“Turkish “MIR” USV Test-Fires Torpedo For The First Time” –Naval News

MIR USV firing torpedo (Screenshot from SSB video)

Naval News reports,

On April 18, 2023, the Turkish armed unmanned surface vessel (USV) “MIR” fired a light torpedo from a double torpedo tube at the stern of the ship. The test firing was the first torpedo launch from a Turkish USV.

This is offered as an ASW system, but if you are a regular reader here, you know I had to show the photo to illustrate how even a very small vessel can launch light weight torpedoes. (Of course, we have had previous examples, see photos at the end of the post.)

This is important because the Coast Guard has an unaddressed Required Operational Capability implicit in its Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security Mission, that the Coast Guard needs to be able to forcibly stop any vessel regardless of size. A lightweight torpedo that targets a ship’s propeller(s) seems to be the best solution for stopping larger vessels (hopefully without sinking it and causing a major pollution incident).

Existing lightweight ASW torpedoes, like those launched from the USV illustrated above, might do the job if they also have an anti-surface capability. Distribution to Coast Guard units might be thought of as a storage option for a war reserve, in that, while the Coast Guard would need to have them widely distributed, even in the worst case the Coast Guard would actually use very few.

The author notes,

“…submarines are unlikely to engage these small units because of the limited minimum depth of some torpedoes or the limited amount of torpedoes the submarines have loaded.”

But if USVs become a threat to submarines, it will not be long before there is a counter. In fact, the already existing 6.75″ diameter (171.45mm), 220 pound (100 kilos), Very Light Weight Torpedo that would not displace any existing submarine weapons might anticipate this need. This weapon system might meet the Coast Guard’s needs.

A Navy briefing slide showing the internal components and describing the various features of the PSU_ARL Common Very Light Weight Torpedo (CVLWT) design

Camera drone’s-eye view of IRGC boats on display, March 2023. A) The air defense boat. B) Light missile boat with Bladerunner hull. C) light missile boats on Interceptor hull. D) light missile boats on Interceptor hull (alternative design). E) Missile boat, with type of missile unclear. F) RIB, possibly explosive boat or uncrewed. G) RIB with lightweight anti-ship torpedoes, can be carried aboard a Shahid Soleimani-class missile corvette. H) Interceptor boat. I) Interceptor boat with new type of missile.

Elbit Systems’ Seagull unmanned surface vessel launching a lightweight torpedo. 

“Coast Guard signs strategic plan for unmanned systems” –MyCG

MyCG reports the completion of a Coast Guard UxS Strategic Plan,

“,,,the Coast Guard will find ways to use unmanned systems to improve our mission execution. Second, the Coast Guard will prepare to defend against threats from unlawful use of unmanned systems. Finally, the Coast Guard must establish and enforce a regulatory framework for the safe and lawful use of unmanned systems and automation in the Marine Transportation System.”

Using Unmanned air systems (UAS) and surface systems (USV) for increased Maritime Domain awareness is a no brainer.

Unmanned systems will certainly impact crewing requirements for the marine transportation system, with things like remote watch standers, market forces will make that happen.

The most challenging part of this will be “to defend against threats from unlawful use of unmanned systems.” This should include criminals, terrorists, and malevolent state actors.

A team aboard Coast Guard Cutter Stratton’s long range interceptor-II cutter boat participates in the interdiction of a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean July 18, 2015. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone.

For criminals, shipping drugs without using crewmembers that might provide intelligence on their operations if captured, has to seem like a good idea.

The wars in Yemen and Ukraine have already shown us what terrorists or a nation state might do with unmanned surface vessels.

The US Navy and many others are working on unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) as weapons platforms.

Snakehead Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV)

Will the Coast Guard include countering UUVs as part of its mission?

Will this prompt a return of the Coast Guard’s ASW mission?

It’s likely unmanned surface vessels will be required to counter unmanned undersea vessels.

