“GA-ASI Flies MQ-9 in the Canadian Arctic” –Seapower

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9A “Big Wing” UAS flew in the hostile climate of the Canadian Arctic. GA-ASI

The Navy League’s Seapower website reports,

 In a flight that originated from its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) near Grand Forks, North Dakota, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned MQ-9A “Big Wing” configured unmanned aircraft system north through Canadian airspace past the 78th parallel, the company said in a Sept. 10 release.

A traditional limitation of long-endurance UAS has been their inability to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, as many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north. At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

The 78th parallel lies more than 1200 nautical miles North of Kodiak. Getting any kind of air recon that far north, other than perhaps icebreaker based helicopters, has always been difficult.

Even our icebreakers have difficulty communicating. Satellite coverage at these high latitudes is spotty at best.

The ability to operate UAS in this environment could substantially improve our Polar Domain Awareness and serve as a communications relay for multiunit operations in the Arctic or Antarctic.

The high altitude capability of these aircraft also provides a far larger view than would be possible from a helicopters. The horizon distance from 45,000 feet is about 250 nautical miles.

“Navy Arming Surface Ships with Drone Repellent System” –USNI

USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) prior to departure for PATFORSWA

The US Naval Institute News Service has a short post about a system that will reportedly detect and if required jam the radio frequency signals that control small Unmanned Air Systems like the commercially available hobby drones and similar control systems that might be used on larger UAS.

We noted the presence of this or a similar system on the Webber class cutters being transferred to PATFORSWA in February.

While there are autopilots that allow drones to travel considerable distances to reach fixed geographic points, operating drones that lack autonomous targeting, against moving targets, typically require two radio frequencies, one the video link from the drone back to the operator and one to control the drone, from the operator back to the drone. Jamming either of the frequencies would probably disable the drone. Generally these frequencies are UHF or VHF, limited to line of sight.

Gunner’s Mate Kyle Mendenhall shows the Drone Restricted Access Using Known Electromagnetic Warfare (DRAKE) system aboard USS Kansas City (LCS-22) on Aug. 16, 2021. USNI News Photo

If you expand the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope above, you can see a similar system, with its two vertical antenna of different sizes, on the mast port side, slightly below and behind the port blue flashing light, and above and inboard of the small round fixed air search radar antenna.

“PteroDynamics Secures Contract with US Navy to Deliver Cargo VTOL Aircraft” –News Release

Below is a news release from PteroDynamics.

This looks like it might be an interesting aircraft type to operate from cutters. If it can carry cargo it can also carry sensors.

A small, unmanned version might provide patrol boats with search and identification capabilities currently available only to much larger cutters.

A larger version might replace helicopters while providing greater range and speed.

An even larger version, operating from shore or the largest cutters, might combine both search and rescue functions now provided by fixed wing search aircraft and rotary wing rescue aircraft. Combining those functions probably should be a long term Coast Guard objective. Not that the Coast Guard can fund manned aircraft development, but it seems likely the capability will be developed.

Apparently the Navy thinks the concept is promising enough to put at least some money into small prototypes.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.–PteroDynamics, an aircraft design and manufacturing company that develops innovative vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, is today announcing it has secured a contract with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) to deliver 3 VTOL prototypes for the Blue Water Maritime Logistics UAS (BWUAS) program.

“Our design is well suited for operations on ships where windy conditions and tight spaces challenge other VTOL aircraft during takeoffs and landings.”

In 2018, Military Sealift Command and Fleet Forces Command identified a need for the United States Navy to develop a capability to autonomously deliver cargo with an unmanned aerial system (UAS) to and from ships at sea. Their analysis found that 90% of critical repair cargo delivered at sea by helicopters and V-22 aircraft weighed less than 50 pounds. A VTOL UAS can fill this critical need and free the manned aircraft to perform other higher priority missions.

