USRC/USCGC McCulloch Wreck located

n 1914, USRC Cutter McCulloch was ordered to Mare Island Navy Shipyard where the cutter’s boilers were replaced, the mainmast was removed and the bowsprit shortened. In 1915, McCulloch became a US Coast Guard Cutter when the US Revenue Cutter Service and US Life-Saving Service were combined to create the United States Coast Guard. (Credit: Gary Fabian Collection)

You may have heard the wreck of the Cutter McCulloch, a participant in the Battle of Manila Bay, has been found of Pt. Conception.

The best coverage I have found is on the NOAA website.

There does seem to be an error in that it refers to the guns on the McCulloch as four 6-pounder, 3-inch rapid firing guns. 6-pounders were 57mm weapons (sound familiar?) while 3-inch guns typically fired a projectile of 13 pounds. Those figures are very close to projectile weights of the modern 76mm Mk75 and 57mm Mk110. The confusion may have originated from the fact that while the McCulloch, as built, was armed with 6-pounders, before the Battle of Manila Bay, she was up-gunned.

There is an interesting footnote on the McCulloch’s Spanish American War service.

Dewey presented USRC McCulloch with four of the six 1-pounder revolving Hotchkiss guns taken from the Spanish flagship, Reina Cristina. Each of these Hotchkiss cannons had five, revolving 37mm barrels. These four guns are displayed in pairs to either side of the front of Hamilton Hall facing the parade ground at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

As an advocate of torpedoes on cutters, I liked seeing the McCulloch had a torpedo tube, see, there is precedence.

uscg-mcculloch-factsheet

My Unfunded Priority List

An earlier post reported a plea by Representative Duncan Hunter, Chair of the Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, for the Coast Guard to provide an unfunded priority list to include six icebreakers and unmanned Air System.

Thought perhaps I would list my own “unfunded priorities.” These are not in any particular order.

PLATFORM SHORTFALLS

Icebreakers: We have a documented requirement for three heavy and three medium icebreakers, certainly they should be on the list. Additionally they should be designed with the ability to be upgraded to wartime role. Specifically they should have provision for adding defensive systems similar to those on the LPD–a pair of SeaRAM and a pair of gun systems, either Mk46 mounts or Mk38 mod 2/3s. We might want the guns permanently installed on at least on the medium icebreakers for the law enforcement mission. Additionally they should have provision for supporting containerized mission modules like those developed for the LCS and lab/storage space identified that might be converted to magazine space to support armed helicopters.

110225-N-RC734-011 PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

110225-N-RC734-011
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

Unmanned Air Systems (UAS): We seem to be making progress on deploying UAS for the Bertholf class NSCs which will logically be extended to the Offshore Patrol Cutters. So far we see very little progress on land based UAS. This may be because use of the Navy’s BAMS system is anticipated. At any rate, we will need a land based UAS or access to the information from one to provide Maritime Domain Awareness. We also need to start looking at putting UAS on the Webber class. They should be capable of handling ScanEagle sized UAS.

File:USCGC Bluebell - 2015 Rose Festival Portland, OR.jpg

Photo: The Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell sits moored along the Willamette River waterfront in Portland, Ore., June 4, 2015. The Bluebell, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, is one of many ships participating in the 100th year of the Portland Rose Festival. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.)

Recapitalize the Inland Tender Fleet: This is long overdue. The program was supposed to begin in 2009, but so far, no tangible results. It seems to have been hanging fire for way too long.

Expand the Program of Record to the FMA-1 level: The Fleet Mix Study identified additional assets required to meet the Coast Guard’s statutory obligations identifying four asset levels above those planned in the program of record. Lets move at least to first increment.

Alternative Fleet Mix Asset Quantities

————–POR       FMA-1      FMA-2      FMA-3       FMA-4
NSC                8             9                 9                 9                  9
OPC              25           32               43                50               57
FRC              58           63               75                80               91
HC-130         22            32               35                44               44
HC-144A       36            37               38                40               65
H-60              42            80               86                99             106
H-65             102         140             159              188            223
UAS-LB           4            19                21                21              22
UAS-CB        42            15                19               19               19

At the very least, looks like we need to add some medium range search aircraft (C-27J or HC-144).

