Sorry, I am Distracted

You may have noticed the blog hasn’t had any new content for several days.

I have been distracted and it will likely continue for another ten days or so.

My wife and I are celebrating our 50th anniversary. Things should get back to normal about the end of February.

“Malaysia taps American fund to convert transport planes for maritime surveillance role” –Defense News

A model of the PTDI CN-235 hybrid gunship-maritime patrol aircraft is on display at the 2020 Singapore Airshow. (Mike Yeo/Staff)

Defense News reports,

Malaysia will convert two Indonesian-built CN-235 transport aircraft into maritime patrol platforms using U.S. funding set aside for regional nations to improve maritime security, a top general confirmed.

Malaysian Armed Forces chief Gen. Affendi Buang said the plan is to convert three of the military’s seven PT Dirgantara Indonesia-made CN-235s into unarmed maritime surveillance aircraft.

Work will be carried out by PTDI’s facilities in Indonesia using funding from the Maritime Security Initiative.

Is there a USCG connection? Only that the CN-235 is also known as the HC-144 and the Coast Guard has 18 of them.

Well Done to D7 Public Affairs Detachment, Jacksonville

I see most Coast Guard new releases, but this one caught my eye, because of the use of links within the release. News papers are not the only users of these releases. When used by on-line news sources this is a real plus. It allows the readers to see what the USS  Shamal, an H-65, or a response boat, medium looks like. It highlighted the use of an EPIRB and made it easy to find out what one is.

Adding hyper-links takes more time, but it adds value. Well done, D-7 PA Detachment, Jacksonville.

Coast Guard, Navy rescues disabled fishing vessel after alert from distress signal

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 7th District PA Detachment Jacksonville
Contact: Coast Guard PA Detachment Jacksonville
Office: 904-714-7606/7607
After Hours: 305-318-1864
PA Detachment Jacksonville online newsroom

Coast Guard rescues disabled fishing vessel after alert from distress signal

Editor’s Note: Click on stock image to download the high-resolution version.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Coast Guard and Navy crews rescued four mariners Thursday on a disabled fishing vessel 55-miles east of Mayport.

The 37-foot fishing vessel “Fish Bone” notified the Coast Guard Wednesday via emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB)it had become disabled due to machinery failure.

Coast Guard 7th District Command Center watchstanders received the EPIRB distress signal at 6 p.m. and launched an Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew. The Dolphin crew immediately located the Fish Bone and confirmed the mariners aboard had no medical concerns. The USS Shamal, a Navy patrol boat in the area, diverted and put the vessel in tow until a Coast Guard Station Mayport 45-foot Response Boat–Medium crew transferred the tow.

The fishing vessel and crew were towed to Morning Star Marina in Mayport.

The mariners were reported to be in good condition.

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“Coast Guard Budget Request Funds Two of Three Major Cutter Programs” –USNI

CARIBBEAN SEA, 09.04.2019, Courtesy Photo U.S. Coast Guard District 7 PADET Jacksonville

The Coast Guard Cutter James conducts Hurricane Dorian relief operations alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 6, 2019. During their 62-day counter-drug patrol, the James’ crew, along with members from Tactical Law Enforcement Team-South, Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, Cryptologic Direct Support Element and multiple partner agencies, contributed to the interdiction of 7 drug-smuggling vessels and were responsible for the seizure of more than 12,677 pounds of cocaine and 4,085 pounds of marijuana bound for the United States. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter James)

The US Naval Institute News Service reports that the FY2021 budget request for the Coast Guard includes requests for the second Polar Security Cutter and the third OPC along with long lead time items for the fourth, but does not include funds for additional FRC construction. Not mentioned, but that certainly also means no request for NSC #12.

62 FRCs have been funded through FY2020 and only 64 have been planned, so why not just request the last two? Stopping and then restarting production for two vessels in a future year would be wasteful and really stupid. This seems to be a game played every year. The administration asks for four and Congress funds six. Ask for two and Congress funds four. Guess this year, it may be, ask for none and Congress funds two or perhaps four. We have to wait and see.

NSC #12 is a child of Congress. The administration never asked for it, but Congress has already allocated over $100M for it. This year is decision time. Will it happen? Please pass the popcorn.

“Enhancing the Royal Navy’s batch II OPVs” –Save the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy is looking at how they might increase the lethality of their new River Class Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessels. Save the Royal Navy looks at how they might be upgraded. “Save the Royal Navy” describes itself as “an online campaign but not an organisation as such,” so not an official voice of the Royal Navy.

