“Coast Guard modifies offshore patrol cutter contract to complete installation of the combat and radar systems” -CG-9

OPC “Placemat”

Below is a post from the  Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9). I had never heard of the “Athena combat weapons system” so “Googled” it. The most common thing that came up was an Army laser weapons program. I don’t really think that is what they talking about, but I could be wrong. The post does call it a “weapons system.” I think it may be the Leonardo ATHENA® (Architecture & Technologies Handling Electronic Naval Applications) Combat Management System (CMS). Leonardo’s web page on the system indicates it is the CMS used on the FREMM frigate which is the parent craft for new USN FFG. Maybe the Navy liked the CMS as much as they liked the ship.

The CMS on the Bertholf class cutters is an Aegis based system. I have not heard anything about its application to the offshore patrol cutter (OPC).

Late Addition: Got this, thanks to Timothy H,

AEGIS Athena Baseline 9G
May be an image of text
That is good news, since it means there will be commonality between the systems on the NSCs and the OPCs.

The Coast Guard modified its current contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) May 20 so installation of the Athena combat weapons system and multi-mode radar system will be completed during the production phase of the offshore patrol cutter (OPC). The Athena system, radar and armament of the OPC are provided to the Coast Guard as Navy type-Navy owned government furnished equipment.

Prior to this modification, installation of both systems was to occur after contract delivery while each cutter was in its homeport. The Navy has completed development, integration and testing of the Athena and radar systems, enabling the Coast Guard to shift to production-phase installation. Performing this work prior to delivery reduces the technical risks associated with post-delivery installation and delivers mission-ready OPCs to the fleet as soon as possible.

The first four OPCs are currently in production at ESG’’s shipyard in Panama City, Florida.

The OPC meets the service’s need for cutters capable of deploying independently or as part of a larger task force and is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters, interdicting undocumented individuals and protecting the nation. The acquisition of 25 OPCs will complement the capabilities of the service’s national security cutters and fast response cutters as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy.

For more information: Offshore Patrol Cutter Program page

More on Surface Launch Application of APKWS

The Drive/The Warzone has a post “What Will Fire The Laser-Guided Rockets Donated To Ukraine Is Still A Mystery,” discussing how Advance Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser guided rockets might be used by Ukrainian Armed Forces. Apparently the US is providing $22.6M worth of the systems.

We have discussed possible Coast Guard use of this weapons system several times, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The weapon is ideal for engaging small, fast, highly maneuverable surface targets, but its warhead is large enough that several hits could seriously damage larger targets. It has also been tested successfully against Unmanned Air Systems. There seems to be some indication APKWS might be mounted alongside the gun on the Mk38 mounts.

The post includes several videos including the one above that shows at least a couple of mounts including a simple ring mount and a remote weapon station. These demonstrate how small the footprint of this weapon can be.

Perhaps more importantly, it reports current and planned production figures for this weapon, that clearly show it to be common, proven, and widely available.

“… the U.S. military has a lot of 70mm rockets and buys thousands more every year. The Army alone plans to buy 60,000 unguided rockets in fiscal 2023 alone. BAE Systems, which builds the APKWS II seeker kit, is tooled to build 25,000 of them per year and is expanding production, according to its website. It has already delivered 37,000 units in six years of production.”

“Watch Ukrainian TB2 Striking Two Russian Raptor Assault Boats” –Naval News

Naval News brings us a report of the destruction of two small Russian patrol boats by small guided weapons launched from an unmanned aircraft.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. The Ukrainians have been attacking Russian vehicles with guided weapons, launched from UAS since the invasion began. Hitting a boat, is, if anything, easier than hitting a particular moving vehicle on a landscape cluttered with other vehicles, buildings, trees, and various heat sources.

But perhaps for those who have not been paying attention this may be a wakeup call. I happy to be able to say it looks like the Coast Guard has recognized this as a threat to our boats in PATFORSWA.

