Is this a German Buoy Tender? Icebreaker?

SCHOTTEL Mehrzweckschiffe

It is always interesting to find that others deal with missions you perform in a very different way.

A Marine Link report on the new ship above piqued my curiosity about the parent agency. The German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration (WSV),

“… is responsible for ensuring a safe, smoothly flowing and thus economically efficient shipping traffic. The tasks comprise the maintenance, operation as well as the upgrading and construction of the federal waterways including the locks, weirs, bridges and shiplifts.

The responsibility of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration extends to a total of 23,000 km² of maritime waterways and approximately 7,300 km of inland waterways. In addition, we maintain Vessel Traffic Service Centres at waterways in the coastal area and traffic control centres at inland waterways and we use special vessels for different specialist tasks (buoy laying, emergency missions, direction-finding etc.).

Around the clock, our experts on the water and ashore ensure safe traffic flows.

Our leitmotif is: “Facilitate mobility and protect the environment!”

Sounds like it has some of the Coast Guard’s missions and some Corps of Engineers missions.

The ship itself is described as multi-purpose. Presumably it tends buoys, but it is far bigger and more powerful than any USCG buoy tender, at over 90 meters (290′) in length driven by two steerable propulsion units of 4,500 KW each (over 12,000 HP total). It also has a 2,990 kW (over 4,000 HP) pumpjet.  Our most similar ship seems to be USCGC Mackinaw. (240′ in length and 9,119 shp/6.8 MW).

Mackinaw is of course a domestic icebreaker, in addition to being able to tend buoys.  The new German ship looks like it might also be capable of light icebreaking. (Maybe Tups who comments here frequently would be able to tell us.)

SCHOTTEL RudderPropellers type SRP 750 (each 4,500 kW at 750 rpm) on the left. SCHOTTEL PumpJet type SPJ 520 (2,990 kW) on the right. Image: SCHOTTEL

The German ship also has a gas-tight “citadel” structure with a protective air supply, in order to carry out operations in hazardous atmospheres. In the Coast Guard only the National Security Cutters have this feature.

The Hamilton Class 378 foot WHECs, an Appreciation

USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724)

The Navy League’s magazine, Seapower, reports that the last of the US Coast Guard’s Hamilton class 378 foot WHECs, Douglas Munro, will be decommissioned at the end of the month.

The designers of these ships certainly made them aesthetically pleasing, and the preliminary design work was done in house by Coast Guard engineers.

The 378s were the crowning achievement of a recapitalization program begun in the late 1950s that resulted in the 82 foot Point class patrol boats, the 210 foot Reliance class WMECs, and ultimately the 378 foot Hamilton class WHECs, all built to preliminary designs developed in house.

Between October 1960 and August 1970 the Coast Guard commissioned 79 Point class WPBs. The Point class followed closely on the heals of the 95 foot WPB, the last of which had been commissioned in July 1959.

Between June 1964 and July 1969 we commissioned 16 Reliance class WMECs. Between February 1967 and March 1972 we commissioned 12 Hamilton class WHECs.

So between Oct. 1960 and March 1972 the Coast Guard commissioned 107 new patrol cutters. In 1967 alone we commissioned 17 Point class WPB. 1968 was the peak year for the larger cutters. In that year the Coast Guard commissioned four 378s and seven 210s. (Makes it clear we should be able to complete more than two Offshore Patrol Cutters per year, doesn’t it?)

USCGC Gallatin WHEC -721 (378), USCGC Rockaway WHEC-377 (311), and USCGC Spencer WHEC-36 (327)

When the 378s were built, the WHEC designation had just recently been coined. 36 ships were classed as WHECs, six 327 foot 2,656 ton full load Secretary class cutters, 18 Casco class 311 foot 2,529 ton cutters, and 12 Owasco class 255 foot 1,978 ton cutters. The plan was to build 36 of Hamilton class to replace all of them, but the termination of the Ocean Station program resulted in only twelve being built. The 378s were 15 to 54% larger than the ships they replaced at 3,050 tons full load, and they were a much more advanced design.