These are effectively the UK’s WMECs. They do fisheries, SAR, and drug enforcement, but they are looking to use them for a bit more. They have the three River class Batch I OPVs to do fisheries around the home turf, so they plan to use most of these in the overseas territories or providing presence in distant theaters of operation. One is currently deployed to the South Atlantic operating out of the Falklands and a second is tasked with operations upholding UK interests in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Western North Atlantic. It is likely one will go to Gibraltar and another to the SW Asia/Persian Gulf/Indian Ocean Area.

Compared to our own WMECs, the River Class Batch IIs are bigger and faster than the Bear class.

  • 2000 tons vs 1800 tons
  • 297′ (90.5 meters) vs 270′
  • 24 knots vs 19.5 knots

But they are equipped more like a 210. They have no helicopter hangar and only a single 30mm gun in an optionally manned remote weapon station while the Bear class has a 76mm gun and radar fire control system and they have nothing like the Bear class’s SLQ-32 and decoy systems.

“Save the Royal Navy” considers upgrade packages that were labeled, in order of increasing complexity, “OPV Plus”, “OPV Max”, and “Corvette”.

“OPV Plus” includes a container based rotary wing UAS like the Schiebel Camcopter S100, two 30mm guns, a BAE Bofors 40mm/70 Mk4 with a possible fire control upgrades, and Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).

“OPV Max” includes a collapsible hanger for an Agusta/Westland AW-159 Wildcat helicopter, two 30mm guns, added Martlet LMM (Light Multirole Missile) to the 30mm mounts, and a BAE Bofors 57mm Mk110 and associated fire control system, but for some reason lost the LRAD.

“Corvette” traded the hangar for Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCM) and exchanged a RHIB for an armed Unmanned Surface Vessel. In addition to two 30mm guns with LMM Martlet missiles, and a BAE Bofors 57mm Mk110 and associated fire control system, it also adds an enlarged operations room (CIC), decoy launchers, and a multirole Artisan 3D radar.

Its easy to understand why upgrades might be in order when you consider some of the duties that these ships might be called upon to perform.
These ships will often be far from any backup. They might be escorting Russian warships through UK EEZ; facing off against Argentine OPVs in the South Atlantic or Spanish OPVs in Gibraltar’s EEZ. And of course operating in areas where the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Navy may be encountered is likely to raise your pulse rate. Not that shooting is expected, but it is a lot easier to stand your ground or perhaps intimidate the other guy if you have the weapons to back up your position.
I have always thought that the requirement to be able to land and refuel the very large Merlin helicopter (max gross weight 14,600 kg or 32,187 lb), that seemed to preclude a hangar was a poor choice. Having a helicopter aboard at all times, particularly an armed aircraft, could help the ship with both peacetime and wartime missions.
The 30mm gun is a close relative of the 25mm found on USCG cutters, but we know that it is more effective. Having more than one seems a good idea. If a helicopter hangar is added, they could have one on the roof of the hangar that could bear directly aft. That means they could have as many as four, one forward, one aft, and one on each bridge wing. They could put up to three guns on a target.
The Martlet LMM probably should be added to whatever 30 mm guns are mounted. It could make these ships much more lethal inside 5,000 yards.
I like the 40mm70 MK4. It could function to some degree as a counter to ASCMs, but I doubt the improvement is sufficient to justify replacing a 30mm/Martlet LMM combination considering it would require introducing a second gun, second ammunition, a fire control system, and additional training.  Being able to bear three 30mm and 15 Martlet LMM on a target would be very effective against a single target if within range. The combination could be useful against swarming boats as well. In the Straits of Hormuz, I would still worry about IRGC torpedo and missile boats that could engage from longer range, but the armed Wildcat helicopter with Martlet LMM should be effective against them.
The case for the 57mm is much more convincing than that for the 40mm, given the smart projectiles that are being developed for it.
The author seems unenthusiastic about the corvette option, and since adding anti-ship cruise missiles would likely mean no helo hangar, and an armed USV replacing an RHIB needed for peacetime duties, I can understand his reservations. On the other hand, if they fail to add a hangar, being prepared to add ASCMs, quickly might be wise. We have already seen this done to a Thai OPV built to an earlier version of this design.
There is some indication that the Thais will attempt to sell their version of this design to the Philippines.

