“U.S. Coast Guard’s VADM Linda Fagan (Pacific Command) answers why the Large Coast Guard Cutters Do Not Up-Arm” by Peter Ong

We have a guest author, Peter Ong. He reports on the response to a question he asked during the Surface Navy Association 2020 virtual meeting. Peter forwarded a draft copy of this to PACAREA to confirm that they had no issues with the post and received an affirmative response. 


PACIFIC OCEAN (May 3, 2020) U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, James (WSML 754), front, fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 203), middle, and U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) transit the Pacific Ocean during a vertical replenishment-at-sea May 3, 2020. James, Laramie and Pinckney are deployed to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter illicit drug trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Air Crewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Aaron Malek)

In recent years, up-arming suggestions about changing and upgrading the weapons’ fit aboard United States Coast Guard Cutters (USCGC) have been increasing on certain naval, Coast Guard, and Defense blogs and websites, including Chuck Hill’s Coast Guard Blog.  Posters and public commentators suggest that the 57mm Bofors cannons on the National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters should be swapped out with a 76mm cannon and that lightweight torpedoes, Longbow Hellfire missiles, and long-range Anti-Ship missiles be installed to increase the range and firepower of the Cutters’ armaments.  Since the USCG Cutters use U.S. Navy weapons, these up-arming ideas seem very plausible.

At the Surface Navy Association 2020 held virtually on August 27th due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Vice Admiral Linda Fagan, USCG, Pacific Command Theater, answered my question as to why the U.S. Coast Guard does not up-arm its large Cutters with guided smart missiles, torpedoes, missiles, larger caliber guns, and other more powerful and lethal weapons to counter peer nations and future threats.

“The Navy…they forward deploy; they Force Project; this is about lethality and National Defense,” VADM Fagan said over the screen. “The Coast Guard’s role as a Law Enforcement, regulatory, Maritime security agency is different. There is no intention to turn the Coast Guard into the [U.S.] Navy with that same lethality because there is that differentiation.  The White-Hull, [the red] racing stripe, the Humanitarian ability to help nations increase [and to] protect their own sovereignty and enforce their own laws is the place where the Coast Guard brings the most value at and provides the most benefit.  I think that the reaction might be different if the Coast Guard were to sort of look like the Navy combatant.”1

VADAM Fagan goes on to say that it is important for the USCG Cutters to seamlessly integrate with the U.S. Navy, RIMPAC, and NATO ships to share the same systems, communications, and sensors to maintain and generate a level of integration, Readiness, and interoperability as part of the U.S. National Fleet strategy.  Ensuring that the White-Hull with red stripe is a symbol of the Humanitarian Mission is critical to the United States Coast Guard and complements with the U.S. Navy’s peers in the region.

Often, a USCG National Security Cutter that is deployed far overseas is escorted by a well-armed U.S. Navy AEGIS destroyer armed with long-range Anti-Ship, Anti-Air, and Anti-Submarine missiles and torpedoes through International Waters of contention.  An example would be the USCGC Bertholf’s (WMSL-750) deployment to the Indo-Pacific region where the Bertholf linked with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), based in Yokosuka, Japan.  Together, the two ships transited the roughly 110-mile wide Taiwan Strait in March 24-25, 2019 with the Curtis Wilbur riding armed shotgun.2

Is the weapons fit onboard these National Security Cutters (NSCs) and Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs) ironclad for the foreseeable future?  For the present time, the U.S. Coast Guard is satisfied with keeping the current “gun and no missiles” weapons fit the same and exercising the White-Hull Humanitarian symbol of Search and Rescue and Maritime Law Enforcement wherever and whenever the large Coast Guard Cutters sail into far off seas.

References:

1 Surface Navy Association 2020. Thursday, August 27th, 2020.  10:35 A.M. – 11:35 A.M. VADM Linda Fagan, USCG, Pacific Command. Virtual Streaming of Keynote Address.

2 Werner, Ben. USNI News. March 25, 2019. Referred from: https://news.usni.org/2019/03/25/42133

A Reevaluation, Ruminating on Homeports While Playing the Red Cell, Part 2

This is the second part of a reexamination of where critical ports are in the US and where the cutters that might be needed to protect them are homeported.

