“Watch Ukrainian TB2 Striking Two Russian Raptor Assault Boats” –Naval News

Naval News brings us a report of the destruction of two small Russian patrol boats by small guided weapons launched from an unmanned aircraft.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. The Ukrainians have been attacking Russian vehicles with guided weapons, launched from UAS since the invasion began. Hitting a boat, is, if anything, easier than hitting a particular moving vehicle on a landscape cluttered with other vehicles, buildings, trees, and various heat sources.

But perhaps for those who have not been paying attention this may be a wakeup call. I happy to be able to say it looks like the Coast Guard has recognized this as a threat to our boats in PATFORSWA.

But maybe we need to look beyond the threat of nation states. Like other effective, but relatively cheap weapons, UAVs, and particularly suicide drones, are likely end up in the hands of non-state actors, including criminal and terrorist organizations.

“GA-ASI Selected for Japan Coast Guard RPAS Project” –News Release

MQ-9B SeaGuardian. General Atomic photo.

Below is a news release from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. The USCG has yet to select their own shore based unmanned air system. Note, there is as yet no indication Japan Coast Guard is purchasing this system. It appears more likely they are using contractor owned and operated systems as a step toward a more comprehensive JCG owned and operated system. UAS on USCG cutters are still currently contractor owned and operated. 

GA-ASI Selected for Japan Coast Guard RPAS Project

Japan EEZ Surveillance Using SeaGuardian® RPA Scheduled to Begin in October

SAN DIEGO – 06 April 2022  General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the global leader in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), is pleased to be selected to support the Japan Coast Guard’s (JCG) RPAS Project. Operations will feature GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SeaGuardian® and begin in October 2022.

SeaGuardian will be used to conduct wide-area maritime surveillance to support JCG’s missions, which include search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement. This project follows a series of successful JCG flight trials in 2020 that used SeaGuardian to validate the same JCG missions in accordance with Japan’s “Policy on Strengthening the Maritime Security Systems,” using unmanned aerial vehicles to perform maritime wide-area surveillance.

“We’re proud to support the JCG’s maritime surveillance mission with our SeaGuardian UAS,” said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. “The system’s ability to provide affordable, extremely long-endurance airborne surveillance with long-range sensors in the maritime domain is unprecedented.”

SeaGuardian features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with an Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, and High-Definition – Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles and provides automatic tracking of maritime targets and correlation of AIS transmitters with radar tracks.

SkyGuardian® and SeaGuardian® are revolutionizing the long-endurance RPAS market by providing all-weather capability and full compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO UAS airworthiness standard). This feature, along with our operationally proven, collision-avoidance radar, enables flexible operations in civil airspace.

About GA-ASI

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable, Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator® RPA series and the Lynx® Multi-mode Radar. With more than seven million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas. For more information, visit www.ga-asi.com

“Sea Air Space 2022” –Naval News Video Coverage

Below I have posted two videos by Naval News, along with the breakdown of topics that accompanied the videos on YouTube. The video of the 30mm Mk38 Mod4 with its included electro-optic fire control system is probably of most immediate interest to the Coast Guard, but the increasing tendency to containerize weapon systems is appears ready to make any cutter (and almost any other ship) a missile carrier.

  • 01:06 – Constellation-class frigate program with Fincantieri Marinette Marine
  • 04:30 – MSI Defence Mark 38 Mod 4 30mm naval gun system
  • 07:53 – Lockheed Martin’s Expeditionary Launching System
  • 09:21 – BAE Systems E-Launcher
  • 09:52 – Kongsberg NSM-HL helicopter launched naval strike missile
  • 00:43 – Kongsberg Hugin Edge UUV
  • 02:27 – General Dynamics Tethered Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • 03:36 – Shield AI’s Hivemind (V-BAT also –Chuck)
  • 05:23 – Saildrone Explorer USV
  • 06:48 – PennState’s 54″ Large Test Vehicle UUV

 

Three PATFORSWA Island Class Cutters Decommissioned

This from Chris Cavas on Twitter. More photos there.

Three hard-working 110-foot US #Coast Guard cutters were decommissioned 22 March in a ceremony at Manama, #Bahrain. Cutters MAUI WPB1304, MONOMOY WPB1326 & WRANGELL WPB1332 served in the Persian Gulf since 2004, will now be available for foreign transfer.

