ISIS Threat to Russian Ships in Turkish Straits

File:Latrans-Turkey location Marmara Region.svg

Illustration: Turkey with the Straits and Sea of Marmara area in red, by “The Emirr.” Dardanelles to West of the Sea of Marmara and Bosphorus to the East. 

Following from the German Navy blog, Marine Forum, 16 May,

“After Turkish intelligence learned of Islamic State plans for attacks on Russian warships from ashore, Turkish authorities have beefed up security along the Turkish Straits and augmented escorts by Turkish Coast Guard.”

A number of the Russian Navy transits carry supplies to the Syrian Government Forces and Russian forces operating in Syria.

“AMO and Coast Guard Missions are not Duplicative”–Office of Inspector General

l

Many of us have wondered about the apparent duplication of effort by the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO). Apparently the The U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Homeland Security, Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security had the same concern and asked for an audit by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG). This resulted in a report, “AMO and Coast Guard Maritime Missions Are Not Duplicative, But Could Improve with Better Coordination (pdf).”

Guess there is no suspense in what their findings were, but I find the methodology and conclusions less than complete and satisfying.

The recommendations of the audit were:

Recommendation #1: We recommend that the DHS Under Secretary for Management reestablish an oversight mechanism at the DHS level to ensure that AMO and the Coast Guard coordinate operations.

Recommendation #2: We recommend that the Coast Guard Commandant, CBP Commissioner, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director revise the Maritime Operations Coordination Plan to include requirements for coordination and information sharing at all levels, especially the local level.

So the response was equally predictable–form a committee.

I’m sorry, but my BS meter is off the scale. The alarm went off first, when they consistently called the territorial sea, “customs waters” lending a presumption that this is a Customs job.

While their conclusion may ultimately prove correct, they essentially failed to look at the most significant area of overlap–Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The audit concentrated exclusively on drug enforcement and failed to consider Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations (AMIO). And they failed to answer the most basic questions.

While coordination is always assumed to be a “good thing,” the only real reason you should want two agencies performing the same function would indicate less coordination, not more.

There is no doubt AMO does useful work, that is not the point. The question is, what is the most effective and economical way to distribute resources. Should DHS be working toward a different distribution of tasking and resources?

Unanswered questions:

Why does Customs need boats? The Revenue Cutter Service was Customs’ boat service. Why doesn’t the Coast Guard still fulfill that function? The Coast Guard operates boats. Boats are on standby with crews at the ready. When Customs needs a boat, why don’t they ride Coast Guard boats? What is the cost of an operating hour for comparable Coast Guard and Customs boats?

AMO does need aircraft to do several tasks, including interdiction of smuggling by air, but why does Customs need to have a fleet of maritime patrol aircraft for interdiction of surface vessels, when the Coast Guard also has to provide a similar fleet for a whole range of missions? The AMO operates a fleet of 14 P-3s including both Airborne Early Warning models and P-3 Long Range Trackers. They are over 40 years old and undergoing an extensive and expensive life extension program. AMO also operates Bombardier DHC-8, and Beach King Air 350ER equipped with marine search radars. What is the cost of an operating hour for comparable Coast Guard and Customs aircraft?

AMO regularly performs air interdiction. Perhaps they should be the ones doing the low speed air interdiction over DC.

Other missions:

In  addition to drug enforcement, the two agencies seem to have overlapping missions in Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations (AMIO) and counter terrorism. Why weren’t these missions looked at as well?

AMO boats are suitable only for very short ranged AMIO missions while Coast Guard vessels a suitable for interception long before the approach the US coast.

It appears that AMO assets are limited to small arms. If the terrorist threat is anything much larger than a small boat, they are unlikely to be effective in countering it without assistance.

What about Jurisdiction?

AMO operates primarily within the customs waters, but it maintains the authority to pursue vessels fleeing the customs waters or hovering outside those waters as a means of avoiding AMO jurisdiction.

The Coast Guard is not similarly limited in the Marine environment. The effects of this on agency effectiveness was not considered.

Maybe AMO’s jurisdiction should be extended to cover the entire EEZ, but that is not the case now and AMO’s boats don’t seem suited for operations much beyond 12 miles. They are generally very fast, but probably short legged with minimal protection for the crew from the elements.

The characteristics of their boats don’t seem to square with the very long range character of their aircraft like the P-3s.

Why overlapping responsibility might be a good idea–coordination be damned:

There is one reason you might want two agencies responsible for the same law enforcement mission. That would be if you worry about the possibility that one of the agencies might be compromised. For instance if one agency is somehow compromised by a criminal organization. The law enforcement agency might still appear successful. The criminal organization might use the agency to eliminate its competitors, providing intelligence. A second independent agency might uncover this corruption.