“Unmanned Surface Vessel Transits Strait of Hormuz with U.S. Coast Guard” –NAVCENT

A U.S. Navy L3 Harris Arabian Fox MAST-13 drone boat and the U.S. Coast Guard cutters USCGC John Scheuerman and USCGC Charles Moulthrope transit the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, April 19, 2023. (Information Systems Technician 1st Class Vincent Aguirre/U.S. Coast Guard)

Below is a NAVCENT news release. It is quite apparent that the PATFORSWA Webber class WPCs have become the go-to resource for operation with the US Navy’s Task Force 59 unmanned surface vessels. Will we see something similar emerge when UAS start operating under 4th Fleet in the near future?

Unmanned Surface Vessel Transits Strait of Hormuz with U.S. Coast Guard

19 April 2023

From U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs

MANAMA, Bahrain – An unmanned surface vessel from U.S. 5th Fleet transited the Strait of Hormuz with two U.S. Coast Guard cutters, April 19, demonstrating the continued operational integration of unmanned and artificial intelligence systems by U.S. maritime forces in the Middle East.

A U.S. Navy L3 Harris Arabian Fox MAST-13 drone boat and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC John Scheuerman transit the Strait of Hormuz on April 19, 2023. (Information Systems Technician 1st Class Vincent Aguirre/U.S. Coast Guard)

USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141) and USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) transited one of the world’s most strategically important straits with an L3 Harris Arabian Fox MAST-13 unmanned surface vessel. The three vessels sailed south from the Arabian Gulf and through the narrow Strait of Hormuz before entering the Gulf of Oman.

“I am proud to be a part of this great partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy in the Middle East. We often work side-by-side as one team with a common mission to provide security and safeguard the seas,” said Lt. Trent Moon, John Scheuerman’s commanding officer.

U.S. 5th Fleet established a unit called Task Force 59 in September 2021 to integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into regional maritime operations. Since its launch, the task force has deployed a suite of new unmanned systems from operational hubs in Jordan and Bahrain.

In December, Task Force 59 launched an Aerovel Flexrotor unmanned aerial vehicle from USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) while operating in the Arabian Gulf. The launch marked Task Force 59’s first from a U.S. Coast Guard vessel at the time.

“We are on the cutting-edge of integrating advanced unmanned technology into our maritime patrols. Our crews are excited to help lead these efforts with our Navy counterparts,” said Lt. Stephen Hills, Charles Moulthrope’s commanding officer.

U.S. 5th Fleet is leading regional efforts to increase vigilance in surrounding waters that include more than 5,000 miles of coastline from the Suez Canal, around the Arabian Peninsula, through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Arabian Gulf. The integration of unmanned platforms and sensors alongside crewed ships from the United States and regional partners enhances this capability.

The two Coast Guard cutters and Arabian Fox transited the Strait of Hormuz while operating in support of the International Maritime Security Construct, an 11-nation coalition led by the United States that focuses on maritime operations near key waterways in the Middle East.

“Video: Interview With VADM Cooper On TF 59 Milestones, US 5th Fleet” –Naval News

Naval News provides a video of an interview with 5th Fleet/NAVCENT commander VAdm Charles Bradford (Brad) Cooper II. In addition to the video above, the Naval News post provides a transcript of the interview (always appreciated).

The video provides more than talking heads. There are snippets of video showing the operation of unmanned systems and the people mentioned.

PATFORSWA Webber class cutters show up in the video three times.

Task Force 59 is an exciting development. It appears likely this model will be replicated in other areas including with the 4th Fleet in the Drug Transit Zone. Hopefully the Coast Guard is taking the opportunity to learn as much as possible from these operations. If the Coast Guard does not have a Coast Guard R&D liaison to Task Force 59 we are missing a good bet.

221207-N-NO146-1001 ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 7, 2022) An Aerovel Flexrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) takes off from U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) transiting the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 7. U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 launched the UAV during Digital Horizon, a three-week event focused on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, including 10 that are in the region for the first time. (U.S. Navy photo)


“The More ‘Eyes On The Water’, The Better” –Marine News

221207-N-NO146-1001 ARABIAN GULF (Dec. 7, 2022) An Aerovel Flexrotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) takes off from U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) transiting the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 7. U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 launched the UAV during Digital Horizon, a three-week event focused on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, including 10 that are in the region for the first time. (U.S. Navy photo)

Marine News has an interesting story that discusses both PATFORSWA’s operations using the recently arrived Webber class WPCs and the recent Digital Horizon 2022 exercise. There is also a bit of a tie in between the two in that at least one WPC was operating as part of Task Force 59, the 5th Fleet element charged with operating unmanned systems. We have heard a bit about the exercise before, but the list of participants in the graphic below seems particularly revealing.

