Comparison, the Chinese Navy of 2030 and USN

The Diplomat has an excellent report entitled “Predicting the Chinese Navy of 2030.” It is apparent the Chinese are now building at a rate that exceeds that of the US. They started behind. Already they are the largest navy in the world in terms of numbers of ships. In terms of personnel, it is about 80% the size of the USN. Every year the US margin in both quantity and quality for each type of ship narrows. Plus the US Navy is scattered all over the world while their fleet is concentrated in the Western Pacific, although it appears they will be creating Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups which will mirror the US Navy’s ability to project power anywhere in the world.

The bottom line projections in the Diplomat article are:

  • At least four aircraft carriers (two ski jump, two catapult)
  • 16-20 055/A destroyers (12,000 ton category)
  • 36-40 052D/E destroyers (7,000 ton category)
  • 11 older destroyers
  • 40-50 054A/B frigates (4,000-5,000 ton category)
  • 12 older frigates
  • 60 056/A corvettes
  • Anywhere from eight or more SSBNs (including four to five existing SSBNs)
  • Anywhere from 16 or more SSNs (including six to eight existing SSNs)
  • Approximately 60 SSKs
  • At least three 075 LHDs (36,000 ton category)
  • At least eight 071 LPDs (25,000 ton category)
  • 25 to 30 type 072 LSTs (4,800 tons)

At least some of the approximately 83 Type 022 catamaran missile boats built 2004 to 2011, are likely to be around as well.

For comparison, the current US Navy fleet can be found here. Despite the proclaimed intent of having 355 ships in the US “battle force” actual number (currently about 288 including 60 logistics and support ships) will change only slowly, with most of the changes being in number of small surface combatants (Littoral Combat Ships and Frigates). The number of submarines will actually decline.

Based on the Navy’s “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2019” page 12, table A3-4, the Navy’s 2030 inventory of comparable combatants will be:

  • 11 Carriers
  • 97 Large surface combatants (CG/DDG)
  • 41 Small surface combatants (LCS/FFG)
  • 11 Ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)
  • 45 Nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN)
  • 37 Amphibious assault ships (I think 12 big deck LHA/LHD and 25 LPD/LSD)

To make this clearer I will aggregate the results as fractions with the Chinese numbers on top as the numerator and the USN numbers on the bottom as denominator (Chinese/USN). A + sign is to indicate there may be more.

  • 4/11 carriers
  • 63/97 to 71/97 large surface combatants
  • 112/41 to 122/41  Small surface combatants
  • 8+/11 Ballistic missile submarines (SSBN)
  • 16+/45 Nuclear powered attack submarines (SSN)
  • 60/0 conventionally powered submarines (SSK)
  • 3+/12 big deck amphibs (LHA/LHD)
  • 8+/25 medium amphibs (LPD/LSD)
  • 25-30/0 smaller amphibious assault ships (LST)

The size of the Chinese submarine fleet may not increase, it is already more numerous than the US fleet, but the increasing quality, including more SSNs is troubling.

Unless the US increases its warship construction rate, the comparison for 2040 will look much worse. Equipping modern Coast Guard vessels for naval missions as part of the “National Fleet” could make a huge difference in any future conflict.


“Naval Group: Four OPVs for Argentina” –Marine Link

Photo: Offshore Patrol Vessel L’Adroit built by Naval Group as a private venture 

MarineLink is reporting the French Shipbuilder Naval Group will provide four Offshore Patrol Vessels to Argentina including the L’Adroit completed in 2012 and three similar new construction vessels

L’Adroit had been constructed as a private venture demonstrator which was operated by the French Navy for several years.

Specs for L’Adroit, using various sources, are:

  • Length: 87 meters (285 feet)
  • Beam: 14 meters (46 feet)
  • Range: 7,000-8,000 nmi at 12 knots
  • Speed: 20-21 knots
  • SHP: 8,100
  • Boats: two RHIBs up to 9 meter launched from two ramps in the stern
  • Helicopter: up to 10 tons plus hangar. Has operated small vertical take off UAS.

“The three new OPVs will also be adapted to navigation in the cold waters of the southern seas thanks to structural reinforcement. All four ships will be equipped with a remotely-operated 30 mm cannon.”

