“Colombia inks deal that could see Damen build five Sigma frigates” –Defense News

Colombian Navy SIGMA frigate

Defense News reports, one of our primary partners in drug interdiction efforts is expected to significantly upgrade their naval capabilities.

Colombia is launching a $2 billion shipbuilding program that would see its Navy acquire five frigates.

The announcement, made last week, was followed by the signing on Tuesday of an initial contract between local shipbuilder Cotecmar and Dutch company Damen to adapt the latter’s Sigma 10514 design to meet the Colombian Navy’s requirements.

This is a significant step toward self sufficiency in naval construction. It is a step up after Cotemar built three Fassmer 80 meter Offshore Patrol Vessels.

The new ships will replace four smaller 95 meter, 1850 ton full load, German built light frigate/corvettes that were commissioned in 1983/84.

If these new ships are in fact 120 meters in length and at least 2800 tons full load, they will be the largest ships of the SIGMA series. (At one time I expected a SIGMA series ship would have been a contender in the Offshore Patrol Cutter program.)

Apparently they have not made a final choice of weapons and sensors. I would not be surprised if they were equipped much like the Mexican SIGMA frigate, which is armed with weapons sourced from the US, including RGM-84L Harpoon Block II, eight Mk56 VLS for ESSM, MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes with two MK 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) triple tube launchers, Block II Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) missiles and Bofors 57 mm gun.

It seems likely the additional length compared to the Mexican ship will be to improve some capability, I would guess ASW. Mk41 VLS would allow greater flexibility including launch of ASROC and potentially land attack missiles.

It is widely known Colombia and Venezuela have not been getting along well. Colombia probably considers Venezuela their pacing threat. If that is the case, most, if not all five of the new ships will likely be based on the Caribbean side. These ships should provide an advantage vs the Venezuelan Navy.

Major naval bases of the Colombian Navy (Armada de la República de Colombia – ARC)
Colombian Navy (ARC) Marine Infantry Primary base and training school, Covenas
Source: Iceman0108. Background map: Mapa de Colombia (relieve-ríos) by Milenioscuro

Below, video of the latest SIGMA series ship, Mexican frigate ARM Benito Juárez (F 101), as it arrives for participation in RIMPAC 2022: 

“Turkish Dearsan Lays Keel Of First Of Two OPVs For Nigeria” –Naval News

Rendering of HE OPV-76 vessels (Screenshot from Dearsan video–via Naval News)

Naval News reports,

Turkish Dearsan Shipyard laid the keel of the first of two high-endurance offshore patrol vessels (HE OPV 76) for the Nigerian Navy during a ceremony held at Dearsan’s facilities in Istanbul on September 16, 2022.

Turkey is becoming an increasingly capable and respected arms supplier and shipbuilder.

With a population of over 218 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the sixth most populous in the world.

The Nigerian Navy and Coast Guard has an eclectic fleet sourced from the US, Europe, China, and Israel, along with some locally built small craft. They currently operates two of the former USCG 378 foot high endurance cutters which are their largest fully operational ships. Reportedly they also have four former USCG 180 foot buoy tenders and 15 USCG type “Defender class” Response Boat, Small.

Gulf of Guinea, from Wikipedia

Nigeria’s territorial sea and EEZ is relatiely small, less than 2% that of the US, but their marine environment is complex with a history of piracy and smuggling, with many countries in and around the Gulf of Guinea complicating jurisdiction.

The New OPVs:

We talked about these ships earlier.

There have been some, mostly minor changes in the specs:

The reported displacement is likely to be light displacement since, these ships are considerably larger than the 1,127 ton full load Reliance class and nearly as large as the 1,800 ton Bear class. Given their range, they don’t carry a lot of fuel, so I would expect about 1,500 tons full load.