Increase Endurance of Webber Class Cutters: The Webber class could be more useful if the endurance were extended beyond five days (currently the same as the 87 cutters, which have only one-third the range). We needed to look into changes that would allow an endurance of ten days to two weeks. They already have the fuel for it.

MISSION EQUIPMENT SHORTFALLS

Seagull_torpedo_trial_1

Ship Stopper (Light Weight Homing Torpedo): Develop a system to forcibly stop even the largest merchant ships by disabling their propulsion, that can be mounted on our patrol boats. A torpedo seems the most likely solution. Without such a system, there is a huge hole in our Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security mission.

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Photo: SeaGriffin Launcher

Counter to Small High Speed Craft (Small Guided Weapon): Identify and fit weapons to WPB and larger vessels that are capable of reliably stopping or destroying small fast boats that may be used as fast inshore attack craft and suicide or remote-controlled unmanned explosive motor boats. These weapons must also limit the possibility of collateral damage. Small missiles like SeaGriffin or Hellfire appear likely solutions.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

Improved Gun–Penetration, Range, and Accuracy: The .50 cal. and 25mm guns we have on our WPBs and WPCs have serious limitations in their ability to reach their targets from outside the range of weapons terrorist adversaries might improvise for use against the cutters. They have limited ability to reach the vitals of medium to large merchant vessels, and their accuracy increases the possibility of collateral damage and decreases their probability of success. 30, 35, and 40 mm replacements for the 25 mm in our Mk38 mod2 mounts are readily available.

Laser Designator: Provide each station, WPB, and WPC with a hand-held laser designator to allow them to designate targets for our DOD partners.

CONTINGENCY PLANNING SHORTFALLS

Vessel Wartime Upgrades: Develop plans for a range of options to upgrade Coast Guard assets for an extended conflict against a near peer.

 

Coast Guard and CG Manned Vessels Lost in World War II

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Coast Guard manned destroyer escort USS Menges (DE-320) showing the effects of an acoustic homing torpedo hit on the stern.

It is entirely appropriate for Veteran’s Day weekend reading, but this post was prompted by a recent update of the list of “Top Ten Posts.” I found that the 2011 post “What Does It Take to Sink a Ship?” was not only the top post since I started writing, it is also the top post of 2016. That looked at Navy major surface combatant losses in WWII, but I realized I have never surveyed the Coast Guard’s WWII losses.

This began as another shameless attempt to get the Coast Guard to recognize that they need torpedoes to stop medium to large ships, but it grew into a more comprehensive look at CG losses in WII. I did find that six (or seven, Escanaba?) Coast Guard or CG manned vessels were hit by torpedoes and in every case the ship was either sunk (four or five?) or immobilized (two).

I found a couple of good sources. “The Coast Guard at War” is a series of monographs completed shortly after WWII (between 1045 and 1950) and most of the apparently 25 volumes are available in pdf format here, along with a lot of other WWII references. In particular I used The Coast Guard At War: Lost Cutters (Official History Series, Volume VIII, 1947). It lists the loss of 16 Coast Guard vessels and the loss of 12 Coast Guard manned Navy vessels, but two of these (one Navy and one CG) were actually after the war was over. My other source was “U. S. Coast Guard Ship Losses” by Jim Gill, on the US Coast Guard Light Ship Sailors Association International web site. This source identifies 40 losses beginning with the Tahoma in 1914 up to USCGC Mesquite (WLB-305), grounded in 1989. It included three losses not listed in the official history, all by torpedoes:

  • (FS-255), a small Army freighter, 560 tons, torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine while anchored, 11 May 1945, with the loss of four men.
  • USS Menges (DE-320), 1,590 tons, torpedoed while on convoy duty, 4 May, 1944, the ship survived severe damage to her stern, but there were 31 dead.
  • USS Etamin (AK-93), 7,176 tons, which was hit by a hit by an air launched torpedo and damaged badly enough that it was decommissioned and was used subsequently as an unpowered floating warehouse. One dead.