Graphic illustration depicting the unmanned systems that participated in exercise Digital Horizon.

“Navy’s Digital Horizon exercise showcases power of ‘mesh networks,’ AI” –Defense News

A Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel operates alongside U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutter USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 29, during Digital Horizon 2022. (Sgt. Brandon Murphy/US Army)

Defense News reports on 5th Fleet’s “Digital Horizon” exercise.

“We have done a lot of work with AI previously, and we’ve done computer vision, we’ve done anomalous behavior detection, we’ve done AI-enabled [command and control], but we’ve done all of those separately,” the commodore explained. “At Digital Horizon, for the first time ever, we did that together on a single stack, and that’s all integrated on a single pane of glass.”

They have been trying a number of new systems, “10 of which are being operated in 5th Fleet for the first time.” We got a look at a portion of this exercise earlier, “Task Force 59 Launches Aerial Drone from Coast Guard Ship in Middle East” –NAVCENT. Also, among the systems they tested was V-Bat UAS.

There is also confirmation here that a similar effort will be going into 4th Fleet (Latin American/Caribbean Waters); that it will involve partner nations; and that it will look at IUU fishing as well as drug interdiction.

Fortunately, it looks like Coast Guard personnel and assets have been intimately involved in this effort and it looks like it will benefit our Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) efforts.

(Will the Coast Guard’s next class of ships be USV tenders?)

Portugal to Build a New Type of Ship–UxS Carrier

The “plataforma naval multifuncional” (multifunctional naval platform). Portuguese Navy image.

It is not often an entirely new category of ship emerges, but this seems to be the case. Perhaps it was inevitable, but it looks like the Portuguese may be the first to make it happen–a specialized, built for purpose, unmanned systems mothership.

Wish the specs in the lower right above were readable. 

First heard about this ship from Cdr. Salamander. He has some interesting ideas about how such a ship could be used. It is part research ship, part disaster response vessel, and, significantly for the Coast Guard, part Offshore Patrol Vessel. There is more about the ship from Naval News. It is not particularly large, with a crew of about 90 and accommodations for another 100. The cost is reportedly about $100M US, much less than the cost of the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Judging by the size of the helicopter (reportedly an NH-90) on the model, it appears to be 100 to 110 meters (328-360 feet) in length, about the length of the OPC, maybe less. It must be pretty broad if that is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle on the deck. The Span of the Gray Eagle is 56 ft (17 m), but it just does not look like it is in scale. Maybe they have a European sourced UAS in mind. Beam looks to be about 20 to 22 meters based on my presumptions about the length, that is 66 to 72 feet. Those proportions are similar to those of the 6,615 ton Canadian Harry DeWolf class Arctic Offfshore Patrol Ship, 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in) long and a beam of 19 m (62 ft 4 in). By comparison, the beam of both the NSC and OPC is 16m or 54 feet.

The thing that makes this ship totally unique is the runway and ski-jump designed expressly for fixed wing unmanned air systems.

Artist rendering of MQ-9B STOL landing on a big-deck amphibious assault vessel. Photo: Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical.

What might make this very useful is the newly developed STOL version of the MQ-9B with shorter span, high lift, folding wings.

Not sure I like this particular design. It is not clear how many UAS and helicopters can be carrier or if there is hangar space. The island is unnecessarily thick and looks too far forward. No indication of speed or endurance. The speed in unlikely to exceed 20 knots, between 16 and 18 knots seems likely, but the concept is novel. Look forward to seeing the ship in final form.

Late Addition: 

After posting this on Facebook, I got some additional information. This is a Google translate from Portuguese. Thanks to Pedro Mateus.

MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM SHIP Lisbon, Portugal June 20, 2022 On June 20, 2022, the Portuguese Navy launched a tender limited by simplified prior qualification, via procedure no. of a Multipurpose Vessel/Platform (N-PM), with an execution period of up to 3 years (with delivery until December 2025), for a base price of 94.5 million Euros.

This Multipurpose Ship/Platform (N-PM) will have a total length, between perpendiculars, of 100 meters, a maximum beam (at flight deck level) of 20 meters and a maximum draft of 7.5 meters. It will follow STANAG 4154 (Ed 3) standards and will be able to maintain the operation of lowering and hoisting vessels in sea state 5 on the Douglas Scale. Its garrison will be composed of 1 commander, 7 officers, 8 sergeants and 29 soldiers, in a total of 45 elements. It has accommodation sized up to 28 officers, 30 sergeants and 32 enlisted men, for a total of 90 elements (in addition to the commander). It will be dimensioned for a range of 45 days at a cruising speed of 10 knots.

The N-PM shall comprise a set of aviation facilities including, among others, a flight deck (a ski-jump runway, a spot for helicopter operation, with lighting system, GPI, etc.), hangar for a helicopter (with support for hydraulic maintenance stations, overhead crane, technical lighting, etc.) and a hangar for unmanned aircraft. In terms of organic helicopter, it should support the Lynx MK95A and NH90 aircraft (either in “spot” or in hangar) and EH101 (“spot”). The flight deck must allow the operation of different types of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as “drones” (Ogassa OGS42, Tekever AR3, etc.), as well as all the support required for vertical refueling operations (VERTREP).

Within the scope of semi-rigid vessels, the N-PM will have 3 vessels: a vessel with
SOLAS (“Safety of Life at Sea”) certification for operation as “Fast
Rescue Boat”, with a power of not less than 250 hp; and two non-cooperative approach vessels, with capacity for 8 equipped soldiers, with a maximum speed of 35 knots or higher and a minimum autonomy of 60 nautical miles, for inspection missions , policing, combating drug trafficking, assault and support for a small embarked force.

Following the good practices and installation and operation recommendations of the “Alliance of European Research Fleets” (EUROFLEET), in terms of support systems for scientific research, the N-PM will be designed to be able to operate subsurface Unmanned Vehicles (VENTs) and remotely operated vehicles – “Remotely Operated Vehicle” (ROV). It will have a sensor pavilion (“drop keel”) for the installation of scientific and acoustic sensors; a large volume “Rosette” CTD system (for deep water sampling, with probe capable of operating up to 6,000 m); an MVP system, “Moving Vessel Profiler”, capable of operating up to 700 meters deep with the ship sailing at 8 knots; an “Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler” (ADCP); a “Global Acoustic Positioning System” (GAPS), capable of operating up to 4,000 meters deep. In addition to these organic systems, the N-PM will have the capacity and integration for several other non-organic systems (Piston Corer – Calypso, Vibrocorer, Box Corer, Multi Corer, etc.) as well as all operating and support winches.

Under an integrated architecture of command and control, platform management, and digital information processing and management systems, this N-PM will have a set of navigation systems (IBS, DDU, TACAN, Secure GPS, etc.), with navigation radar surveillance systems, combined warning radar (ARPA capability, “Automatic Radar Plotting Aid” and IMO certification; ECM and Anti-Jamming) and IFF/W-AIS identification systems, as well as underwater surveillance systems (bathythermograph; support for XBT/XSV probe used in the Navy (XBT4, XBT5, XBT7 and MK-8 XBT/XSV) or CTD type probes). In terms of external communications, it will have, among others, satellite communication systems SATCOM and MILSATCOM, GMDSS, submarine telephone, SART, EPIRB and ICCS.

In terms of armament, the N-PM will be equipped, at least, with 4 “softmounts” for a Browning M2 .50 heavy machine gun, with a firing range limiter and respective accessories, and a base, with ballistic protection for the Browning part and respective operator; and with 2 pieces of Hotchkiss salvo. The N-PM will be equipped with magazines and armories capable of storing various portable weapons, ammunition, pyrotechnic material and demolition material and respective detonators.

Technical drawing and 3D model via the Portuguese Navy Ships Directorate
Editing and composition by “Espada & Escudo”