The armament is lighter than initially reported (earlier reports indicated 76mm + 40mm +  MBDA Simbad RC systems for Mistral short range surface to air missiles). The electronics also appear to have been simplified. This was probably a cost saving measure, but the ships remain better armed than most OPVs of comparable size, in that they have two medium caliber guns rather than just one, probably a good idea. The provision for at least three, probably four, electro optic devices mounted on the weapon stations mean they are particularly well provided for in this respect.

Back view of the HE OPV-76 rendering while conducting helo ops (Screenshot from Dearsan video–via Naval News)

We see an illustration of what the stern of the ship looks like. No hangar is provided.

There might be an issue with the boat handling arrangement. Boats are visible under the flight deck, but neither davits nor stern ramps are really visible. Looks like stanchions and the centerline support at the transom preclude a single centerline boat launch ramp like the NSCs have.

Twin launch ramps also appear unlikely. There no visible ramp doors, and the RHIBs we can see do not appear to be on an incline.

Arms might extend outward from under the flight deck to act as davits. If that is the case, with the boats so far aft of the center of pitch, there may be difficulties when the ship is pitching. That may require them to seek a heading that will minimize pitch, just as cutters with stern ramps do, when the boat returns to the cutter, but with the boats being suspended during launch and recovery, they would also want to minimize roll.

“Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS, Updated August 30, 2022

USCG Polar Security Cutter [Image courtesy Halter Marine / Technology Associates, Inc.]

The Congressional Research Service has once again updated their look at the Polar Security Cutter (heavy icebreaker) program. (See the latest version here.) My last look at this evolving document was in regard to the Dec. 7, 2021 revision.

The one-page summary is reproduced below, but first I will point out what appears to have changed since the Dec. 7, 2021 edition.

On December 29, 2021, the Coast Guard exercised a $552.7 million fixed price incentive option to its contract with Halter Marine Inc. for the second PSC. (Summary and p.9)

On February 24, 2022, the Coast Guard announced that the first PSC will be named Polar Sentinel, and that the Coast Guard has candidate names in mind for the second and third…PSCs. (p.5)

The new icebreaker was supposed to have been based on a proven “parent” design. The nominal parent for the chosen design was the Polarstern II, but in fact it was a design that had never been tested. There is a footnote (p.8) that explains that this design, on which the Polar Security Cutter was supposedly based, may be built after all. This may mean that the Polar Security Cutter will become the parent design for its own parent design.

On February 14, 2020, the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, announced that “the [German] Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) today cancelled the Europe-wide call for tenders for the procurement of a new polar research vessel, Polarstern II, for legal reasons.” (Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, “Call for Fender Procedure for the Construction of a Successor to the Icebreaker Polarstern Has Been Cancelled.,” February 14, 2020.) On June 3, 2022, however, AWI stated that “Now that the federal budget for 2022 was approved by the German Bundestag on 3 June 2022, the construction procurement procedure for Polarstern II can begin. The AWI plans to promptly launch the Europe-wide procurement procedure so that the competitive bidding can start promptly as the first step. The handover of the completed ship is slated for 2027.” (Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, “Polarstern II: German Bundestag Greenlights the Construction of New Icebreaker,” June 3, 2022. See also Eurasia Review, “Polarstern II: German Bundestag Green-  Lights Construction Of New Icebreaker,” Eurasia Review, June 4, 2022.; Michael Wenger, “Germany’s ‘Pola[r]stern II’ Becomes Reality,” Polar Journal, June 6, 2022.)