Consolidated Target and Homeport List:

I have reproduced this listing from part 1. It has been changed slightly to reflect the move of USCGC Seneca from Boston to Portsmouth, VA. Again, we have 31 target ports or port complexes in bold  and 23 current or planned cutter homeports with the cutters in bold. In many cases a critical port is also a homeport for cutter(s).

CCGD1:

  • Bath, Me–Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH –Naval Shipyard: 2×270 (908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)

CCGD5:

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/ 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC

CCGD7:

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA–#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913), 6xFRC (1107 to 1112)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8

  • Pensacola, FL–4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport

CCGD11:

  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)

CCGD13:

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210 Plan to add two FRCs (Longview, WA is a significant port, but it is 66 miles up the Columbia River, so unlikely to be a target)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD14:

  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/ Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

CCGD17:

  • Ketchikan, AK: 2xFRC (1121, 1122)
  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC Plan to add 2xOPC (917, 918)
  • Planned to be based in Alaska, ports have not been identified 4xFRC
  • Anchorage, AK–Strategic Seaport

The Present and Future Coast Guard Fleet: 

Bertholf class National Security Cutters: 

These ships are only based in three ports, all three of these are potential target ports.

  • Charleston, SC two NSCs now, three additional planned
  • San Francisco Bay Complex, CA, four NSCs
  • Honolulu, HI, two NSCs

That might suggest that these ports are well protected, but as I have said, these ships don’t spend any time on standby, and when they are in port they are usually down hard.

Honolulu is also a Naval bases and has three Webber class WPCs assigned, so it is about as well protected as any port could be with our current equipment.

The Webber class WPCs:

As I have noted, currently the Webber class are potentially the most important asset for port protection.

Of the 31 potential target ports, these nine have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters assigned.

  • Delaware Bay/River Complex–Strategic Seaport (Philadelphia), Wilmington DE/Cape May, NJ: 3xFRC (1119, 1120, 1135)
  • Morehead City, NC–Strategic Seaport/Atlantic Beach, NC: 2xFRC (1127, 1128)
  • Miami, FL–#12 container port, #1 Cruise Ship port/ 6xFRC (1101 to 1106)
  • San Juan, PR–#5 Cruise Ship port, #15 container port/ 7xFRC (1113 to 1118, 1133)
  • Pascagoula, MS–major naval shipbuilder/ 2xFRC (1123, 1125)
  • Houston/Galveston/Texas City, TX–#2 port by tonnage (Houston),  #13 port by tonnage (Texas City), #5 container port (Houston), #6 Cruise ship port (Galveston)/Galveston, TX: 3xFRC (1136, 1137, 1138)
  • Los Angeles/Long Beach/Port Hueneme, CA–A major cultural target, #5 port by tonnage (Long Beach), #9 port by tonnage (Los Angeles), #1 container port (Los Angeles), #3 container port (Long Beach), #9 cruise Ship port (Long Beach), #11 cruise ship port (Los Angeles), Strategic Seaport (Long Beach and Port Hueneme)/San Pedro: 4xFRC (1129 to 1132) Plan to add 2xOPC (915, 916)
  • Honolulu/Pearl Harbor, HI–Major Naval base, including submarines/2xNSC (756, 757), 3xFRC (1124, 1126, 1134)
  • Apra, Guam–Submarine Base, Strategic Seaport/Plan to add 3xFRC (1139, 1140, 1143)

With four additional FRCs going to Alaska, I have to assume Anchorage, AK will be protected. Its geography protects it to a great extent. It is far up Cook Inlet. Kodiak’s position South of Cook Inlet pushes the US EEZ out, so it is much further than 200 miles from the edge of the EEZ to Anchorage. Homer, at the mouth of Cook Inlet, has been an Island class WPB in the past and may be a Webber class homeport in the future.

These seven potential target ports have, or we know will have, two or more Webber class cutters homeported within 100 nautical miles, offering some degree of protection.