USCGC Adak was previously decommissioned and sold to Indonesia. Likely these little ships will continue to provide useful service.

They are being replaced in Bahrain by larger and more capable Webber class Fast Response Cutters. It appears the newly arrived cutters are equipped to counter Unmanned Systems.

Thanks to Walter for bringing this to my attention. 

“Coast Guard Cutter Stratton returns to Alameda following 97-day South Pacific patrol” –News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) participates in a exercise with the Australian maritime surveillance aircraft in the South Pacific Ocean, Feb. 23, 2022. The Stratton is currently underway conducting exercises and operations with partner nations in the South Pacific region. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Sarah Stegall)

Just a news release, but it is about one of those increasingly common long deployments to the Western Pacific. Notable are the use of the small unmanned air system, presumably Scan Eagle, shiprider program with Fiji, and laying the ground work for a shiprider program with Papua New Guinea.

220130-N-CD319-1014 SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2022) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) participates in Divisional Tactics (DIVTAC) formations with U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) and British Royal Navy ship HMS Spey (P 234). Sampson is positioned to conduct lifesaving actions in support of disaster relief efforts in Tonga. The ship is operating in support of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The Australian Government response is coordinating closely with France and New Zealand under the FRANZ partnership, alongside Fiji, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States to assist Tonga in its time of need. Sampson is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with alliances and partnerships while serving as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tristan Cookson)

News Release

March 21, 2022
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

Coast Guard Cutter Stratton returns to Alameda following 97-day South Pacific patrol

Photo of CGC Stratton Photo of CGC Stratton Photo of boarding
Photo of boarding Photo of Fiji press event Photo of boarding

Editors’ Note: Click on images above to download high resolution versions. Additional photos are available here.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) returned to Alameda Saturday after completing an Operation Blue Pacific Patrol in the south Pacific.

While underway, Stratton’s crew worked with Pacific partner nations, including Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the United Kingdom on an array of missions and prioritized combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing on the high seas or in partner nations’ exclusive economic zones.

In the effort to combat IUU fishing, Stratton teams boarded 11 vessels during the 20,348-mile patrol and found 21 violations.

“Our collaboration with our partners and utilization of our shiprider agreements gave us the ability to accomplish our mission of combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in order to maintain regional stability and protect the fishing industry,” said Capt. Steve Adler, Stratton’s commanding officer. “By bringing aboard shipriders from Fiji, we were able to patrol their exclusive economic zones to better assist them in enforcing their maritime laws.”

In February, Stratton embarked three shipriders from Fiji with representatives from the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services, the Fiji Ministry of Fisheries, and the Republic of Fiji Navy, who led bilateral enforcement efforts for Stratton to patrol their exclusive economic zones.

There is a shared interest for both Fiji and the United States, as well as other partner nations, to protect fisheries as they provide a renewable source of food and income to the Pacific nations.

The Stratton crew also used small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to increase the ship’s capabilities and further extend the cutter’s patrol area.

“Stratton’s capacity for employing cutting edge technology like sUAS, gives the Coast Guard the upper hand in the fight against IUU fishing,” said Cmdr. Charter Tschirgi, Stratton’s executive officer. “The vast area covered during patrols like these displays the reach the Coast Guard has and the length we will go to assist our partners in the Pacific.”

Stratton visited multiple countries while deployed, including Tahiti, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. While in Suva, Fiji, Stratton hosted a joint media engagement with the Fijian Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Defense, Manasa Lasuma, and the Fijian Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yogesh Karan. While anchored in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Stratton also hosted an engagement and law enforcement demonstration in conjunction with U.S. Ambassador Erin McKee and representatives of Papua New Guinea: Chief Inspector Christopher Smith, Terry Udu, Moses Teng, Hiribuma Dabuma, MAJ Norbeth Fehi, and Ivan Salonica. This discussion and demonstration of law enforcement operations and regional partnerships helped facilitate a future signing of a bilateral shiprider agreement between Papua New Guinea and the United States.

“Communicating with our allies face-to-face is extremely valuable,” said Ensign Alexander Mastel, Stratton’s public affairs officer. “With IUU fishing replacing piracy as the leading global maritime security threat, it is more important than ever to join efforts in ensuring economic security in the Pacific.”