It was noted that the PSC will recieve the 30mm Mk38 Mod4. (p.9)

Icebreaking Anchor Handling Vessel Aiviq

Purchase of an existing Icebreaker

“On May 3, 2022, the Coast Guard released a Request for Information (RFI) regarding commercially available polar icebreakers, with responses due by June 10, 2022.” (p.13)

“An April 28, 2022, press report states that the commercial ship that would be “the most likely” candidate to be purchased under the Coast Guard’s proposal is the Aiviq…” (p.14)

“At a May 12, 2022, hearing on the Coast Guard’s proposed FY2023 budget, Coast Guard Commandant Karl Schultz testified that We can get a commercially available breaker fairly quick, bridge that [polar icebreaking] gap from a capacity standpoint. We had—the conversation [about how to bridge the gap] started as a lease conversation [i.e., a conversation about leasing an existing ship]. I—we—we shaped it [i.e., the conversation] to say, well, if we’re going to lease something, we could actually do this much cheaper, onboard it [i.e., purchase the ship rather than lease it], turning it into a Coast Guard ship. So, 125 [million dollars] to procure the vessel, hopefully, that’s what we’re thinking, [and] 25 million [addition dollars] for—for crewing. There’s probably a bill—125, 250 million [additional million dollars] to really outfit it over some outyear budget cycles [i.e., further modify and/or equip the ship over a period of some additional years]. That would be [i.e., doing that would produce] a medium icebreaker [that would be] in the Coast Guard inventory. There’s one domestically available ship that’s only 10 years old with very little use on it. We could—we could use that ship to shape our thinking about what the Arctic security requirements could look like.” (p.14/15)

Delayed Delivery (Original Expected Delivery was March 2024):

Another potential issue for Congress concerns the delay in the delivery date of the first PSC. The Coast Guard had earlier said the ship would be delivered in the first half of 2024. As noted earlier, the Coast Guard now expects it to be delivered in the spring of 2025.

Status of FY2023 Budget: 

This is the current state of the FY2023 budget according to the CRS report:

  • Polar Security Cutter (PSC)            Request $167.2M; HAC 257.2; SAC 257.2
  • Commercially Available Icebreaker Request $125.0M; HAC 125.0; SAC 125.0
  • Great Lakes Icebreaker                  Request 0;              HAC 0;        SAC 0

HAC=House Appropriations Committee/SAC=Senate Appropriations Committee

The “increase of $90,000,000 above the request for the remaining cost of long lead
time materials and the start of construction of a third PSC.” (Support from both HAC and SAC)

(Note, there was $350M included in the FY2022 budget for a Great Lakes Icebreaker.)

Regarding the procurement of a commercially available icebreaker, the House Appropriations committee wants the Coast Guard to also consider icebreakers that were not made in the US. (Note this has not yet made it into law.)

“The Committee notes that both 14 U.S.C. 1151 and 10 U.S.C. 8679 include waiver provisions for vessels not constructed in the United States. In order to conduct a full and open competition, the Coast Guard shall expand its source selection criteria to include commercially available polar icebreaking vessels that may require such a waiver. The Coast Guard is directed to brief the Committee not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act on an updated procurement plan.


Summary

The Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (PSC) program is a program to acquire three  new PSCs (i.e., heavy polar icebreakers), to be followed years from now by the acquisition of up to three new Arctic Security Cutters (ASCs) (i.e., medium polar icebreakers). The procurement of the first two PSCs is fully funded; the Coast Guard says the first PSC is to be delivered to the Coast Guard in the spring of 2025.

The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $167.2 million in continued procurement funding for the PSC program, which would be used for, among other things, program management and production activities associated with the PSC program’s Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) contract, long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third PSC, and government-furnished equipment (GFE), logistics, and cyber-security planning costs.

The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $125.0 million in procurement funding for the purchase of an existing commercially available polar icebreaker that would be used to augment the Coast Guard’s polar icebreaking capacity until the new PSCs enter service. Under the Coast Guard’s proposal, the Coast Guard would conduct a full and open competition for the purchase, the commercially available icebreaker that the Coast Guard selects for acquisition would be modified for Coast Guard operations following its acquisition, and the ship would enter service 18 to 24 months after being acquired.

