“IMSAR’s NSP-5 Radar Moving Into Production for RQ-21 Unmanned System” –Seapower Magazine

GULF OF MEXICO (Feb. 10, 2013) Members of the RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) test team transport the RQ-21A across the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) after its first flight at sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine/Released) 130210-N-NB538-195

The Navy League’s Magazine Seapower reports that “a synthetic aperture/ground moving target Indicator Radar Payload and has been given the prototype designation AN/DPY-2()” for the MQ-21 Blackjack.

The Coast Guard has always wanted their unmanned air system (UAS) to have a radar system and the Scan Eagle that the Coast Guard has contracted for has been tested with a radar from this manufacturer. I am not sure if Coast Guard Scan Eagles are radar equipped, but, if not, it appears that radar equipped small UAS are a definite possibility.

The RQ-21 Blackjack is, like the Scan Eagle, made by Boeing Insitu. It is heavier, 135 lb (61 kg) vs 48.5 lb (22 kg) max takeoff weight, with a correspondingly larger payload weight, but like the Scan Eagle it launches from the same launch and recovery systems.

The radar may be a bit large for Scan Eagle, but apparently not for the Blackjack.

The NSP-5 delivers high-performance capabilities despite its small size, weight and power characteristics. Commercially, the NSP-5 is available in a standard pod configuration that measures 5.4 inches (13.7 centimeters) in diameter and 45.3 inches (115 centimeters) in length, weighs 16 pounds (7.3 kilograms) and consumes 150 watts of power.

“Northrop pitches optionally manned Firebird to monitor Australia’s coasts” –Defense News

As you may know, the Coast Guard is planning on procuring medium altitude, Long Range/Ultra Long Endurance (LR?ULE) Unmanned Air Systems to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness. I was surprised to find, there may be a contender I was not aware of, and it already has a US government customer, although who it is, is not clear at this time.

Defense News reports Northrop Grumman has proposed an optionally manned aircraft to meet an Australian  Border Force maritime surveillance requirement. The plane, the Firebird, is a product of Scaled Composites

“Firebird is a medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft with a 30-hour endurance, with a nominal payload. Chappel said the aircraft has been tested with more than 24 different intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads, which can be swapped in 30 minutes. The initial customer is the U.S. government.”

Scaled Composites is a part of Northrop Grumman now, but originally it was Burt Rutan’s  company. Rutan was known “for designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He designed the record-breaking Voyager, which in 1986 was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbitalspaceplaneSpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice within a two-week period. With his VariEze and Long-EZ designs, Rutan is responsible for helping popularize both the canard configuration and the use of moldless composite construction in the homebuilt aircraft industry.” Now Scaled Composites functions as Northrop Grumman’s Skunk Works.

Meanwhile the Navy is also procuring unmanned systems with a similar capability in the form of another Northrop Grumman system, the MQ-4C Triton, which is a high altitude system. Hopefully there will be a sharing of information, but inevitably Navy and Coast Guard interests differ. Still the systems might prove complementary.

New Sensors for Fire Scout

170327-N-VS214-002
SAN DIEGO (March 27, 2017) A MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter sits in the hangar bay of the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman/Released)

US Naval Institute News Service is reporting that the Navy is looking at providing better sensors, in particular a better radar, on the MQ-8C Fire Scout (the larger version).

“What’s important to us right now is making sure we have the right sensors, a good multi-function radar, some kind of passive targeting capability and the right networks to push that information to the right people at the right times.”

When the Navy finally gets around to deploying LCS to the drug transit zones, these could be very useful.

Reportedly they will provide, “…a circle of influence and sea control out to about 300 miles” although probability of detection almost certainly depends on target size and characteristics. 

The radar of choice is reportedly the Leonardo Osprey 30 active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar. This radar has no moving parts.

Leonardo’s Osprey AESA radar. The two panel configuration allows 240 degree coverage. A three panel configuration allows 360 degree coverage as on Norway’s AW101 SAR helicopters. Configurations of up to four panels are possible (Photo by Leonardo)

Aviation Week reports:

“Each antenna contains 256 Transmit and Receive Modules (TRM) – 25% more than that the single array on the Seaspray 7500E radar fitted to U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules search aircraft (also a Leonardo product–Chuck). The antennas, which can be used in several different modes including surface search, air-to-air and synthetic aperture radar and moving target indication, are controlled through a single processing unit which collects the data and displays it as presenting a single radar picture.”

