“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.

 

Task Force 59 Unmanned Surface Vessels Operate With PATFORSWA Cutter

US Navy TF59 Integrates MANTAS USV with Patrol Vessels

Two MANTAS T-12 unmanned surface vessels (USV), front, operate alongside U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) during exercise New Horizon in the Arabian Gulf, Oct. 26. Exercise New Horizon was U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Task Force 59’s first at-sea evolution since its establishment Sept. 9. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dawson Roth)

Naval News reports an exercise conducted by Task Force 59, Fifth Fleet’s Unmanned systems development group. As I thought they might, they have been working with Coast Guard Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA) as well as Navy Cyclone class and allied navies.

“Autonomous vessels can help the Coast Guard safeguard our waters” –Work Boat

S&T, USCG, Ocean Aero, CNSP, NRL, ARL, HSSEDI, and USM’s evaluation team monitors a Triton autonomous vessel during performance testing. DHS photo. Note here the mast is folded down. 

Work Boat has a short report from DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate about experiments with an unmanned system.

First, its good to see the Department supporting R&D efforts on behalf of the Coast Guard, because the Coast Guard R&D budget is miniscule.

Second, this unmanned surface system is a bit unique, in that it is submersible, unlike the SeaDrones that the Coast Guard had previously experimented with. It is not primarily expected to operate underwater, because it is powered by wind and solar, but it does have the capability to submerge.

There are already several autonomous vessels in the field utilized for both commercial and military applications. However, the Tritons are a unique technology. At 14 feet long, they are the size of a small rowboat—making them easy to deploy from any port or USCG vessel. They are environmentally friendly and rely solely on wind and solar power at sea. The Tritons’ solar arrays are positioned atop their hulls, along with retractable 8-foot wind sails—both designed to charge the Tritons’ batteries whenever they are on the surface of the ocean. The Tritons also perform surface and underwater surveillance activities; navigate while submerged; dive to about 100 feet; and accommodate state-of-the-art sensor packages that utilize electro-optical and infrared cameras, sonar, and other specialized sensors. All of these characteristics and abilities make them useful for long-term USCG maritime protection and law enforcement operations at sea.

The ability to submerge opens up some interesting options. This might be used to avoid collision. It might be used to sample the water column. It might be used to put acoustic sensors below the surface layer. Or it might be used to take a closer look at mine-like objects below the surface.

Thanks to Paul for bring this to my attention. 

“Elbit Systems To Supply ASW Capabilities To An Asian-Pacific Navy” –Naval News

Naval News Reports, Israeli defense contractor, Elbit Systems has been awarded contracts totaling about $56M to provide ASW capabilities to an unnamed Asia-Pacific country (my guess, the Philippines).

Elbit Systems will provide the Seagull™ USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) configured to perform ASW missions and the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) systems. The Seagull USVs will integrate Helicopter/Ship Long-Range Active Sonars (HELRAS) and will be equipped with the Company’s autonomous suite, Combat Management System and Satellite Communication capability. The TRAPS systems, which will be installed onboard the customer’s corvettes, are low frequency variable-depth-sonars intended for detection, tracking and classification of submarines, midget submarines, surface vessels and torpedoes.

I love to see this stuff because it means there are ASW systems out there that are appropriate for cutters from the largest down to relatively small.

Using helicopter style dipping sonars on surface vessels is not new. The Soviets built a number of corvettes that used this approach (Petya, Mirka, and Koni classes), but the dipping sonars have gotten much better since then.

We have talked about TRAPS before:

HELRES, Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar, is a product of L3Harris, headquartered in Melbourne, FL.

Elbit Systems’ Seagull unmanned surface vessel. I do love this photo because it shows that even a very small vessel can launch light weight torpedoes.

 

“Coast Guard Booth Presentations at Sea Air Space 2021” –CG-9

22 meter saildrone Ocean Mapping UAS

The Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) has provided media used in the Coast Guard’s presentation booths at Sea Air Space 2021, August 2 and 3. While certainly not a substitute for being there, they do provide insights into programs and concerns.

