New Thai Patrol Craft

Graphical rendering of the new patrol craft for the Royal Thai Navy (Image from Marsun)

MarineLog reports that the Thai Navy has chosen MAN 16V175D-MM, IMO Tier II engines, each rated at 2,960 kWm at 1,900 rpm, to power a new class of two Patrol Craft. With two engines for each vessel that is just under 8,000 HP.

This new class is only the latest in a string of patrol craft, indigenously built by Marsun. This class appear to be closely related to the T995 and T996 patrol gun boats. if so it should have a speed of about 27 knots.

It appears to be equipped with a small RHIB, but the boat handling equipment does not appear as convenient as a dedicated davit or stern ramp.

Recently, the Thais seem to have been providing more powerful weapons for their patrol vessels than do most other countries. They recently equipped an Offshore Patrol Vessel with Harpoon Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles in addition to a 76mm gun. The choice of gun for this class appears to be a departure from the weapons that equipped previous patrol craft. The caliber, 30mm, is the same, but the rate of fire and the origin of the weapon are different.

The gun appears to be a Russian 30mm AK-306 barrel rotary cannon, a lighter version of the ubiquitous AK630. Maximum rate of fire is 1,000 rounds per minute. It should be quite effective as a short range anti-surface weapon.

AK-306 rotary cannon, Zbroya ta Bezpeka military fair, Kyiv 2017, Photo from VoidWanderer via Wikipedia Commons

 

A New 30mm Round –Maybe a Reason to Upgrade the Mk38 Mounts

Military.com reports that Northrop Grumman is developing a proximity fuse for the 30mm gun that arms the San Antonio class LPDs and is part of the Surface Warfare module on the Littoral Combat Ship. The new round is being developed for use against drones, which are a difficult target to hit directly. It might also make the gun more effective against the small boat threat and should improve its chances against aircraft.

The Coast Guard also has an interest in being able to down drones, but this may also be of interest to the Coast Guard because it may provide the incentive needed to upgrade the guns used on Mk38 gun mounts, not just in the Coast Guard, but in the Navy as well. We have known for a long time that the 30mm round is much more effective than the 25mm round, but there has been no movement toward replacing the 25mm guns.

The Mk44 Bushmaster II, 30 mm chain gun is a derivative of the 25 mm M242 Bushmaster. They share a number of parts. All indications are that there would be no significant problem in replacing the M242 Bushmaster used in the Mk38 gun mounts with the more effective 30mm gun. The Mk38 gun mount is the primary armament of the 210 foot WMECs and Webber class Fast Response Cutters. It is expected to arm our Offshore Patrol Cutters and replace the 76mm on WMEC 270s that go through a planned Service Life Extension Program.

I really would rather see either the 50mm version of the Bushmaster III or the 40mm version of the Bushmaster II, but while none of these options are a complete answer to the Coast Guard’s need to be able to thwart a potential terrorist attack, any increase in projectile size allows both engagement at greater range and increases the probability of success against larger threats, while maintaining equal or better probability of success against smaller craft. The 30mm would be a significant improvement.

Three Missile Armed Cutter X for Senegal, 20 Patrol Boats for Ukraine

OPV 58 S from PIRIOU

Two posts from Naval News. French shipbuilders are doing well in the patrol vessel market.

First, “The Ministry of Armed Forces of Senegal and French shipbuilder PIRIOU signed November 17 a procurement contract for three OPV 58 S for the Navy of Senegal. The vessels will be fitted with missile systems, a first for this African navy.”

Second, “The Government of Ukraine gave its green light for the procurement of 20 FPB 98 patrol vessels made by French shipyard OCEA.”

The Senegalese OPVs:

The ships for Senegal fall into that class significantly larger than the Webber class, but significantly smaller than the OPCs. They will be even a little smaller than the 210s. It would be at the lower end of a type, I have called cutter X, vessels with a crew and equipment similar to that of a Webber class FRC, but with better sea keeping and longer endurance. Specifications are:

  • Length: 62.20 meters (204′)
  • Width: 9.50 meters (31.2′)
  • Draft: 2.90 meters (9.5′)
  • Speed: 21 knots
  • Range / Endurance: 25 days, 4,500 nautical miles @ 12 knots
  • Hull / Structure: Steel / Aluminum
  • Accommodations: 48 (24 crew + 24 mission personnel)
  • Stern ramp for two RHIBs

For an Offshore Patrol Vessel, it is very well armed with:

  • A 76mm main gun on the Foc’sle
  • 4x Marte MK2/N anti-ship missiles forward, between the gun and the bridge
  • 2x 12.7mm manned manchine guns on the bridge wings
  • 2x 20mm remote weapon stations (Narwhal by Nexter) at the back of the bridge
  • A SIMBAD-RC surface to air system

The Marte MK2/N missile weighs 310 kg (682#) and is 3.85 metres (12.6′) long. The warhead weighs 70 kilogram (154 pound). The missile, has “an effective range in excess of 30 km, is a fire and forget, all weather sea skimming missile with inertial mid-course navigation through way points and active radar terminal homing. These missiles give these boats a range almost double that of the 57mm or 76mm guns.