They claim:

  • Class-leading maritime surveillance capability
  • AESA-enabled small target mode (STM)
  • Very high resolution, wide swath SAR Mapping
  • Small radar cross section (RCS), low minimum detectable velocity (MDV), multi-channel moving target indication (MTI)
  • Air-to-Air surveillance, track and intercept
  • Instantaneous multiple mode interleaving
  • Difficult target detection from high altitude

Ultimately as more of the “C” models are built, we might see them on Coast Guard cutters. There is also the possibility that as more of the larger “C” models come on line, the Coast Guard may be able to get some of the smaller “B” models. The “B” model did operate for Bertholf for two weeks.

The larger C model, with its higher speed, greater payload, better sensors, and 11+ hour endurance, would certainly be an improvement over the ScanEagle currently planned for the National Security Cutters. Whether the “B” model‘s presumably better sensors but shorter range/endurance would allow a greater effective search area compared to the ScanEagle I could only speculate, but I suspect it would also be an improvement, using perhaps two flights per day.

The National Security Cutters could certainly support both an H-65 and an MQ-8C, since they can support two H-65s. It is less clear if the OPC could support both. They reportedly can support an MH-60 or an H-65 and a UAS, but what size UAS?

These systems suggest that at some point, at least on our largest cutters, we may be able to relieve shipboard manned helicopters the routine search function.

Surface Navy Association 2019 –Virtual Attendance

Like many of you, I was unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Conference, but I did find a number of videos which may provide some of the information that would have been available there. The Coast Guard Commandant had been scheduled to speak but cancelled, apparently in response to the partial government shutdown.

I have provided three videos, each about ten minutes, that may be of general interest, and links to four others, typically 20-25 minutes. The descriptions are from their respective YouTube pages.

The second and third videos have specific Coast Guard content, which I have identified by bold typeface with the beginning time in parenthesis. Some of the other equipment may have Coast Guard applications in the future.

Day 1 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Austal latest frigate design for FFG(X)
– Raytheon DART Variable Depth Sonar (VDS)
– Raytheon / Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM)
– Lockheed Martin Long Range Anti Ship Missile (LRASM)

Day 2 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium.
In this video we cover:
– Fincantieri Marine Group FREMM frigate design for FFG(X)
– General Dynamics NASSCO John Lewis-class T-AO (New Oiler)
– Raytheon SM-2 restart
– Raytheon SM-3
– Leonardo DRS Hybrid Electric Drive for U.S. Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) (time 11:10)

Day 3 video coverage at SNA 2019, the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium. In this video we cover:
– Atlas North America’s solutions for mine counter measures, harbor security and unmanned surface vessels
– Lockheed Martin Canadian Surface Combatant (Type 26 Frigate, Canada’s Combat Ship Team)
Insitu ScanEagle and Integrator UAS (time 4:30)
– Raytheon SPY-6 and EASR radar programs

NAVSEA’s Moore on Improving Ship Repair, McCain & Fitzgerald, Ford, LCS

Vice Adm. Tom Moore, USN, the commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, discusses US Navy efforts to increase public and private ship repair capabilities, lessons learned from repairing USS John S. McCain and Fitzgerald, the new Ford-class aircraft carrier, getting the Littoral Combat Ship on regular deployments and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

GE Marine’s Awiszus on LM2500 Engine Outlook, Future Shipboard Power

George Awiszus, military marketing director of GE Marine, discusses the outlook for the company’s LM2500 engine that drives warships in more than 30 nations and the future of shipboard power with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

US Navy’s Moran on Improving the Surface Force, Culture, Ship Repair & Information Sharing

Adm. Bill Moran, USN, the vice chief of naval operations, discusses dialogue with China, improving the surface force in the wake of 2017’s deadly accidents, refining Navy culture, increasing ship repair capabilities, harnessing data, improving information sharing across the force and the new Design for Seapower 2.0 with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference and tradeshow in Northern Virginia.

US Navy’s Coffman on New Expeditionary Warfighting Concepts, Organizations, Unmanned Ships

Maj. Gen. David “Stretch” Coffman, USMC, the US Navy’s director of expeditionary warfare (N95), discusses new expeditionary warfighting concepts, the recent deployment of Littoral Combat Group 1 — composed of USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG-108) and USS Somerset (LPD-25) — to South America, new formations to replace the current Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit, unmanned ships, the performance of the F-35B Lightning II and more with Defense & Aerospace Report Editor Vago Muradian.