Coast Guard Vessels Lost:

The Coast Guard lost 15 vessels during the course of WWII. Of those, three are believed to be the result of enemy action. Of the remaining 12, eight were a result of adverse weather. 214 Coast Guardsmen were killed in these 15 incidents.

The three ships presumed loss to enemy action included the three largest Coast Guard vessels lost during the war:

CG 85006, 67 tons, was destroyed by an explosion, probably gasoline vapors, 27 Mar.’43, four dead.

CG 58012, 30 tons, was destroyed by fire, 2 May ’43, no fatalities.

CG 83421, 44 tons, was sunk in a collision, 30 June ’43, no fatalities.

USCGC Bodega (WYP-342), 588 tons, went aground attempting to assist another vessel, 20 Dec. ’43, no fatalities.

The eight vessels lost to foul weather were:

  • USCGC Natsek, 225 tons, Dec. ’42, 24 dead, 23 CG
  • USCGC EM Wilcox (WYP-333), 435 tons, 30 Sept. ’43, one dead
  • USCGC EM Dow (WYP-353), 435 tons, 14 Oct. ’43, no fatalities.
  • CG 83415 and CG 83477, both 44 tons, off the Normandy coast, 21 June, ’44, no fatalities.
  • USCGC Bedloe (WSC-128) and Jackson (WSC-142), both 232 tons, plus the Vineyard Sound Lightship 73, 693 tons, 14 Sep. ’44, in the “The Great Atlantic Hurricane,” 59 dead on the three ships.

ls73

LV 73 on the Vineyard Sound station where she served from 1924 through 1944.  On 14 September 1944 she was carried off station during a hurricane and sank with the loss of all hands.

It might be assumed that the non-combat casualties were not war related, but that might not be the case. The urgency of the missions, the diversion of more capable ships to escort duty, the influx of inexperienced personnel placed in responsible positions, and the use of vessels pressed into service for which they may have been ill-suited, were all a result of the war, and it led to crews being placed in more danger than would have been the case in peacetime.

Coast Guard Manned Navy Vessels Lost:

Of the eleven Coast Guard manned US Navy ships lost during WWII, seven were lost to enemy action, the others were:

  • LST 203, 2,366 tons, was stranded after an intentional beaching, 1 Oct. ’43, no fatalities.
  • LST-69, 2,366 tons, destroyed in the West Loch disaster, 21 May ’44, no fatalities.
  • USS Serpens (AK-97), 14,250 tons, destroyed as a result of an apparent internal explosion of its cargo, 29 Jan. ’45, 196 CG fatalities. (Largest single loss of CG personnel)
  • USS Sheepscot (AOG-24), 2,270 tons, driven ashore by adverse weather, 6 June ’45, no fatalities.

serpens_ak-97

USS Serpens (AK-97)  US Navy photo #NH 89186, from the collections of the US Naval Historical Center, courtesy William H Davis, 1997

sheepscot_aog-24

USS Sheepscot (AOG-24) underway, August 1944, US Navy photo

Those lost to enemy action were:

USCGCMuskeget(WAG-48)

Photo: USCGC Muskeget, seen here before conversion to a weather ship. http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/49/49048.htm

lst69_2

“LST discharges supplies. . .”; no date (November, 1943?); Photo No. 3237; photographer unknown. The Coast Guard-manned LST-69 disembarks equipment during the Tarawa invasion.

Leopold_DE-319

USS Leopold (DE-319) being launched. 

File:Lci-convoy.jpg

Normandy Invasion, June 1944 A convoy of Landing Craft Infantry (Large) sails across the English Channel toward the Normandy Invasion beaches on “D-Day”, 6 June 1944. Each of these landing craft is towing a barrage balloon for protection against low-flying German aircraft. Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Photo #: 26-G-2333

lci93_omaha_1_300

“SHE FELT THE NAZIS’ WRATH:” A U.S. Coast Guard infantry landing craft still flies its flag, though knocked out of the invasion, ripped and wounded on the beaches of France. Moving in for a landing, the LCI ran afoul of an underwater obstruction, which tore a gaping hole in her bow. Then as its cargo of troops piled ashore, Nazi shells battered her out of further action.”; no date; Photo No. 2395; photographer unknown.