SIMRAD-RC is a remote weapons station for launch of two Mistral missiles. Developed as a shoulder launched, Man Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) system, Mistral is a short ranged (6km) IR homing missile. It is claimed to be capable against a range of air targets as well as small surface targets.

Ukrainean OCEA FPB 98 patrol boat:

OCEA FPB 98 patrol boat (Credit: OCEA)

This is a deal, we discussed in July, when it appeared likely. I will repeat the description here.

They have a GRP hull and are powered by two 3,660 HP Caterpillar diesels using waterjets. Specs for vessels of this type sold to Algeria.

  • Displacement: 100 tons
  • Length: 31.8 meters (104’4″)
  • Beam: 6.3 meters (20’8″)
  • Draft: 1.2 meters (3’11”)
  • Speed: 30 knots
  • Range: 900 nmi @ 14 knots
  • Crew: 13

They will probably be equipped with a 20 to 30mm gun.

 

“Defense Primer: U.S. Precision-Guided Munitions” –CRS

The Congressional Research Service has issued a three page, “Defense Primer: U.S. Precision-Guided Munitions.” (Thanks to the USNI news service for bringing this to my attention.)

The remarkable thing is how pervasive these systems have become.

The U.S. military has become reliant on PGMs to execute military operations, being used in ground, air, and naval operations. In FY2020, DOD requested approximately $5.6 billion for more than 70,000 such weapons in 13 munitions programs. DOD projects to request $4.4 billion for 34,000 weapons in FY2021, $3.3 billion for 25,000 weapons in FY2022, $3.8 billion for 25,000 weapons in FY2023, and $3.4 billion for 16,000 weapons in FY2024.

What has this got to do with the Coast Guard? The Coast Guard is a military organization. We are an armed force at all times. We are armed, but we are not really armed for the realities of the 21st century.

Precision guided weapons have the potential to provide the capabilities we need on a wider range of platforms, with increased effectiveness, at lower costs, with less likelihood of collateral damage.

One of the Coast Guard’s core peacetime capabilities should be the ability to forcibly stop a vessel of any size. Earlier I discussed why I believe we are not capable of doing this, here in 2011, and in fact not as capable as we were in the 1920s and 30s here in 2012.

If we are to make a meaningful contribution in any future conflict, we need to be equipped with modern weapons.

Precision guided munitions are no longer reserved for capital ships. Littoral Combat Ships, the Navy combatants that are closest to our large cutters, were built with Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) systems and Naval Strike Missiles are being added. There is not a single class of US Navy surface combatants, down to, and including the Cyclone class patrol craft, that is not equipped with some form of precision guided munition.

It is time for an upgrade.

Guided weapons can give even relatively small platforms a heavy weight punch. Anti-ship cruise missiles and torpedoes have been successfully fitted to numerous classes of vessels of less than 300 tons full load (e.g. smaller than the Webber class).

Certainly precision guided weapons, be they missiles or torpedoes, cost more on a per round basis, but a gun system that can inflict comparable damage requires an expensive gun, a large quantity of ammunition that is expensive, heavy, and a potential danger to the ship itself, extensively trained technician maintainers and operators, and frequent live training. The launchers for smart munitions by contrast may be simpler. The weapons are most frequently “wooden rounds” that require no maintenance, and training programs are frequently incorporated in the launch system software.

Lastly, if we are going to engage targets, potentially within the confines of U.S. harbors, we want to make sure rounds don’t go astray and hurt innocent Americans. Guided weapons are far less likely to cause unintended damage.

The document briefly describes twelve systems. This is certainly not all the systems in the US inventory. I presume, only these are described, because these are the systems that are included in current budget deliberations. I am reproducing the description for the systems that I think are most likely to be applicable to the Coast Guard, preceded by comments on how they might be used by the Coast Guard. The document divides missiles into “Air Launched,” “Ground Launched,” and “Naval,” but as we know, several of these missiles can be launched from ships as well as from the air or ground.

Hellfire, a good candidate for countering small, fast, highly maneuverable surface threats. Also capable of inflecting serious damage on larger targets if multiple rounds are used. Damage is roughly comparable to a shell from a WWII cruiser. Versions are now being used to arm Littoral Combat Ships. They appear to be a good fit for vessels as small as WPBs.

Army Multi-Mission Launcher (MML) firing
(IFPC, “Indirect Fire Protection Capability”) Launching Hellfire missile

Hellfire Missile. The first Hellfire was introduced into service in 1982 on the Army’s AH-64 Apache, using laser guidance to target tanks, bunkers, and structures. Hellfire missiles have a maximum effective range of 4.3 nautical miles. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Hellfire missiles were introduced on the MQ-1 Predator, and later the MQ-9 Reaper, enabling unmanned aerial vehicles to provide a strike capability. Hellfire missiles have become a preferred munition for operations in the Middle East, particularly with increased utilization of unmanned aircraft like MQ-1s and MQ-9s. 