“We are honored to be selected for this important project,” said Matthew Graczyk, PteroDynamics’ CEO. “This contract is the start of an important partnership, and we look forward to delivering the prototypes to NAWCAD.”

“This is an exciting milestone for our distinctive VTOL aircraft,” added Val Petrov, PhD, PteroDynamics’ founder and CTO. “Our design is well suited for operations on ships where windy conditions and tight spaces challenge other VTOL aircraft during takeoffs and landings.”

“Using unmanned, autonomous aircraft for delivery of these critical payloads is an important capability for the Navy to have,” said Blue Water’s project lead, Bill Macchione. “The innovative design of PteroDynamics offers significant potential for both military and civilian missions.”

About PteroDynamics

PteroDynamics is an aircraft design and manufacturing company that has developed a novel VTOL aircraft design that folds its wings during flight to transition between rotorcraft and fixed-wing configurations. Protected by three issued and five pending U.S. and international patents, Transwing® aircraft have improved controllability in takeoff and landing and typically require 1/3 of the ground footprint as compared to other aircraft with the same wingspan. Transwing®’s clean aerodynamic shape also allows it to fly faster and further than competitive designs. PteroDynamics is venture-backed by Kairos Ventures.

About NAWCAD

NAWCAD conducts research, development, test, evaluation, and sustainment for all United States Navy and United States Marine Corps aircraft and aircraft systems. Its diverse workforce of more than 10,000 military, civilian, and contractor engineers, scientists, testers, and other professionals support an evolving battlespace through research, development, test, and evaluation of both fielded and not-yet fielded naval and marine corps platforms and technology. Headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland, the warfare center collaborates across its sites in St. Inigoes, Maryland; Lakehurst, New Jersey; and Orlando, Florida to ensure America’s warfighter always goes into conflict with significant advantage.

Contacts

Kayla Jones
Media@PteroDynamics.com

 

“New Coast Guard Team to Flesh Out Unmanned Systems Requirements” –National Defense

 

MQ-9B Seaguardian during the maritime capabilities demonstration flight over Southern California waters in September 2020. GA-ASI picture.

National Defense reports that during a round table following the Commandant’s State of the Coast Guard address, he stated that the Coast Guard would be standing up an unmanned systems requirements office in headquarters. Unmanned surface and sub-surface systems will be considered in addition to air systems.

“We learned that the future of our unmanned systems strategy will most likely rely on more diverse systems and effective integration of machine learning to unlock actionable data for Coast Guard operators,” he said. “These are valuable lessons as we stand up an unmanned systems element within our Coast Guard requirements shop to consider how unmanned technology can augment our future fleet…It’s really a UxS office,” he said of the new group that will be set up to look at requirements.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

“Coast Guard RDC evaluates Beyond Visual Line of Sight technology for UAS” –CG-9

V-Bat from Martin UAV

The Acquisitions Directorate has a post, duplicated below, reporting on evaluation of a “Detect and Avoid” (DAA) system mounted on a small unmanned air system (sUAS). To me, the most significant part of the report is at the end,

“What’s on the horizon? Future evaluations will be focused on two capabilities:

  • “Investigating DAA technologies incorporated onboard a long endurance UAS capable of operating for 6.5 hours. This effort will support future UAS operations with Coast Guard vessels not equipped with a flight deck. (emphasis applied–Chuck)
  • “Evaluating vertical takeoff and landing UAS equipped with DAA technologies for operating onboard cutters with a flight deck.”

Operating UAS from non-flight deck equipped cutters is good news. (WPCs, WPBs, and maybe buoy tenders? Apparently they are operating from a 45 foot Response Boat-Medium.) The specificity of the “6.5 hours” operating capability must mean they are looking at a particular system.

Possibly related:


Aviation Branch personnel Evan Gross and Taylor Kall from the Coast Guard Research and Development Center prepare an AeroVironment Puma unmanned aircraft system equipped with the Passive Acoustic Non Cooperative Aircraft Collision Avoidance System for launch at Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts. U.S. Coast Guard photo.


