“Chinese Assessment of New U.S. Naval Strategy” –USNI

The US Naval Institute news service provides a translation of a Chinese review of the Tri-Service Naval Strategy, “Advantage at Sea.”

It is, in my view, a surprisingly even handed evaluation. Not that it does not reflect the Chinese position, but it is at least fairly accurate.

One particular paragraph references the US Coast Guard.

Third, the U.S. will also introduce a new style of struggle, namely, it will bolster competition in the “gray zone.” That is, the U.S. will take greater action in the domains of social media; supply chains, especially defense industry chains; and space and cyber. A fairly obvious early indicator of this was that the USCG—which traditionally operates in the vicinity of the U.S. coast to defend the security of U.S. territory—has recently moved forward into the South China Sea region. It is preparing to conduct military operations in the South China Sea, with the aim of striking China’s maritime forces as well as bolstering joint law enforcement with regional states in the South China Sea, in order to respond to China’s South China Sea rights protection operations.

The idea of the USCG moving into the South China Sea “with the aim of striking China’s maritime forces” is a bit far fetched, but the rest is reasonably accurate and reflects the Strategy’s recognition of the Coast Guard as uniquely qualified to counter aggression in the “Gray Zone.”

“Huge New Chinese Ships Are Made For Ramming” –Forbes

Forbes suggests that the Chinese are planning to use some of their new ships to shoulder US ships.

Those flat sides aren’t an aesthetic choice, according to Jerry Hendrix, an American naval expert and author of the new book To Provide and Maintain a Navy. They’re for what sailors calls “shouldering.” That is, muscling into a rival ship and forcing it to change course.

Given that the Coast Guard is sending ships into the Western Pacific and participating in Freedom of Navigation Exercises, this threat is significant for us.

I have a lot of respect for Jerry Hendrix. I bought his book. But first, of course, most ships incorporate flat sides over a significant length simply because it is the cheapest construction method. Our National Security Cutters may have stealth incorporated in their design, but look at the OPCs.

OPC “Placemat”

The article specifically calls out two classes of Chinese ships as likely to be used for shouldering, the Type 055, which is a cruiser or large destroyer, and the “Chinese coast guard’s patrol ship Haixun.”

I certainly would not dispute the Chinese’s propensity for employing shouldering or even ramming. They have employed these techniques in enforcing their claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea, as identified by their still ill defined “nine dash line,” but I think they have called out the wrong ships.

Artist impression of 10,000 tons class patrol vessel Haixun

Haixun is not part of China Coast Guard, it is a unit of the China Maritime Safety Administration which is their SAR agency. This agency has not been used for law enforcement.

The Type 055 is a very well equipped combatant and probably one of the most expensive units in the Chinese Navy. Her hull is not unusual and not a significant departure from that of the preceding Type 052D class. Their sides are not particularly flat. They are not units the Chinese would risk damaging.Zhaotou class cutter Haijing 2901. Photo from http://defence-blog.com/news/photos-charge-of-the-10000-ton-china-coast-guard-cutter.html

Any of the China Coast Guard units could be used for shouldering or even ramming, but their heavy weights are two ships of the Zhaotou class, Haijing 2901 and Haijing 3901. These are the world’s largest Cutters and probably over 12,000 tons full load–about three times the size of the National Security Cutters. They are also capable of 25 knots.

china-defense.blogspot.com

The post suggests that the Mumford Point class T-ESDs and ESBs, based on a double hull tanker design would be an appropriate counter, but while they are large (60,000 tons and 785 ft (239 m) long), they are also slow (15 knots), not very powerful for their size (24 MW or about 32,000 HP), and not very maneuverable.

If we had more icebreakers, we might want to send one of them. We know what can happen when a lightly built ship plays bumper boats with an ice class vessel.  On the other hand, the Chinese have started building icebreakers and ice strengthened merchant vessels, so we might want to keep that in mind.

Maybe the Navy has another reason to consider ice-strengthened ships.

“China Coast Guard to be allowed to use force in case of territorial infringement” –People’s Liberation Army Daily

This Chinese People’s Liberation Army Daily post concerning use of deadly force, linked here, may be particularly interesting for its call out of the US Coast Guard.