The Navy and Coast Guard in 2020 estimated the total procurement costs of the three PSCs in then-year dollars as $1,038 million (i.e., about $1.0 billion) for the first ship, $794 million for the second ship, and $841 million for the third ship, for a combined estimated cost of $2,673 million (i.e., about $2.7 billion). Within those figures, the shipbuilder’s portion of the total procurement cost is $746 million for the first ship, $544 million for the second ship, and $535 million for the third ship, for a combined estimated shipbuilder’s cost of $1,825 million (i.e., about $1.8 billion).

On April 23, 2019, the Coast Guard-Navy Integrated Program Office for the PSC  program awarded a $745.9 million fixed-price, incentive-firm contract for the detail  design and construction (DD&C) of the first PSC to Halter Marine Inc. (formerly VT  Halter Marine) of Pascagoula, MS, a shipyard owned by Singapore Technologies (ST)  Engineering. Halter Marine was the leader of one of three industry teams that competed for the DD&C contract. On December 29, 2021, the Coast Guard exercised a $552.7 million fixed price incentive option to its contract with Halter Marine Inc. for the second PSC.

The DD&C contract includes options for building the second and third PSCs. If both of these options are exercised, the total value of the contract would increase to $1,942.8 million (i.e., about $1.9 billion). The figures of $745.9 million and $1,942.8 million cover only the shipbuilder’s portion of the PSCs’ total procurement cost; they do not include the cost of government-furnished equipment (or GFE, meaning equipment for the ships that the government purchases and then provides to the shipbuilder for incorporation into the ship), post-delivery costs, costs for Navy-specific equipment, or government program-management costs.

The operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet currently consists of one heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Star, and one medium polar icebreaker, Healy. In addition to Polar Star, the Coast Guard has a second heavy polar icebreaker, Polar Sea. Polar Sea, however, suffered an engine casualty in June 2010 and has been nonoperational since then. Polar Star and Polar Sea entered service in 1976 and 1978, respectively, and are now well beyond their originally intended 30-year service lives. The Coast Guard plans to extend the service life of Polar Star until the delivery of at least the second PSC. The Coast Guard is using Polar Sea as a source of spare parts for keeping Polar Star operational.

“SOLICITATION FOR SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS (SME) TO ASSESS THE OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER” –ALCOAST

Some of you might be interested in responding to this. It also seems to suggest the future USCGC Argus is pretty far along.

Maybe something similar was done earlier, but it seems late in the game to do this sort of design review. Even so, seems like a good idea. Maybe not too late to incorporate ideas in the “B class” OPCs.

As you all probably know by now, I don’t think any current or planned cutter meets the implicit requirement of being able to forcibly stop any ship, regardless of size, and my belief this is entirely possible for cutters as small as patrol boats (WPBs).