Schiebel S-100

A Schiebel S-100 conducts trials aboard the L’Adroit. A four-person detachment for the S-100 can be embarked on L’Adroit when the UAV is aboard. Schiebel photo

Presumably these will replace the 80 meter Fassmer designed OPVs Argentina had planned but never built.

L’Adroit was one of the vessels I pointed to as a possible basis for Cutter X.

Photo: L’Adroit’s hangar doors looking forward from the flight deck

Coast Guard Gets $578M Above President’s Budget Request in Appropriations Deal” –Homeland Security Today

USCGC Polar Star at McMurdo Station, 2019

Homeland Security Today is reporting the newly passed Coast Guard budget contains some very good news, including $655M for the new Polar Security Cutter.

The total budget is approximately $12,016M. This is about $92M less than last year, but that budget was remarkable in funding two National Security Cutters (#10 and #11). Presumably it contains funding for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter and long lead time items for the third. These were included in the original request, but were not mentioned in the report.

The Coast Guard gets $15 million for an additional 250 military personnel in the legislative agreement, $12.9 million for the 2019 pay raise, and $2 million to increase child care benefits and cost of living increases.

The bill is reported to include a couple of reporting requirements that may indicate where the Congress thinks the Coast Guard should be heading.

The bill directs the USCG to submit a plan within 120 days for a one-year pilot program to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, which “leads to billions in losses for the global fishing industry and is a source of financing for illicit activity such as piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and slavery.”

Within 180 days, the USCG is required to give relevant committees “an assessment of the Coast Guard’s ability to conduct maritime law enforcement activities in the high seas in support of international partners.” (emphasis applied–Chuck)

The illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing could just be in reference to helping Micronesia. The law enforcement activities with partners could be about drug enforcement, but that is already pretty well understood. Could this mean we might be helping the Vietnam or the Philippines with their Chinese fisheries problems?

There is “$5,000,000 for survey and design work to support the acquisition of a Great Lakes icebreaker.” Based on earlier discussions, this ship would be at least as capable as the current USCGC Mackinaw.

The budget includes six additional Webber class “Fast Response Cutters,” four toward the 58 in the program of record and a second pair toward the replacement of the six 110s in South West Asia.

Aviation did reasonably well. “…$105,000,000 for the HC-130J aircraft program; $95,000,000 to recapitalize MH-60T aircraft; $8,000,000 to fund both the planned avionics upgrades and the costs associated with the service life extension project for HH-65 aircraft.”

It is gratifying to see that our “Unfunded Priorities List (UPL)” made a difference since frequently in the past we had no UPL. $119M was allocated for UPL items.

FRC and C-130J Team-up for Drug Bust off Costa Rica

The Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley conducts sea trials off the coast of Key West, Florida, on April 5. The Donald Horsley is the Coast Guard’s 17th fast response cutter and was commissioned in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on May 20, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Eric D. Woodall)

Below you will find a Fifth District news release. It focuses on the actions of the crew of a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, NC, C-130J during the seizure of a small boat (panga) smuggling cocaine of the coast of Costa Rica, but there is another story here. The vessel they are cooperating with is USCGC Donald Horsley, a Webber class 154 foot cutter, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That means she was operating almost 1,300 nautical miles from her home port. These “Fast Response Cutters” continue to exceed our expectations. 

united states coast guard

Multimedia Release

U.S. Coast Guard 5th District Mid-Atlantic
Contact: 5th District Public Affairs
Office: (757) 398-6272
After Hours: (757) 434-7712
5th District online newsroom

Eyes in the sky: one air station’s Herculean efforts to stop drug smugglers

Eyes in the sky

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Corinne Zilnicki

It was completely dark in the middle of the Caribbean Sea on the evening of October 3, 2018.

Dense bands of cloud shrouded the moon, obscuring all light. Storms intermittently rumbled to life, dampening the darkness with sheets of rain.

Five thousand feet above the sea, a large white airplane sliced through the gloom, its telltale orange stripe and Coast Guard shield obscured by the shadows.

Pilots and crew members inside the HC-130 Hercules airplane did not mind the obscurity; in fact, it was a critical part of their mission.

They had been sent into the black, windy night to search for a particular vessel, a Panga boat suspected of transporting cocaine northward. Beyond their “search box,” a targeted area in international waters off Costa Rica, the aircrew was armed only with the HC-130’s sensory equipment, years of training and their own intuition.