Law enforcement on land, sea and in airspace under its own jurisdiction, with the use of weapons on necessary occasions, are the rights granted to sovereign states by international law. The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) also stipulates that lethal weapons can be used when enforcing the law in waters under its own jurisdiction. For the US Coast Guard (USCG), the use of force is even more common, and it is even planning to apply long-arm jurisdiction to China.

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the USCG, claimed to strengthen deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and participate in security patrols in the waters surrounding China in response to Chinese maritime militia’s declaration of sovereignty in the South China Sea in April last year. Robert O’Brien, US National Security Advisor, announced on October 24 that the USCG would deploy Enhanced Response Cutters in the Western Pacific. . Without providing any evidence, he accused Chinese fishing boats of illegal fishing and claimed that the sovereignty of the United States and its neighbors in the Pacific had thus been threatened.

If they should choose to employ force against one of our cutter in their claimed “Nine Dash Line,” it is likely they would attempt to get several units in at very close range before opening fire, as they did in this engagement.

Chinese depiction of the fighting Battle of Paracels Islands

Next time we send a cutter into this area, it might be a good idea to have a squad of Marines along armed with shoulder fired missile or rocket launchers.

Might also be a good idea to provide a bit of ballistic protection (and here) for our .50 cal. gun crews. Not too difficult because you can buy it on the GSA catalog.

Most China Coast Guard Cutters are not as well armed or as fast as the Bertholfs, but there are exceptions. In all likelihood they would be more interested in causing casualties and chasing us off, than actually sinking a cutter. This is more likely to serve their purpose without getting themselves in a war. Not that I think such an attack would go unanswered, but they, or a mid-level commander, might be foolish enough to think they could get away with it. Still probably better not to have a lone cutter doing “Freedom of Navigation Operations,” although air cover might be sufficient. Really I would like to see an international repudiation of their claims in the form of an multi-national demonstration.

Combinations of CCG cutters with weapons larger than 14.5mm machine guns could be extremely dangerous at close range. Some of those are shown below.

The China CG version of the Type 056 Corvette

 

China Coast Guard Cutters Converted  from Type 053H2G frigates

“Cooperative Maritime Law Enforcement and Overfishing in the South China Sea” –CIMSEC

Republic of Korea Coast Guard vessel #3006 in company with U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) during the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum in August 2007. This forum was created to increase international maritime safety and security in the Northern Pacific Ocean and its borders. The Boutwell worked with the Korean coast guard while on their way to Yokosuka, Japan. The Japanese coast guard is one of the six nations involved in the forum.

CIMSEC brings us a discussion of the possibility of cooperative fisheries enforcement in the South China Sea to stop both overfishing and Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing and perhaps bring China into a more mutually beneficial relationship with her neighbors.

Earlier, I had a suggestion about how we might form an instrument of cooperative enforcement by forming a “Combined Maritime Security Task Force Pacific,” a law enforcement alliance rather than a military one.

Probably before that could be fully realized, the various nations with competing claims to the waters of the South China Sea, need to take their claims to the UN’s International Tribunal. The more nations use it, the more pressure on China to participate. If, they do not present a cases before the international their claims will be weakened.

 

“USCG’s Schultz on Halifax Forum, Budget, Pacific, Arctic” –Defense and Aerospace Report

Above is a Defense and Aerospace report interview with the Commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz. It is worth a look.

There is a lot here about what is going on in the Western Pacific and our response to China’s changing behavior. There is a lot of discussion about the Philippine Coast Guard which is apparently growing at a tremendous rate. There is also some discussion about other coast guards in South East Asia and the USCG’s place with “The Quad” (US, Australia, New Zealand, and France).

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

Stratton Goes To 7th Fleet, Waesche Goes South, All Four Alameda NSCs Underway

The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton passes underneath San Francisco’s Bay Bridge as Stratton and the crew depart on a months-long deployment to the Western Pacific in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, June 12, 2019. Operating under the tactical control of the U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Stratton and crew are scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations in the Western Pacific and to patrol and operate as directed. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi.

The following is a PACAREA press release 

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Coast Guard Cutters Stratton and Waesche set sail Wednesday for months-long deployments to opposite ends of the Pacific. With their departure, all four of the national security cutters homeported in Alameda are currently on patrol.

The crew aboard the Waesche departed for a months-long deployment to the Eastern Pacific Ocean to conduct counterdrug operations. Earlier this year, Waesche returned to Alameda following a 95-day counterdrug patrol where the crew had two at-sea interdictions, seizing more than 6,300 pounds of cocaine.