But maybe we need to look beyond the threat of nation states. Like other effective, but relatively cheap weapons, UAVs, and particularly suicide drones, are likely end up in the hands of non-state actors, including criminal and terrorist organizations.

The New Long Guns

Below is a press release from Sig Sauer, reporting that they have been awarded a contract for two closely related weapons intended to replace the M4/M4A1 carbine and the M249 Light Machinegun. Both use a new 6.8 mm round. There has been concern that the 5.56 mm round is not effective against some of the better body armor. I have not seen the M249 in Coast Guard service, but the Coast Guard does use the M4/M4A1 and the 7.62 mm M240. The new round is reportedly an improvement on both the 5.56 and 7.62mm rounds, so it would not be unreasonable to expect the new weapons to ultimately also replace the M240 in Coast Guard service. This would offer the logistical advantage of requiring only a single rifle caliber round service wide.

According to a report from National Defense, the weapons will be paired with a ruggedized advanced fire control system that increases accuracy and lethality, the XM157, which “integrates a number of advanced technologies, including a variable magnification optic (1X8), backup etched reticle, laser rangefinder, ballistic calculator, atmospheric sensor suite, compass, Intra-Soldier Wireless, visible and infrared aiming lasers and a digital display overlay.”

It probably will take some time before the Coast Guard sees these new weapons.


NEWINGTON, N.H., (April 20, 2022) – SIG SAUER is honored to be awarded the Next Generation Squad Weapons System (NGSW) Contract by the U.S. Army after a rigorous 27-month testing and evaluation process.

“The U.S. Army is taking a bold step toward command of the 21st century battlefield and SIG SAUER is immensely proud to be the selected provider for this historic revolution in infantry weapons. The fielding of the SIG SAUER Next Generation Squad Weapons System will forever change the dynamic of military engagement for America’s warfighters with American innovation and manufacturing,” began Ron Cohen, President and CEO SIG SAUER, Inc.

The SIG FURY Hybrid Ammunition (6.8 Common Cartridge), SIG-LMG (XM250), SIG MCX-SPEAR Rifle (XM5) and SIG SLX Suppressors meaningfully advance soldier weapons technology to meet the emerging requirements of the U.S. Army.

The SIG 6.8×51 FURY Hybrid Ammunition uses a patented lightweight metallic case designed to handle pressures higher than conventional ammunition, resulting in dramatically increased velocity and on-target energy in lighter weapons.

The SIG-LMG lightweight belt-fed machine gun and SIG MCX-SPEAR Rifle are purpose-built to harness the energy of the SIG FURY 6.8 Common Cartridge Ammunition enabling greater range and increased lethality while reducing the soldier’s load on the battlefield.  Both the SIG-LMG and MCX-SPEAR deliver significant weapon and technology advancements to the soldier and provide a solution for battlefield overmatch in comparison to the current M249 and M4/M4A1. 

The U.S. Army’s procurement of the NGSW System marks the beginning of an era where combat weapons are coupled with a suppressor as standard issue equipment.  The SIG SLX Suppressors are designed to reduce harmful gas backflow, sound signature and flash.  SIG SLX Suppressors feature a patented quick-detach design for easy install and removal.

“We commend U.S. Army leadership for having the vision to undertake this historic procurement process to deliver a transformational weapon system to our warfighters.  This award is the culmination of a successful collaboration between SIG SAUER and the U.S. Army, and we look forward to the continuing partnership,” concluded Cohen.

SIG SAUER is a company that is driven by innovation and we are proud to offer the advancements of the NGSW System in the SIG 277 FURY Hybrid Ammunition (the commercial variant of the SIG 6.8×51 FURY Ammunition round), SIG MCX-SPEAR Rifle, and the SIG SLX Series of Suppressors available to the consumer.  For more information about these products visit sigsauer.com.