While on patrol, Stratton’s crew also participated in multiple joint exercises with partners in the region. These included a formation sailing with the HMS Spey, a tactical maneuvering drill with HMS Spey and USS Sampson, a joint patrol with an Australian Border Force patrol aircraft, fueling-at-sea with New Zealand’s newest replenishment vessel HMNZS Aotearoa, and joint steaming with the French Naval vessel FMS Arago and Fijian Patrol vessel Savenaca.

“Partnerships across the Pacific are the key to success in combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. I am extremely proud of the crew for demonstrating tremendous success in partnering and operating with our regional partners and allies across Oceania, including navies and law enforcement officials from French Polynesia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom,” said Adler. “Only by building these continued relationships and joint operations with patrols like Stratton’s Operation Blue Pacific will we be able to truly make a difference and impact against the global problem of IUU fishing. By training with our partners, we further our interoperability and cooperation, ultimately advancing a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“First full rate production cutter boat large delivered to Coast Guard fleet” –CG-9

The first full rate production cutter boat large, hull 22335, is delivered to Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless in Pensacola, Florida, Feb. 7, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) reports,

The Coast Guard accepted the first full rate production cutter boat large (CB-L) with delivery of 22335 to Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless in Pensacola, Florida, Feb. 7.

This is the fifth CB-L delivered. The first four were used to refine the design and configuration and for operational test and evaluation to validate that the vessel meets Coast Guard operational demands. An additional 17 CB-Ls are on order. The program of record is for up to 36 CB-Ls.

These 36 boats are intended to operate from the USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39), USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30), 14 Reliance class 210-foot medium endurance cutters, 16 Juniper class 225-foot seagoing buoy tenders for a total of 32 ships. So, looks like the intention is to provide only one per ship, even for those that have two ship’s boats positions. Sounds like some ships will end up operating two different types of boats.

We talked about this new boat a couple of times back in 2018 when the contract was initiated, here and here.

It appears this boat is closely related to “The Watcher” unmanned surface vessels that the Coast Guard evaluated.

“The Coast Guard’s MH-65 Helicopter Fleet Is Headed For Trouble” –Forbes + Maybe MQ-8Bs

US Coast Guard photo, by PAC Dana Warr

Craig Hooper, writing for Forbes, brings us a warning about the status of the H-65 fleet.

We knew the Coast Guard was in the process of replacing H-65s with H-60s because they have become increasingly difficult to support.

The Coast Guard has on-going life extension programs for both H-60s and H-65s, but the author thinks progress is too slow.

There are two issues here.

  1. Replacing land-based H-65s
  2. Having helicopters that can operate off the WMECs.

I would like to think the Coast Guard has a workable plan to replace the land based H65s but waiting way too long to start replacement programs does seem to be part of the Coast Guard’s DNA.

As to the helicopters for WMECs, Cooper notes,

“At sea, the Coast Guard’s 27 aged mid-sized cutters cannot fully support the larger footprint of an MH-60 platform. Delays in getting the Coast Guard’s highly anticipated Offshore Patrol Cutter into service means the old cutters will remain in the fleet—and needing Dolphin helicopters—for years.”

As I recall, the 13 WMEC 270s were designed to operate H-60s and Alex Haley looks like her facilities may be large enough as well. Certainly, operating H-60s from the 14 WMEC 210s is a non-starter.

The number of H-65s required solely to support 210 operations is relatively small. Judicious use and cannibalization could probably keep a few operational until the last 210 goes out of service.  That should happen about 2032.

If that is not possible, there is another alternative, UAVs. They could certainly operate Scan Eagle. Another possibility is Fire Scout.

The Navy is phasing out their MQ-8B VTOL drone in favor of the larger MQ-8C. Perhaps the Coast Guard could take over some or all 30 ot the B models and operate them from 210s. They might also be operated alongside H-60s from Bertholf class NSCs and Argus class OPCs. Although they probably cannot do armed overwatch (or maybe they could), they might be a better search asset than the H-65, given their greater endurance. This would also prep the Coast Guard to also participate in the MQ-8C at some time in the future.