  • Cape Fear River–Strategic Seaport, Wilmington, NC (WPCs from Atlantic Beach)
  • Port Everglades/Fort Lauderdale, FL–#11 container port, #2 Cruise Ship port (WPCs from Miami)
  • Mobile, AL–major naval shipbuilder, #11 port by tonnage (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Gulfport, MS–Strategic Seaport (WPCs for Pascagoula)
  • Lake Charles, LA–#12 port by tonnage (WPCs from Galveston)
  • Sabine Pass complex (Beaumont/Port Author/Orange, TX)–#4 port by tonnage (Beaumont), Strategic Seaport (both Beaumont and Port Author), It also has an LNG exporting terminal (WPCs from Galveston)
  • San Diego, CA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, major naval shipbuilder (NASSCO), Strategic Seaport (WPCs from San Pedro)

The following 14 potential target ports have no Webber class WPCs assigned or currently planned to be based within 100 nautical miles:

  • Bath, ME, –Major Naval shipbuilder
  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH–Naval Shipyard, currently homeport 2×270(908, 909)
  • Groton, CT–Submarine base
  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ–a major cultural target, #3 US Port by tonnage, #3 Container port, #4 Cruise ship port (NYC) and #13 cruise ship port (Cape Liberty, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/
  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.
  • Corpus Christi, TX#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Most likely future Webber Class Homeports: 47 of the planned 64 Webber class cutters have already been paired with their homeports as noted above (including six to go to Bahrain). Of the 17 remaining we know two will go to Astoria OR, and four will go to Alaska.  That leaves eleven to potentially protect other ports. Grouped two or three to a port, that means we will have no more than four or five additional Webber class homeports. In my view, the most likely additional ports are:

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH (also within 100 nmi of Boston and Bath, ME)
  • New London, CT (to protect sub base at Groton, CT might also protect the Long Island Sound approaches to Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Corpus Christi, TX–#7 port by tonnage, Strategic Seaport
  • San Francisco Bay complex,, CA–A major cultural target, #6 container port (Oakland), Strategic Seaport (Oakland and Concord)/Alameda, CA: 4xNSC (750, 751, 752, 755)
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA–Base for aircraft carriers (Bremerton), SSBNs (Bangor), and submarines, major naval bases, #8 container port (Seattle), #10 container port (Tacoma), #8 Cruise ship port (Seattle), Strategic Seaport (Indian Island and Tacoma, WA)/Seattle, WA: 1xWHEC, Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

Where we are naked: Potential target ports that likely will not have a Webber class within 100 nmiles:

  • Hudson River complex, New York, NY/Elizabeth and Bayonne, NJ)
  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA–Base for aircraft carriers and submarines, Major naval shipbuilder, Strategic Port, #9 port by tonnage, #5 container port; plus water route to Washington, DC (major cultural target) and Baltimore, MD–#14 port by tonnage, #13 container port, #12 cruise ship port/6×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903,904, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)
  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

The Hudson River Complex is protected to some extent by geography, given the length of its approaches. WPCs at Cape May and New London would provide a degree of protection though both are a bit more than 100 nmi away.

The strong Navy presence in the Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA should provide a degree of protection. 

7th District has 8 of the 31 critical ports and 19 of the 58 Webber class homeported in the US (I understand they will get a 20th), but all are in three ports, Miami, San Juan, and Key West, which is not a critical port. Five ports have no Webber class within 100 nautical miles.

  • Charleston, SC–#7 container port, #15 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ 2xNSC (753, 754) Plan to add 3xNSC (758, 759, 760)
  • Savannah, GA-#4 container port, Strategic Seaport
  • Jacksonville complex, FL (including Kings Bay, GA)–SSBNs, Navy Base Mayport, #14 cruise ship port, Strategic Seaport/ Mayport, FL currently homeport for 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Tampa, FL–#7 Cruise Ship port/ St. Petersburg, FL currently homeport for 2×210 (620, 625)

There are of course other considerations, but from the perspective of protecting ports we would be much better off redistributing all but three WPCs in Miami and three in San Juan to Charleston (which would also provide a degree of protection for Savannah), Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Tampa/St Pete. This would leave Key West without WPCs, but it does look like a good place for OPCs.

We would also have no Webber class within 100 miles of the Mississippi River Complex.

  • Mississippi River Complex, LA–New Orleans #6 port by tonnage, #14 container port, +#10 Cruise Ship port; South Louisiana #1 port by tonnage; Baton Rouge #8 port by tonnage; Port of Plaquemines #13 port by tonnage.

Fortunately it is protected to some extent by the long and relatively difficult passage up the Mississippi River before these ports can be reached. You are not likely to make it up the Mississippi with a ship without getting a pilot. Also Webber class at Pascagoula are only a little over 100 nautical miles from the mouth of the Mississippi.

