“USCG Report: Small Cutters Prove They Can Patrol a Big Ocean” –Marine Link

We have noted before, that the Coast Guard is using Webber class WPCs more like Medium Endurance Cutters than like “Fast Response Cutters” here, here, and here. No where have their capabilities been pushed harder than in the 14th District in the Central and Western Pacific.

Increased illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in US and neighboring island EEZs, US obligations under the Compact of Free Association, and desire to avoid the destruction of fisheries resources essential to the properity of the region has resulted in a need to push these little ships into remote areas of the Pacific.

Marine Link has a report about the use of Webber class FRCs for long distance patrols in the Western Pacific. This is a particularly good report in that it records not only the successes, but also the limitations that worry the crews on these demanding deployments.

Food and Fuel are major concerns

The nominal range for the Webber class WPCs is 2500 nautical miles (nmi) at 14 knots. Attempting to stretch that range requires some compromises. Fuel margins have proven adequate, but they are thin and running engines at their most economical speed takes a toll. The need to minimize fuel consumption to make the great distancces requires running the engines at low RPM,

Sabatini said that the lower speed poses some other problems for the engines. “The diesels are really designed to operate at higher RPMs. When we were going for a week to ten days at a relatively slow speed, the carbon isn’t getting blown out. So, I was worried about that build up, and concerned about replacing injectors at a high rate than normal.”

It also means that almost any diversion, weather avoidance, or even adverse weather will cut into that margin.

The nominal endurance is five days. As built there is simply not enough storage space for food.

“We had extra freezers and reefers on the bridge and out of the mezzanine deck.”

I presume the mezzanine deck is the clear area between the bridge and the Mk38 gun mount that is marked for vertical replenishment. When I got to tour the Bailey Barco (WPC-1122) while it was enroute to Alaska, there was a lot of gear stowed on deck in that area. Apparently that worked, but I can imagine situations where the seas might wash some gear stowed there over the side.

I have also heard that the on-board laundery facilities are inadequate for prolonged patrols.

So far, most of these long Webber class deployments seem to have been accompanied by a larger cutter, but I got the impression from the post that that may be changing since the Webber class have proven their ability to make the voyages unsupported.

Medical Facilities

The lack of any onboard medical assistance is also worrysome. The report notes this as a danger to the crewmembers, but it also means the ship is not well equipped to provide medical assistance if required in a SAR case. The possible distance from shoreside medical facilities may also mean they would have to maintain a 10 knot economical speed rather than being able to go to speed to the nearest shore facility.

The Future

That the Webber class have proven capable of doing these missions comes as a pleasant surprise because they would not normally be our first choice for covering these great distances. What might we do to make these missions less challenging?

We might base some of the OPCs in the Hawaii or Guam. This may be possible specifically because the Webber class have proven capable of performing missions previously handled by Atlantic Area WMECs. That is probably desirable in the long term, but there is a more immediate solution. Base two, or preferably three, Webber class in American Samoa.

A base in Pago Pago, American Samoa would make unneccessary any routine transits longer than the nominal five day endurance and more than 2000 nmi that are now required to reach parts of the US EEZ and Western Pacific Island nations. A base in Pago Pago would put these ships within less than five days and less than 1500 nmi of Samoa, the Cook Islands, Tahiti, Fiji, Vanuatu (1260 nmi), Tarawa (1373 nmi) and New Caladonia (1416 nmi).

“Coast Guard accepts delivery of 49th Fast Response Cutter Douglas Denman” –D17 Press Release

The Coast Guard accepts delivery of 49th Fast Response Cutter Douglas Denman, in Key West, Florida, May 26, 2022. The cutter will be homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Below is a press release reporting the acceptance of the 49th Webber class Fast Response Cutter. (There is an error in that this is reported to be the “24th Fast Response Cutter built by Bollinger Shipyards” while all 49 have been built by Bollinger)

This will be the third FRC based in Ketchikan. Normally I would simply add this news as a comment on a previous post, but there is news here that I had not picked up on previously.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022, which included a $130 million increase for two additional FRCs, continuing the program beyond its 64-vessel program of record. This is the second time Congress has added FRCs beyond the original 58 vessel program of record.