R 241556Z AUG 22 MID200080150110U
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
TO ALCOAST
BT
UNCLAS
ALCOAST 307/22
SSIC 5102
SUBJ:  SOLICITATION FOR SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS (SME) TO ASSESS
THE OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER
1. This ALCOAST solicits volunteers to participate in a six-day
Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Operational Assessment (OA) in Panama
City, FL from 31 October to 05 November 2022. The OA is a review
and analysis of cutter design data to determine the operational
capability and effectiveness expected to be delivered by an OPC.
2. Background: The OPC will constitute a significant percentage of
the USCG’s major cutter fleet, and is designed to have new
capabilities for maritime homeland security, law enforcement and
national defense missions. OPCs, designated as the Maritime
Security Cutter, Medium (WMSM), will replace existing Medium
Endurance Cutters (WMECs) and fill a critical operational gap
between the USCG’s Fast Response Cutter (FRC) and the National
Security Cutter (NSC). The first OPC will be delivered in FY 2023.
3. The OA, facilitated by the Operational Test and Evaluation Force
(OPTEVFOR), is primarily a tabletop documentation review by
experienced active duty members who are currently serving, or have
recently served on WMECs, WHECs, WSMLs, or have experience with
planned OPC systems and major cutter support. The OA will also
provide SMEs an opportunity to walk an OPC currently in production
to supplement their assessment of capabilities. SME input will
assist OPTEVFOR in assessing suitability of systems on an OPC and
will culminate in an OA report submitted to the Vice Commandant and
DHS’ Office of Test and Evaluation to assess OPC capabilities.
4. Following are the OPC assessment groups and the corresponding SME
experience needed for the OA:
a. DECK – Current or recent major cutter First Lieutenant (BOSN).
Boatswain’s Mate with current or recent major cutter experience as
Deck Leading Chief Petty Officer. Enlisted ratings with current or
recent major cutter experience as coxswain, boarding officer, boat
deck operator/supervisor/safety, flight deck crew, and underway
replenishment crew/supervisor/safety.
b. ENGINEERING – Current or recent major cutter Engineer Officer,
Main Propulsion Assistant, and Damage Control Assistant. Senior
enlisted with current or recent experience as Engineering Leading
Chief Petty Officer. Machinery Technicians, Electrician’s Mates,
Electronics Technicians, and Damage Controlmen with current or
recent major cutter experience.
c. OPERATIONS – Current or recent major cutter Commanding
Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, and Electronic
Materials Officer. Boatswain’s Mates with current or recent major
cutter experience with navigation duties and visual signaling.
Operations Specialists with current or recent major cutter
experience with Sea Commander and electronic warfare systems.
Electronics Technicians with current or recent major cutter
experience with electronics systems maintenance. Information
Systems Technician with current or recent major cutter experience.
Intelligence Specialist with recent major cutter intelligence
support experience.
d. SUPPORT – Current or recent major cutter Support Officer.
Storekeeper, Yeoman, Culinary Specialist, and Health Services
Technician with current or recent major cutter experience. Port
Engineer, Asset Manager, Availability Project Manager, and Logistics
Specialist with current or recent experience in supporting major
cutters.
e. WEAPONS – Current or recent major cutter Weapons Officer, and
Tactical Action Officer or Combat Systems Officer. Electronics
Technicians with current or recent major cutter experience as Mk 48
GWS operators/maintainers. Gunner’s Mates with current or recent
major cutter experience maintaining and operating Mk 110, Mk 38, and
small arms maintenance.
f. AVIATION – Current or recent major cutter Helicopter Control
Officer and Landing Signals Officer. Helicopter pilots with current
or recent shipboard deployments as Senior Aviator or HITRON pilot.
Enlisted aviation ratings with current or recent experience in major
cutter deployments with responsibilities for aircraft maintenance.
5. Volunteers must be available for the entire six-day event and be
free of normal duties to allow focus on this Operational Assessment.
Participants can anticipate travel on 30 October and 06 November.
SMEs will be provided read-ahead documents in preparation for their
role to ensure the OA is completed within the allotted time. A
detailed schedule of events will be provided via email after
participants have been identified.
6. Interested participants should contact the OPC Sponsor’s
Representative, LT Sam Williams, by 19 September 2022 via email,
noting relevant experience and desired mission area from paragraph
7. Members must include a copy of their employee summary sheet from
CGBI in-board view as an attachment. Email must be forwarded from
your unit CO or XO to demonstrate command approval for
participation. COMDT (CG-9322) will issue travel orders to members
selected to participate.
8. Point of contact: LT Sam Williams, COMDT (CG-751), 202-372-2324,
Samuel.N.Williams@uscg.mil.
9. RADM Todd C Wiemers, Assistant Commandant for Capability (CG-7),
sends.
10. Internet release is authorized.

“Coast Guard exercises contract option to build one fast response cutter” –CG-9

CGC BENJAMIN DAILEY, the first FRC stationed in Gulf of Mexico, conducts flight operations with a HH-65 from Air Station New Orleans. Photo by Bigshipdriver

The Acquistions Directorate (CG-9) reports exercise of a contract option to purchace one additional Webber class cutter. I had been under the impression money was in the FY2022 budget for two more.