HECs and MECs and OPCs, Oh My:

There are currently 29 WHECs/WMECs. They are to be replaced by 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs). Because of the nature of their operations and scheduling, they are unlikely to respond to a threat from their homeport, but they may be employed locally off shore for fisheries, drug, or Alien Migrant enforcement. Where will they be based?

We could say 25 ships divided among eight districts means three ships in seven districts and four in one. That might not be a bad way to start, but in all likelihood the OPCs will be distributed much as the one remaining WHEC and 28 WMECs are now, but some changes are likely because of tendencies observed of late.

  • There will be a tendency to base in groups, so at least two and preferably three or more will be based together.
  • There will be a tendency to move closer to the drug transit zones in order to shorten transit.
  • There may also be a tendency to put some additional emphasis on the Western Pacific.

Breaking it down by district even though they are Area assets, I will note how many in the district and what percentage of the current WHEC/WMEC fleet that constitutes.

CCGD1: 4 or 13.8%

  • Kittery, ME/Portsmouth, NH 2×270(908, 909)
  • Boston, MA: 2×270 (905, 907)
  • (Newport, RI Plan to add 2xOPC (919, 920))

CCGD5: 9 or 31%

  • Chesapeake Bay Complex, VA 7×270 (Portsmouth 901, 902, 903, 904, 906, 911, 912), 2×210 (Little Creek 626, 627)

CCGD7: 7 or 24.1%

  • Jacksonville complex, FL  Mayport, FL: 1×210 (617)
  • Port Canaveral, FL–#3 Cruise Ship port/ Cape Canaveral, FL: 2×210 (619, 621)
  • Key West, FL: 2×270 (910, 913)
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL: 2×210 (620, 625)

CCGD8: 4 or 13.8%

  • Pensacola, FL– 4×210 (615, 616, 624, 629)

CCGD13: 3 or 10.3%

  • Warrenton, OR: 2×210
  • Puget Sound Complex, Seattle/Tacoma, WA Port Angeles, WA: 1×210

CCGD17: 2 or 6.9%

  • Kodiak, AK: 1xWHEC, 1×282 WMEC (Planned homeport for 2xOPC (917, 918))

If we distributed the 25 OPCs in the same proportion we would have:

  • D1: 3
  • D5: 8
  • D7: 6
  • D8: 3
  • D11: 0
  • D13: 3
  • D14: 0
  • D17: 2

But we already know that two OPCs will be based in San Pedro, they probably represent a movement Southward from D13, and there is a good possibility they will be joined by a third OPC.

In the same vain I think we will see one or two fewer OPCs in D5. They might go to D7, but there is also a possibility they could go to PAC Area.

This is what I think we will ultimately see, with destination of three OPCs much less certain. Possible locations for these three are in parenthesis. It is going to be a very long time (Late 2030s) before we see the last three, so much can change.

  • D1: 3 (we already know two are going to Newport, RI. Probably the third as well.)
  • D5: 6 (presumably all in Portsmouth)
  • D7: 6 (+1 or 2) (Most likely in Key West and St. Petersburg, possibly Mayport or Charleston)
  • D8: 3 (presumably in Pensacola)
  • D11: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to San Pedro, CA. Probably a third as well)
  • D13: 0 (+2) (If it happens, Port Angeles, WA)
  • D14: 0 (+2) (Honolulu)
  • D17: 2 (+1) (We already know two are going to Kodiak. A third is less likely here.)

Historically the Coast Guard has based two thirds of its large cutters in Atlantic Area and one third in the Pacific Area. If that were to be the case, PAC Area should get six OPCs in addition to the six NSCs they have now, and LANT Area should have 19 OPCs in addition to the five NSCs currently planned.

If you look at the distribution of the US EEZ, I think there is a strong case for more ships in the Pacific.

  • Total US EEZ: 11,351,000 km2
  • East Coast EEZ: 915,763 km2
  • Gulf Coast EEZ: 707,832 km2
  • Puerto Rico EEZ: 177,685 km2
  • Total LANT Area EEZ: 1,801,280 km2 15.9%
  • Total PAC Area EEZ: 9,549,720 km 84.1%

With the increased emphasis on IUU and capacity building in the Western Pacific, we may see up to eight OPCs going to PAC AREA.

