RFI: “Coast Guard seeks information on UAS capabilities” –CG-9

V-Bat from Martin UAV

The following information about a “request for information” appeared on the Acquisitions Directorate website. The FRI is six pages found here. Good to know the Coast Guard is still looking.

This is an extremely broad request. Group II and III extends from 21 to 1320 pounds (about 10 to 600 kilos). There is one particular revealing question (page 5, para. 13c) that may show more specifically what they are looking for, but it may not be limited to this.

“How many personnel will be required to support your system onboard a host cutter for a 90-day maritime deployment operating at 12 continuous flight hours per day?”

The list of “sensor capabilities available for Government use” is long and may include some surprises (page 2 and 3).

a. EO/IR target detection?
b. Surface search radar?
c. Sub-surface target detection?
d. High resolution bioluminescence detection?
e. Maritime Wide-Area Search (MWAS) radar?
f. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)?
g. Light and or Visual Detection and Ranging?
h. Chemical, Biological, and Radiological (CBR) sensors or other sensors to detect hazardous materials and/or toxic industrial chemicals?
i. Radio Frequency and Radio direction finding (covering at least 406 MHz EPIRB and marine band VHF-FM frequencies)?
i. An ability to relay audio communications to the host cutter?
j. Does your system utilize lasers?
i. If so, what is the classification of the laser (Class 1, 2, 3A/R, 3B, or 4)?
ii. Does the laser meet the performance requirements of Title 21 CFR §1040.10, Performance Standards for Light Emitting Products also known as the Federal Laser Product Performance Standard (FLPPS)?
iii. What is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accession number for the laser system?
iv. If your laser cannot fully comply with the FLPPS, have you sought a variance through the FDA?
k. A sensor to detect lasers pointed at the UAS?
l. A multi-spectral or hyper-spectral sensor?
m. An automated object alerting and detection capability?
n. Any other sensor that would be relevant and beneficial to the USCG’s ability to conduct its statutory missions?
o. What are the standards for the sensors listed above? Please list what they are based on (Example: Joint Interface Control Document (JICD), Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and Intelligence Community Directive (ICD)).
p. What are the data formats of each sensor listed above?

Coast Guard seeks information on UAS capabilities

The Coast Guard is conducting additional market research on Group 2 and Group 3 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capabilities, sensors and payloads through a request for information (RFI) released Jan. 19.

The Coast Guard continues to respond to new challenges and threats in the maritime domain, so it is critical to have a comprehensive understanding of capabilities that are potentially available through the UAS commercial marketplace. The goal of this market research is to learn about the most recent advancements pertaining to system and service commerciality, performance and sensor capabilities.

The RFI is open to all vendors. Vendors who did not respond to an August 2022 RFI seeking information on the ability of small businesses to meet specific Coast Guard UAS requirements may provide that information as part of their response to this RFI.

The RFI is available here. One question needs to be answered by 1 p.m. EST Feb. 3; the rest of the responses are due by 1 p.m. Feb. 21.

For more information: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program page

“The More ‘Eyes On The Water’, The Better” –Marine News

221207-N-NO146-1001 ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 7, 2022) An Aerovel Flexrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) takes off from U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) transiting the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 7. U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 launched the UAV during Digital Horizon, a three-week event focused on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, including 10 that are in the region for the first time. (U.S. Navy photo)

Marine News has an interesting story that discusses both PATFORSWA’s operations using the recently arrived Webber class WPCs and the recent Digital Horizon 2022 exercise. There is also a bit of a tie in between the two in that at least one WPC was operating as part of Task Force 59, the 5th Fleet element charged with operating unmanned systems. We have heard a bit about the exercise before, but the list of participants in the graphic below seems particularly revealing.

Graphic illustration depicting the unmanned systems that participated in exercise Digital Horizon.

“Task Force 59 Launches Aerial Drone from Coast Guard Ship in Middle East” –NAVCENT

221207-N-NO146-1001 ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 7, 2022) An Aerovel Flexrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) takes off from U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) transiting the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 7. U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 launched the UAV during Digital Horizon, a three-week event focused on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, including 10 that are in the region for the first time. (U.S. Navy photo)

Below is a December 07, 2022, news release by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs.

To me this is really exciting news. The Webber class has been doing some great work at surprising long distances, performing most of the functions of a medium endurance cutter. Their primary weakness as a patrol ship has been the lack of an organic search aircraft. I assume this UAS is operating from the area on the O-1 deck forward of the bridge that had been designated for vertical replenishment.

