Just wanted to pass along this photo and its caption which refers to transfers not only to Uruguay but also to Lebanon. The photo was found here.
There was also a report of additional interaction with Lebanese armed forces here.
CIMSEC brings us a report on Argentina’s efforts to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing.
The former L’Adroit and her three new construction ice-strengthened half-sisters are central to the story. I have long thought these ships epitomized a very disciplined approach to the design of an Offshore Patrol Vessel. Defense capabilities aside, they have everything you need in an OPV and nothing you don’t. They are the best example of my Cutter X concept. They are fast enough at 21 knots. They have enough seaworthiness and endurance (7,000-8,000 nmi at 12 knots). They have a helicopter deck and hangar. They have the boats they need. They have a small crew (30) but can accommodate 60.
That is not to say adding additional capabilities for defense does not make sense, but in affect they constitute a baseline for an OPV. When you start adding capabilities you could say, what is the cost/benefit compared to this baseline?
The post also includes an interesting proposal,
“Regional cooperation is vital to solving this security challenge, which can be achieved by modernizing the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Tratado Interamericano de Asistencia Recíproca: TIAR) into a 21st-century agreement that is also tasked with combating IUU fishing.”
Below is a news release from Atlantic Area reporting USCGC Stone’s return from a patrol in the Eastern Pacific. It seems to have been a successful but fairly routine EastPac with a couple of items of note. In addition to drug interdiction, this patrol put some emphasis on Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing.
While this was Stone’s first operational mission since commissioning, she had already completed an unusual South Atlantic mission before commissioning.
I also wanted to make sure you did not miss the photos of Colombia’s 80 meter Fassmer OPV that operated with Stone. (Some of the photos were found here.) The Fassmer OPV is also operated by Chile and a slightly longer (86 meter) version is operated by Germany.
As can be seen, this 80.6 meter (264.4′) vesselp ca n operate and hangar a helicopter and has provision for three boats including one on a stern ramp. This one is armed with a medium caliber gun (76mm), what appears to up to 22 knots and have a range of 8,600 nautical miles (15,900 km). These are about the size of Bear class WMECs, and except for EW, equipment and capabilities sound similar to the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The Fassmer design, is probably not as capable of continuing to operate boats and helicopter in as severe weather and probably does not have as large a hangar. Also, the flight deck does not look as large, but the Colombian ship does include a stern boat ramp not included in the OPC.
Some of the Chilean ships of this class are ice-strengthened.
U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
USCGC Stone returns to homeport after 61-day patrol working with partners
Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — USCGC Stone (WMSL 758) returned to their homeport in Charleston following a 61-day patrol in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean in support of the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Joint Interagency Task Force South, and the U.S. Coast Guard Eleventh District.
Stone’s crew successfully interdicted two suspected drug smuggling vessels, recovering approximately 2,246 pounds of cocaine and 4,870 pounds of marijuana with an estimated combined street value of $57.1 million. The cutter’s crew subsequently transferred 20 suspected narcotics smugglers to the Seventh Coast Guard District and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration personnel, signaling the culmination of a successful joint interagency effort in the Eastern Pacific.
The Stone embarked observers from Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to perform joint operations to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUUF) and conduct counter-drug operations off the coast of South America.
An embarked MH-65 helicopter aircrew from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron was integral in counter-drug operations. Interagency partners provided additional aerial surveillance and reconnaissance support throughout the patrol.
During the cutter’s port call in Manta, Ecuador, Stone’s commanding officer, Capt. Clinton Carlson, attended an international IUUF symposium with Arthur Young, the embarked National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration enforcement officer, to share experiences and increase awareness of the regional issue. The crew of the Stone also participated in a friendly soccer match with Cuerpo de Guardacostas de la Armada personnel from the local coast guard station while in Manta.
“This is our crew’s first patrol outside of their initial shakedown cruise, and I am extremely proud of the dedication and pride they have shown toward getting qualified to conduct the missions expected of a national security cutter crew,” said Carlson. “Throughout these past months, everyone aboard displayed enthusiasm during the drills we’ve run every week and have proven that through teamwork and a shared understanding of the mission, we can accomplish even the most difficult tasks. I am honored to lead this impressive crew of Coast Guard women and men.”
The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions for these interdictions by United States Attorney’s Offices from the Middle District of Florida, the Southern District of Florida and the Southern District of California. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the Eleventh Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda. The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guard members.
The Stone is the ninth Legend-class national security cutter in the Coast Guard fleet and currently homeports in Charleston, South Carolina. The national security cutters can execute the most challenging national security missions, including support to U.S. combatant commanders.