“Sea Air Space 2022” –Naval News Video Coverage

Below I have posted two videos by Naval News, along with the breakdown of topics that accompanied the videos on YouTube. The video of the 30mm Mk38 Mod4 with its included electro-optic fire control system is probably of most immediate interest to the Coast Guard, but the increasing tendency to containerize weapon systems is appears ready to make any cutter (and almost any other ship) a missile carrier.

  • 01:06 – Constellation-class frigate program with Fincantieri Marinette Marine
  • 04:30 – MSI Defence Mark 38 Mod 4 30mm naval gun system
  • 07:53 – Lockheed Martin’s Expeditionary Launching System
  • 09:21 – BAE Systems E-Launcher
  • 09:52 – Kongsberg NSM-HL helicopter launched naval strike missile
  • 00:43 – Kongsberg Hugin Edge UUV
  • 02:27 – General Dynamics Tethered Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • 03:36 – Shield AI’s Hivemind (V-BAT also –Chuck)
  • 05:23 – Saildrone Explorer USV
  • 06:48 – PennState’s 54″ Large Test Vehicle UUV

 

Mark Retiring Cruiser MK41 VLS and 5″/62 Mk45 Mod4s for Possible Future Installation on Cutters

151014-N-GR120-152
INDIAN OCEAN (Oct. 14, 2015) The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) prepares to come along side for a fueling-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to their new home port in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anna Van Nuys/Released)

If we ever have another major conventional naval war, as appears increasingly likely, the Navy is going to need a lot more ships, including a lot more missile shooters. Defense News reports the Navy is considering how to add additional capability. The Navy is even considering putting missiles on cargo ships. As Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA, Cdr. USN, ret.) pointed out, a number of cruisers equipped with MK41 VLS are being retired. The 22 remaining cruisers each have 122 Mk41 vertical launch cells as well as two 5″/62 Mk45 Mod4 guns.

Five of the cruisers have been approved for decommissioning in the 2022 budget. It is likely the remaining 17 will follow in the next few years.

I suggest that some of these VLS sets be stored and earmarked as mobilization assets for possible future installation on the National Security Cutters (NSC) should the need arise. Studies have shown that the NSCs could accept up to 16 Mk41 VLS. These VLS might be recycled to the new Constellation (FFG-62) class too, but since the planned 20 ships will only use 640 VLS, it would only require seven cruisers to donate enough VLS to arm both 20 FFG and 11 National Security Cutters.

It should not be too difficult to integrate the Mk41 VLS on the National Security Cutters since their combat systems use Aegis software.

Potential Mk41 VLS weapons load outs for tactical and strike length launchers.

In addition, it might be wise to earmark the cruisers 5″/62 Mk45/Mod4 guns for possible upgrades for both National Security and Offshore Patrol Cutters as well.

The Navy’s entire Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS) capability is about 114 Mk45 5″ guns on 22 cruisers with two guns each and about 70 DDGs with only one gun. By the time the cruisers are gone, we may have perhaps 80 DDGs. That means the loss of about 30% of the current capability. Equipping the 36 NSCs and OPCs with 5″/62 Mod4 guns from the retiring cruisers could entirely replace the lost capability and importantly provide it in ships that are not likely to be deployed out of position to provide NGFS because they are needed elsewhere to provide AAW protection.

To ensure we can make these changes quickly when needed, it might be prudent to equip at least one ship of each class as a prototype for future upgrades. Upgrading one ship of each class would probably cost less than one FFG and would provide a template for future upgrades if necessary. The OPC prototype might attempt something like I described here.

Since this is preparation for war, the prototypes and storage of the weapons could come from the Navy’s budget.

 

USCGC Harriet Lane Headed for Service Life Extension Program

USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC-903), March 17, 2009. US Coast Guard photo.

Below is an Atlantic Area news release. It is about a relatively routine patrol by USCGC Harriet Lane, but there is a bit of news here.

“The crew shifted gears upon return to homeport and met the next challenge of readying Harriet Lane for an important maintenance upgrade cycle…Following this patrol, the vessel will undergo a nine-month planned maintenance and upgrade period at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore.”