This from Aerovel, maker of the Flexrotor (follow the link for dimensions and performance),

Boasting a flight endurance of more than 30 hours and a 120-kilometer communications range, this all-weather aircraft has operated in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Flexrotor is excellent for expeditionary missions. Needing only a 20’ by 20’ area for launch and recovery, it takes off and lands vertically and easily transitions into horizontal wing-borne flight. The STUAS flies completely automatically after takeoff, with no pilot intervention needed. Flexrotor quickly assembles for flight and can be boxed and stowed in minutes by a single person.

The Flexrotor is, in most respects, in the same class as the Scan Eagles that are currently being deployed on National Security Cutters. It is not as fast as Scan Eagle but apparently comparable or greater endurance and requires no launch or recovery equipment. These systems may actually constitute an improvement, compared to searches by manned helicopters, because of their much greater endurance and sensors like the VIDAR used on Coast Guard Scan Eagle UAS..

Task Force 59 Launches Aerial Drone from Coast Guard Ship in Middle East

By By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs | December 07, 2022

MANAMA, Bahrain —

A U.S. Navy unmanned task force in the Middle East launched an aerial drone from a U.S. Coast Guard vessel operating the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 7.

U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145), marking a first for the task force with a U.S. Coast Guard vessel since the task force’s establishment in September 2021.

The launch also demonstrated close collaboration between the U.S. Coast Guard and Task Force 59 as U.S. 5th Fleet rapidly integrates unmanned systems and artificial intelligence to enhance monitoring of regional waters.

Task Force 59 is conducting Digital Horizon, a three-week event focused on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, including 10 that are in the region for the first time.

“Each day during Digital Horizon we have pushed to discover new capabilities, fast,” said Capt. Michael Brasseur, commodore of Task Force 59. “I am so proud of the team for their steadfast commitment to not only imagine new possibilities, but to deliver them.”

An Aerovel Flexrotor successfully took off and landed vertically aboard Emlen Tunnell, showcasing close collaboration between Navy, Coast Guard and industry partners to advance technology integration.

“We are so excited to be part of Digital Horizon and play a critical role by helping integrate new technologies into the fleet,” said Lt. Patrick Kelly, Emlen Tunnell’s commanding officer. “I am so proud of the crew for their dedication, commitment and professionalism, which made today’s success possible.”

The Flexrotor can support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions day and night using a daylight or infrared camera to provide a real-time video feed.

In addition to providing ISR capability, UAVs like the Flexrotor enable Task Force 59 to enhance a resilient communications network used by unmanned systems to relay video footage, pictures and other data to command centers ashore and at sea.

U.S. 5th Fleet established Task Force 59 more than 14 months ago. Since its launch, the task force has deployed a suite of new unmanned systems while integrating artificial intelligence at operational hubs in Jordan and Bahrain.

Emlen Tunnell is one of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters forward-deployed to Bahrain where U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered. The ship helps ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East.

Portugal to Build a New Type of Ship–UxS Carrier

The “plataforma naval multifuncional” (multifunctional naval platform). Portuguese Navy image.

It is not often an entirely new category of ship emerges, but this seems to be the case. Perhaps it was inevitable, but it looks like the Portuguese may be the first to make it happen–a specialized, built for purpose, unmanned systems mothership.

Wish the specs in the lower right above were readable. 

First heard about this ship from Cdr. Salamander. He has some interesting ideas about how such a ship could be used. It is part research ship, part disaster response vessel, and, significantly for the Coast Guard, part Offshore Patrol Vessel. There is more about the ship from Naval News. It is not particularly large, with a crew of about 90 and accommodations for another 100. The cost is reportedly about $100M US, much less than the cost of the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Judging by the size of the helicopter (reportedly an NH-90) on the model, it appears to be 100 to 110 meters (328-360 feet) in length, about the length of the OPC, maybe less. It must be pretty broad if that is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle on the deck. The Span of the Gray Eagle is 56 ft (17 m), but it just does not look like it is in scale. Maybe they have a European sourced UAS in mind. Beam looks to be about 20 to 22 meters based on my presumptions about the length, that is 66 to 72 feet. Those proportions are similar to those of the 6,615 ton Canadian Harry DeWolf class Arctic Offfshore Patrol Ship, 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in) long and a beam of 19 m (62 ft 4 in). By comparison, the beam of both the NSC and OPC is 16m or 54 feet.

The thing that makes this ship totally unique is the runway and ski-jump designed expressly for fixed wing unmanned air systems.

Artist rendering of MQ-9B STOL landing on a big-deck amphibious assault vessel. Photo: Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical.

What might make this very useful is the newly developed STOL version of the MQ-9B with shorter span, high lift, folding wings.