Use of Force: 

There is an interesting section comparing the two agencies’ use of force policies.

Approval for Employing Use of Force

Coast Guard crews must receive approval from the appropriate official in the chain of command, typically an Admiral, before using force to stop noncompliant vessels. According to the Coast Guard, the approval time can take from 10 minutes to several hours depending on the case. In contrast, AMO policy reflects a more traditional law enforcement approach and allows its agents to make use of force decisions.

According to the Coast Guard, it needs a use of force policy to cover a vast range of mission sets across a legally and jurisdictionally complex operating environment. Although the approval process has some level of risk mitigation, the Coast Guard designed the process to relieve on-scene officers of the need to access U.S. jurisdiction and legal authority to employ force against a noncompliant vessel, and allows those officers to focus on executing the tactics and procedures to safely and effectively employ that force.

We participated in use of force demonstrations for noncompliant vessels with both components and experienced the delay in the Coast Guard’s approval process. Although there are potential safety concerns for Coast Guard boat crews during a pursuit, the Coast Guard stated that it updated its law enforcement manual to “refine and streamline the process in every way possible” to reduce the time lapse from when the Coast Guard vessel is “overt” (known by the suspected vessel to be following) to when the necessary actions (use of force) are completed.

Hopefully if a Coast Guard CO sees a terrorist attack underway, he will have the flexibility to act on the knowledge, even if there is no time to get approval.

Using Statistics that do not correlate:

As noted, the report only looked at drug enforcement and only at a small part of the mission. Quoting from the report,

“There are 206 combined locations where AMO and the Coast Guard conduct operations in customs waters. Of the 206, there are 17 locations (8 percent) where AMO and the Coast Guard have similar capabilities and an overlapping area of responsibility.”

 

” In FY 2015, at the 17 overlapping locations, all of AMO’s drug seizures occurred on land or in customs waters, where marine units primarily conduct operations.”

“The Coast Guard is a multi-mission agency, including law enforcement that operates in both customs and international waters. In contrast to AMO, Coast Guard personnel assigned to drug and migrant interdiction do not conduct investigative or land operations. In FY 2015, 93 percent of Coast Guard drug seizures occurred in international waters (Transit Zone) (emphasis applied–Chuck). AMO only deploys aircraft in this area; it does not have the vessels to operate in these waters.”

“In the overlapping locations, 84 percent of reported drug seizures were from AMO operations. These seizures occurred, in part, because of the different activities of each agency. For example, while some of AMO operations were intelligence based, the Coast Guard conducts routine patrols looking for illegal activity. Although Coast Guard patrols are not as effective as intelligence-based operations, they show a presence and can deter illegal activity.” (Emphasis applied–Chuck)

First note that this compares Customs’ seizures both on land and on the water with the seizures of the Coast Guard, a multimission agency, on the water alone. This also seems to imply that Customs was not sharing their intelligence with the Coast Guard.

FY 2015 Drug Seizures from the 17 Overlapping Locations Agency Customs Waters (Drugs in Pounds) AMO 28,707 (land and water) (84%) Coast Guard 5,602 (16%) Total 34,309.

I doubt the Coast Guard units they looked at drug interdiction as their primary mission. Certainly the AMO units did.

Why the difference in statistics?:

According to Coast Guard statistics, Coast Guard drug seizures in FY2015 were 319,229.4 lbs of Cocaine and 78,262 lbs of Marijuana. Appendix C indicates that the Coast Guard had seized 199,749 lbs of Cocaine and 57,855 lbs of Marijuana. (Why the large difference in these figures?)

Figures reported for AMO in Appendix C were 243,387 lb of cocaine and 719,180 lb of Marijuana.

Pounds of drugs is not a very informative metric, if various types of drugs are aggravated. It also says nothing about its purity. After being cut there is less drugs in a pound of drugs.

Over the past five years, according to Coast Guard statistics, Coast Guard cutters, Allied ships and U.S. Navy ships with Coast Guard boarding teams, in the transit zone, removed more than 500 metric tons of cocaine—a wholesale value of nearly $17 billion. According to the Coast Guard, “this is approximately three times the amount of cocaine, at twice the purity, seized by all other U.S. federal, state and local and tribal law enforcement agencies combined over the same time span.”

The figures above don’t seem to square.

Costs:

Looking at this, I found a cost comparison of what the two agencies spend for their personnel interesting. The total AMO budget for FY2015 was $750M supporting 1,665 members, while the CG budget of $8,380M supported 41,700. Budget/Personnel equals $450,450 per AMO member and $200,959 per CG member. There are probably lots of reasons AMO cost more than twice as much per member, but it might have been worth some examination.