Petty Officer 1st Class Matt Lotz, a seasoned mission system operator aboard the Hercules, utilized all three to locate the target. Wrestling with various filters and scan methods, he used the plane’s installed camera to spot and track the Panga boat down below, despite the pitch-black night.

Still hovering far overhead, the Hercules crew initiated the “end game,” the final stage of the mission during which aircrews help surface assets locate targets. Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley, the nearest asset, steamed toward the Panga and launched a small boat crew to close the final distance.

Little did the crews know, the end game would be rife with difficulty that night.

“The small boat crew experienced some technical difficulties,” said Lt. Patrick Spencer, aircraft commander of the HC-130. “Matt thought outside the box. He figured out a way to talk directly to the small boat so he could direct them to the target.”

Acting as the boat crew’s aerial navigator, Lotz guided them within 50 feet of the Panga.

The pursuit was short, but lively, with the Panga crew leading the Coast Guard team in wild arcs through the darkness.

With the Hercules aircrew serving as their eyes in the sky, Cutter Donald Horsley’s crew seized 600 kilograms of cocaine that night, a haul valued at approximately $17 million.

“When we get to see the end game, the actual drug bust, it gives the crew a sense of accomplishment,” said Lt. j.g. Zachary Georgia, an HC-130 pilot at Air Station Elizabeth City who routinely participates in Joint Interagency Task Force South’s counter-narcotics missions.

The sense of pride and the exciting departure from routine are two reasons that the air station’s members voluntarily deploy to Central America each year, according to Georgia.

In 2018, HC-130 crews from Air Station Elizabeth City conducted more than 100 JIATF South aerial patrols, directly contributing to the arrests of 34 suspected drug smugglers and the interdiction of 27,000 kilograms of narcotics, worth over $745 million.

“Keeping these harmful drugs off the streets of America is significant,” said Capt. Joseph Deer, commanding officer of Air Station Elizabeth City. “Without these intercepts and the deterrent presence of law enforcement authorities, the flow of drugs into the U.S. would be exponentially higher.”

While working in Central America, the aircrews operate from several different locations, and their patrol coverage varies wildly during their deployments. When the crews receive task direction from JIATF South, they are directed to search an expansive area, to investigate a known target, or to insert themselves into the end game of an ongoing case.

“Flexibility is key,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Trevor Tufts, an aviation maintenance technician in charge of the HC-130’s mechanical functions while airborne. “We don’t actually know where we’re going until we get the pre-mission brief each day. I’ve had the location change 10 minutes before departure.”

While their predominant goal is to help stop the trafficking of illicit drugs, the deployed Coast Guard crews have to adapt to ever-changing circumstances on the fly.

“During my last JIATF mission, we were out looking for drug smugglers, but we found a boat that had capsized instead,” Georgia said. “So the search and rescue case took precedence.”

Coast Guard aircrews work with a diverse array of entities and agencies while deployed in support of JIATF South, including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and law enforcement agencies of surrounding nations. But according to the Coast Guard crews, the HC-130 Hercules airplane is what truly distinguishes them from their many teammates.

“We can offer twice the range of some of the other planes working down there,” Spencer said. “We simply have the best plane for the mission.”

Air Station Elizabeth City is home to five HC-130J Super Hercules airplanes, the more advanced version of older HC-130H airplanes, which Tufts said is an important distinction. The J-model of the HC-130 touts increased air speed, increased flight time, a camera equipped with infrared sensors, and a 360-degree surface search radar, all features that help aircrews efficiently hunt down drug smugglers.

Mission system operators like Lotz arguably benefit from the airplane’s equipment the most; as the person simultaneously communicating with JIATF South and other entities, monitoring the radar for possible targets, recording footage of action down below, and directing the movements of surface assets, he said he appreciates the HC-130’s various trappings.

“For an MSO, it’s our time to shine,” Lotz said. “I love it. I’d do it forever.”

While only a fraction of Air Station Elizabeth City’s 300 members deploy to Central America during their tour, their commanding officer said the unit is fully committed to supporting the JIATF South mission for the foreseeable future, and that everything they accomplish is achieved through a group effort by all five commands on base.

“We will continue to build on the excellent program that those before us have put in place, ever improving our training and equipment for those that follow in our footsteps,” Deer said. “I am confident the 300 professionals at Air Station Elizabeth City are up to the challenge.”