Update on Coast Guard Acquisition Programs and Mission Balance and Effectiveness–Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure

This is not going to flow well, I apologized for the mishmash. The video above is of a House Sub-Committee hearing that occurred on July 24. I think it is still worth a look. The video does not actually begin until just before time 19:55

Before watching the video, I would suggest a look at the “Summary of Subject Matter.” This is what the Congressional Representatives are looking at.

End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates:

Check out the charts on page 2. The second chart shows “End of Service Lives for Medium Endurance Cutters (MEC) with Planned Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Delivery Dates.” It illustrates the risks and loss of capacity that appears likely, if OPCs are funded at the planned rate of no more than two ships a year. It is unclear why the WMECs are to be retired in the order intended since it is not the order of their completion. Presumably it is based on an assessment of the condition of the ships, but it is very clear that they will all be well over aged. The 210s will retire first. The youngest retirement would be at age 53 and some would qualify for Social Security before replacement.  (Diligence, 66)

How they arrived at the expected service life shown is hard to understand, because every 210 is going to be 53 years old or older at the end of projected service life plus 15 year life extension. The 210s were, of course, substantially reworked during a “Major Maintenance Availability” 1986 to 1990, but no further life extension work is apparently planned based on the testimony in the video.

It may appear we are in much better shape with respect to the 270s, but these more complex ships may actually be harder to keep operational. We saw this in the number of breakdown experienced after the Haitian Earthquake eight years ago. They were commissioned between 1983 and 1991 and are expected to be replaced between 2130 and 2135. Legare, second to newest, is planned to be the first replaced, and would be “only” 40 years old. Harriet Lane one of the earliest completed is expected to be one of the last replaced and would be 50 years old. The rest fall within that range. SLEP for 270s beginning 2021, but it is not certain it will be applied to all 13 ships. 

Because ships are not being replaced as quickly as they were originally built, we see a growing gap between the end of the ship’s projected service life, even with a 15 year service life extension, and the projected date of replacement.

Cutter Capability (by operating hour):

See also Appendix A, which illustrates the current shortfall in cutter hours available compared to the “Legacy Fleet” the recapitalization program was intended to replace. The “Legacy Fleet” is based on 12 WHECs, 29 WMECs, and 49 island class WPBs. (Not sure why they used 29 WMECs, since we had 32 as recently as 2001.)

There are two charts, the first includes WPBs and Webber class WPCs as well as WHECs, WMECs, NSCs, and OPCs. The second considers on the only the larger vessels, excluding WPCs and WPBs. 

The first chart shows that we are currently down 20,450 hours (8.6%) relative to the legacy fleet, but that when the recapitalization is complete the total will be 31,970 hours (13.4%) greater than the legacy fleet. This increase is all due to the greater number Webber class and the greater number of hours each is expected to operate annually compared to 110s.

The second chart looks only at the larger ships, leaving aside the Webber and Island class WPCs and WPBs. It shows we are currently down 13,950 op hours (10%) and further, that when the program is completed, we will be down 15,030 hours (10.7%)reflecting the smaller number of large patrol cutters. If we could view this as a chart of actual cutter available on a yearly basis, it suggest that we will never be down by more than the 10.7% that shows upon completion of the program. Actually that is unlikely to be the case. The aging fleet means a higher probability of unplanned maintenance and even catastrophic failure that may result in WMECs being decommissioned prematurely and becoming parts donors like the Polar Sea.

The saving grace may be that the Webber class have proven capable of performing some WMEC like duties and they are coming on line very rapidly. In all probability, the 58 cutters in the FRC program of record will all be delivered by the end of 2024.

At some point Coast Guard leadership is going to have to tell Congress the ugly truth that we have started the OPC/WMEC replacement program much too late, and we need to double down on the production rate. As soon as the first ship is completed and tested we need to issue a Multi-Year Procurement contract and it should include building up to four ships a year, at least until all sixteen 210s are replaced and at least three ships a year until all the WMECs are replaced.

We need to tell the Congress this as soon as possible, because bad news does not get better with age. Unfortunately it did not happen in this hearing. In fact when asked about the possibility of accelerating OPC production, time 1:10:00, VAdm McAllister seemed to dismiss the possibility saying we had other higher priorities. This was the wrong answer. You don’t always get to decide how money is spent. If we should get the opportunity to accelerate OPC construction, as has happened with the FRCs, we should welcome it.

Mission Needs Statement:

You can see the “Mission Needs Statement” referred to here. It is 70 pages plus about 45 pages of Appendices, but as noted, “…  it does not identify asset gaps or a material solution to meet Coast Guard’s mission needs.”