JAGM, a possible direct replacement for Hellfire. same size and shape:

Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM). The Joint Air-to-Ground Missile is designed to replace the Hellfire, TOW, and Maverick missiles. JAGM uses a new warhead/seeker paired with an existing AGM-114R rocket motor to provide improved target acquisition and discrimination. JAGM underwent testing starting in 2010, declaring initial operating capability in 2019 having successfully been integrated on the AH-64E Apache and AH-1Z Super Cobra attack helicopters.

Naval Strike Missile, chosen for the Littoral Combat Ship and new frigate, this would seem to be a natural fit for the National Security Cutter and Offshore Patrol Cutter. I would prefer the LRASM because of its longer range and much larger warhead, but this system does have a smaller foot print so might fit where the LRASM could not. This is the first time I have seen a maximum range of 300 nautical miles quoted.

A Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM) is launched from the U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS-4) during missile testing operations off the coast of Southern California (USA). The missile scored a direct hit on a mobile ship target. 23 September 2014.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell

 Naval Strike Missile (NSM). The NSM is an anti-ship low observable cruise missile capable of flying close the surface of the ocean to avoid radar detection. The NSM is designed to fly multiple flight profiles—different altitudes and speeds—with effective ranges of between 100 and 300 nautical miles at a cruise speed of up to 0.9 Mach. The Navy has integrated the NSM on its Littoral Combat Ship, which deployed to the Pacific region in September 2019.

 

LRASM, this would be my preferred option to arm the NSC and OPC. It has sufficient range to almost guarantee that if there were a terrorist attack using a medium to large ship, we would have a vessel underway, ready, and within range to engage it. Its warhead is almost four time the size of that of the NSM, so it would be much more likely to get a mobility kill with a single round. It, like the NSM, can be launched from deck mounted inclined canisters.

US Navy photo. A U.S. Navy Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) in flight during a test event Dec. 8, 2017 off the Coast of California.

Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM). LRASM was conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, using a JASSM missile body to replace the AGM-88 Harpoon. Flight testing began in 2012 with the B-1B and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. LRASM uses radio-frequency sensors and electrooptical/infrared seekers for guidance.

 

If you want to dig deeper into this, the Congressional Research Service has done a much more in depth study of the procurement issues.

“General Dynamics’ Next Generation Squad Weapon – The RM277”

The army is in the process of selecting a new rifle and light machine gun. This report looks at one of the candidates, but also provides links to information about the other candidates. It is probably going to be a while before the Coast Guard sees a replacement for our existing weapons, with the possible exception of the specialized units.

There is also some information on the new 6,8mm (.277″) round designed to be relatively light while having greater range and better penetration of advanced body armor than the 5.56mm (.222″) round.

“French Navy to Test SOFRESUD’s IPD aboard its PAG Ships” –Naval News

Naval News reports,

An Intuitive Pointing Device (IPD) will be installed and tested aboard one of the French Navy’s PAG type patrol vessels.

We talked about this device earlier, I thought it might be used for more than just its designed purpose, perhaps even replacing our alidades.

I wanted to provide the video above, that explains some of the features of the device and better shows how it is installed.

The PAG vessels referred to in the report all operate in the Western Hemisphere, based in Martinique and French Guyana, so there is a good chance Coasties will have an opportunity to see this system, and discuss their use with their French counterparts.

According to the video the device is currently used by nine different navies, those of the UK, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Malaysia, Morocco, Korea, and Norway, so we might have other opportunities to take a look at it.

French Navy Guyana-based Light Patrol Vessel PLG La Confiance is Now on Active Duty

French Navy PLG light patrol vessel La Confiance in combined anti-drug training with US Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser. French Navy picture.

 

A Modest Proposal for a Containerized Weapon System

Leonardo DRS has been chosen to provide the mission equipment package (rendering pictured) atop a Stryker combat vehicle to serve as the Interim Maneuver-Short-Range Air Defense system for the U.S. Army. (Courtesy of Leonardo DRS)

     After the recent report of Russia containerizing anti-air missile systems I got to thinking about containerized systems the Coast Guard might use. There are many systems that might be containerized–sonars, torpedo countermeasures, cruise missiles, drones, 120mm mortars, medical facilities, but there is one combination I found particularly appealing.
     We could tie into the Army’s attempt to develop a new short range air defense system (SHORAD) by mounting a marinized version of the SHORAD turret on a container.  The systems are meant to fire on the move, so they should be able to deal with ship’s movement. The container might be armored to some extent to protect it from splinters and small arms. The container could be equipped to provide power (external connection, generator, and battery), air conditioning, air filtration, etc as the supporting vehicle would have in the Army system.  It looks like the planned interim SHORAD system will include Stinger, Hellfire, an M230 30mm gun and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. If we could mount some additional vertical launch Hellfire in the container, so much the better.
     For the Coast Guard these might be used on icebreakers and buoy tenders when they go into contested areas. They might be mounted on the stern of FRCs in lieu of the over the horizon boat using an adapter over the stern ramp, when additional firepower is required. 
     The Army and Marines might also use these containerized systems as prefab base defense systems. As fixed ground defenses, the containers might be buried leaving only the turret above ground level.
     They could also be used on Military Sealift Command and Merchant ships to provide a degree of self defense.