Bahrain Bound FRC gets Upgrades, LRAD and Short Range Air Search

(As we get into this, you may want to click on the photo to get an enlarged view.)

This Spring, the first two Webber class patrol craft are expected to go to Bahrain to start replacing the six 110 foot WPBs of Patrol Force South West Asia (PATFORSWA).  Two more will join them in the Fall and the last two in 2022. Back in 2018, I speculated on what might be done to modify them for duty in this more dangerous area. Apparently the Coast Guard leadership has had a few ideas of their own.

We have some very shape observers among the readers of this blog.

First Andy provided the photo of USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141) above and pointed out the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD, the gray device mounted near rail on the O-1 deck just this side of the port forward corner of the bridge) and the four round sensors a short way up the mast two on each side. I note these systems were not on the ship when it was handed over by Bollinger (photo below).

The 41st fast response cutter (FRC), Charles Moulthrope, as delivered to the Coast Guard in Key West, Florida, Oct. 22, 2020. It is the first of six planned FRCs to be stationed in Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Then Secundius identified the four round sensors on the mast as Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band Radar.

From the Company web site: “RPS-42 is an S-Band tactical hemispheric air surveillance radar system. It is a member of the non-rotating, solid-state, digital radar family Multi-mission Hemisphere Radar (MHR), developed by RADA Electronic Industries Ltd.
“The RPS-42 is a pulse Doppler, software-defined radar platform, that can detect, classify and track all types of aerial vehicles – including fighters, helicopters, UAVs, transport aircraft, etc. at tactical ranges. A single radar platform provides 90º azimuth coverage. Hemispheric coverage is achieved when four radars are employed as a system. Mobile or stationary, the system can be integrated with any C⁴I system and other radars and sensors. The software is able for On-the-Move (OTM) Operation. The radar can operate either as a stand-alone or as part of a large-scale surveillance system.
“The Antenna is an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) based on Galliumnitrid (GaN) Amplifiers. Its diameter is 50.4 cm , the max width is 16.5 cm. (19.8″ x 6.5″ –Chuck)
“The achievable range for detection of the smallest drones (known as Nano UAV) is 3.5 km”

These radars use Galliumnitrid (GaN), the new technology in radar, that allows the AN/SPY-6 to significantly outperform the earlier AN/SPY-1 found on most Aegis equipped warships. (Reportedly a 3000% improvement)

You can get an appreciation of what this is about from this Popular Mechanics article. This Is the ATV-Mounted Jammer That Took Down an Iranian Drone.

There is more here: Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System [LMADIS] (globalsecurity.org)

I’m only guessing, but I would think the FRC would also have the same or equivalent complementary equipment as the LMADIS, e.g. small EO/IR camera, Skyview RF Detection system and Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer (Photo below, I may be seeing the jammer–pictured below–located above and behind the port side RPS-42 radar arrays, visible between the radar arrays and the tripod legs). The cutters of this class are already normally equipped with electro-optic devices, both on the mast and on the Mk38 gun mount, which can provide a kinetic counter to UAVs.

Sierra Nevada MODi RF jammer. From the company web site, “SNC’s Modi II is the most modern & highly-capable dismounted EMC system in the DOD inventory.”

This was probably what the Commandant was talking about, when he said that Coast Guard PATFORSWA had a counter UAS role in a recent interview.

I am thinking, this radar might also be used on some of our other cutters as well, perhaps the 210s and the six 270s to be FRAMed, to provide them better control of their helicopters on approach in bad weather. The 210s have no air search radar and the 270s will almost certainly lose the Mk92 fire control system which provides their only air search radar currently. Reportedly the radar has a range of up to 30km and an instrumented range of 50km at altitudes from 30ft to 30,000 feet. Apparently the Marines are also using it to direct fire for their short range air defense systems. which includes a 30mm gun and Stinger missiles.

Thanks to Andy and Secundius for kicking this off.

“Here Is What…Missiles Actually Costs” –The Drive

The Drive brings us estimates of the per round price for several types of missiles in the US inventory, “ship launched” here and “air launched” here. The “air launched” list includes a couple of missiles that can also be surface launched, LRASM and Hellfire. I have pulled out info on those systems that could someday up-arm Coast Guard cutters.