Royal Thai Navy’s second offshore patrol vessel based on the River class, HTMS Prachuap Khiri Khan (OPV 552) constructed by Bangkok Dock Ltd and poised for induction into service. Note RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles fitted. Photo: http://thaidefense-news.blogspot.com/2019/07/blog-post_31.html

Navy Ships in Fourth Fleet

Littoral combat ship Little Rock (LCS 9) is underway during a high-speed run in Lake Michigan during acceptance trials. Lockheed Martin Photo

For the last several years, it has seemed that the Navy had all but abandoned the drug interdiction effort, and actual US Navy ships in the Fourth Fleet Area of Operations (Latin America) were very rare. That seems to be changing.

USS Detroit (LCS-7) deployed on Oct. 31, 2019 and returned to Mayport for a crew swap on Feb. 2, 2020. She had operated with a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment and an aviation detachment including a MH-60S Seahawk helicopter and two MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Vehicles. She is expected to redeploy to Fourth Fleet after the crew swap and a short maintenance period.

USS Little Rock (LCS-9) departed Mayport, FL, on Feb. 6, for operations with Fourth Fleet. Sounds like Little Rock, unlike Detroit, may try to do a crew swap away from homeport.

“Little Rock will also demonstrate its operational capabilities and allow the Navy to evaluate crew rotation and maintenance plans. While in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions, the ship will rotate deployments of two crews, Blue and Gold, who will rotate aboard every four to five months, maintaining consistency and allowing a continuous presence in the region.”

As a side note, the USS Little Rock is equipped with Laser weapon. Military and naval officers from friendly nations ought to find that interesting.

SOUTHCOM Commander Adm. Craig Faller is hoping to do more than just drug enforcement. He hopes to counter Chinese and Russian influence in Latin America. He also plans to exercise small scale Marine operations with these ships, in cooperation with the militaries of friendly nations.

There are some other interesting developments.

“…SOUTHCOM is in line for an Expeditionary Staging Base, the converted commercial tanker design that acts as a lily pad for mine-counter measures and special operations forces in U.S. Central Command. The command also is currently operating a Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), which it is also using for presence, partner-building and counter-trafficking work. SOUTHCOM also claimed successes with the deployment of the Military Sealift Command ship M/V Kellie Chouest. The support ship deployed with a military detachment aboard and an unmanned aerial vehicle to provide additional capacity, to supplement the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters for the interdiction mission….SOUTHCOM is pitching a plan to turn a Spearhead EPF into an LCS tender to keep the ships on station longer rather than going back to shore regularly for maintenance.”

Japan Coast Guard Grows and Grows

Technical drawing of the Mizuho-class patrol vessel (Credit : Japan Coast Guard)

Naval News reports the delivery of a second new very large cutter to the Japan Coast Guard.

We talked about these ships earlier. “Japan builds more XXLarge CG Cutters.” The odd thing about these ships is that they are essentially repeats of the Shikishima-class (first ship, Shikishima (PLH-31) commissioned 1992, second ship, Akitsushima  (PLH-32) commissioned 2013). The Shikishima class were in turn near repeats of the Mizuho class (first ship, Mizuho, now renamed Fusō (PLH-21), commissioned 1986, second, Yashima (PLH-22) commissioned 1988). The Reimei patrol vessel (PLH-33), referred to in the report is apparently the third member of the Shikishima class and was launched in March 2019. The two new ships are a new Mizuho (PLH-41) and Shunkō (PLH-42). Looks like they may have seven of these very large cutter, unless the new ships replace PLH-21 and 22. That is a good possibility as the Japanese replace their cutters much more rapidly than the USCG. When I last checked, they had not cutters more than 35 years old. 

Don’t let the reported displacement of 6,000 tons or 6,500 tons fool you. Asians tend to report light or empty displacement. Full load displacement is 9,300 tons, more than twice as large as the Bertholf class National Security Cutters.

There is some reported differences between the classes. The original Mizuhos were reported to be 130 meters in length, the Shikishimas, 150 meters, the new Mizuhos 140 meters. There are also differences in how they are armed. The newest ships introduce the BAE Bofors 40mm/70 Mk4.

The most interesting paragraph in the report was in regard to the rapid growth of the Japan Coast Guard.

In 2012, the JCG had 51 patrol vessels displacing more than 1,000 tons. The service has now 63 large vessels, and the goal is to operate 12 more ships by the end of FY 2023 to deal with new threats.

By comparison, the US Coast Guard, which patrols an EEZ more than two and a half times as large has only 39 patrol cutters larger than 1,000 tons and we plan to have only 36 (11 NSCs and 25 OPCs).