Conclusion: 

Bottom line, this report failed to answer the question, “Why do both the Coast Guard and Customs have both boats and maritime patrol aircraft?”

What we got was a distorted comparison of the relative success of the Coast Guard and Customs drug interdiction efforts.

These distortions can have consequences and should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. I can understand the Coast Guard not wanting to offend people in the IG office, but I have no such problem, and neither should the subcommittee that requested the audit.

Thanks to Brymar consulting’s web site for alerting me to this.

Indonesian Bomb Plot?

murrahfederalbuildinginjuriesbyfloor

Photo: Floor-by-floor breakdown of the injuries/deaths in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building from the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Red triangles indicates a fatality, a yellow one indicates a victim was admitted. Author: Sue Mallonee at Oklahoma State Department of Health Injury Prevention Service

gCaptain is reporting that Indonesian authorities on the resort island of Bali have detained a ship from Malaysia carrying around 30 tonnes of ammonium nitrate which police believe may have been intended for making bombs.

Ammonium nitrate was, you may recall, a primary igrediant in the truck bomb used in the attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

“…the bombing destroyed one-third of the building, killed 168 people, and injured more than 680 others. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage.”

Total weight of the explosives in that case was perhaps 7.000 pounds or less.

There is no indication that the ship itself was intended to be used as a bomb delivery system.

Bad Week for Turkish CG & a Maritime IED?

The German Navy blog, Marine Forum, reports, 17 August.

“Turkish Coast Guard vessel TCSG-25 (KAAN-15 class) (pictured above) off Istanbul collided with a merchant vessel, capsized … 3 sailors said to be trapped inside … rescue efforts underway”

A later report indicates there are three dead.

In a separate incident, a Turkish Coast Guardsman was killed and a fisherman injured when they attempted to tow a life raft with two bodies aboard near the Syrian boarder.

Are Cruise Ships Prepared for ISIS?–Jim Walker

It has been over 30 years since the seizure of the Achille Lauro by Palestinian Terrorists. Are cruise ships better protected? You would like to think so, and it is certainly possible steps have been taken that are not obvious, but there are doubts. CuiseLawNews discusses the question.

This in particular caught my eye.

“Just last month, the Miami-Dade County Police Department said: ‘We ended up concluding that now they’re targeting the cruise industry. We’re the cruise capital of the world. It’s the same possibility of having two planes crash into the World Trade Center.'”

From an earlier post that discussed the implications of various threats on the choice of homeports for major cutters, “Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell,” the Top Cruise Ship Ports are:

  1. Miami, FL
  2. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  3. Port Canaveral, FL
  4. New York, NY
  5. San Juan, PR
  6. Galveston, TX
  7. Tampa, FL
  8. Seattle, WA
  9. Long Beach, CA
  10. New Orleans, LA
  11. Los Angeles, CA
  12. Baltimore, MD
  13. Cape Liberty, NJ
  14. Jacksonville, FL
  15. Charleston, SC

How About a Coast Guard Sink-Ex?

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Are our weapons adequate for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security Mission? Let’s find out.

The Navy Times is reporting that the Navy will have an unusually large number of ships available for “Sink-Ex” exercises in 2017.

The SINKEX fleet grew from five ships last year to seven ships available in 2017, including four frigates, the landing ship tank Racine and two attack cargo ships.

According to the source document, the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan (pp 13/14), one of the stated purposes of a Sink-EX is weapons effectiveness evaluation. I think this might be a good opportunity for us to test out our weapons for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) mission. This mission implies we must have the ability to forcibly stop a ship, regardless of its size. A Sink-Ex could be an opportunity to answer once and for all the question “Is the Coast Guard adequately armed for the mission?”  Personally I don’t think so, and what little evidence we have seems to indicate that is the case.

The two attack cargo ships are Charleston class LKAs, the ex-Durham (LKA-114) and ex-St. Louis (LKA-116), built in the late ’60s. These are medium sized auxiliary ships, 9,000 tons light and 18,500 tons fully loaded, 576 feet (176 meters) in length. Structurally they are not much different from merchant ships of the period. Unfortunately they don’t have the big diesel engines found on modern merchant ships, and the are far smaller than many current merchant ships but they are still, in most respects, representative of the target set the Coast Guard should be interested in.

USS_Charleston_(LKA-113)

Photo: USS Charleston (LKA-113)

We have four gun systems that might be tested. .50 cal., 25 mm, 57 mm, and 76 mm. The 25 mm and 57 mm are particularly important as the .50 cal is probably too small and short ranged and the 76 mm is going out of service. Still, we should still attempt to include the 76 mm because if the 57 mm proves inadequate, our next question should be, “Would the 76 mm have been successful?” Testing the 25, 57, and 76 mm guns would require use of at least two ships, a 378 for both the 76 and 25 mm, and a Bertholf class for the 57 mm. (Alternately an LCS might provide the 57 mm, a Bear class the 76 mm, and a 110 or Webber class the 25 mm.)