Sensor Operators on C-130J

Coast Guard MH-65E Program Completes Low Rate Initial Production, Begins Initial Operational Test And Evaluation –CG-9

H-65 short range recovery helicopterThe Coast Guard completed Service Life Extension Program activities and an avionics upgrade on an H-65 short range recovery helicopter as part of a joint production line Dec. 18, 2018. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.

The following is taken verbatim from the Coast Guard Acquisitions Directorate web site. 

The Coast Guard is completing the first phase of production and moving to full-rate production on concurrent Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) and avionics upgrades of the service’s H-65 short range recovery helicopters.

The avionics upgrades include reliability and capability improvements for the Automatic Flight Control System; installation of a digital cockpit display system and an upgraded digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite and modernization of the digital flight deck with Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS), common with the Coast Guard H-60 medium range recovery helicopter and similar Department of Defense aircraft. Once the upgrades are complete, the helicopter is redesignated an MH-65E.

At the same time, the Coast Guard is completing SLEP activities to replace five major structure components – the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

Work was finished Dec. 18, 2018, on the first H-65 – CG 6556 – to complete SLEP activities and the avionics upgrade in a joint production line. Termed low rate initial production (LRIP), this first phase allows the service to review and validate improvements required after the initial work on the prototype and validation/verification (CG-6587) aircraft. During this phase, Coast Guard teams discovered that the wire analysis system was not completely ready for full production. On-the-spot corrections were made to remedy the problem and rolled into the production process for future aircraft.

The avionics upgrades and SLEP are being completed at the same time to achieve schedule and cost efficiencies. The Coast Guard will also sequence the installation of new upgrade components after SLEP and programmed depot maintenance is complete, avoiding unnecessary rework that would be required if the efforts were conducted separately.

Initial Operational Test and Evaluation Begins

On Jan. 7, 2019, the H-65 Program with Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force began initial operational and test evaluation (IOT&E) activities on two of the three aircraft that have been converted to the Echo configuration, the LRIP and validation/verification aircraft. IOT&E is the evaluation process used to demonstrate the MH-65E’s airworthiness and ensure the aircraft meets operational requirements and associated performance requirements, and is able to safely and effectively perform the Coast Guard missions prior to fleet induction.

Twenty-one ground events and 56 flights have been planned for IOT&E. There will be three test periods and one make-up test period that take place in a three-month window.

A final test report of data collected from both the operational assessment and IOT&E will be used to support a decision for the program to move into full rate production. The program anticipates an ADE-3 decision in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020.

Projected completion of the MH-65E conversion for all 98 aircrafts is fiscal year 2024.

For more information: MH-65 program page

Capacity Building in the Philippines

Found this on Facebook, posted by fellow CIMSEC member Armando J. Heredia. That lead me to the original source. You can find more photos there. 

US Government opens new training facility for Philippine Coast Guard

The Philippine Coast Guard and United States Government jointly held the ceremonial ribbon cutting and soft opening of the newly constructed Outboard Motor Center Training Facility in Balagtas, Bulacan today, February 11, 2019.

The event was graced by the Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Elson E Hermogino; United States Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, John C Law; and the Deputy Director of the Joint Interagency Task Force-West (JIATF-W), Capt Earl Hampton Jr USN (Ret).

The Outboard Motor Center of Excellence will enhance the Philippine Coast Guard’s capacity to train and sustain its workforce and equipment. It consists of classrooms, barracks and an outboard motor maintenance lab built under local contract managed by the U.S Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

The facility is a joint project between the PCG, U.S Coast Guard, the JIATF-W, the Joint U.S Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), and the U.S Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs which is approximately worth 156 million Pesos.

In its inventory, the PCG has 300 aluminum boats and 50 rubber boats with outboard motors deployed nationwide.

The PCG frontline units rely heavily on these aluminum and rubber boats in fulfilling its mandate. These assets are primarily used in the coastal law enforcement patrols, search and rescue operations and monitoring of environmental laws compliance.

Last year, at least 40 PCG personnel were sent to US Coast Guard Training School in Virginia to undergo different shipboard courses to include training on the maintenance of outboard motors. For this year, the US Government will place a mobile training team inside the training facility in Bulacan to train qualified PCG personnel to become instructors.

Photos by Tanod Baybayin