The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) is evaluating Detect and Avoid (DAA) technologies to enable unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) without relying on Coast Guard cutter systems for clearing airspace.

Current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules prohibit UAS in national airspace under visual flight rules because UAS cannot detect and avoid other aircraft. DAA technologies may provide one solution to meet national airspace requirements, allowing the Coast Guard to expand its use of UAS to maintain better awareness of activities in the maritime domain.

“The ultimate goal of this project is to provide a pathway for UAS to operate BVLOS for both flight deck-equipped cutters and smaller vessels without a flight deck, providing a tool to increase mission effectiveness for Coast Guard surface operations,” said Steve Dunn, a researcher with the RDC Aviation Branch who is leading this effort.

In addition to supporting operation of UAS to cover greater distances at sea and patrol operational areas from land-based stations, DAA/BVLOS technology could increase Coast Guard efficiency by eliminating the need for a dedicated air direction controller to keep UAS clear of other aircraft.

Acoustic signature system

The RDC evaluated a DAA acoustic signature system called Passive Acoustic Non Cooperative Aircraft Collision Avoidance System (PANCAS) in August 2020 at Air Station Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The objective was to capture audible range data on how far the UAS could detect other aircraft to support future commands for UAS operators to avoid other airborne targets.

The PANCAS technology uses sound rather than radar and computer vision to detect things in its airspace. It has the potential to be used by UAS operators located on cutters or at land-based units, covering the full range of UAS operations.

PANCAS looks for an acoustic signature to identify aircraft in its vicinity and alert the UAS operator, who can then take evasive action to avoid the other aircraft. This equipment is also an example of a passive technology, meaning it is constantly listening for an acoustic signature and has 360 degree listening range. This technology may prove to be an alternative to active transmitters, which may not have 360 field of view and possibly require a lot of power from the UAS’s limited power supply.

The PANCAS evaluation was very successful; however, the technology is not at the stage where it can be submitted to the FAA for approvals. Additional engineering will be done to integrate waterproof microphones into the UAS wing, enabling the system to land in the water.

An AeroVironment prototype long-range directional antenna (left) was evaluated for its ability to extend the range of UAS operations using ground control stations at Air Station Cape Cod and onboard a Station Cape Cod Canal response boat (right). U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Long-range directional antenna

The RDC utilized a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement in November 2020 to evaluate a long-range directional antenna developed to extend the operational range of an AeroVironment Puma UAS. With the antenna, the RDC was able to successfully operate the Puma out to a range of 31 nautical miles. For this evaluation, the RDC team established two ground control stations — one land-based unit at Air Station Cape Cod and one onboard a response boat from Coast Guard Station Cape Cod Canal.

The evaluation was successful and proved the antenna’s viability for ground-based operations; data gathered will help support future BVLOS operations using DAA technologies. The demonstration also validated the need for a 360-degree directional antenna for BVLOS operations by the Coast Guard boating community. The RDC team is investigating further partnerships involving directional antennas to provide that capability.

The ability to operate smaller UAS such as a Puma farther away from Coast Guard vessels may unlock the full potential of UAS, providing a force multiplier for non-flight deck equipped cutters. Extending the range and flight time of smaller UAS are key factors for operating BVLOS.

What’s on the horizon?

Future evaluations will be focused on two capabilities:

  • Investigating DAA technologies incorporated onboard a long endurance UAS capable of operating for 6.5 hours. This effort will support future UAS operations with Coast Guard vessels not equipped with a flight deck.
  • Evaluating vertical takeoff and landing UAS equipped with DAA technologies for operating onboard cutters with a flight deck.

The goal of both efforts is to obtain an FAA Certificate of Authorization to use DAA technologies for operating BVLOS. The RDC plans to continue evaluations through early 2023; however, schedules may be impacted by COVID-related travel restrictions.