It is not apparent from the text of the news release, but apparently the cutter arrived in Curtis Bay to be SLEP on March 28. Got that from a photo caption. Sorry no idea when she returned to Portsmouth after the patrol or when she departed for the Yard.

—-Wish these news releases included departure and arrival dates—

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane arrives at the Coast Guard Yard for a service life extension in Baltimore, March 28, 2022. The cutter will remain in Baltimore without the crew for approximately nine months during the overhaul project.

It appears Harriet Lane will be the first of six WMEC-270s to undergo the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) that will keep ships of the class in service until the Offshore Patrol Cutter construction program is expected to be completed in 2038.

“WMEC SLEP includes electrical system upgrades, remanufactured main diesel engines, structural renewal for stern tube and piping, and installation of a new gun weapon system supplied by the U.S. Navy. “

There are still some unanswered questions as to what will be included in the “upgrade.” We know they will loose the 76mm Mk75 gun, replaced by a 25mm Mk38, and presumably the M92 “mini-combat” firecontrol system that also provides the ships an airsearch capability that can be used for helicopter control. Will there be a replacement multi-mode radar? Will they get only one or perhaps two Mk38 guns? Will the ships retain their electronic warfare equipment that can be use in law-enforcement operations? Will they get an Unmanned Air System? Will there be changes to the aviation support equipment to better handle the larger MH-60, as it becomes the shipboard helo of choice? Maybe CG-9 will give us an update in the not too distant future.

Harriet Lane is one of the oldest 270s, commissioned in 1984. (The newest was commissioned in 1991.) She was one of four built by Tacoma Boatbuilding, before the program was switched to Robert Derecktor Shipyard, where the last nine were built. Will all four of the Tacoma Boat built cutters go through the program?

As I noted earlier, assuming the Mk38 gun will be on the bow, it probably should be mounted on a raised platform, with a breakwater, to better protect it from water coming over the bow. It would also allow the weapon to engage targets at closer range.

News Release

USCGC Harriet Lane returns home following 50-day patrol

USCGC Harriet Lane returns home following 50-day patrolUSCGC Harriet Lane returns home following 50-day patrol

USCGC Harriet Lane returns home following 50-day patrolUSCGC Harriet Lane returns home following 50-day patrolUSCGC Harriet Lane returns home following 50-day patrol

Editors’ Note: To view more or download high-resolution imagery, click on the photos above.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The crew of USCGC Harriet Lane (WMEC 903) returned to homeport in Portsmouth on Monday, following a 50-day patrol in the North Atlantic Ocean.

While on patrol, the Harriet Lane crew navigated over 6,559 miles along the southeastern coast of the United States, extending as far south as the northern coast of Cuba and east to The Bahamas, performing migrant interdiction and search and rescue operations in support of the U.S. Coast Guard Seventh District.

The Harriet Lane patrolled the Florida Straits to aid with a recent surge in unsafe and illegal migration by sea. The crew interdicted six unseaworthy vessels carrying approximately 467 individuals of Cuban or Haitian origin and cared for more than 520 migrants aboard the cutter during a four-week time span while awaiting logistics for repatriation.

The crew also assisted in two search and rescue cases after receiving notification of an individual stranded on Anguilla Cay, Bahamas and another case where several people were stranded in the water near Cuban territorial waters.

“I remain in awe of this steadfast crew. They answered the call on multiple occasions during our patrol, ensuring safety of life at sea while preventing illegal entry into the United States,” said Cmdr. Ben Goff, commanding officer of the Harriet Lane. “This mission can take an emotional toll, but our team stuck together and persevered through every challenge and adversity presented. The crew shifted gears upon return to homeport and met the next challenge of readying Harriet Lane for an important maintenance upgrade cycle with aplomb. We are forever grateful for the outstanding support we receive across the Coast Guard and from our loved ones at home. I’m looking forward to getting our crew well-earned downtime with friends and family.”

