guard holds on to ships so long, only very limited life remains. We could help our allies, help our shipbuilding industry, and have a more up to date Coast Guard, by limiting our own use of the ships to no more than 30 years and then passing them on to our friends before they get too old to be viable in the hands of navies or coast guards where labor for maintenance is cheaper and new ships prohibitively expensive.

Japan Coast Guard(JCG) Aso class cutter Dewa PL42. 79.0 m (259 ft 2 in) oa. Six similar ships to be built for Vietnam, financed by a 40 year loan. Photo credit: Wikipedia. Sizuru~commonswiki assumed (ba,ed on copyright claims).

According to the report, unlike the Aso class, the Vietnamese ships will have a helo deck.

Rendering of a 94-metre offshore patrol vessel, two of which are slated for the Philippine Coast Guard (Photo: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding)

Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel PL82 Nagura, a sister ship of the former Japan Coast Guard cutter Erimo, now the Malaysian CG cutter KM Pekan.  Entered service 1991, 2,006 tons fl, 87 meter, 91.40 m (299 ft 10 in) oa, Photo from Wikipedia Commons, by Yasu

Japan Coast Guard Cutter Oki PL-1 now the Malaysian Coast Guard cutter KM Arau completed 1989, 1500 tons fl, 87 m (285 ft 5 in)

CRS, “Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress Updated November 11, 2020”

Since our last look at this report, there have been four updates. (See the latest version here.)

We now have the Senate Appropriations Committee’s (SAC) views on this part of the FY2021 DHS Appropriations Act. The Senate committee, like its counterpart in the House, has recommended approval of the Administration request for $555M that would fund the second Polar Security Cutter.

I have reproduced the section on Senate Activity (page 25/26) below. Note there is also mention of renovation of the Polar Star and acquisition of a future Great Lakes icebreaker as well:


Senate

The Senate Appropriations Committee, in the explanatory statement for S. XXXX that the committee released on November 10, 2020, recommended the funding level shown in the SAC column of Table 2.

The explanatory statement states (emphasis added):

Full-Funding Policy.—The Committee again directs an exception to the administration’s current acquisition policy that requires the Coast Guard to attain the total acquisition cost for a vessel, including long lead time materials [LLTM], production costs, and postproduction costs, before a production contract can be awarded. This policy has the potential to make shipbuilding less efficient, to force delayed obligation of production funds, and to require post-production funds far in advance of when they will be used. The Department should position itself to acquire vessels in the most efficient manner within the guidelines of strict governance measures. The Committee expects the administration to adopt a similar policy for the acquisition of the Offshore Patrol Cutter [OPC] and heavy polar icebreaker.

Domestic Content.—To the maximum extent practicable, the Coast Guard is directed to
utilize components that are manufactured in the United States when contracting for new
vessels. Such components include: auxiliary equipment, such as pumps for shipboard
services; propulsion equipment, including engines, reduction gears, and propellers;
shipboard cranes; and spreaders for shipboard cranes. (Pages 71-72)

The explanatory statement also states:

Great Lakes Icebreaking Capacity.—The recommendation includes $4,000,000 for preacquisition activities for the Great Lakes Icebreaker Program for a new Great Lakes
icebreaker that is as capable as USCGC MACKINAW. The Coast Guard shall seek
opportunities to accelerate the acquisition and request legislative remedies, if necessary. Further, any requirements analysis conducted by the Coast Guard regarding overall Great Lakes icebreaking requirements shall not assume any greater assistance rendered by Canadian icebreakers than was rendered during the past two ice seasons and shall include meeting the demands of United States commerce in all U.S. waters of the Great Lakes and their harbors and connecting channels. (Page 72)

The explanatory statement also states:

Polar Ice Breaking Vessel.—The Committee recognizes the value of heavy polar icebreakers in promoting the national security and economic interests of the United States in the Arctic and Antarctic regions and recommends $555,000,000, which is the requested amount. The total recommended for this program fully supports the Polar Security Cutter program of record and provides the resources that are required to continue this critical acquisition.
Polar Star.—The recommendation includes $15,000,000 to carry out a service life extension program for the POLAR STAR to extend its service life as the Coast Guard continues to modernize its icebreaking fleet. (Page 73)

Shed the Freedom Class LCS, Build FFGs and Navalized Webber Class?

Littoral combat ship Little Rock (LCS 9) is underway during a high-speed run in Lake Michigan during acceptance trials. Lockheed Martin Photo

Not that I think it is going to happen, but Forbes has a proposal, “Now Is The Perfect Time To Sink The Freedom Class Littoral Combat Ship,” by Craig Hooper. He suggests the Navy end its long embarrassing association with the Freedom class LCS, handing them over to Foreign Navies who might be able to use them. The Navy could then accelerate introduction of the new FFG that are to be built at Marinette which is currently building the Freedom class. If we really need more LCS, we could continue construction of Austal’s more successful Independence class. or

“Alternatively, the Navy could fund a smaller, simpler patrol boat. The U.S. Coast Guard’s cost-effective Sentinel class Fast Response Cutter is already in the field, demonstrating value every day—with about 40 already in service, these reliable, 154-foot ships are doing everything that the Freedom class vessels are not. Sentinel class Fast Response Cutters are deploying throughout the Pacific, forward-basing in Hawaii and Guam, and 6 of the ultimately 64-hull fleet will soon operate out of Bahrain. They may even be based in deepest parts of the American Pacific, operating out of American Samoa. A navalized version of this useful patrol ship—potentially leveraging the powerful F-35 radar system and other useful, off-the-shelf systems—can be whipped up in almost no time, quickly replacing the Freedom class ships currently based in Mayport Florida with a lower-cost, more functional and more strategically-useful platform.”

 

“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.