Puma UAS equipped with PANCAS flying with an Air Station Cape Cod HC-144. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

For more information: Research, Development, Test and Evaluation program page and Research and Development Center page.

“New Drone Surveillance System to be Deployed on Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Trials Funded by DRDC” –Kongsberg Geospatial

Image credit: Kongsberg Geospatial

Below is a news release from .Kongsberg Geospatial. It talks about a demonstration of their sensor data management system, called MIDAS, to be conducted with the Canadian Coast Guard, in conjunction with the Martin UAV V-BAT fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).

What really got my attention is that their illustration, above, appears to indicate that they expect to operate the V-BAT from Hero Class Cutters. These cutters are closely related to the USCG Webber class, but are smaller, 14 feet shorter and over three feet narrower. If they do succeed in operating it off the Hero Class, then we should also be able to operate it off the Webber class cutters.

We have talked about V-BAT before, and in fact, it was operated for a short evaluation from USCGC Harriet Lane. You can read about V-BAT here and here.

Sounds like a very interesting demonstration. Perhaps CG R&D could send an observer.


New Drone Surveillance System to be Deployed on Canadian Coast Guard Vessels in Trials Funded by DRDC

Ottawa, CA: Kongsberg Geospatial announced today that it has been selected by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) to conduct trials of a new long-endurance UAV surveillance system for the Canadian Coast Guard. The Martin UAV V-BAT aircraft was selected to provide the unique ability to combine take off and landing from the small confines aboard ship with the long endurance of a fixed-wing aircraft while carrying multiple sensors.

Combining a unique Vertical Take-off aircraft and new sensor data PED solution allows for rapid collection and analysis of sensor data

The aircraft will communicate with the Kongsberg Geospatial sensor data management system, called MIDAS, which allows a range of sensor data, including full-motion video from unmanned systems to be processed and exploited in near real-time by analysts on board Canadian Coast Guard ships. MIDAS provides the capability to compare historical and live data from the mission area, and to examine sensor data with a variety of tools, including motion and object detection, in near-real time. This near real-time analytical capability can greatly enhance the effectiveness of UAVs for a variety of mission types.

The V-BAT Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) provided by Martin UAV is a fixed-wing vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft specifically designed to operate from very small spaces on ships, land, and nearly any environment. The V-BAT is a long-endurance aircraft capable of carrying multiple sensors, including land and maritime wide area surveillance.

Kongsberg Geospatial’s MIDAS is derived from technologies created for the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance project which required the storage and retrieval of vast amounts of intelligence data for Intelligence Analysts. The system directly addresses the problem that the vast majority of UAVs have no standards-compliant capability to process, exploit, and distribute (PED) their sensor data where it is being used. MIDAS provides a fully standards-compliant system that allows intelligence analysts to view, process, and analyze sensor data in near real-time, from where the drone is being operated. MIDAS has packaged these capabilities into a tactical and portable form factor to enables those surveillance capabilities to be deployed as a portable system on board a ship, or in a temporary command post.

CINTIQS Military Technology Consulting will be providing consulting services for the planning and conduct of the flight trials and sensor employment to validate systems performance.

The combination of the Martin UAV V-BAT and the Kongsberg MIDAS sensor data management system will allow Coast Guard vessels to significantly expand their surveillance range for search and rescue missions, and for the surveillance of the movement of icebergs, without requiring the use of manned aircraft.

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“UAVs are a useful tool, but they only truly effective if they can collect sensor data that results in actionable intelligence”, said Ranald McGillis, President of Kongsberg Geospatial. “Our MIDAS system allows users to fully exploit raw sensor data, and derive useful intelligence at the tactical edge where the UAV is being used. In a search and rescue context, that could mean using infrared sensors, or near real-time motion detection to locate a subject when visibility or weather conditions are poor.”