GAO findings, failure to plan long term:

The GAO has taken the Coast Guard to task because their acquisition portfolio planning has been limited to apparently short term planning using the annual budget and five year Capital Investment Plan (CIP). That this has resulted a bow wave of unfunded requirements being pushed progressively further into the future.

“When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

I have to think GAO has a point here.

We still have not provided a 20 year acquisition plan that the Coast Guard said they would provide in 2014, much less the 30 year plan I have suggested that would parallel the Navy’s planning process.

We have only done one fleet mix study. It was completed in 2007 and included the apparent assumption of applying the now rejected Crew Rotation Concept to both the NSCs and OPCs. Even so, it is still being used as a basis for critiquing the program of record that was last re-baselined in 2005. Things change, we now have better information about how our assets actually function. It is long past time for updated planning.

The Video: 

Witnesses were:

  • Vice Admiral Daniel Abel, Deputy Commandant for Operations, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Vice Admiral Michael McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support, United States Coast Guard | Written Testimony
  • Ms. Marie A. Mak, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony

Here is a brief outline of the topic discussed. Video actually begins 19:55.

23:00 Administration and CG leadership priorities do not demonstrate a commitment to rebuild infrastructure.

42:00 Appropriation deleted $1.4B including $750M for the Heavy Polar Icebreaker and the rest from an account to repair of replace hurricane damaged infrastructure.

46:00 Icebreaker schedule is overly optimistic.

47:00 WMEC gap.

49:00 No service life extension program for 210s. Some, but not all 270s, will have 10 year life extension.

51:00 Capabilities vs hours.

55:30 WMECs are operating at higher than anticipated tempo. Anticipate catastrophic failures within in the WMEC fleet. 5 out or 14 WMEC 210s are at high risk.

59:30 Maintenance backlog.

1:08:00 Still no 20 year plan has been provided since it was requested in 2014.

1:10:00 accelerate OPC procurement?

1:12:30 OPC homeports, of the first four, two will go to Kodiak and two to LA

1:14:00 Great Lakes icebreaking,  Mackinaw replacement? SLEP of 140′

1:15:45 Will be doing a fleet mix study for the Great Lakes.

1:17:00 Inland fleet. Doing alternatives analysis.

1:20:00 Homeport for icebreakers has not been decided. Working on homeport decisions for the entire fleet.

1:23:00 UAS

1:24:00 Counter UAS capability. The six WPBs in CENTCOM have some capability.

1:25:00 Manpower analysis

—-

Opening Statement of the Sub-Committee Chair:

The Subcommittee is meeting today to review how the Coast Guard is integrating their acquisition, manpower, and maintenance plans to align to their mission needs and assure the Service has the assets, personnel, and expertise needed to carry out its missions.

On June 1, 2018, Admiral Karl Schultz became the 26th Commandant of the Coast Guard.  His guiding principles for the Service are: Ready, Relevant, and Responsive.  He said, “These guiding principles frame my direction and will support the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Defense and Combatant Commanders, and other national and global maritime interests.”  Admiral Schultz and his senior leadership team are in the midst of reviewing the status of the Coast Guard and making changes to align the Service with those guiding principles.  Today, we will hear from two members of that team, and look forward to better understanding their perspectives on the status of the Coast Guard.

The ongoing recapitalization of the Service’s cutters was planned two decades ago to address mission demands at that time.  The world and the demands on the Coast Guard have since changed and it is critical that the Service be ready to respond to the demands of today, as well as those that will exist in decades to come. It is also important that the Coast Guard is prepared to manage capability gaps that are occurring and likely to continue to occur as recapitalization continues.

The decisions being made today will shape the Coast Guard of the future.  The cutters being built today have a planned 30-year service life and will probably serve longer, and the final OPC is projected to be patrolling the seas until 2064. Like Admiral Schultz, Congress wants to ensure the Coast Guard is Ready, Relevant, and Responsive for years to come.  In order to do so, we need accurate information from the Service to determine whether current plans will provide the capabilities to meet future demands.

Even more important than Coast Guard ships and aircraft are the people who operate them.  The Coast Guard’s active duty workforce is only slightly larger than that of the New York City police department and less than ¼ the size of the next smallest U.S. Armed Force.  Congress has encouraged the Coast Guard to better understand and articulate its workforce needs to meet current and emerging needs. Looking forward, it is likely that the Service will need to make tough, strategic decisions regarding how Coast Guard personnel are allocated.  Even before the advent of a new cybersecurity operating domain, the Coast Guard was struggling to meet mission demands; creating a cybersecurity workforce while also conducting legacy operations poses an additional challenge that must be addressed immediately.