These numbers might look quite scary at first glimpse, but if you consider the cost of an operating day, for a ship like the $650M National Security Cutter, (I don’t really know, but a very rough estimate would be on the order of –don’t quote me– $250,000/operational day, see foot of the post for how I got this) it does not look that much out of line. (Reportedly the 57mm Mk110 gun cost $7.2M and the rounds $1200 each. The fire control systems, maintenance, training, and support personnel are additional cost.) By comparison, the Hellfire looks like an absolute bargain. We could probably mount a set of up to eight on an FRC for less than the cost of a 25mm Mk38 mod3.

Keep in mind, that if the Navy sees a need to arm Coast Guard cutters, the Navy pays for the systems. (I do believe the Navy does not really understand or appreciate our counter terrorism needs, maybe the Coast Guard does not either.)

We had some earlier estimates of the cost to arm cutters here, here, and here.


Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) – $1,795,000 (average for the entire projected Fiscal Year 2021 purchase, which includes ESSM Block I and Block II versions).

Mk49 “SeaRAM launcher for Rolling Airframe Missiles.

Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) – $905,330 – This unit price is an average across the full projected Fiscal Year 2021 order, which includes multiple RAM variants, including the Block II and IIA.

Tactical Tomahawk (TACTOM) Block V – $1,537,645 (base land-attack variant). Conversion kits to transform Block V missiles in Block Va Maritime Strike Tomahawk (MST) anti-ship missiles approximately $889,681.

The U.S. Navy littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) launches a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) during exercise “Pacific Griffin” on 2 October 2019. The NSM is a long-range, precision strike weapon that is designed to find and destroy enemy ships. Pacific Griffin is a biennial exercise conducted in the waters near Guam aimed at enhancing combined proficiency at sea while strengthening relationships between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore navies. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago

Naval Strike Missile (NSM) – $2,194,000 (Navy only requested funds to purchase 15 of these missiles in the 2021 Fiscal Year budget).

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 16, 2018) A MK-60 Griffin surface-to-surface missile is launched from coastal patrol ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12). Ships attached to U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 55 are conducting missile and naval gun exercises against high speed maneuvering targets to advance their ability to defend minesweepers and other coastal patrol ships. U.S. 5th Fleet and coalition assets are participating in numerous exercises as part of the greater Theater Counter Mine and Maritime Security Exercise to ensure maritime stability and security in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (Photo by MC2 Kevin Steinberg)

Griffin – None included in current budgets, but  2019 Fiscal Year unit cost  $127,333. 

ATLANTIC OCEAN—A Longbow Hellfire Missile is fired from Littoral Combat Ship USS Detroit (LCS 7) on Feb. 28 2017 as part of a structural test firing of the Surface to Surface Missile Module (SSMM). The test marked the first vertical missile launched from an LCS and the first launch of a missile from the SSMM from an LCS. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

Hellfire (AGM-114):  A number of different costs were reported. This is apparently due to the large number of different versions of the missile. The average price for the Navy was reported as $45,409, for the Air Force $70,000, and for the Army $213,143.

Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM)

LRASM (Long Range Anti-Ship Missile): AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) for the Air Force – $3.960 million, for the Navy – $3.518 million


How I got a very approximate cost for an operational day for a National Security Cutter.

Annual Coast Guard budget approximately $12M, divide by 40,000 (approximate number of uniformed active duty Coasties, about $300,000 each), multiply by 150 (approximate number of crew members ($45M/year), divide by 180 operating day/year=$250,000/day. (Back in the 1980s I figured a 378 cost forty or fifty thousand per op day. Forget what it was exactly but the higher cost of today’s NSC sounds about right.)

New Suppressor Allows M240 Machine Gunners to Hear Orders

Soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia live-fire testing a new suppressor from Maxim Defense on M240 Machineguns during Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) 2021 which began in late October. (U.S. Army)

Military.com reports that the Army is testing a new suppressor for the M240 machine gun that appears both durable and effective.

“This may be one that we recommend that a unit buy and do some sort of evaluation long-term,” Davis said. “We do know that with the gun firing, it brings the noise down. … You can fire the M240 and have a conversation right next to it.”

This May Be the Launcher We Need

Navy MkVI patrol boat. It it can fit on this, it can probably fit on any cutter WPB or larger. (Sorry I could not grab a photo of the launchers–you have to follow the link.)