Alternative Mission Set:

PAC Area has been very aggressive in the use of their resources for drug interdiction, sending FRCs down to the Eastern Pacific transit zones off Central and South America, but PAC AREA could have more cutter time for operations in the Western Pacific, without adding cutters, if LANT AREA took full responsibility for the Eastern Pacific drug interdiction effort. There are good reasons, that might be desirable.

  • East Coast ships, particularly those based in the South East, are generally closer to the drug transit zone than PAC Area ships.
  • Forth Fleet is the Naval component commander for SOUTHCOM. Fourth Fleet is part of LANT Fleet and is headquartered in Mayport, Jacksonville, FL.  SOUTHCOM is located in Doral, FL, part of greater Miami.
  • LANT AREA is the Coast Guard counterpart of LANT Fleet and so should be the primary point of contact between Navy and Coast Guard for the Eastern Pacific drug transit zone.

US Navy Fleet Organization

The Missing Class–Response Boat, Large–the WPB replacement:

All along, I have been saying our cutter are not adequately armed to have a high probability of being able to stop a terrorist controlled vessel. Currently the Webber class WPCs seem to be the most likely craft to be in a position to take on that role, but in many scenarios they simply would not be up to the task. In addition we know that about half the critical ports or port complexes will have no Webber class homeported there so that they might respond most rapidly in the case of an attack.

We still need to replace the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. As we have discussed here and here, properly equipped, a vessel half the size of the Webber class could take on this job.

There were 74 Marine Protector class built. Wikipedia indicates there are 73 currently active and we know there is a proposal to decommission eight in the belief that their missions will be performed by Webber class and response boat, mediums. That would still leave 65.

Assuming we put two WPB replacements in position to protect each of the 31 critical ports, so that we could always have one either on standby or underway near by, it would only require 62. It the Webber class were better armed, and we only needed to protect those critical ports with no Webber class homported there, we would need no more than 34. If we also redistributed the D7 Webber class as suggested we would need only 26.

Something Special: U.S. SOCOM Continues to Modernize Its Fleet of Smaller Surface Craft

The Navy League Magazine, Seapower, reports on new craft being used by the Special Warfare community. Always interesting to see what other people are doing, “messing about in boats.”

There were a couple of paragraphs that I thought might have application to the Coast Guard (note, CC=Combatant Craft),

“As pleased as the operators are with the CCM, SOCOM is focused on bringing a lot of things to CCM,” Russell said. “One of those is maritime precision engagement. We’re going to see a topside configuration change with the integration of CC FLIR II.”

Maritime precision engagement is envisioned to be “a standoff, loitering, man-in-the-loop weapon for combatant craft capable of targeting individuals, groups, vehicles [and] small oceangoing craft with low collateral damage,” he said, noting that the installation would involve craft alterations, launchers, and missiles.

It notes later,

The CC FLIR II, built by FLIR Systems, is a “big upgrade from our legacy maritime FLIR,” Russell said. It is used to detect, recognize, identify, range, track and highlight objects of interest.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention.

 

“Patria and Kongsberg Teaming Up for U.S. Turreted Mortar Programs” Defense-Aerospace

Defense-Aerospace.com reports that,

Patria and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace have teamed up for the future U.S. turreted mortar programs.

The news here is simply that the US Army has a program to procure a turreted mortar. I don’t think the US has ever had one, at least not since the 19th century.

They offer some interesting possibilities for arming small naval craft like patrol boats. For our purposes, they are effectively low velocity short range cannon, that can fire a relatively large projectile, while requiring far less of the vessel than a typical higher velocity naval gun.

Looking specifically at the 120mm mortar, it fires a 4.7″ diameter projectile weighing about 30 pounds (I have seen weights quoted from 28 to 31 pounds. Part of the weight would be consumed propelling the projectile since this is both projectile and propellent).  That is less than half the weight of a modern 5″ projectile (70 pounds) but about five times the weight of a 57mm projectile, and the Patria turret has been mounted on some very small vessels. It has even been tested at sea in a standard sized 20 foot container.

Unguided mortar rounds tend to be less accurate than typical naval guns, but guided rounds are changing that. The Army is working on a new round.

The HEGM program objective is to create a round accurate to within one meter CEP, with dual GPS/SAL (Semi-Active Laser–Chuck) guidance to hit targets that have relocated and to function in a GPS-degraded environment.