About Kongsberg Geospatial: Based in Ottawa, Canada, Kongsberg Geospatial creates precision real-time software for mapping, geospatial visualization, and situational awareness. The Company’s products are primarily deployed in solutions for air-traffic control, Command and Control, and air defense. Over nearly three decades of providing dependable performance under extreme conditions, Kongsberg Geospatial has become the leading geospatial technology provider for mission-critical applications where lives are on the line. Kongsberg Geospatial is a subsidiary of Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace.

Media contact: 1-800-267-2626 or reach us by email at info@kongsberggeospatial.com

About Martin UAV: Based in Plano, TX, the mission of Martin UAV is to build the world’s most advanced unmanned systems. Our technology team specializes in building tactical systems from the ground up, addressing the vast capability gaps left by legacy technologies and current government programs of record around the world. With decades of research and development, our platforms offer cutting edge applications and engineering feats unmatched in the government or commercial sectors of today.

About CINTIQS: Based in Ottawa, Canada, CINTIQS is a veteran-owned and operated MilTech (Military Technology) business focused on helping Canadian technology companies solve the problems that matter most to those in uniform. CINTIQS represents the highest concentration of tactical, operational, and strategic-level military intelligence expertise in Canada. In combination with their technical and industry/business depth, the company provides the expertise you need to succeed in the ultra-competitive global defence market.

About the Canadian Coast Guard: Headquartered in Ottawa, the Canadian Coast Guard is the coast guard of Canada. Founded in 1962, the coast guard is tasked with marine search and rescue, communication, navigation and transportation issues in Canadian waters, such as navigation aids and icebreaking, marine pollution response and providing support for other Canadian government initiatives. The coast guard operates 119 vessels of varying sizes and 22 helicopters, along with a variety of smaller craft.

About DRDC: Based in Ottawa, Canada, Defence Research and Development Canada is the Department of National Defence’s and Canadian Armed Forces’ science and technology organization. DRDC develops and delivers new technical solutions and advice for not only DND/CAF, but also other federal departments, and the safety and security communities.

Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

(As we get into this, you may want to click on the photo to get an enlarged view.)

This Spring, the first two Webber class patrol craft are expected to go to Bahrain to start replacing the six 110 foot WPBs of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA).  Two more will join them in the Fall and the last two in 2022. Back in 2018, I speculated on what might be done to modify them for duty in this more dangerous area. Apparently the Coast Guard leadership has had a few ideas of their own.

We have some very shape observers among the readers of this blog.

First Andy provided the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) above and pointed out the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD, the gray device mounted near rail on the O-1 deck just this side of the port forward corner of the bridge) and the four round sensors a short way up the mast two on each side. I note these systems were not on the ship when it was handed over by Bollinger (photo below).

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, as delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Then Secundius identified the four round sensors on the mast as Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band Radar.

From the Company web site: “RPS-42 is an S-Band tactical hemispheric air surveillance radar system. It is a member of the non-rotating, solid-state, digital radar family Multi-mission Hemisphere Radar (MHR), developed by RADA Electronic Industries Ltd.
“The RPS-42 is a pulse Doppler, software-defined radar platform, that can detect, classify and track all types of aerial vehicles – including fighters, helicopters, UAVs, transport aircraft, etc. at tactical ranges. A single radar platform provides 90º azimuth coverage. Hemispheric coverage is achieved when four radars are employed as a system. Mobile or stationary, the system can be integrated with any C⁴I system and other radars and sensors. The software is able for On-the-Move (OTM) Operation. The radar can operate either as a stand-alone or as part of a large-scale surveillance system.
“The Antenna is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) based on Galliumnitrid (GaN) Amplifiers. Its diameter is 50.4 cm , the max width is 16.5 cm. (19.8″ x 6.5″ –Chuck)
“The achievable range for detection of the smallest drones (known as Nano UAV) is 3.5 km”

These radars use Galliumnitrid (GaN), the new technology in radar, that allows the AN/SPY-6 to significantly outperform the earlier AN/SPY-1 found on most Aegis equipped warships. (Reportedly a 3000% improvement)

You can get an appreciation of what this is about from this Popular Mechanics article. This Is the ATV-Mounted Jammer That Took Down an Iranian Drone.