CODOG Propulsion:

The COmbined Diesel or Gas turbine (CODOG) propulsion was a bold choice in the early 1960s. The Royal Navy had commissioned their first combatants with gas turbines (combined with steam) in 1961  The US Navy would not complete their first gas turbine powered Perry class frigate until 1977. (I think you can see the influence of the Hamilton class in the design of the Perry class frigates.) A pair of Danish Frigates, the Peder Skram class, would also use the same FT-4 turbines, but the first of that class was laid down only four months before Hamilton, so it was more contemporary than predecessor. 49 months after Hamilton was laid down, the Canadian laid down the first of the Iroquois class destroyers that used more powerful versions of the FT-4 in a COGOG arrangement with smaller 7500 HP Allison gas turbines. We would see the FT-4 gas turbine again in the Polar class icebreakers beginning in 1976.

The Coast Guard had done some experimentation with gas turbines. As built, USCGC Point Thatcher (WPB-82314), commissioned in Sept. 1961, was equipped with controllable pitch props and two 1000 HP gas turbines (later replaced by two 800 HP diesels that would became standard in the class). The first five 210 foot cutters of the Reliance class, commissioned June 1964 to February 1966, had two 1,000 HP gas turbines in addition to two 1,500 HP diesels, that they retained until they received major renovations 1985-1990.

The Hamilton Class’s Navy contemporaries were the 3,371 ton full load Garcia and 4,066 ton Knox class frigates (classified as Destroyer Escorts until 1975). Those ships were larger and used high temperature and pressure steam propulsion to produce 35,000 HP (compared to 36,000 for the 378s on their turbines). The frigates used only a single shaft for a speed 27 knots. The Hamiltons’ turbines gave them a two knot speed advantage, while their diesels gave them more than double the range. Two shafts gave them a greater degree of redundancy.

ASW Capability: 

While the contemporary Garcia and Knox class were much better equipped for ASW, the newly commissioned 378s, with their AN/SQS-38 sonar and helicopter deck were not only larger and faster, but also compared favorably as ASW ships to all but the newest Navy Destroyer Escorts (those completed 1963 and later).

CGC DALLAS (WHEC-716)… Vietnam… During seven combat patrols off the coast of Vietnam, Dallas undertook 161 gunfire support missions involving 7,665 rounds of her 5-inch ammunition. This resulted in 58 sampans destroyed and 29 Viet Cong supply routes, bases, camps, or rest areas damaged or destroyed. Her 5-inch (127 mm) guns made her very valuable to the naval missions in the area. Original 35mm Slide shared by Capt W.F. Guy, USCG… Circa May 1970.

Electronic Warfare, Gun and Fire Control: 

The 378s introduced the post WWII Coast Guard to electronic warfare with the WLR-1.

Unlike the earlier WHECs, the 378s were completed with the Mk56 gun firecontrol system which was much more capable than the short to medium range Mk52 used by the older cutters. Their 5″/38s proved useful when deployed to Vietnam. Below is quoted from Wikipedia’s description of USCGC Morgenthau‘s Vietnam deployment.

From records compiled by then-Lieutenant Eugene N. Tulich, Commander, US Coast Guard (Ret), Morgenthaus Vietnam numbers included: Miles cruised – 38,029 nautical miles (70,430 km; 43,763 mi); Percentage time underway – 72.8%; Junks/sampans detected/inspected/boarded – 2383/627/63; Enemy confirmed killed in action (KIA) 14; Structures destroyed/damaged – 32/37; Bunkers destroyed/damaged – 12/3; Waterborne craft destroyed/damaged – 7/3; Naval Gunfire Support Missions (NGFS) – 19; MEDCAPS (Medical Civic Action Program) – 25; Patients treated – 2676.