Lockheed has new vertical launchers for JAGM, the missile that is replacing the Hellfire. Presumably it can also use the Hellfire. They seem particularly appropriate for Coast Guard applications, being small enough to mount 16 missiles atop the deckhouse of the Navy’s 85 foot MkVI patrol boat. They have a small foot print and are probably pretty light. They can be mounted in multiples of quad missile launchers; each quad launcher appears to be no more than 2′ x 3′ x 8′ tall. (That is my estimate, but I think if anything they are probably smaller. The missile itself is 7.1″ in diameter and 71″ long. For reference beam of the MkVI is only 20’6″.)

The Hellfire/JASM can successfully engage a large spectrum of potential maritime terrorist threats from small fast highly maneuverable craft (with one hit) to larger ships (assuming multiple hits), helicopters, drones, and some fixed wing aircraft.

There are two naval versions, one for mounting directly on deck and one for mounting below decks with just the muzzles above deck.

These would be an excellent addition to the Webber class being sent to replace the 110s in PATFORSWA. Probably could fit one or two quad launchers forward of the deckhouse on the Webber class on either side of the 25mm Mk38.

Thanks to Malph for brining this to my attention. 

 

“China Coast Guard to be allowed to use force in case of territorial infringement” –People’s Liberation Army Daily

This Chinese People’s Liberation Army Daily post concerning use of deadly force, linked here, may be particularly interesting for its call out of the US Coast Guard.

Law enforcement on land, sea and in airspace under its own jurisdiction, with the use of weapons on necessary occasions, are the rights granted to sovereign states by international law. The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) also stipulates that lethal weapons can be used when enforcing the law in waters under its own jurisdiction. For the US Coast Guard (USCG), the use of force is even more common, and it is even planning to apply long-arm jurisdiction to China.

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the USCG, claimed to strengthen deployment in the Asia-Pacific region and participate in security patrols in the waters surrounding China in response to Chinese maritime militia’s declaration of sovereignty in the South China Sea in April last year. Robert O’Brien, US National Security Advisor, announced on October 24 that the USCG would deploy Enhanced Response Cutters in the Western Pacific. . Without providing any evidence, he accused Chinese fishing boats of illegal fishing and claimed that the sovereignty of the United States and its neighbors in the Pacific had thus been threatened.

If they should choose to employ force against one of our cutter in their claimed “Nine Dash Line,” it is likely they would attempt to get several units in at very close range before opening fire, as they did in this engagement.

Chinese depiction of the fighting Battle of Paracels Islands

Next time we send a cutter into this area, it might be a good idea to have a squad of Marines along armed with shoulder fired missile or rocket launchers.

Might also be a good idea to provide a bit of ballistic protection (and here) for our .50 cal. gun crews. Not too difficult because you can buy it on the GSA catalog.

Most China Coast Guard Cutters are not as well armed or as fast as the Bertholfs, but there are exceptions. In all likelihood they would be more interested in causing casualties and chasing us off, than actually sinking a cutter. This is more likely to serve their purpose without getting themselves in a war. Not that I think such an attack would go unanswered, but they, or a mid-level commander, might be foolish enough to think they could get away with it. Still probably better not to have a lone cutter doing “Freedom of Navigation Operations,” although air cover might be sufficient. Really I would like to see an international repudiation of their claims in the form of an multi-national demonstration.

Combinations of CCG cutters with weapons larger than 14.5mm machine guns could be extremely dangerous at close range. Some of those are shown below.

The China CG version of the Type 056 Corvette

 

China Coast Guard Cutters Converted  from Type 053H2G frigates

“Euronaval 2020: Black Scorpion small-size torpedo from Leonardo” –Navy Recognition

Black Scorpion small-size torpedo from Leonardo (Picture source Leonardo)

We saw this earlier but Navy recognition has another report on the Leonardo Black Scorpio, a truly very small torpedo, 127mm (5″) in diameter and 1.1 meters (43.3″) in length. The report provides a bit more insight into how it is expected to be used.

Much as I see the need for the Coast Guard to have a light weight torpedo, this may be too small to have anything more than very limited utility. A 21″ (533mm) heavy weight torpedo is 80-100 times heavier. A 12.75″ (324mm) light weight torpedo is 11 to 12 times larger. Even Grumman’s “Common Very Light Weight Torpedo” is five times as large.

But I am still curious. Range? Speed? Sensor range? Usable against surface ships? Midget submarines? Moored mines?

Graphic from Leonardo

 

 

“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.