Conclusion:

It may be surprising that it appears the Coast Guard lost two and half to three times as many men in Coast Guard manned Navy vessels, as in Coast Guard vessels.

According to the Coast Guard history web site,

Two hundred and fourteen thousand two hundred and thirty-nine persons served in the Coast Guard during World War II.  That number included 12,846 women.  The Coast Guard lost a total of 1,917 persons during the war with 574 losing their life in action, “died of wounds” received in action, or perishing as a “Prisoner of War.”

These incidents account over 40% of all lives lost and a majority of lives lost as a result of enemy action.

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. 

ACERM–Another Light, Precise, Weapon to Hit Small Moving Targets

81mm50caloverunderCWOElmerLHicksUSCG

81mm mortar used by the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era

It seems technology is making hitting small, fast, maneuverable targets with precision not only easier, but also cheaper.

We have talked before about the possibility of using small guided missiles (Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, or 70 mm guided rockets like APKWS) to allow the Coast Guard to engage small, fast, highly maneuverable threats, while minimizing the chances of collateral damage that accompany the use of unguided rounds from machineguns or auto cannon. Now there seems to be another alternative, and it even has a history of use by the Coast Guard, the 81 mm mortar.

Popular Mechanics reports the Marines will be getting a guided 81 mm round called ACERM (Advanced Capability Extended Range Mortar) that will incorporate both a GPS, and potentially more importantly for the Coast Guard, a semi-active laser (SAL) guidance system that should provide a one meter circular error probability (CEP, that is 50% of the rounds will fall within one meter of where the laser is pointed). Additionally the round will have a range of about 18 kM, comparable to that of a 76 or 57 mm gun. Cost per round is expected to be about $10,000. That is more than the China Lake Spike, but range is much greater and the warhead is substantially larger.

The firecontrol computer/programmer is a two pound “Miniature Mission Setter,” in reality a rugged Android tablet.

ACERM

In addition to the Popular Mechanics post, I also found this power point presentation (pdf) that provides more detail.

The 81 mm mortars the Coast Guard used in the Vietnam era are all gone now, but they were hardly high tech, expensive, or difficult to produce.

Maybe we at least need the laser designator anyway:

Like some of the other systems considered, in addition to the mortar and mortar rounds, to use these effectively, we would need a laser designator. Based on a recent contract award, laser designators cost about $60,000 each.

Laser designators might be a good idea anyway. If we need to call in assistance from the Navy, Marine Corp, or particularly the Air Force or Army (who tend to be clueless about marine targets), one of the issues will be identifying the target, and a laser designator would be a good way to do that. Not only to identify the target, but also to show where we want them hit.

Limitations:

While the potential range of the 81mm mortar round may be over 18,000 yards, for our purposes, its effective range is probably limited by the range of the laser designator which can be further limited by atmospheric conditions like fog, rain, snow, smoke or sand storms (like might be encountered in the Persian Gulf). The Power Point brief does suggest that a small unmanned air system (sUAS) equipped with a designator, might be used to complement (and extend) the system.

Because this is a high angle weapon, with the projectile designed to strike the target in a vertical dive, and because the warhead uses “High Density Pre-Formed Fragments” that would presumably spread out horizontally, it probably would not be particularly effective against medium to large ships. It seems to be intended primarily as an antipersonnel weapon. The danger radius for fragments might even be an issue in some circumstances.

It is still a crew served weapon with the crew highly visible and exposed.

Advantages:

Unlike some missile in a box systems, this looks like a gun. It might have some deterrent value in some circumstances.

Reportedly it makes the 50 cal. mounted piggy back more accurate.

If we were in a situation like Market Time, where patrol boats might incidentally support troops ashore, this might be a good option.

Is it the “best” alternative?:

We have an array of possible systems to address the possibility of a maritime terrorist threats. Hellfire, Brimstone, Griffin, APKWS, the China Lake Spike, this smart 81 mm mortar round. All would probably be effective against smaller targets. None are likely to be fully effective against larger targets.