The FRAM:

During the late 1980s the Reagan administration was pushing for a 600 ship Navy. The FRAM of the Hamilton class was one of the small ways the Coast Guard played a part in the competition that may have driven the Soviet Union into dissolution.

While the 378s would still might not have been first class fighting units, electronic warfare was brought up to date, a newer air search radar, a modern gun, and firecontrol was installed. Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles were add along with a Close in Weapon System (CIWS), a hangar was added and the ships were equipped to operate with a LAMPs I ASW helicopters.

Ultimately, following the collapse of the threat from the Soviet Union, the ASW equipment and anti-ship cruise missile were removed, but benefits of modernization, remained.

The After Life: 

These ships are now 49 to 54 years old and, thanks to the hard work of their crews over a half century, they are still doing good work, no longer for the US Coast Guard, but for Navies and Coast Guards around the world. Virtually all of their contemporaries have gone to the ship breakers, as have many younger ships.

BRP Andrés Bonifacio (FF-17), the former USCGC Boutwell.

  • Hamilton (715), Dallas (716), and Boutwell (719) serve in the Philippine Navy.
  • Mellon (717) serves in the Bahrain Naval Force
  • Chase (718) and Gallatin (721) serve in the Nigerian Navy
  • Sherman (720) serves in the Sri Lanka Navy
  • Morgenthau (722), Midgett (726), and Munro (724) serve or will serve in the Vietnam Coast Guard
  • Rush (723) and Jarvis (725) are in the Bangladeshi Navy

The Vietnam Coast Guard patrol vessel CSB-8020, formerly the US Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau (Photo: Vietnam Coast Guard)

Canada’s HMCS Harry DeWolf Class AOPS

HMCS Harry DeWolf in ice (6-8 second exposure)

The Harry DeWolf class is an almost unique type of ship. Canada is building eight, six for their Navy and two for their Coast Guard. It is derived from the similar and perhaps slightly more capable Norwegian Coast Guard vessel Svalbard, which has made it to the North Pole and recently undertook a mission the Healy was unable to complete due to a machinery casualty.

They are classified as “Artic and Offshore Patrol Ships” or AOPS, rather than icebreakers, but they are clearly designed to operate in ice and are rated Polar Class 5 (Year-round operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions). In many ways they approximate the similarly sized and powered old Wind Class icebreakers. (2012 post on the class with updates in the comments here.)

Below are another photo and a couple of videos, but first the specs.

  • Displacement: 6,615 t (6,511 long tons)
  • Length: 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in)
  • Beam: 19 m (62 ft 4 in)
  • Draft: 6.5 m (21 ft 4 in) (estimate based on that of Svalbard)
  • Propulsion Generators: Four 3.6 MW (4,800 hp)
  • Propulsion Motors: 2 × 4.5 MW (6,000 hp)
  • Speed: 17 knots
  • Endurance: 6,800 nautical miles
  • Crew: 65 (accomodations for 85)
  • Armament: one 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system modified for Arctic Conditions and two .50 cal. machine guns (I do feel this is inadequate.)

HMCS Harry DeWolf looking forward, bow and 25mm Mk38 remote weapon system.

 

Looking at Replacing the 52 Foot MLBs

Coast Guard crew members aboard four 52-foot Motor Life Boats and one 47-foot Motor Life Boat transit in formation outbound of Yaquina Bay, Ore., April 9, 2019. The four 52-foot MLBs are the only active vessels of their kind and the crews are assigned to different units across the Pacific Northwest, which is why having all four together for the roundup was a rare occurrence.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Trevor Lilburn)

It looks like the Coast Guard may be finally looking at replacing the 52 foot Motor lifeboats.