Coast Guard Booth Presentations at Sea Air Space 2021

  • Blue Technology Center of Expertise (BTCOE)
    Overview Blue Technology Center of Expertise presentation
    Ms. Jennifer Ibaven and Dr. Peter Vandeventer, BTCOE Program Managers, Office of Research, Development, Test & Evaluation and Innovation (CG-926)
    Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, 3-3:30p.m.
  • Coast Guard Detachment at DOD’s Defense Innovation Unit
    DIU & USCG Overview presentation
    Cmdr. Michael Nordhausen, Liaison Officer to Defense Innovation Unit
    Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, 4-4:30p.m.
  • Unmanned Systems
    U.S. Coast Guard Unmanned Systems presentation
    Capt. Thom Remmers, Assistant Commandant for Capabilities Unmanned Systems Cross-Functional Team Lead
    Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, 2:30-3p.m.
  • The Future of the Arctic
    U.S. Coast Guard Arctic Policy presentation
    Mr. Shannon Jenkins, Senior Arctic Policy Advisor
    Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, 11-11:30a.m.
  • Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing
    U.S Coast Guard IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook presentation
    Cmdr. James Binniker, Office of Law Enforcement Policy, Living Marine Resources and Marine Protected Resources Enforcement Division
    Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, 2:30-3p.m.

Bangladesh OPVs and a New USV, Worth the Read

A couple of stories brought to my attention by readers,

Bangladesh Navy , BNS Bijoy, armed with 1 x H/PJ-26 76 mm main gun, 4 × C-704 AShM, and 2 × Oerlikon 20 mm auto cannons

First a look at how Bangladesh has been using a couple of second hand British built Castle class OPVs. (Bangladesh now has two former USCG WHECs, so its good to see they take care of their ships. Thanks to Sven for bringing this to my attention.)

USV sighted in San Diego

Second, a report of a new unmanned surface vessel operating in San Diego. Looks like a test mule rather than a final product. (Thanks to CaptnMike for sending me the link.)

“Sea Buoys: Solid Templates In Navy’s Hyped Race For Maritime Autonomy” –Forbes

Forbes brings us a reality check on the future of Unmanned Surface and Subsurface systems, including considerations that apply to the Coast Guard as well as the DOD.

At sea, robots certainly offer the potential for lots of new and exciting capabilities. But that will mean nothing, if, in the race to chase new capabilities, the Pentagon overlooks the harsh operational realities facing any brave robot sent out to cruise our big and increasingly contested oceans all alone.

This is probably less of a problem for the Coast Guard, because as a very conservative and tight fisted organization, it is less inclined to overreach, and tends to allow other services to go through the development process before jumping in. We really have a very small R&D budget.

There is a lot of information in the article about the successes and failures (that we don’t hear so much abour) of the Saildrone program. A program the author holds in high regard.

As the principle support organization for buoys, our own and NOAA’s, perhaps the Coast Guard has experience that the Navy might benefit from.

I do have one question. If the Navy has engines that can run a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel for months without anyone on watch and without maintenance, why haven’t they put them on manned vessels?

Perhaps a second question. I was surprised to see that vandalism was such a problem for our buoys. If we have warships with no one on board, what is to stop the many bored Chinese fisherman from vandalizing our unmanned warships?

“Saildrone Showcased Its USVs At Sea Air Space 2021 For The First Time” –Naval News

Saildrone is a company that provides Unmanned Surface Vessels, powered primarily by wind and solar. The Coast Guard has already been experimenting with some of the these to provide Maritime Domain Awareness.

Naval News reports on their presence at Sea Air Space 2021, including a new, much larger, 72 foot long class of saildrones.

Meanwhile the US Naval Institute News Service reports these “Uncrewed” surface vessels might be used for ASW, towing passive sensors.

“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. 

“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.