For the larger threats, I have been suggesting WPCs, and probably WPBs, be equipped with light weight torpedoes or even a variant of the anti-torpedo torpedo, to use as a ship stopper that could home on the target’s propellers,

LRASM might also be an alternative. Coordinating a long range LRASM strike is more complex and probably more expensive than the torpedo alternative. On the other hand, it would bring along with it a new naval wartime capability that would support the Navy’s “Distributed Lethality Initiative.”

We really need a set of capabilities that provide a high probability against any element of a spectrum of threats, because if any one element is not addressed, that is likely the element terrorists will select.

More on the Navy’s New Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority

Waesche Carat 2012

This is a post I wrote for CIMSEC. under the title “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority”–A Coastie’s View.” It is an expanded version of an earlier post that appeared here. The rewrite really begins about half way down under the header, “What I Want to See.”

Recently the new Chief of Naval Operations issued a document “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority” that outlines how, hopefully, the US Navy can maintain a maritime superiority our foes will recognize and avoid confronting.

If you look for anything specifically regarding the Coast Guard here, you will not find it (other than the cutter in the formation on the cover). The Coast Guard is not mentioned even once, but it does talk about some things that are Coast Guard related. Perhaps the Coast Guard should not feel bad about this. It only mentions the Marine Corps once.

Three Forces that are Changing the Environment

  • The first global force is the traffic on the oceans, seas, and waterways, including the sea floor – the classic maritime system.
  • A second increasingly influential force is the rise of the global information system – the information that rides on the servers, undersea cables, satellites, and wireless networks that increasingly envelop and connect the globe.
  • The third interrelated force is the increasing rate of technological creation and adoption.

Obviously the Coast Guard facilitates and regulates marine traffic, and is tapped into the global information system. In wartime, these contacts will become essential since they will form the basis for naval control of shipping. He also talks about new trade routes opening in the Arctic. These will only be reliable if we have new icebreakers. He also talks about illegal trafficking.

“This maritime traffic also includes mass and uncontrolled migration and illicit shipment of material and people.”

A Document That Explicitly Recognizes the Competition

“For the first time in 25 years, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China both have advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers. Their goals are backed by a growing arsenal of high-end warfighting capabilities, many of which are focused specifically on our vulnerabilities and are increasingly designed from the ground up to leverage the maritime, technological and information systems. They continue to develop and field information-enabled weapons, both kinetic and non-kinetic, with increasing range, precision and destructive capacity. Both China and Russia are also engaging in coercion and competition below the traditional thresholds of high-end conflict, but nonetheless exploit the weakness of accepted norms in space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum. The Russian Navy is operating with a frequency and in areas not seen for almost two decades, and the Chinese PLA(N) is extending its reach around the world.

“…Coupled with a continued dedication to furthering its nuclear weapons and missile programs, North Korea’s provocative actions continue to threaten security in North Asia and beyond.

“…while the recent international agreement with Iran is intended to curb its nuclear ambitions, Tehran’s advanced missiles, proxy forces and other conventional capabilities continue to pose threats to which the Navy must remain prepared to respond.

“…international terrorist groups have proven their resilience and adaptability and now pose a long-term threat to stability and security around the world.”

Recognizing Budgetary Limitations

“There is also a fourth ‘force’ that shapes our security environment. Barring an unforeseen change, even as we face new challenges and an increasing pace, the Defense and Navy budgets likely will continue to be under pressure. We will not be able to “buy” our way out of the challenges that we face. The budget environment will force tough choices but must also inspire new thinking.”

Throughout there is an emphasis on understanding history and the strategic concepts of the past. There is also a recognition of the need to work with partners.

“EXPAND AND STRENGTHEN OUR NETWORK OF PARTNERS: Deepen operational relationships with other services, agencies, industry, allies and partners – who operate with the Navy to support our shared interests.”