“The U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) is conducting market research in preparation for the replacement of four Special Purpose Craft – Heavy Weather (SPC-HWX).  The primary purpose of the SPC-HWX is to conduct Search and Rescue (SAR) missions in extreme weather conditions to include surf and extreme seas and be able to tow larger fishing vessels.  Other missions will include Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) and law enforcement.  These boats will replace 52-foot SPC-HWX boats that were built in the 1950s and are increasingly difficult to maintain.  The SPC-HWX boats will be deployed to four USCG stations in the Pacific Northwest.  A preliminary table of requirements that outlines the features desired in a new SPC-HWX is attached…”

We could see this coming. One has already been taken out of service. They are approaching 60 years old, and, while they have warranted affection from those that have served on them, we can certainly do better. We have been discussing possible replacements for over seven years, here, here, here, here, and here

There are two specifications that I saw as unnecessarily limiting, first the dimensions, length, 64′, beam, 22′ max with fendering, draft 7′, and secondly the maximum speed, 25 knots. Are the maximum dimensions based on infrastructure limits, or are we unnecessarily limiting our choices? Limits on length in particular might preclude use of innovations like the Axe Bow. We really should not have to specify a maximum length, unless there are limits on supporting facilities. Competition will inevitably favor smaller craft as long as they can meet the other specifications. Higher speed is desirable and attainable, so why not add 30 knots as an objective speed and provide an incentive in the contract for reaching speeds over 25 knots. On the other hand the RFI include nothing about noise of G-force limits.

This RFI only refers to replacing the four 52 footers, but in many places, a larger, relatively fast motor lifeboat could be a suitable replacement for the 87 foot WPBs, after all you can expect heavy weather from time to time, anywhere the Coast Guard operates. If the Coast Guard does see the advantage of replacing WPBs with these larger MLBs, it is also possible to make this type of vessel ice-capable for operation in Alaska and and other Northern ports.

There should be no problem finding a builder with the appropriate experience. I expect  Vigor now owner of the former Kvichak Marine Industries, Seattle, WA will be a bidder.

I do hope someone will look at the RAFNAR hull form.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Perhaps the Most Well Armed Cutter Sized Corvette in the World

Click on the illustration above for better view

More on the Israeli’s new Sa’ar 6 Corvette from Navy Recognition, particularly in regard to the C-Dome missile system (reporting a range of 250 km). It has been over six years since I did my first post on this class. At the time, I thought the Offshore Patrol Cutters might be close in size, but they are more than twice as large as the Israeli ships. Did a second post in Aug. 2015. and I have posted comments as additional details became available, but it is time for another look.

These will be the largest combatants in the Israeli Navy, but their dimensions are still quite modest:

  • displacement: 1900 tons
  • Length: 90 m (295.2′)
  • Beam: 13.5 m (44.3′)
  • Draft: 3.5 m (11.5)
  • Speed: 27 knots
  • Crew: 70

First of the class of four, INS Magen, has completed sea trials and the German shipbuilder has delivered it to the Israelis, who will install the Israel sourced weapon systems. The remaining ships are expected to follow at six month intervals.

Note, contrary to the labeling on the illustration, the 16 missiles amidships, shown in green, will be Gabriel V anti-ship missiles rather than Harpoons. (Gabriel V will also arm the new Finnish ice-capable corvette.)

Aviation facilities are also surprising. The ships are expected to support and hangar an H-60 ASW helicopter and may also support a vertical take-off Unmanned air system.

These ships are remarkable, for their size and crew strength (only 70), in being capable in all three primary warfare areas, ASW, ASuW, and AAW. Their capabilities exceed those of many frigates and approach those of DDGs four times their size.

With a total of eighty-eight missile launch tubes, assuming they are all filled, it seems these will be the most heavily armed ships of their size in the world.

“Coast Guard releases request for proposal for offshore patrol cutter follow-on detail design and production” –CG-9

Artists rendering of the future USCGC Argus, from Eastern Shipbuilding Group

The following is reproduced from the Acquisitions Directorate announcement: Interesting to look though some of the linked documents. Shows how complex contracting has become. 


The Coast Guard released a request for proposal (RFP) Jan. 29 for detail design and production of up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs). The RFP is available here. The competition is open to all interested offerors.