Stratton deployed to the Western Pacific Ocean where the Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf has been since departing the Bay Area in January. Stratton will operate in support of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the Western Pacific.

Operating under the tactical control of U.S. 7th Fleet, Stratton is scheduled to engage in professional exchanges and capacity-building exercises with partner nations and to patrol and operate as directed.

“The Coast Guard’s deployment of resources to the Indo-Pacific directly supports the United States’ goal to strengthen maritime governance, safety, and security across the region, and we do that by working with, and learning from, our many partners and partner nations in the region,” said Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander, Coast Guard Pacific Area, who oversees the cutter.

“The United States is a Pacific nation, and the Coast Guard has been operating in the pacific for over 150 years. We have developed long-standing partnerships with nations in the region, and we share a strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific governed by a rules-based international system that promotes peace, security, prosperity, and the sovereignty of all nations.”

As both a federal law enforcement agency and an armed force, the Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to conduct defense operations in support of combatant commanders on all seven continents. The service routinely provides forces in joint military operations worldwide, including the deployment of cutters, boats, aircraft and deployable specialized forces.

“We are a military service, we are also a law enforcement organization, a regulatory agency, a first response agency, and a member of the intelligence community,” said Fagan. “We are at all times a military force and at all times a law enforcement force. This duality of our authorities provides an incredible degree of flexibility and access and authority. The Coast Guard’s distinct authorities and missions means that we provide a mix of expertise and capabilities that no other U.S. agency can.”

Coast Guard Island in Alameda is the homeport to four Coast Guard legend class national security cutters. NSCs are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days and can hold a crew of up to 170. These multi-mission cutters and crew are capable of operating from the Bering Sea to the Eastern Pacific Ocean to the South China Sea.

National security cutters feature advanced command and control capabilities, aviation support facilities, stern cutter boat launch and increased endurance for long-range patrols enabling the crews to disrupt threats to national security further offshore.

The Coast Guard is scheduled to commission its seventh and eighth national security cutters, the Coast Guard Cutters Kimball and Midgett, in August. Both cutters will be homeported in Honolulu and enhance the Coast Guard’s presence throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

“U.S. Bulks Up Coast Guard in Pacific to Counter China Fleet” –Bloomberg

USCGC Stratton moored in San Diego, California. Photo by BryanGoff

Bloomberg reports indication USCGC Stratton is following USCGC Bertholf’s example, voyaging to the Western Pacific to help allies and provide a counter to Chinese aggressive maritime behavior. Other cutters likely to follow. Looks like this may be the new normal.

“VIDEO: Russian Destroyer Put U.S. Cruiser at Risk with ‘Unsafe’ Maneuver” USNI

US Naval Institute brings us a report on an encounter between a US cruisers, USS Chancellorsville and a Russian Udaloy class large anti-submarine vessel (destroyer).

Both are large surface combatants, with the Russian nearly as large as the cruiser. Both are gas turbine powered and about 30 years old.

Looking at the wakes of the ships, it appears to me the Russian did in fact change course to close the Chancellorsville and veered away only at the last moment. I do not see in the video the crash stop by Chancellorsville that was reported. Looks almost like they are ready to conduct a highline drill. Maybe the Russian would like to trade movies. 

With Coast Guard cutters operating in the South China Sea we can probably expect that they may encounter similar behavior from the Chinese and Russians.

“US warns China on aggressive acts by fishing boats and coast guard” –Financial Times

The Financial Times is reporting, (Additional reporting here and here.)

“Navy chief (US Navy CNO Admiral John Richardson–Chuck) says Washington will use military rules of engagement to curb provocative behavior”

This is, if anything, overdue. The Chinese Coast Guard and Maritime Militia are effectively arms of the Chinese government in the same way the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is.

The Chinese have been taking advantage of the more ambiguous state of these agencies. They act boldly and if things go well, the Chinese government takes advantage. It things go badly, they can avoid responsibility, particularly with regard to the Militia.

The nations of South East Asia should make a similar stand. The decision to provide a Coast Guard as an agency separate from the Navy is strictly a national prerogative. It does not provide any special status relative to naval vessels. You don’t get a pass just because you are painted white. Similarly fishing vessels employed for aggressive government purposes enjoy no special protection. When they misbehave, they need to face consequence.