Range is about 8,000 yards, similar to that of the Hellfire or the effective range of the 57mm Mk110 or 76mm Mk75 guns using unguided projectiles. I have seen ranges double that for smart mortar rounds. In any case, it would have sufficient range to fire from outside the effective range of likely improvised armament for a terrorist controlled vessel.

The Coast Guard is not without experience in the use of mortars on patrol boats, having mounted them on 82 foot WPBs as well as other vessels during the Vietnam era.

Gun crew on board USCGC Point Comfort (WPB-82317) firing 81mm mortar during bombardment of suspected Viet Cong staging area one mile behind An Thoi.(August 1965)

It is behind the pay wall, but the US Naval Institute Proceedings has a short argument for the Navy to look seriously at adding mortars to Its inventory of weapons. In addition to its use as a weapon, the author contends that they could be used to launch decoys or UAS. He suggests:

“The Navy could take an incremental approach to integrating mortars onto ships:

  • “Task the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head, Maryland, with testing a variety of available mortar rounds for effectiveness against maritime targets, potential for countermeasure launching, and suitability for shipboard use.
  • “Encourage the Marine Corps and the Naval Research Lab to pursue an anti-armor version of the ACERM.
  • “Fire existing Marine Corps and Army mortars from ships during a SinkEx. Assess their effectiveness on the target and their structural impact on the ship.”

This is not as good an answer to the problem of stopping larger vessels, that might be used in a terror attack, as torpedoes (probably the best solution) or missiles like Hellfire (a good solution against small vessel threats with some capability against larger vessels), but it has some capability and would also make our patrol boats more useful in the support of troops in the littorals against targets on land.

As always, this is never going to happen unless the Navy adopts the weapon. That is unlikely for the larger Navy, but the Special Warfare community might be interested.

The Navy’s New Frigate

Italian FREMM Bergamini. photo by Fabius1975–no its not going to look like this

The US Naval Institute has a one page description of the new Navy frigate in the July 2020 issue of Proceedings, including a nicely annotated side view of the ship (you can see it here). Other than the diagram and the intro, the article is behind the paywall. It not only illustrates how the ship is equipped, it also explains the differences between the US version and the Italian version. I will summarize and include some observations.

The already large FREMM frigate grows to 7,400 tons and 496 feet in length, an increase of “more than 500 tons” (700 tons according to Wikipedia) and 22 feet in length. Draft is reduced from 24 to 23 feet, but only because there is no bow mounted sonar, so the draft over the rest of the hull is likely greater.

This large size appears to open the possibility of a smaller combatant class of 2,000-4,000 tons which might be dual service (Navy/Coast Guard) ships, or perhaps simply an upgraded Bertholf class.

It appears the power plant is much the same as the Italian version, combined diesel electric and gas turbine. In the Italian ships, that consists of four diesel generators totaling roughly 15,000 HP, two electric propulsion motors totaling 5 MW or about 6700 HP, plus an LM2500 gas turbine rated at 32 MW or about 42,895 HP. The combination is reportedly good for more than 30 knots in the Italian frigates and the US version should not be much different despite the increase in displacement. The USNI report claims only a sustained speed in excess of 26 knots. I would note that this is slightly less total horsepower than the National Security cutters.

The one characteristic of the design that gives me pause is the cruise speed. For the Italian frigate the reported max is 17 knots, limited by the power of the electric motors. The USNI article reports a cruising range of 6,000 nmi at a speed of 16 knots in electric mode. These ships are likely to, at some point, perform escort duty for convoys or amphibious ready groups. Many modern merchant ships and all amphibious ready group ships can maintain 20+ knots. It is entirely possible that they may need to escort convoys with a base speed of 18 knots or more, which would require them to operate almost continuously on their one turbine engine which would seriously degrade their range. It is possible they have included higher power electric motors which might allow a 20 knot cruise, but there has been no indication of this. When escorting an aircarrier, they would be expected to operate on turbine virtually al the time, but in that case at least a tanker can be expected to be near by.