The Charleston-based Legend-class cutters fall under the command of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. Based in Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area oversees all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf. In addition to surge operations, they also allocate ships to work with partner commands and deploy to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific to combat transnational organized crime and illicit maritime activity.
Voice of America reports remarks by SOUTHCOM Commander, Admiral Craig Faller, regarding the growth of Chinese influence in the Western Hemisphere, including criminal activity and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing.
This isn’t new. Through contributing author, Sanjay Badri-Maharaj (here and here),I have been following what has been happening in Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure similar interaction is happening elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. Here is some background:
Business Insider has a story touting the success of the Navy/Coast Guard team effort in drug interdiction. This seems to be a report on Adm. Craig Faller’s (SOUTHCOM) remarks at the Surface Navy Association symposium in mid-January.
There is strong praise for the HITRON personnel.
“Coast Guard HITRON teams, which are sniper teams, have integrated into US Navy helicopters. So our Navy crews are involved in decisions to use … warning shots and disabling fire daily. I mean, it is a daily event,” Faller added. “We average numbers, sometimes large numbers, of events daily, and they’ve done it safely, effectively, completely in compliance with all the law of war and with precision. [I’m] very proud of that.”
I have to believe the “daily” claim is at least a slight exaggeration, since presumably HITRON was involved in all the cases and the report quotes Cmdr. Ace Castle, public affairs officer for US Coast Guard Atlantic Area, as saying they prosecuted 56 in 2020.
In any case, HITRON is getting a workout and proving their value. Worth noting that they and other Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, also serve on foreign ships working for SouthCom, including British, Canadian, Dutch, and French vessels.
The US Naval Institute News Service reports that USCGC Stone is being sent on an unusual Latin American South Atlantic patrol, even before she is commissioned. To make a patrol of this length prior to commissioning is almost unheard of, and the location is also something we have not done in a very long time, outside of the UNITAS exercise format.
The inaugural deployment is “a multi-month deployment to the South Atlantic countering illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing while strengthening relationships for maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region,” according to a Coast Guard news release. “This the service’s first patrol to South America in recent memory, engaging partners including Guyana, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and Portugal.” An observer from the Portuguese navy embarked the cutter for the duration of Operation Southern Cross in the U.S. Southern Command region.
Certainly not the Coast Guard’s “first patrol to South America in recent memory,” but to this part of South America, perhaps.
This is the second part of a reexamination of where critical ports are in the US and where the cutters that might be needed to protect them are homeported.
Consolidated Target and Homeport List:
I have reproduced this listing from part 1. It has been changed slightly to reflect the move of USCGC Seneca from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Again, we have 31 target ports or port complexes in bold and 23 current or planned cutter homeports with the cutters in bold. In many cases a critical port is also a homeport for cutter(s).
The Present and Future Coast Guard Fleet:
Bertholf class National Security Cutters:
These ships are only based in three ports, all three of these are potential target ports.
That might suggest that these ports are well protected, but as I have said, these ships don’t spend any time on standby, and when they are in port they are usually down hard.
Honolulu is also a Naval bases and has three Webber class WPCs assigned, so it is about as well protected as any port could be with our current equipment.
The Webber class WPCs:
As I have noted, currently the Webber class are potentially the most important asset for port protection.
Of the 31 potential target ports, these nine have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters assigned.
With four additional FRCs going to Alaska, I have to assume Anchorage, AK will be protected. Its geography protects it to a great extent. It is far up Cook Inlet. Kodiak’s position South of Cook Inlet pushes the US EEZ out, so it is much further than 200 miles from the edge of the EEZ to Anchorage. Homer, at the mouth of Cook Inlet, has been an Island class WPB in the past and may be a Webber class homeport in the future.
These seven potential target ports have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters homeported within 100 nautical miles, offering some degree of protection.
The following 14 potential target ports have no Webber class WPCs assigned or currently planned to be based within 100 nautical miles:
Most likely future Webber Class Homeports: 47 of the planned 64 Webber class cutters have already been paired with their homeports as noted above (including six to go to Bahrain). Of the 17 remaining we know two will go to Astoria OR, and four will go to Alaska. That leaves eleven to potentially protect other ports. Grouped two or three to a port, that means we will have no more than four or five additional Webber class homeports. In my view, the most likely additional ports are:
Where we are naked: Potential target ports that likely will not have a Webber class within 100 nmiles:
The Hudson River Complex is protected to some extent by geography, given the length of its approaches. WPCs at Cape May and New London would provide a degree of protection though both are a bit more than 100 nmi away.