In addition to our focus on Coast Guard assets and personnel, this Subcommittee has continually pushed the Service to improve its shore infrastructure made up of approximately 43,400 assets nationwide.  Unfortunately, even after several years of us stressing the need for action, much of that property is in dire need of rebuilding or repair.  While Coast Guard leaders consistently stress the importance of investing in shore infrastructure, the budgetary trade-offs being made within the Coast Guard and the Administration do not reflect a genuine commitment to address this need.  For example, despite a shore infrastructure backlog of more than $1.5 billion, the Coast Guard’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request only includes $30 million to address those projects.

Shore infrastructure is critical to every Coast Guard mission – cutters need piers, aircraft need runways, inspectors need buildings, etc. – and if the Service truly desires to remain Ready, Relevant, and Responsive, it needs to find ways to address these critical needs.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a number of reports since 2012 reviewing Coast Guard acquisition programs and providing recommendations to improve those programs.  Over the years, the Coast Guard has agreed with many of those recommendations and agreed to take action on them.  However, the new GAO report released today notes that the Coast Guard has not fully implemented those prior recommendations.  Hopefully, today’s hearing will help us understand why that is.

A new senior leadership team brings new perspectives, new ideas, and new priorities.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how they see the Coast Guard and how we can best position the Service for success going forward.

Coast Guard Kicks Off Arctic Technology Evaluation 2018–Acquisitions Directorate

Members of the Coast Guard Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program (CG-926) and the Research and Development Center are in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to test usage of unmanned systems in the Arctic in Arctic Technology Evaluation 2018. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Alexandra Swan.

The following is a quote from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) Web Site:

Coast Guard Kicks Off Arctic Technology Evaluation 2018

July 25, 2018

The Coast Guard is conducting its 2018 Arctic Technology Evaluation July 21-Aug. 3, 2018, in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

This year’s Arctic research will focus on evaluating how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and an aerostat balloon can work together as a network. The Coast Guard’s Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) Program and Research and Development Center (RDC) are partnering with Alaska Clean Seas for this year’s activities.

The research team will conduct a number of search and rescue and environmental testing scenarios, including using the unmanned systems to detect a life raft and evaluating capabilities to detect and sample a simulated oil spill. The unmanned systems will be integrated with Persistent Systems Man Pack Unit 5 radios (MPU5) to test the potential communication relay. The research team will also compare UAS sensor performance at high latitudes with data gathered through the RDT&E Program’s Robotic Aircraft Sensor Program for Maritime.

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

Switchblade “Loitering Munition”/Puma–Switchblade Sensor to Shooter Capability

Puma-Switchblade Sensor to Shooter Capability

AeroVironment recently conducted a demonstration for the Navy, of how its systems might counter swarming Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC). If the combination of systems works as advertised, it may be exactly what the Coast Guard needs to counter the small, fast, highly maneuverable end of the terrorists surface vessel attack threat spectrum. It is also small enough that it might fit on something as small as a Response Boat-Medium (RB-M). It would certainly fit on a WPB.

It appears to be precise and have minimal chance of collateral damage. It also has a man in the loop, allowing an attack to be aborted or redirected. It is also supposed to have a capability against other drones, presumably smaller, slower ones at low altitude. The combination consists of a Puma UAS to provide target detection, classification, and targeting, and the Switchblade “Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System” (LMAMS). Switchblade is a missile but a very different one. It is an electric-powered, propeller driven, suicide drone. 

The Coast Guard has already tested the Puma on USCGC Healey, and USCGC Chock. The Canadians have chosen it for their Coastal Defense Ships. It has an endurance of up to three hours.

The Puma and Switchblade both use the same control system. 

The Switchblade, seen being launched in the photo below, is very small. It is less than two feet long and weighs less than six pounds. The manufacturer’s data sheet is here.

Switchblade loitering munition

They have introduced a six-pack launch system. It weighs only 160 pounds fully loaded and is only 28″ wide, 34″ deep, and 28″ tall.

AeroVironment six cell Switchblade Launcher

Where might we use these? While these systems might become ubiquitous, if they work as advertised, there are a couple of units that stand out as having the most immediate need.

Since the system is portable, it might be assigned to deployable teams.

I would be very curious about the Navy’s view of the demonstration.