Not sure I like this particular design. It is not clear how many UAS and helicopters can be carrier or if there is hangar space. The island is unnecessarily thick and looks too far forward. No indication of speed or endurance. The speed in unlikely to exceed 20 knots, between 16 and 18 knots seems likely, but the concept is novel. Look forward to seeing the ship in final form.

Late Addition: 

After posting this on Facebook, I got some additional information. This is a Google translate from Portuguese. Thanks to Pedro Mateus.

MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM SHIP Lisbon, Portugal June 20, 2022 On June 20, 2022, the Portuguese Navy launched a tender limited by simplified prior qualification, via procedure no. of a Multipurpose Vessel/Platform (N-PM), with an execution period of up to 3 years (with delivery until December 2025), for a base price of 94.5 million Euros.

This Multipurpose Ship/Platform (N-PM) will have a total length, between perpendiculars, of 100 meters, a maximum beam (at flight deck level) of 20 meters and a maximum draft of 7.5 meters. It will follow STANAG 4154 (Ed 3) standards and will be able to maintain the operation of lowering and hoisting vessels in sea state 5 on the Douglas Scale. Its garrison will be composed of 1 commander, 7 officers, 8 sergeants and 29 soldiers, in a total of 45 elements. It has accommodation sized up to 28 officers, 30 sergeants and 32 enlisted men, for a total of 90 elements (in addition to the commander). It will be dimensioned for a range of 45 days at a cruising speed of 10 knots.

The N-PM shall comprise a set of aviation facilities including, among others, a flight deck (a ski-jump runway, a spot for helicopter operation, with lighting system, GPI, etc.), hangar for a helicopter (with support for hydraulic maintenance stations, overhead crane, technical lighting, etc.) and a hangar for unmanned aircraft. In terms of organic helicopter, it should support the Lynx MK95A and NH90 aircraft (either in “spot” or in hangar) and EH101 (“spot”). The flight deck must allow the operation of different types of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as “drones” (Ogassa OGS42, Tekever AR3, etc.), as well as all the support required for vertical refueling operations (VERTREP).

Within the scope of semi-rigid vessels, the N-PM will have 3 vessels: a vessel with
SOLAS (“Safety of Life at Sea”) certification for operation as “Fast
Rescue Boat”, with a power of not less than 250 hp; and two non-cooperative approach vessels, with capacity for 8 equipped soldiers, with a maximum speed of 35 knots or higher and a minimum autonomy of 60 nautical miles, for inspection missions , policing, combating drug trafficking, assault and support for a small embarked force.

Following the good practices and installation and operation recommendations of the “Alliance of European Research Fleets” (EUROFLEET), in terms of support systems for scientific research, the N-PM will be designed to be able to operate subsurface Unmanned Vehicles (VENTs) and remotely operated vehicles – “Remotely Operated Vehicle” (ROV). It will have a sensor pavilion (“drop keel”) for the installation of scientific and acoustic sensors; a large volume “Rosette” CTD system (for deep water sampling, with probe capable of operating up to 6,000 m); an MVP system, “Moving Vessel Profiler”, capable of operating up to 700 meters deep with the ship sailing at 8 knots; an “Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler” (ADCP); a “Global Acoustic Positioning System” (GAPS), capable of operating up to 4,000 meters deep. In addition to these organic systems, the N-PM will have the capacity and integration for several other non-organic systems (Piston Corer – Calypso, Vibrocorer, Box Corer, Multi Corer, etc.) as well as all operating and support winches.

Under an integrated architecture of command and control, platform management, and digital information processing and management systems, this N-PM will have a set of navigation systems (IBS, DDU, TACAN, Secure GPS, etc.), with navigation radar surveillance systems, combined warning radar (ARPA capability, “Automatic Radar Plotting Aid” and IMO certification; ECM and Anti-Jamming) and IFF/W-AIS identification systems, as well as underwater surveillance systems (bathythermograph; support for XBT/XSV probe used in the Navy (XBT4, XBT5, XBT7 and MK-8 XBT/XSV) or CTD type probes). In terms of external communications, it will have, among others, satellite communication systems SATCOM and MILSATCOM, GMDSS, submarine telephone, SART, EPIRB and ICCS.

In terms of armament, the N-PM will be equipped, at least, with 4 “softmounts” for a Browning M2 .50 heavy machine gun, with a firing range limiter and respective accessories, and a base, with ballistic protection for the Browning part and respective operator; and with 2 pieces of Hotchkiss salvo. The N-PM will be equipped with magazines and armories capable of storing various portable weapons, ammunition, pyrotechnic material and demolition material and respective detonators.