Other than the Marine Corps, the US Navy has no closer partner than the US Coast Guard. And while only about one eighth the size of the US Navy, in terms of personnel, the US Coast Guard is larger than Britain’s Royal Navy or the French Navy. The partnership has been a long and successful one, but I would like to see the Navy be a better partner to the Coast Guard. This is how the Navy can help the Coast Guard help the Navy.

What I Want to See

If we have a “run out of money, now we have to think” situation, one thing we can do is to try to get the maximum return from the relatively small investment needed to make the Coast Guard an effective naval reserve force.

WPC Kathleen_Moore

We need explicit support from the Navy at every level, particularly within Congress and the Administration, for Coast Guard recapitalization. While the Navy’s fleet averages approximately 14 years old. The Coast Guard’s major cutters average over 40. The proposed new ships, are more capable than those they replace. They are better able to work cooperatively with the Navy. The nine unit 4,500 ton “National Security Cutter”program is nearing completion with funds for the ninth ship in the FY2016 budget. The 58 unit, 154 foot, 353 ton Webber Class  program is well underway with 32 completed, building, or funded. But the Coast Guard is about to start its largest acquisition in history, 25 LCS sized Offshore Patrol Cutters. Unfortunately, it appears that while the first ship will be funded in FY2018 the last will not be completed until at least 2035. This program really needs to be accelerated.

We need an explicit statement from the Navy that they expect the Coast Guard to defend ports against unconventional threats, so that they can keep more forces forward deployed. This is in fact the current reality. The Sea Frontiers are long gone. Navy vessels no longer patrol the US coast. The surface Navy is concentrated in only a handful of ports. No Navy surface combatants are homeported on the East Coast north of the Chesapeake Bay. If a vessel suspected of being under the control of terrorists approaches the US coast the nearest Navy surface vessel may be hundreds of miles away.

We need the Navy to supply the weapons the Coast Guard need to defend ports against unconventional attack using vessels of any size, with a probability approaching 100%. These should include small missile systems like Hellfire or Griffin to stop small, fast, highly maneuverable threats and we need a ship stopper, probably a light weight anti-ship torpedoes that target propellers to stop larger threats. We need these systems on not just the largest cutters, in fact they are needed more by the the smaller cutters that are far more likely to be in a position to make a difference. These include the Webber class and perhaps even the smaller WPBs.

We need to reactivate the Coast Guard’s ASW program and ensure that all the new large cutters (National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters) have an ASW capability, if not installed on all of the cutters, at least planned, prototyped, tested, and practiced on a few ships (particularly in the Pacific). The National Security Cutters and the Offshore Patrol Cutters are (or will be) capable of supporting MH-60R ASW helicopters. Adding a towed array likeCAPTAS-4 (the basis for the LCS ASW module) or CAPTAS-2 would give them a useful ASW capability that could be used to escort ARGs, fleet train, or high value cargo shipments. Towed arrays might even help catch semi-submersible drug runners in peacetime.

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The Coast Guard is the low end of America’s Naval high-low mix. It is a source of numbers when numbers are needed. The Coast Guard has more assets for low end functions like blockade than the Navy. The Navy has about 105 cruisers, destroyers, LCS, PCs, and is not expected to have more than 125 similar assets for the forseeable future. The Coast Guard has about 165 patrol cutters  including 75 patrol boats 87 feet long, about 50 patrol craft 110 to 154 feet in length (58 Webber class WPCs are planned), and about 40 ships 210 foot or larger that can be called on, just as they were during the Vietnam War, when the Coast Guard operated as many as 33 vessels off the coast in support of Operation MarketTime, in spite of the fact that the Navy had almost three times as many surface warships as they do now. The current program of record will provide 34 new generation cutters including nine 4500 ton National Security Cutters and 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters that should be at least 2500 tons.

The Coast Guard provides peacetime maritime security, but is currently under-armed even for this mission. A small investment could make it far more useful in wartime.

(Note there is another post on this looking at the “design” from a Navy point of view.)

The Navy’s New Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority–CNO

Download the pdf here.

Recently the new Chief of Naval Operations has issued a document , “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority” that outlines how, hopefully, the US Navy can maintain a maritime superiority our foes will recognize and avoid confronting.