Establishing a new, full and open competitive environment for the OPC program is a key component of the Coast Guard’s strategy to recapitalize its offshore surface capabilities. The RFP was informed by extensive industry engagement, including contracted industry studies with eight U.S. shipyards, an invitation to review and respond to a draft RFP and the establishment of an OPC technical library. The OPC technical library provides updated design information that reflects the current state of OPC acquisition activities to potential offerors.

The deadline to submit responses to the RFP is May 28, 2021. Contract award is scheduled to occur in the second quarter of fiscal year 2022.

The OPC acquisition program meets the service’s long-term need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of task groups, and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting ports and waterways. The acquisition of up to 25 OPCs will complement the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters, fast response cutters, and polar security cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy.

For more information: Offshore Patrol Cutter program page

Looking at the China Coast Guard, What Has Xi Wrought?

Photo: William Colclough / U.S. Coast Guard

The photo above, which looks so much like a National Security Cutter, headed a Marine Link report “China Authorizes Coast Guard to Fire on Foreign Vessels if Needed.” It prompted me to look again at the Wikipedia entry for “Equipment of the China Coast Guard.”

According to Wikipedia, the China Coast Guard has very few aircraft, “a handful of Harbin Z-9 helicopters (their version of the Eurocopter AS365 which is very similar to the H-65–Chuck), and a maritime patrol aircraft based on the Harbin Y-12 transport.”

Their total number of personnel is only about a third that of the USCG.

But when you look at their fleet of large cutters, it is a very different story.

This Chinese coast guard ship is equipped with weapons believed to be 76-millimeter guns. © Kyodo

The China Coast Guard (CCG) has about three times the number of large cutters (1,000 tons or larger) as the USCG. They have well over 100, including at least 60 larger than the 270s. This, in spite of the fact that their EEZ, even including their “Nine Dash Lines” claims disputed by Taiwan and other nations is less than a fifth that of the US. Their internationally recognized EEZ is less than 8% of that of the US.

Virtually all these cutters were acquired in the last 15 years. While most CCG cutters are lightly armed, that is changing rapidly, with 76mm guns and 30mm Gatling guns becoming increasingly common. Many of the new cutters are built on the same hulls as PLAN frigates and corvettes.

“As of July 1, 2018, the China Coast Guard was transferred from civilian control of the State Council and the State Oceanic Administration, to the People’s Armed Police, ultimately placing it under the command of the Central Military Commission”

The CCG does not do buoy tending or icebreaking. Primary responsibility for SAR and maritime regulatory activities are invested in other agencies. There is a 25,000 member China Maritime Safety Administration, which has a few large cutters of its own, and a 10,000 member China Rescue and Salvage Bureau with its own cutters.

I think it is fair to say the China Coast Guard is much more focused on its para-military role than the US Coast Guard. Should China attempt to invade Taiwan, I feel sure the China Coast Guard will be transporting troops and providing naval gunfire support. They might even undertake small scale surprise landings own their own, perhaps in multiple locations simultaneously.

“Ship Repair: Inside the $60m Refit of RV Roger Revelle” –Marine Link

Marine Link has a very interesting look into the mid-life renovation of the research vessel Roger Revelle.  This is a Coast Guard cutter sized ship (bigger and now more powerful than a 270), and the changes are extensive, reflecting lessons learned since the ship was built. Changes include installation of an integrated propulsion and ship’s service electricity generation system system and a novel repositioning of the sonar systems. Replacement of the bow thruster system not only reduced noise that was detrimental to the science missions, but also improved living conditions on the ship.

“The original ship contract value was for $35 million to take care of specific ship systems – propulsion, controls, HVAC, piping, ballast water management – and steelwork to extend the life of the ship another 15 years or more…But “we knew that other issues on the ship needed to be addressed, or the primary users of the vessel just wouldn’t be satisfied.” That’s where the upgrades to science systems came in, adding another $25 million to the project.”

“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.