The systems reported on the new frigate include:

  • .50 cal. machine guns, looks like ten positions: four bow, two stern, four in the superstructure.
  • 57mm Mk110, ALaMO ammunition is mentioned as a capability.
  • 32 cell Mk41 VLS for SM-2 and quad-packed ESSM (no mention of vertical launch ASROC but that should be a possibility)
  • SPY-6(V)3 EASR multi-function radar, a smaller version of the radar being used on the latest Burke class DDGs
  • Mk20 Electro-optic gun fire control system
  • Cooperative Engagement Capability Datalink
  • UPX-29 IFF
  • SLQ-32(V)6 SEWIP EW system
  • Mk 53 Nulka decoy launchers
  • 16 (four quad) RGM-184 Naval Strike missile launchers
  • 7 meter RHIB hangar
  • 21 tube Mk49 RIM116 RAM launcher (on the hangar aft)
  • Hangar space for up to two MH-60R or one MH-60R and one MQ-8C Fire Scout
  • SQS-62 variable depth sonar
  • TB-37 multi-function towed array sonar
  • SLQ-61 lightweight tow or SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy

Construction is expected to begin in 2022, first of class delivery 2026, and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) 2030. Apparently this is a contract with options for out years rather than a “Block Buy.”

Late Addition: Contrary to what I think I remember about the supposed equipment, there was no mention of vertical launch Hellfire. Notably there are none of the weapons normally associated with dealing with swarming high speed inshore attack craft e.g. no 25mm Mk38 and no 30mm Mk46, which seems surprising. Also don’t see a position that seems likely for a laser weapon, unless it is the small area elevated one deck forward of the RAM launcher and aft of the stack.

 

Swedish Patrol Boat ASW System

Photo: Tapper-class Fast Patrol Boat, displacement of 62 tons, 22 meters (72′) in length (Credits: Swedish Armed Forces)

Naval News reports that the first of six Trapper class fast patrol boats has completed an upgrade that will allow these small vessels to hunt submarines. At 62 tons full load, these vessels are about 2/3s the size of the Coast Guard’s 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs (91 tons). 

Sweden has a history of suspected or known intrusions by submarines, midget submarines, and/or swimmer delivery vehicles, presumably from the Soviet Union/Russia.

What they seem to have done here is to use technology similar to the Sono-buoys used by airborne ASW units. While surface units do not have the speed of aircraft in getting to the scene, they are potentially more persistent, and because the buoys themselves do not have to fit within ejection tubes, they can be made larger with batteries that provide longer life. 

Photo: Tapper-class enhanced ASW capabilities mainly rely on new sonobuoy integration (Credits: Swedish Armed Forces)

The post makes no mention of weapons or hull mounted sonars. When built in the 1990s, this class, originally of twelve vessels, based on a Swedish Coast Guard vessel design, had a searchlight sonar and small Anti-Submarine mortars that went by the designation RBS-12 or ASW600. The mortar projectiles were relatively small, only 100mm (3.95″) in diameter, weighing 4.2 kilograms (9 pounds 4 oz.), far smaller than the 65 pound (29.5 kilo) Hedgehog or Mousetrap weapons of WWII, but, unlike those systems, they did have a shaped charge. Apparently the weapon was removed at some point, but reportedly the weapon was reintroduced in 2018 on the Koster-class mine countermeasures vessels so it is possible it has been reintroduced here as well. 

Anti-submarine mortar system Elma LLS-920 (SAAB RBS12 ASW600) on the Swedish patrol boat HMS Hugin. Rearview with some mortars unattached. Photo by Dagjoh

While the post seems to emphasize passive detection, the last paragraph suggest there is an active component.

“The Kongsberg Maritime sonar selected for this upgrade is being used for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Mine and Obstacle detection and Navigation (emphasis applied–Chuck), and is designed for use in shallow water.”

“SEAOWL TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS completes sea trials of its IPD aboard La Confiance-class patrol vessel” –Naval News

We talked about this device earlier here and here. I have to believe these devices have more uses than just target designation including navigation and man-overboard recovery. It quickly, quietly, and accurately passes information to the bridge, CIC, or remote weapons operator.

Both the text and video talk about 3D designation. I have to assume that means range and elevation as well as bearing. They also claim to have solved the potential parallax problem (differences in target bearing when taken from different locations on own ship).

This could be particularly useful for the Webber class going to PATFORSWA where they might be confronted with the asymmetric threat of large numbers of fast inshore attack craft.

“Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Updated June 8, 2020, CRS

The Congressional Research Service has updated their analysis of the FFG(X) program. You can view the 38 page pdf here.