Following this patrol, the vessel will undergo a nine-month planned maintenance and upgrade period at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore.

The Harriet Lane is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter responsible for a variety of missions, including search and rescue, drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, other law enforcement and marine environmental protection.

The U.S. Coast Guard national security and medium endurance vessels homeported on the East Coast operate under the ultimate authority of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area commander located in Portsmouth, Virginia, overseeing all Coast Guard operations east of the Rocky Mountains to the Arabian Gulf.

Naval News at DIMDEX2022

Naval News provides a review of some of the presentations made at the very first DIMDEX show in Qatar. Day One above.

Day Two looks at the Pakistani naval defense plans and industry and at a compact combined active/passive variable depth sonar and towed array system from Finland’s Patria.

There is also this video of ships that attended the show.

Naval News also provided this post about a new class of cutter sized (3,000 ton) corvettes for the Pakistani Navy, based on Turkey’s MILGEM project Ada class corvettes and Istanbul class frigates.  These are significant both because of the growth of Turkey’s defense industry and because most of Pakistan’s recent naval acquisition have been from China. Significantly none of the planned systems are Chinese except the helicopter. Here are some links to information about the weapons to be mounted on the corvette:

ASELSAN GOKDENIZ twin 35mm CIWS

A Chinese Haifan II helicopter from the missile frigate ‘Zhoushan’ leaves the flight deck of HMS Cornwall. Members of the Chinese Public Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) were visiting the Type 22 frigate to discuss anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Organization: Royal Navy Object Name: FB09002219

“Remembering Coast Guard Cutter Cushing” –MyCG

USCGC Cushing sails past the Statue of Liberty

MyCG has a retrospective on the USCGC Cushing, a WPB lost with all hands in action against Russia, after being transferred to Ukrainian Navy, apparently in an effort to lure a Russian corvette within range of shore batteries.

USCGC Cushing sails for her final Coast Guard mission before being decommissioned in 2017

This was how she was armed in Ukrainian service.

Soviet era 25mm gun, the 110 PM.

Marines’ Next-gen Handheld Targeting System (NGHTS)–Naval Today

Next Generation Handheld Targeting System (NGHTS) Photo by: Northrop Grumman. 

Naval Today reports,

“US-based aerospace company Northrop Grumman Corporation has been selected to provide the US Marine Corps with the next-generation handheld targeting system (NGHTS).”

As disclosed, NGHTS is capable of performing rapid target acquisition, laser terminal guidance operation and laser spot imaging functions. Its high-definition infrared sensors provide accuracy and grid capability over extended ranges.

So, what does this have to do with the Coast Guard?

If the Coast Guard is to respond to a terrorist attack using a medium to large ship, we have to respond in one of two ways. We either have to stop the ship with Coast Guard systems, or we have to call in help from other armed forces. Either way, something like this could help.

Plus, the device seems to have additional capabilities that might be useful.

In what is likely to be a rapidly developing threat situation, I have little faith, that we can get help in time, but if we do, we are going to need to quickly and effectively identify the target. This can be a lot more difficult than you might think. Army and Air Force pilots are not trained in ship recognition. They are unlikely to be able to recognize a particular ship based on a description. Using a laser designator insures there would be no misunderstanding about which ship is their target.

If Coast Guard are going to forcibly stop a terrorist-controlled vessel, we need accurate weapons that will not result in collateral damage. Laser guided weapons can fill this role.

These systems seem to have capabilities beyond laser designation. Looking at the illustration above, it appears it also can serve as a compass, perhaps capable of taking bearings day or night, and of providing low probability of intercept, line of sight communications.

This could even be used on smaller units like the response boats. Large cutters are getting the Mk20 Electro-Optic Sensor System (It is still not clear to me, if that includes a laser designator but it does seem likely). On a rolling ship we would probably rather have a mounted rather than handheld system, but some kind of mount would probably not be too difficult. Since it is supposed to be network capable, presumably its imaging could be remoted to command positions.