If you are looking for anything specifically regarding the Coast Guard here, you will not find it (other than the cutter in the formation on the cover). The Coast Guard is not mentioned even once, but it does talk about some things that are Coast Guard related. Perhaps we should not feel bad about this. It only mentions the Marine Corps once.

He talks about three forces that are changing the environment: 

  • The first global force is the traffic on the oceans, seas, and waterways, including the sea floor – the classic maritime system.
  • A second increasingly influential force is the rise of the global information system – the information that rides on the servers, undersea cables, satellites, and wireless networks that increasingly envelop and connect the globe.
  • The third interrelated force is the increasing rate of technological creation and adoption.”

Obviously the Coast Guard facilitates and regulates marine traffic and is tapped into the global information system. In wartime, these contacts will become essential. He also talks about new trade routes opening in the Arctic, that will only be reliable if we have new icebreakers. He also talks about illegal trafficing.

“This maritime traffic also includes mass and uncontrolled migration and illicit shipment of material and people.”

For once, finally, a document explicitly recognizes the competition,

“For the first time in 25 years, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China both have advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers. Their goals are backed by a growing arsenal of high-end warfighting capabilities, many of which are focused specifically on our vulnerabilities and are increasingly designed from the ground up to leverage the maritime, technological and information systems. They continue to develop and field information-enabled weapons, both kinetic and non-kinetic, with increasing range, precision and destructive capacity. Both China and Russia are also engaging in coercion and competition below the traditional thresholds of high-end conflict, but nonetheless exploit the weakness of accepted norms in space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum. The Russian Navy is operating with a frequency and in areas not seen for almost two decades, and the Chinese PLA(N) is extending its reach around the world.

“…Coupled with a continued dedication to furthering its nuclear weapons and missile programs, North Korea’s provocative actions continue to threaten security in North Asia and beyond.

“…while the recent international agreement with Iran is intended to curb its nuclear ambitions, Tehran’s advanced missiles, proxy forces and other conventional capabilities continue to pose threats to which the Navy must remain prepared to respond.

“…international terrorist groups have proven their resilience and adaptability and now pose a long-term threat to stability and security around the world.”

He recognizes budgetary limitations.

“There is also a fourth ‘force’ that shapes our security environment. Barring an unforeseen change, even as we face new challenges and an increasing pace, the Defense and Navy budgets likely will continue to be under pressure. We will not be able to “buy” our way out of the challenges that we face. The budget environment will force tough choices but must also inspire new thinking.”

Throughout there is an emphasis on understanding history and the strategic concepts of the past. There is also a recognition of the need to work with partners.

“EXPAND AND STRENGTHEN OUR NETWORK OF PARTNERS: Deepen operational relationships with other services, agencies, industry, allies and partners – who operate with the Navy to support our shared interests.

Other than the Marine Corps, the US Navy has no closer partner than the USCG. The partnership has been a long and successful one, but I would like to see the Navy be a better partner to the Coast Guard.

What I want to see:

If we have “run out of money, now we have to think.” One thing we can do, is to try to get the maximum return from the relatively small investment needed to make the Coast Guard an effective naval reserve force.

  • We need explicit support from the Navy at every level, particularly within the Congress and Administration, for Coast Guard recapitalization.
  • We need an explicit statement from the Navy that they expect the Coast Guard to defend ports against unconventional threats, so that they can keep more forces forward deployed.
  • We need the Navy to supply the weapons we need to defend ports against unconventional attack with a probability approaching 100% ,including small missile systems like Hellfire or Griffin to stop small, fast, highly maneuverable threats and light weight anti-ship torpedoes that target propellers to stop larger threats, and we need those systems on at least all cutters of Webber class and larger.
  • We need to reactivate the Coast Guard’s ASW program and insure that all the new large cutters (NSC and OPC) have and ASW capability, if not installed on all of the cutters, at least planned, prototyped, tested, and practiced on a few ships (particularly in the Pacific).

(Note there is another post on this looking at the “design” from a Navy point of view.)