The FFG(X) equipment lists, which you might be better able to see here constitutes a list of possibilities for upgrades to the Polar Security Cutters, Coast Guard National Security Cutters, and Offshore Patrol Cutters.

 

SAAB’s Light Weight Torpedo

Dmitry Shulgin reports the successful testing of a new light weight torpedo from SAAB that offers some unique feature un-available on US Navy light weight torpedoes.

While American light weight torpedoes are explicitly anti-submarine weapons that at least, in the case of the Mk46 mod5, might have an incidental anti-surface capability, these are expressly identified as being for both anti-submarine and anti-surface use. Unlike USN light weight torpedoes, it has the option of wire guidance. It is designed specifically for operation in  difficult littoral environments while also being usable in deeper water.

This new torpedo is designated the Torped 47, it replaces an earlier type with similar characteristics, the Torped 45. Compared to the US Navy’s Mk54, they are longer (2.85 m (9.35′) vs (2.72m (8.91′), heavier (340 kg (750 lb) vs 276 kg (608 lb)), and of greater diameter (400mm (15.75″) vs 324mm (12.75″)).

Finnish_Navy_conducts_first_torpedo_firing_from_Hamina-class_fast-attack_craft

Finnish Navy conducted its first torpedo firing from FNS Tornio Hamina-class fast-attack craft in the Archipelago Sea with a TP45 torpedo. (Picture source Finnish Navy)

They use a LiFPO4 battery which is rechargeable, so it is likely practice torpedoes can be used numerous times and quickly returned to service. Believe this is more difficult with the Otto fueled USN torpedoes.

 

“Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress Updated May 29, 2020”

Artist’s rendering of Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS system. Image courtesy Lockheed Martin.

The Congressional Research Service has updated information on the Navy’s development of Laser and Railgun systems and gun-launched guided projectile.

I was a bit disappointed to find that neither ALaMO or MAD-FIRES, being developed for the 57mm Mk110 mounted on new large cutters, were addressed.

The report’s summary is reproduced below:

Summary

Three new ship-based weapons being developed by the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP)—could substantially improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and eventually antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs).

The Navy has been developing SSLs for several years, and in 2014 installed on a Navy ship its first prototype SSL capable of countering surface craft and UAVs. The Navy since then has been developing and installing additional SSL prototypes with improved capability for countering surface craft and UAVs. Higher-power SSLs being developed by the Navy are to have a capability for countering ASCMs. Current Navy efforts to develop SSLs include

  •  the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) effort;
  • the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN);
  • the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1, also known as the high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS); and
  • the High Energy Laser Counter-ASCM Program (HELCAP).

The first three efforts above are included in what the Navy calls the Navy Laser Family of Systems (NFLoS) effort. NFLOS and HELCAP, along with technologies developed by other parts of DOD, are to support the development of future, more capable shipboard lasers.

The Navy has been developing EMRG for several years. It was originally conceived as a naval surface fire support (NSFS) weapon for supporting Marines and other friendly forces ashore. Subsequently, it was determined that EMRG could also be used for air and missile defense, which strengthened Navy interest in EMRG development. The Navy is continuing development work on EMRG, but it is unclear when production-model EMRGs will be installed on Navy ships. The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission requests $9.5 million in FY2021 for continued development of EMRG, but does not appear to program any additional development funding for EMRG in FY2022-FY2025.

As the Navy was developing EMRG, it realized that the guided projectile being developed for EMRG could also be fired from powder guns, including 5-inch guns on Navy cruisers and destroyers and 155 mm artillery guns operated by the Army and Marine Corps. The concept of firing the projectile from powder guns is referred to as GLGP and HVP. One potential advantage of HVP/GLGP is that, once developed, it can be rapidly deployed on Navy cruisers and destroyers and in Army and Marine Corps artillery units, because the powder guns in question already exist.

In addition to the question of whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2021 funding requests for SSLs, EMRG, and HVP/GLGP, issues for Congress include the following: 

  • whether the Navy is moving too quickly, too slowly, or at about the right speed in its efforts to develop these weapons;
  • the Navy’s plans for transitioning these weapons from development to procurement and fielding of production models aboard Navy ships; and
  • whether Navy the Navy’s shipbuilding plans include ships with appropriate amounts of space, weight, electrical power, and cooling capacity to accommodate these weapons.