Technical drawing and 3D model via the Portuguese Navy Ships Directorate
Editing and composition by “Espada & Escudo”

“U.S. Blames Iran for Drone Attack on Tanker Near Oman” –USNI

Shahed 136 drones. Iranian military photo

US Naval Institute’s News Service reports,

U.S. Central Command and Israeli officials are blaming Iran for a Tuesday attack on an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman.

Tanker Pacific Zircon was 150 miles off the coast of Oman when what U.S. officials said was an unmanned aerial vehicle hit the ship at about 3:30 p.m. local time, according to the shipping company.

Interestingly this second attack was on a ship linked to Idan Ofer, brother of the Israeli billionaire, Eyal Ofer, linked to the tanker, Mercer Street, attacked in a similar manner in July 2021.

The latest attack did not result in any injuries, unlike the earlier attack that resulted in the death of two crewmembers. Both attacks occured South of Oman in the Northern Indian Ocean.

“Ukraine Unleashes Mass Kamikaze Drone Boat Attack On Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Headquarters” –The Drive

Russian frigate Admiral Makarov

The Drive reports, it appears Ukraine made a mass attack of unmanned air and surface craft on Russia’s primary naval base in the Black Sea, Sevastopol (Ukraine is not claiming responsibility). There seems to be confirmation from Russia that minor damage was done to a minesweeper, but other reports indicate a relatively new frigate, the Admiral Markarov, serving as flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, may also have been damaged. Video in the report shows a very close approach to a frigate of the same class, apparently by an unmanned surface craft before the video ends abruptly.

Russia is also claiming that the UK was involved in the planning of the attack.

While unlikely, how to defend against such  attacks probably should be in the Coast Guard’s skill set. Force protection and harbor defense are potential missions.

“USS Jackson Deployment Used Manned/Unmanned Teaming with Fire Scout, Seahawk” –Seapower

SOUTH CHINA SEA (May 19, 2022) An MH-60S Sea Hawk and MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle, assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, conduct concurrent flight operations as a manned-unmanned team (MUM-T) while embarked on the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 6). Jackson, part of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, is on a rotational deployment, operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Alexandra Green)

The Navy League’s on-line magazine, Seapower, reports,

The USS Jackson, based in San Diego, deployed on July 11, 2021, to the Western Pacific for 15 months in support of the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative (OMSI). Both the ship’s Blue and Gold crews each participated in two on-hull patrols during the deployment, which took the LCS to the South China Sea and Oceania. The Jackson, with a Coast Guard law-enforcement detachment embarked, operated with the armed forces of Brunei, France, Germany, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan, and made port calls to several island nations including Palau, Tahiti and Fiji. The ship returned to its homeport on Oct. 15, 2022.

We did employ the manned/unmanned teaming tactic and concept with our aviation detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 Detachment 6. We executed that approximately one dozen times and we saw over 100 hours of MQ-8C operations while deployed to the 7th Fleet area. While conducting those manned/unmanned teaming operations what we found was that having an unmanned aircraft that had many capable sensor payloads was really a force multiplier that we could use to develop our recognized air and maritime picture beyond the horizon while using the MH-60S to conduct positive identification of things that we detected with the MQ-8C.

Looks like USS Jackson was doing some useful work, but–

This was a 15 month deployment. 461 days by my calculations so, “over 100 hours of MQ-8C operations while deployed to the 7th Fleet area” does not really sound that impressive, not compared with the extended endurance we are told UAS can do (15 hours max for the MQ-8C). Does it mean they only launched 12 time in 15 months?
I think the Coast Guard can get about 100 hours flight out of a single H-65 in a typical 60 day patrol. We used to do two two hour flights a day with some regularity. I have not seen how much search time we are getting out of the Scan Eagles on the National Security Cutters, but it should be a lot more than that.
There was no indication that the Fire Scout was used for anything other than surface search,
While conducting those manned/unmanned teaming operations what we found was that having an unmanned aircraft that had many capable sensor payloads was really a force multiplier that we could use to develop our recognized air and maritime picture beyond the horizon while using the MH-60S to conduct positive identification of things that we detected with the MQ-8C.
Seapower also recently reported, “Navy to Consolidate Fire Scout UAVs on West Coast,” which indicated that of the three detachments currently operating MQ-8s, the LANTFLT detachment will be de-activated, while the one of two PACFLT Fire Scout detachments that still operates the “B” model will upgrade to the “C” model. The report went on to report, “Currently, there are no plans to expand Fire Scout operations to other helicopter sea combat (HSC) squadrons.”
That indicates to me, that the Navy is not all that enthusiastic about Fire Scout. Though they are certainly planning to continue to pursue unmanned systems. Presumably it has been a “learning experience,” but it does not look like Fire Scout, in its present form, will be a growing program.