On December 10, 2021, USCGC Benjamin Dailey (WPC-1123) was heavily damaged during a fire while in drydock in Tampa, FL. I have not heard if she had been repaired. This might be a replacement. Readers’ updates would be appreciated.

I think we still need additional cutters if we are going to open a base in American Samoa. 


Coast Guard exercises contract option to build one fast response cutter

The Coast Guard exercised a contract option Aug. 9 for production of one Sentinel-class fast response cutter (FRC) and associated deliverables valued at $55.5 million with Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana.

This option brings the total number of FRCs under contract with Bollinger to 65 and the total value of the Phase 2 contract to approximately $1.8 billion. The FRC built under this option will be delivered in 2025.

To date, 50 FRCs have been delivered, with 48 FRCs in operational service, operating out of 13 homeports.

FRCs have a maximum speed of over 28 knots, a range of 2,500 nautical miles, and an endurance of five days. The ships are designed for multiple missions, including drug and undocumented individuals interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; living marine resource protection and enforcement; search and rescue; and national defense. They feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment; over-the-horizon cutter boat deployment to reach vessels of interest; and improved habitability and seakeeping.

For more information: Fast Response Cutter Program page

“Blount Boats delivers icebreaking buoy tender” –Marine Log

Marine Log reports,

Delivered earlier this year by the Blount Boats shipyard in Warren, R.I., an icebreaking buoy tender ordered in July 2020, the M/V Eddie Somers, is now in service with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Homeported at Somers Cove Marina port at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Md., the 94 x 27 foot vessel will replace the M/V J. Milliard Tawes after nearly 50 years’ service.

There is a better description of the vessel in a 2020 post reporting the construction contract award.

I found this particularly interesting,

Under a cooperative agreement with Virginia and the U.S. Coast Guard, the M/V Somers will also provide this service to Tangier Island in Virginia when requested. During heavy ice seasons, all food, fuel, medicine, and emergency transport going to and from the islands are supplied by the vessel.

Frequently there is talk of the Coast Guard shedding missions. Domestic icebreaking is perhaps one of those that might be considered. Here is a state taking responsibility for at least some elements of domestic icebreaking and at least shallow water buoy tending. Domestic icebreaking might be seen as a Federal subsidy for areas that experience icing.

The Coast Guard, as the agent of domestic icebreaking, makes the most sense when it can be done by vessels that have other missions when icebreaking is not required. Federal funding of domestic icebreaking makes the most sense when it facilitates interstate and international commerce. Like this particular vessel, Coast Guard vessels frequently combine both domestic icebreaking and buoytending capabilities as in the 225 foot buoy tenders and USCGC Mackinaw.

Looking at this vessel, it looks a lot like our proposed Waterways Commerce Cutters. Makes me wonder if an icebreaking capability for at least some of them might be a good idea, if that is not already in the plan?

Thanks to a reader for bringing this to my attention. 

“Eastern Shipbuilding protesting Austal’s cutter win, cites ‘unfair competitive advantage’” –Breaking Defense

Future US Coast Guard’s Heritage class cutter Argus (Picture source: Eastern Shipbuilding Group)

Breaking Defense reports,

WASHINGTON: Eastern Shipbuilding Group is formally protesting a Coast Guard shipbuilding contract potentially worth billions that was awarded late last month to Austal USA, in part due to what ESG claims was an “unfair competitive advantage and conflict” among other issues.