1280px-USCG_Gallatin_Mk_75_firing

This could be a CG R&D project, but of course it would require Navy assistance, perhaps a joint project. Because our objective is to at least stop the target, rather than sink it, loss of power or steering would constitute a success. To determine if this is the case, we need information about what is happening inside the hull when the we get a hit. Will the round penetrate not only the hull but also critical systems, the loss of which would result in loss of power or control of the ship? Because it would probably be dangerous to go back on board the target after it has been shelled, the target would need to be instrumented with sensors and the results broadcast back. Aside from putting cameras inside the spaces, a technique might be to seal up and pressurize equipment like boilers, turbines, and steering gear and have them instrumented to detect any loss of pressure that would indicate a breach.

We would also want to conduct the exercise at a reasonable ranges. Since the real targets might be equipped with weapons that might be typically available to terrorist organizations, including anti-tank missiles and Soviet era antitank and anti-aircraft guns,that might target critical systems on the cutter, I believe the cutter should stand off at least 4000 yards, but for the 25 mm, we would probably need to close to 3,000 yards. A logical sequence might be,

  1. 378 closes to 3000 yards engages with 25 mm then withdraws
  2. NSC closes to 4,000 yards and engages, then withdraws
  3. 378 closes to 4,000 yards and engages.

We would also want to fire a reasonable number of rounds, probably about 150 rounds of 25 mm, about 100 rounds of 57 mm, and about 80 rounds of 76 mm, basically shoot enough to exhaust the ammunition normally carried on the mount.

Realistically this would have to be part of a larger Sink-Ex with more than one target, but it might be reasonable to allow the Coast Guard a day to try their systems against one of the targets before the other firing units come on scene.

Should our current systems prove not up to the task, we would also want to know the results for possible candidate systems, so we might ask that these candidate systems be used against the target as well. These might include, APKWS, Griffin, Hellfire, the 5″ gun, and the light weight torpedo. I don’t think it has ever been tried, but with the right depth settings, is it possible to hit a deep draft surface target with our current light weight torpedoes?

Let’s at least find out if we have a chance of succeeding in this mission. 

ASuW Hellfire Test Success–Operational Late 2017

Navyrecognition reports that a successful test of modified Hellfire missiles for use in the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM) planned for the Littoral Combat Ship has paved the way for operational deployment of the system in late 2017.

We have talked about these missiles before. They seem to be an ideal way to deal with the threat of small, fast, highly maneuverable boats that might be employed by terrorists, and absent more effective weapons, may provide some capability against even large vessels. Unlike gun systems, they promise high first round accuracy and lethality, with very little chance of a round going astray and hitting something unintended.

The projected SSMM would provide storage and launch facilities for up to 24 rounds. 24 rounds would weigh only about 2500 pounds. The launcher and support systems is unlikely to weigh more than that, suggesting and all up weight of about 5000 pounds, far less than either the 76mm Mk75 gun or the 57mm Mk110 (two and a half tons compared to eight or nine tons). Both of these guns are commonly used on missile and patrol boats smaller than the Webber class WPCs. Also unlike a gun system, the SSMM is unlikely to require any significant deck reinforcement.  It would almost certainly fit on all large cutters and perhaps the WPCs and WPBs as well. (It should be included on Offshore Patrol Cutters from day 1.) If the 24 round system is too large to be comfortably carried by smaller cutters, it is likely a smaller, say four round, system could be quickly and economically developed for Coast Guard use and perhaps for the Navy’s MkVI patrol boat as well.

If we take the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security mission seriously we really should be looking seriously at acquiring these systems, not just for the new ships as they are built, but also for the existing fleet with the idea that the systems would be transferred to the newer ships as the older ones are replaced.

The Navy should be willing to pay for these systems under existing inter-service agreements.

As noted before, if we need to stop a terrorist attack, we are far more likely to have a WPC or WPB on scene than a larger cutter. For this reason, arming some the Webber class in each homeport should be the first priority. Unfortunately the Webber Class are not geographically wide-spread, so we should look at mounting systems on existing MECs and WPBs to insure all potential targets have some protection until the entire fleet is armed.

I would say there are places where they might be mounted on Coast Guard stations ashore, to act as gate keepers for the ports against clandestine attacks, but coast defense is still an Army mission. Perhaps this is something we should be talking about too. If not Coast Guard manned defenses (which is probably the proper solution), then perhaps placement of unused SSMMs with their associated Navy crews on Coast Guard facilities or small detachments of army troops with their weapons to perform this function.