Under NOAA auspices, the U. S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing has issued a five year strategy to address IUU fishing.

There are three identified objectives:

  • Promote Sustainable Fisheries Management and Governance
  • Enhance the Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance of Marine Fishing Operations
  • Ensure Only Legal, Sustainable, and Responsibly Harvested Seafood Enters

Five nations have been identified as priorities for development of self sufficiency in the prevention of IUU fishing: Ecuador, Panama, Senegal, Taiwan, and Vietnam. These “Priority States” were selected because their “…vessels: “actively engage in, knowingly profit from, or are complicit in IUU fishing” and, at the same time, the priority flag state “is willing, but lacks the capacity, to monitor or take effective enforcement action against its fleet.”

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 8, 2009) The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Legare (WMEC 912), left, patrols along side the Senegalese Navy vessel, Poponquine, during joint operations as part of the Africa Partnership Station. The Legare is deployed off the west and central coast of Africa for the six-day joint U.S/Senegalese operation, during which several Senegalese naval vessel boarding team members embarked aboard the Legare and participated in joint boarding and training exercises. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas M. Blue/ Released)

It is likely the Coast Guard will be spending time helping these states build capacity in their navies, coast guards, or maritime police.

The Missing Air Element  

One of the great strengths of the US Coast Guard is its fleet of fixed wing aircraft. They provide an essential detection capability. An air search capability allows the patrol vessels to do less searching and more boardings. Most smaller nations’ maritime law enforcement agencies have only limited, or in many cases, no comparable organic air search capability. Frequently, if they are to have an air search, they require cooperation of another service.

What I have seen of our capacity building efforts, seem to have been focused on surface operations and boarding team work.

Recognizing fishing vessels is not in the skill set of most air force crews. Frequently communications between surface vessels and air units are not compatible. In many air forces their aircraft virtually never go out over blue water.

The US Coast Guard could certainly help build capacity on the air side, as well as the surface side of the IUU fishing problem.

Land based Unmanned Air Systems now appear to be a way maritime law enforcement agencies might have an organic fixed wing air search capability at a lower cost. Unfortunately the US Coast Guard still is not particularly experienced in this area. The Japanese Coast Guard might be able to provide valuable advice to at least Taiwan and Vietnam in the use of UAS, as they gain experience with their newly acquired MQ-9Bs.

“Schiebel Teases New Camcopter S-300 UAV At Euronaval” –Naval News

Camcopter S-300 compared to the S-100 (image from company brochure).

Naval News reports Austrian company Schiebel is building a larger version of their widely used Camcopter S-100 to provide greater endurance and payload.

Regarding the technical specifications, according to Schiebel, the UAS is 4.8 meters long, 1.9 meter high and 0.9 meter wide. It can fly at a maximum speed of 120 knots (cruising speed 55 knots). Size apart, the true difference compared to the S-100 system is the payload capacity. Indeed the S-300 is able to carry up to 340 Kg (fuel including) and its maximum take-off weight can reach 660 Kg. This is basically three times more compared the S-100 can carry. With a 50 Kg payload, the S-300 can fly up to 24 hours (4 hours with 250 Kg).

The 660 kg max takeoff weight (TOW) compares to a 3,150 lb (1,430 kg) Max TOW for the MQ-8B Fire Scout and 6,000 lb (2,721 kg) for the larger MQ-8C Fire Scout.

The French Navy’s VSR 700 UAV mentioned in the last paragraph as a competitor for the S-300 was discussed here.


Coast Guard Los Angles Looks at MQ-8C

Picked this up off the Coast Guard Aviation Association’s Facebook page. A post by U. S. Coast Guard Los Angeles.

Today, members from Sector Enforcement travelled to Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, Calif. to discuss the possible use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to support Coast Guard missions. Pictured is the Navy’s MQ-8C Fire Scout, an unmanned helicopter used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

Is the Coast Guard looking to buy MQ-8C? It is not unlikely, the Navy wants to exercise these assets in an operational environment. Cutters doing drug interdiction are almost perfect for them. This is more likely looking at an opportunity for a Navy Detachment to deploy with a cutter than that the Coast Guard is looking to buy MQ-8C.

The MQ-8C should be able to search a much larger area than the Scan Eagles we are using now. The four National Security Cutters in Alameda have room for one of these in addition to an H-65 and Scan Eagle. There are also two WMEC 210 on the West Coast that might use these, but I would expect to see Scan Eagle on the WMECs before Fire Scout, but it is a possibility.

The First two OPCs are coming to San Pedro, hopefully, beginning next year. They also have ample aviation space, so perhaps they are a possibility as well.

This could be a win-win.