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 18, 2019) Sailors push an MQ-8B Fire Scout assigned to the Wildcards of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 on the flight deck of the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10).  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Josiah J. Kunkle/Released)190918-N-YI115-1004

Interestingly, there is also a comment about the Coast Guard’s role in DOD’s Future Vertical Lift (FVL) Program,

“Replacement helicopters will be slow to arrive. The U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, says the Service is “looking fifteen or so years down the road at our rotary wing aviation program.” Unless the Coast Guard acts quickly to have their basic performance requirements folded into the Department of Defense’s Future Vertical Lift Initiative, a Coast Guard variant of whatever the Navy gets will likely take two decades—or more—to obtain and field.”

The FVL program is expected to produce at least two airframes, one to replace the H-60 and a smaller aircraft to replace the Army’s scout helicopters.

Thanks to Paul for bringing this to my attention. 

“THERE’S A RACE FOR ARCTIC-CAPABLE DRONES GOING ON, AND THE UNITED STATES IS LOSING” –Modern War Institute

Modern War Institute alerts us to the limitations of US drone technology in the Arctic.

“America’s drones struggle to compete against Russia in the Arctic. In 2019, Russia’s equivalent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a drone capable of remaining airborne for four consecutive days in the Arctic. Russian state sources report their drones can navigate in the Arctic without the use of jammable satellite-based navigation instead employing the alternative GIRSAM system. While the processes behind this system are unknown, supposedly it does not rely on GPS satellites or those of the Russian-developed GLONASS. Not until 2021—two years later—did an American MQ-9A Reaper drone complete a flight navigating with satellites past the seventy-eighth parallel north. Additionally, Russia plans to build an Arctic drone reconnaissance base four hundred and twenty miles off the Alaskan coastline. By 2025, the ability of Russian drones to monitor air, surface, and subsurface activity will far outpace the United States in the Arctic region.”

This is certainly an area the Coast Guard is interested in and one where the Coast Guard’s assets can be of assistance.

“Unmanned and on Guard: A New Approach to Coast Guard Operations” –USNI Blog

The US Naval Institute Blog has a post by LCdr John H Walters, USCG, who is the MQ-9A platform manager within the CG Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

It pleads the case for unmanned systems (and satellite systems). The author is obviously a true believer (as am I to an extent).

The thing that I find encouraging is that there is a Coast Guard Office of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. What I find discouraging is that the Coast Guard has yet to procure its own shore based UAS and is still riding the coat tails of the Customs and Border Protection program that is still operating old versions of the MQ-9 that are not optimized for the Marine environment and do not have the “see and avoid” capability that would allow them to operate in airspace where mid-air collision is a possibility. There may be operational reasons to continue a relationship with the CBP unit, but as a learning experience, it has served its purpose. DBP has been operating their MQ-9s for 16 years. It is time for the Coast Guard to field its own land based unmanned air systems.

 

“This company’s drone set flight-time records. But what it really wants is more work with the Pentagon” –Defense News

A Vanilla ultra endurance land-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operates during U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem (UxS IBP) 21 at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, on April 24, 2021. UxS IBP 21 integrates manned and unmanned capabilities into challenging operational scenarios to generate warfighting advantages. (MC2 Michael Schutt/U.S. Navy)

Defense News report,

WASHINGTON — Small business Platform Aerospace continued to set records in 2021 with its Vanilla Unmanned family of drones, but the company says it’s working to ensure it’s building a relevant warfighting platform, not just an aerospace novelty.

The Vanilla UAV in its long-endurance configuration set a world record in September and into October, when it flew for eight days, 50 minutes and 47 seconds out of Edwards Air Force Base in California. The aircraft had previously demonstrated a five-day flight.

We talked about this UAS, from veteran-owned small business Platform Aerospace, when it set the earlier record. Since then, there have been some significant developments including a drug interdiction capability test with SOUTHCOM.

“… in July with U.S. Southern Command. The vehicle flew out of Key West with a mesh radio, satellite communications, a radar pod and an electro-optical/infrared camera, demonstrating what a multi-day drone with a complex payload package could accomplish.”

There is also this mention of a sensor, that might be applied to other UAS, that could come in handy for icebreakers.

“While the bulk of Platform Aero’s work has been with the military, and chiefly the Navy, Pappianou said the aircraft flew a mission with a proprietary radar designed by the University of Kansas to measure snow and ice depths in the Arctic Circle.”