There is more here: Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System [LMADIS] (globalsecurity.org)

I’m only guessing, but I would think the FRC would also have the same or equivalent complementary equipment as the LMADIS, e.g. small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer (Photo below, I may be seeing the jammer–pictured below–located above and behind the port side RPS-42 radar arrays, visible between the radar arrays and the tripod legs). The cutters of this class are already normally equipped with electro-optic devices, both on the mast and on the Mk38 gun mount, which can provide a kinetic counter to UAVs.

Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer. From the company web site, “SNC’s Modi II is the most modern & highly-capable dismounted EMC system in the DOD inventory.”

This was probably what the Commandant was talking about, when he said that Coast Guard PATFORSWA had a counter UAS role in a recent interview.

I am thinking, this radar might also be used on some of our other cutters as well, perhaps the 210s and the six 270s to be FRAMed, to provide them better control of their helicopters on approach in bad weather. The 210s have no air search radar and the 270s will almost certainly lose the Mk92 fire control system which provides their only air search radar currently. Reportedly the radar has a range of up to 30km and an instrumented range of 50km at altitudes from 30ft to 30,000 feet. Apparently the Marines are also using it to direct fire for their short range air defense systems. which includes a 30mm gun and Stinger missiles.

Thanks to Andy and Secundius for kicking this off.

“SEA CONTROL 219 – USCG COMMANDANT ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ” –CIMSEC

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

(I meant to cover this earlier, but perhaps still worth a listen)

CIMSEC’s Podcast “SEA Control,” had an interview with the Commandant, Dec. 27, 2020. You can find it here.

At first I thought I had heard it all before, but toward the end, there were some surprises.

He talked about  Arctic, Antarctic, and IUU. He talked about the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the IUU Strategic Outlook.

Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing got a lot of attention. He related that it was gaining visibility and had become a national security issue since overfishing has created food security issues for many countries. He pointed to Coast Guard Cooperation with Ecuador in monitoring a fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands. Internationally he sees a coordination role for the USCG.

Relative to the Arctic he mentioned the possibility of basing icebreakers in the Atlantic and the need for better communications.

He talked about the Tri-Service Strategy and the Coast Guards roles in it, particularly in less than lethal competition.

More novel topics started about minute 38 beginning with Unmanned systems. He talked about the recent CG experiments with unmanned systems and went on to note that the CG will also regulated Unmanned commercial vessel systems.

About minute 41 he talked about the Coast Guard’s role in countering UAS in the Arabian Gulf. He added that we have a lead role in DHS in counter UAS. “We are in the thick of that”

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

He said the service was looking at MQ-9 maritime “Guardian” (minute 45)

When ask about reintroducing an ASW capability he said that while the Coast Guard was looking at it, the service would have to be cautious about biting off too much. (My suggestion of how the CG could have an ASW mission with minimal impact on its peacetime structure.)

He talked about balancing local and distant missions and concluded that the CG could do both (47), and that the Coast Guard was becoming truly globally deployable (48).

He noted that the first two FRCs for PATFORSWA would transit to Bahrain in Spring, followed by two more in the Fall, and two more in 2022. (49)

He noted technology is making SAR more efficient. “Hopefully we will put ourselves out of the Search and Rescue business.” 50

He talked about the benefits of “white hull diplomacy.” (52)

Asked about our funding for new missions he said it was sometime necessary to demonstrate the value of the mission first, then seek funding. (55)

He also talked about raising the bar on maintenance.

Sea Fighter Analysis, U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, 2007

“Sea Fighter” in Coast Guard colors

Thought perhaps this study might be of interest, and did not want to loose the link to the study. Some of the conclusions seem to bear on any discussion of the important characteristics of Coast Guard cutters, particularly as our Maritime Domain Awareness improves.