This may further delay this much delayed program. Can’t help but wonder if OPC #1, the future USCGC Argus, will be delivered before the end of FY2022 as it had been scheduled. If not, it is going to undermine Eastern’s case as to their own competence.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

“EASTERN SHIPBUILDING GROUP ANNOUNCES KEEL AUTHENTICATION FOR THIRD UNITED STATES COAST GUARD OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER INGHAM (WMSM-917)” –News Release

Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. photo

Below is a news release from Eastern Shipbuilding, quoted in full.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

         July 15, 2022

EASTERN SHIPBUILDING GROUP ANNOUNCES KEEL AUTHENTICATION FOR THIRD UNITED STATES COAST GUARD OFFSHORE PATROL CUTTER INGHAM (WMSM-917)

PANAMA CITY, FL – Today, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) hosted the keel authentication ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard’s future Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC INGHAM (WMSM-917), the third vessel in the new Heritage Class built at the Nelson Street facility. The presiding official for the U.S. Coast Guard was Rear Admiral Chad L. Jacoby, Director of Acquisition Programs & Program Executive Officer (CG-93). Congressman Neal Dunn (FL – 2nd District) was the senior official in attendance.

“Today marks another pivotal milestone in the legacy of the Heritage Class Offshore Patrol Cutters constructed here in Panama City as we now have three OPCs in full production on time and on budget. I’m proud of our workforce for delivering shipbuilding excellence to the men and women of the USCG,” said ESG President Joey D’Isernia.

The ship’s sponsor is Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and strong advocate for the national defense and coastal priorities in the Pacific and Arctic regions. USCGC INGHAM will be homeported in Kodiak, Alaska with Senator Murkowski’s signature welded on the keel. She has worked to ensure that those stationed there will have new housing, an updated Child Development Center, and a new fuel pier.

“Thank you to the U.S. Coast Guard and Eastern Shipbuilding Group for inviting me to join a maritime honored tradition—by serving as the ship’s sponsor to the newest Coast Guard Cutter Ingham. I commend the hundreds of skilled professionals at Eastern Shipbuilding Group there in Panama City, Florida building this vessel. You are experts at your craft and have shown true resilience through the pandemic, supply chain challenges, and a category 5 hurricane. The Offshore Patrol Cutter Ingham will have tremendous capabilities and will be protecting our interests in the Pacific Ocean for decades to come,” said Senator Murkowski.

Each of the new Heritage Class Offshore Patrol Cutters aptly represent a naval tradition of naming ships for previous vessels. Three U.S. Revenue Service Cutters and one highly distinguished U.S. Coast Guard Cutter bearing the name Ingham are etched in United States history. The first Ingham was named in honor of U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Samuel D. Ingham and was bestowed with the axiom “semper paratus” in 1836, nearly 60 years before the U.S. Coast Guard adopted this motto in 1896. The most recent, USCGC Ingham (WHEC 35), served for over 50 years from 1936 to 1988 in the North Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean during World War II, executing vessel escorts, weather patrols and anti-submarine missions. It assisted weather stations and performed search and rescue during peacetime, and it conducted dozens of naval gunfire support missions during the Vietnam War. At her decommissioning, she was the oldest cutter in commission, the most decorated vessel in the U.S. Coast Guard fleet, the last active warship to sink a WWII U-boat, and was the only cutter to be awarded two Presidential Unit Citations. The future USCGC INGHAM (WMSM-917) will carry that legacy for the next forty years.

“Over the course of the life of the USCG there have been four vessels to proudly carry the name INGHAM. Those vessels were crewed by sailors that were hardened by the sea and strove to accomplish their missions to the best of their ability, often at their own peril. These feats were accomplished using knowledge, skill, and a desire to do the best in all situations. Excellence is the direct outcome of their culture and a legacy we pass to the newest vessel to bear the great name INGHAM; WMSM-917. Semper Paratus,” said Bruce “Beemer” Yokely,  President  of Ingham Association.

Joey D’Isernia was accompanied on the podium by Rear Admiral Jacoby and Karlier Robinson, the expert welder charged with welding the sponsor’s initials onto the ceremonial keel authentication plate.

The keel authentication, also known as keel laying, represents the ceremonial start of a ship’s life by commemorating the assembly of the initial modular construction units. Historically, to attest that the keel was properly laid and of excellent quality, the shipbuilder would carve their initials into the keel. This practice is commemorated by welding the ship’s sponsor’s initials into the keel authentication plate.

About Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc.

Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) is a leading shipbuilder with operations on the Florida Gulf Coast. ESG is the largest private sector employer in Bay County and is a 2017 recipient of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Small Business of the Year award. They build world class vessels for national defense and commercial clients, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Heritage Class Offshore Patrol Cutters. With three shipyards and a portfolio of over 350 vessels, ESG is known as one of the most diverse vessel construction companies. www.easternshipbuilding.com

To download photos (credit Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc.): https://www.dropbox.com/t/IQ45S8jy2FPw8pDQ

“Eastern Shipbuilding Group takes next step for first Heritage class cutter Argus” –Navy Recognition

Future US Coast Guard’s Heritage class cutter Argus (Picture source: Eastern Shipbuilding Group)

Navy Recognition reports,

According to a tweet published by Eastern Shipbuilding Group on July 12, 2022, the company successfully transferred Offshore Patrol Cutter (Heritage class cutter) Argus Hull 1 to launch position and shifted Hull 2 for the next phase of production at Berard Transportation.

This is a routine report of progress, though it has been a long time coming, but one thing caught my eye,

“She is able to reach a top speed of 24.5 knots (45.4 km/h)…”

I had been disappointed when the request for proposal specs identified 22 knots as the acceptable threshold for speed. 25 knots was identified as the goal and I always felt it should have been the threshold. Even a couple of knots makes a big difference in their potential use as escort vessels. What we have seen repeatedly is 22.5 knots from official sources. Official sources do tend to be very conservative. Looking at the combination of length, displacement, horsepower, it has always seemed to me, they should make 24 to 25 knots max, at least in most circumstances. (Some WWI light cruisers were closely analogous.)  The Wikipedia entry for the Heritage class cutters has reported a maximum speed of 24.5 for some time. Hopefully the Navy Recognition report is based on an Eastern Shipbuilding news release and represents their best estimate of maximum speed. I am hoping we get some reports of actual maximum speed from the sea trials.

Austal Awarded Contract for Offshore Patrol Cutter Stage 2

Below is the announcement from Coast Guard headquarters. Some comments first.

The contract award, $208.26 million, does not actually include construction of the first cutter, presumably that will be included in the FY2023 budget. The potential value of up to “$3.33 billion if all options are exercised” equates to an average cost for 11 ships of $303M each. Keep in mind, that does not include government furnished equipment and other cost that go along with building new ships, including the precommissioning crew and its support and infrastructure improvements that may be required to accommodate these substantially larger ships. 

Given that Eastern, builder of the first four OPCs, did not win the contract, and the contract allows “flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance” then we can expect to have A-class and B-class OPCs. 

Considering that the Independence class LCS program is ending, this is an extremely important win for Austal and vendicates their decision to invest in steel shipbuilding.

 

 News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters

Coast Guard awards contract for Stage 2 of the Offshore Patrol Cutter Acquisition

WASHINGTON – The Coast Guard awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract to Austal USA of Mobile, Ala. to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters (OPCs). The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.

In 2019, the Coast Guard revised the OPC acquisition strategy to mitigate emergent cost and schedule risk by establishing a new, full and open competition for OPCs five and through 15, designated as Stage 2 of the overall program. Informed by industry feedback received through a robust engagement strategy, the Coast Guard released a request for proposal Jan. 29, 2021, for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production. The Coast Guard’s requirements for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production were developed to maintain commonality with earlier OPCs in critical areas such as the hull and propulsion systems, but provide flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance.

“The offshore patrol cutter is absolutely vital to Coast Guard mission excellence as we recapitalize our legacy medium endurance cutters, some of which are more than 50 years old,” said Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard. “The OPCs are the ships our crews need to protect our national security, maritime safety and economic prosperity. I look forward to the new cutters joining our fleet.”

The 25-ship OPC program of record complements 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. The OPC will meet 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 non-citizens, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting ports.

More information about the award can be found here.