The strong Navy presence in the Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA should provide a degree of protection.
7th District has 8 of the 31 critical ports and 19 of the 58 Webber class homeported in the US (I understand they will get a 20th), but all are in three ports, Miami, San Juan, and Key West, which is not a critical port. Five ports have no Webber class within 100 nautical miles.
There are of course other considerations, but from the perspective of protecting ports we would be much better off redistributing all but three WPCs in Miami and three in San Juan to Charleston (which would also provide a degree of protection for Savannah), Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Tampa/St Pete. This would leave Key West without WPCs, but it does look like a good place for OPCs.
We would also have no Webber class within 100 miles of the Mississippi River Complex.
Fortunately it is protected to some extent by the long and relatively difficult passage up the Mississippi River before these ports can be reached. You are not likely to make it up the Mississippi with a ship without getting a pilot. Also Webber class at Pascagoula are only a little over 100 nautical miles from the mouth of the Mississippi.
HECs and MECs and OPCs, Oh My:
There are currently 29 WHECs/WMECs. They are to be replaced by 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Because of the nature of their operations and scheduling, they are unlikely to respond to a threat from their homeport, but they may be employed locally off shore for fisheries, drug, or Alien Migrant enforcement. Where will they be based?
We could say 25 ships divided among eight districts means three ships in seven districts and four in one. That might not be a bad way to start, but in all likelihood the OPCs will be distributed much as the one remaining WHEC and 28 WMECs are now, but some changes are likely because of tendencies observed of late.
Breaking it down by district even though they are Area assets, I will note how many in the district and what percentage of the current WHEC/WMEC fleet that constitutes.
CCGD1: 4 or 13.8%
CCGD5: 9 or 31%
CCGD7: 7 or 24.1%
CCGD8: 4 or 13.8%
CCGD13: 3 or 10.3%
CCGD17: 2 or 6.9%
If we distributed the 25 OPCs in the same proportion we would have:
But we already know that two OPCs will be based in San Pedro, they probably represent a movement Southward from D13, and there is a good possibility they will be joined by a third OPC.
In the same vain I think we will see one or two fewer OPCs in D5. They might go to D7, but there is also a possibility they could go to PAC Area.
This is what I think we will ultimately see, with destination of three OPCs much less certain. Possible locations for these three are in parenthesis. It is going to be a very long time (Late 2030s) before we see the last three, so much can change.
Historically the Coast Guard has based two thirds of its large cutters in Atlantic Area and one third in the Pacific Area. If that were to be the case, PAC Area should get six OPCs in addition to the six NSCs they have now, and LANT Area should have 19 OPCs in addition to the five NSCs currently planned.
If you look at the distribution of the US EEZ, I think there is a strong case for more ships in the Pacific.
With the increased emphasis on IUU and capacity building in the Western Pacific, we may see up to eight OPCs going to PAC AREA.
Alternative Mission Set:
PAC Area has been very aggressive in the use of their resources for drug interdiction, sending FRCs down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones off Central and South America, but PAC AREA could have more cutter time for operations in the Western Pacific, without adding cutters, if LANT AREA took full responsibility for the Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort. There are good reasons, that might be desirable.
The Missing Class–Response Boat, Large–the WPB replacement:
All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop a terrorist controlled vessel. Currently the Webber class WPCs seem to be the most likely craft to be in a position to take on that role, but in many scenarios they simply would not be up to the task. In addition we know that about half the critical ports or port complexes will have no Webber class homeported there so that they might respond most rapidly in the case of an attack.
There were 74 Marine Protector class built. Wikipedia indicates there are 73 currently active and we know there is a proposal to decommission eight in the belief that their missions will be performed by Webber class and response boat, mediums. That would still leave 65.
Assuming we put two WPB replacements in position to protect each of the 31 critical ports, so that we could always have one either on standby or underway near by, it would only require 62. It the Webber class were better armed, and we only needed to protect those critical ports with no Webber class homported there, we would need no more than 34. If we also redistributed the D7 Webber class as suggested we would need only 26.
We know, if confirmed, most of his fleet will be painted white with racing stripes so this is potentially important to the Coast Guard.
CSIS and the United States Naval Institute (USNI) conduct an interview with Admiral Karl L. Schultz, the 26th Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, conducted 1 August, 2018.
Below I will attempt to outline the conversation, noting the topics and in some cases providing a comment.
The first question is about immigration. Coast Guard is the “away game.” minimizing the factors that push immigration to the US.