Characteristics such as speed, crew size, deployable surface and air assets, and requirements for a reconfigurable mission bay would influence the design of any possible future Cutter X. In terms of deployable air assets, it is likely a helicopter/UAS combination would be preferable to the two helicopters considered here, and would make it easier to provide hangar space.

Any requirement for extremely high speed requires careful consideration of the attendant consequences, as we have seen in the LCS program, but we have known how to reliably get speeds up to 33 knots for decades.

I have provided the Executive Summary below.

(Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.)


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction/Objective

The U.S. Coast Guard (CG) Research and Development Center (R&DC) evaluated the U.S. Navy’s Sea Fighter vessel for potential applicability to CG missions. When compared to other CG cutters, Sea Fighter has four unique capabilities/characteristics that could significantly impact CG mission effectiveness:

  • High-speed (50 kts)
  • Multiple deployable surface and air assets (three 11m Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) (Cutter Boats Over-The-Horizon (CB-OTH)) or five 7m RHIBs (Short Range Prosecutors (SRP)), two HH-60s or two HH-65s, and multiple Vertical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (VUAVs))
  • Small crew size (26 persons)
  • Reconfigurable Mission bay (accommodates 12 mission modules)

Methodology

This project evaluated Sea Fighter’s unique capabilities through a combination of engagement modeling and simulation, human systems integration modeling, and Sea Fighter crew and shiprider insights (following multiple R&DC operational test and evaluation exercises).

Results

High-speed and multiple deployable assets were evaluated using engagement modeling. Scenarios were developed to simulate fishing-like vessels (lower speed with higher density) and drug smuggling-like vessels (higher speed with lower density). The results of the analysis showed that by themselves high-speed and multiple deployable assets made little improvement in mission effectiveness. However, as Sea Fighter’s sensor detection range and/or its off-board detection capability (a vital contributor to maritime domain awareness (MDA)) improved, highspeed and multiple deployable assets did lead to significant improvements in mission effectiveness. In the simulated scenarios, improving components of MDA (off-board detection capability) was the critical performance driver, followed closely by increasing intercept speed (from 30 to 50 kts) and increasing the number of deployable assets from two to four (particularly increasing the number of deployable helicopters). These improvements result in an almost 30 percent increase in the number of high-speed targets that can be boarded.

Crew size, required functions, and fatigue associated with a typical CG patrol were evaluated through human system integration (HSI) modeling. With Sea Fighter’s highly automated bridge and engine room, a 26-person crew can sustain many of the required functions. For a typical 14-day patrol, Sea Fighter’s crew could sustain normal Condition-3 watches, multiple boardings (some simultaneously), and multiple VUAV launches. However, HSI modeling showed that Sea Fighter’s crew could not sustain regularly scheduled helicopter flight operations.

To account for these deficiencies, the crew was optimized by adding two boatswain mates and a six-person detachment—Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), Maritime Safety and Security Team (MSST), or Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT). This 28+6 optimal crew was able to sustain all required functions. In a typical 14-day patrol scenario, the 28+6 optimal crew averaged three boardings, two helicopter sorties, and three VUAV sorties each day without exceeding acceptable fatigue levels.

Finally, crew and shipriders provided firsthand observations and insights relative to Sea Fighter’s unique capabilities. Some key insights are:

  • High-speed capability is a distinct advantage in a vessel accomplishing any law enforcement mission and is especially effective at intercepting fast, evasive, and uncooperative targets.
  • Sea Fighter’s ride quality at low speed (less than 15 kts) is very poor and can adversely affect operations or activities; however, ride quality significantly improves at higher speeds (20+kts). The trade off is largely due to hull design consideration made during Sea Fighter’s planning phase.
  • RHIB launch and recovery is limited to 5 kts due to the poorly designed stern ramp and vessel movements at low (less than 15 kts) speeds.
  • A crew of 26 is too small for typical CG operations.
  • Overall, ship layout and configuration are excellent. Bridge layout affords excellent visibility, internal communications, and improved situational awareness with all underway watchstanders located on the bridge. Flight deck lighting, configuration, and manning are exceptional from both a crew and pilot perspective.
  • Sea Fighter’s mission bay can provide remarkable mission flexibility, especially for deployable teams such as MSRTs or MSSTs. However, spaces for 12 mission modules seem a bit excessive for CG needs. In addition, the design of the X-Y crane prohibits moving payloads (including extra 11m or 7m RHIBs) while underway.

Conclusion

A 50-kt Sea Fighter-like vessel with four deployable assets (two 11m OTH RHIBs and two HH60 helicopters) can provide significant performance improvement compared to a traditional 30-kt CG vessel (CG High-Endurance Cutter (WHEC) or CG Patrol Boat (WPB)).

A highly automated Sea Fighter-like vessel, with the crew size of a patrol boat, provides more mission capability than a WHEC. The ModCAT hullform and large mission bay provide excellent flexibility for emerging CG missions and demands. Sea Fighter’s speed and multiple deployable asset capability offer outstanding performance improvement potential for the CG; however, a critical enabler is improving detection capabilities – an element of maritime domain awareness. As MDA improves, a 50-kt patrol vessel capable of deploying four assets could provide a tremendous improvement over current and future 30-kt vessels.

Recommendations

The CG needs to continue to evaluate non-standard hull forms such as ModCAT-type vessels for both speed and modularity purposes. High-speed vessels normally have endurance problems based on their fuel consumption rates. This has been one of the perceived shortcomings of this hullform type. However, the ModCAT hullform (i.e. Sea Fighter) provides very good fuel economy and, given the typical patrol profile (12 kt patrol speed, 20 kt transit speed, and 50 kt intercept speed), the vessel is capable of remaining within the patrol area for an entire patrol period. Opportunities exist for the CG to further evaluate other Navy/DOD high-speed vessels (HSV) such as the M88 Stiletto for MSRT type missions and the HSV platforms, HSV Swift and HSV Joint Venture, for extended duration missions.

Additionally, the CG should look at ways to optimize the number and type of deployable and off-board assets through a more detailed M&S analysis. A 50 kt Sea Fighter-like cutter with four deployable assets (e.g., two 11 m OTH RHIBs and two HH-60 helicopters) can provide significant mission performance improvement compared to a standard 30 kt cutter. To maximize the benefit from embarking four deployable assets (two 11 m OTH RHIBs and two HH-60s), a revised approach to boardings would need to be established. Currently, boardings are to be conducted within two hours from the WHEC (at the WHEC’s maximum speed). Under the MSRT CONOPs, the boarding teams would need to be trained similar to MSRTs which are able to defend themselves while conducting a boarding at greater distances from the patrol vessel.

The CG needs to continue to incorporate more automated systems on-board cutters, but have contingency plans (both personnel and equipment) in place for changes in operational requirements or causalities. In order to derive optimal mission effectiveness, the patrol cutter must be able to safely navigate and operate deployable assets in varying sea states and at a reasonable speed. Sea Fighter’s automated systems allow for these evolutions to be conducted with fewer crew members and with an acceptable margin for safety.

“GPS unreliability” –Maritime Reporter & Engineering News – November 2020

A short explanation of why we need to get on with providing a terrestrial alternative to the GPS system by Dennis L. Bryant, Capt. USCG (retired).

Reportedly GPS can be spoofed for as little as $300.

With the Coast Guard’s increasing use of drones that use GPS navigation, its not unlikely drug smugglers will start spoofing GPS. We should be ready to detect such efforts and perhaps home in on them. Maybe need an inertial navigation alternative on our UAVs? (Not really sure what we are using right now.)