The Commandant does not expect a substantial increase in help from the Navy, because they are already heavily tasked, but would welcome any additional help.
06:30 Talk about Inland fleet. Congressional support is evident. $25M provided so far.
9:20 House Appropriations Committee decision to divert $750M from the icebreaker program to fund “the Wall” in their markup of the FY2019 budget bill. The Commandant is “guardedly optimistic”
11:30 Human capital readiness? Operating account has been flat and effectively we have lost 10% in purchasing power. Want to increase leadership training.
16:30 Support for combatant commanders.
18:00 Capacity building and partnering. Detachments working on host nation platforms.
21:00 Defense Force planning–Not going back to the MARDEZ model.
22:30 Situation in Venezuela/Preparation for dealing with mass migration.
24:30 Arctic forums–Need to project our sovereignty
30:00 Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)
32:30 Tracking cargo as an element of MDA
36:15 High Latitude engagement/partnerships.
39:30 Perhaps the icebreaker should be the “Polar Security Cutter?”
40:00 International ice patrol, still an important mission.
41:00 CG role in response to Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea. In discussion with Indo-Pacific Command. Will see more CG presence there.
44:00 Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC)–on track
46:30 Border issue — passed on that
48:00 Small satellites–we are looking at them
49:00 African Capacity building/cooperation. May send an MEC.
51:30 Tech modernization. Looking at it more holistically.
This interview prompted a couple of notable posts.
SeaPower’s coverage of the discussion is here. They focused on the growth of demands on the Coast Guard.
Military.com reported on the possibility of a greater Coast Guard role in South East Asia and capacity building in Africa. It probably should be noted that the title, “Coast Guard Could Send Ship to Pacific to ‘Temper Chinese Influence’,”is a bit deceptive in that the Commandant’s remark about tempering Chinese Influence was in regard to Oceania, the islands of the Central and Western Pacific. The Commandant was quoted in the Seapower post, “In the Oceania region, there are places where helping them protect their interests, tempering that Chinese influence, is absolutely essential.”
U.S. Coast Guard sent this bulletin at 01/23/2018 03:15 PM EST
January 23, 2018
U.S. Coast Guard 11th District PA Detachment San Diego
Media Advisory: U.S., Canadian officials to address emerging threat from drug traffickers (photos available)
To view and download photos, please click the above thumbnails
WHAT: U.S. forces and international partners continue to see new smuggling tactics by transnational organized crime networks in the eastern Pacific Ocean including vessels specifically constructed for purposes of smuggling narcotics and other illicit contraband.
WHO: Senior officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Southern Command and the Canadian Armed Forces will be available to discuss the tactics of transnational crime networks and international efforts to combat the threat posed by these criminal organizations. These senior officials include:
WHEN: Jan. 25, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. Attending media is requested to arrive by 8:30 a.m. to gain access to the facility. Government-Issued ID and media credentials are required. To RSVP, please contact Public Affairs Detachment San Diego at 619-252-1304.
WHERE: B-Street Pier (Cruise Ship Terminal) in San Diego, 1140 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101.
WHY: On the heels of a record year of drug interdiction, the U.S. Coast Guard and its international partners are seeing historic drug flow from cocaine producing countries in South America coupled with new tactics and varying smuggling routes. Gangs vying over drug smuggling routes and influence have led to epidemic murder rates in Central America. The Centers for Disease Control reported another rise in drug overdose deaths in the U.S. with more than 64,000 people reportedly killed by drug overdose in 2017. Of those, over 10,000 were killed by cocaine overdose, an approximately 35 percent rise from 2016.
HOW: Transnational organized crime networks smuggle more than 97 percent of cocaine bound for the U.S. and Canada via some kind of illicit maritime conveyance in the first stage of movement from the source zone. The drugs are smuggled in large quantities from source countries in South America to transshipment points in Central America and southern Mexico. The cocaine is then broken down into smaller loads for secondary and tertiary transits to smuggle across the U.S. Southern Border.
U.S. and international forces have seen the emergence of a variety smuggling vessels specially designed and constructed by transnational organized crime groups like self-propelled semisubmersibles and, more recently, low profile go fast vessels, which are a variant design from traditional go fast vessels. These smuggling vessels are designed to elude authorities using a low profile radar signature, camouflage and, in the case of low profile go fast vessels, speed. These vessels also carry massive quantities of illicit cargo. For example, an SPSS can carry up to 16,000 pounds of cocaine. A network of international and interagency partners constantly patrol the approximately six million square mile drug transit zone used by smugglers using aircraft and vessels.