Bollinger typically delivers five FRCs a year, so we can expect the 17 additional FRCs to be delivered for over the next three and a half years.

The additional cutters now make it almost certain we will see FRCs based in America Samoa. Additionally we may see them in a second additional new Western Pacific base.

Photo Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska

Coast Guard accepts delivery of 49th Fast Response Cutter Douglas Denman

The Coast Guard accepts delivery of 49th Fast Response Cutter Douglas Denman, in Key West, Florida, May 26, 2022. The cutter will be homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard accepts delivery of the 49th Fast Response Cutter Douglas Denman, in Key West, Florida, May 26, 2022, alongside the Denman family. The cutter will be homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

 KEY WEST, Fla. — The Coast Guard accepted the Coast Guard Cutter Douglas Denman (WPC 1149), the 24th Fast Response Cutter built by Bollinger Shipyards, during a May 26 ceremony at Coast Guard Sector Key West.

“We were honored to have Douglas Denman’s son, Doug Jr. and daughter, Karen there for the momentous occasion,” said Lt. Paul Kang, commanding officer of the cutter. “In addition to that, two of Douglas Denman’s granddaughters drove down from Georgia with their families.”

The cutter, which is 154-feet long and has a crew complement of 24, will be homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska.

The Douglas Denman is scheduled for commissioning in September in Ketchikan. It is the third Fast Response Cutter to be stationed in the Coast Guard’s 17th Coast Guard District, which covers the state of Alaska and the North Pacific. The Denman will join the John McCormick (WPC 1121) and the Bailey Barco (WPC 1122), which arrived in Alaska in 2016 and 2017.

Born in Tallapoosa, Georgia, the cutter’s namesake joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1940 and was eventually assigned as a coxswain to the USS Colhoun (DD-85), a Wickes-class destroyer in the U.S. Navy during World War I and later re-designated APD-2 in World War II. On Aug. 30, 1942, the Colhoun was positioned off the coast of Guadalcanal when it was attacked by hostile aircraft. Denman was seriously wounded during the attack but remained at his duty station. When the order was given to abandon ship, Denman and another crew member helped evacuate the crew and get life jackets to those already in the water. Because of Denman’s selfless actions, 100 of the 150 officers and staff survived the attack and sinking of Colhoun. Denman received the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals for his heroic efforts. He served for 20 years in the Coast Guard, retiring as a senior chief petty officer in 1961.

The Fast Response Cutter is replacing the aging Island-class 110-foot patrol boats and features advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance equipment, and an over-the-horizon cutter boat. The cutter features advanced seakeeping capabilities and can achieve more than 32 mph (28 knots). The cutter has an endurance of five days. The Coast Guard is in the middle of the FRC acquisition program.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022, which included a $130 million increase for two additional FRCs, continuing the program beyond its 64-vessel program of record. This is the second time Congress has added FRCs beyond the original 58 vessel program of record.

Douglas Denman is designed for multiple missions, including law enforcement, fisheries enforcement, waterways and coastal security, search and rescue, and national defense.

For more information about this cutter, please contact 17th District Public Affairs at D17-DG-PublicAffairs@uscg.mil or Douglas Denman’s executive officer at Alicen.T.Re@uscg.mil.

Coast Guard Lt. Paul Kang, commanding officer of Cutter Douglas Denman, accepts delivery of the 49th Fast Response Cutter Douglas Denman, in Key West, Florida, May 26, 2022. The cutter will be homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“USCG’s Polar Security Cutters to Receive Mark 38 Mod 4 Guns” –Naval News

Naval News reports that the Polar Security Cutters will be armed with the new 30mm Mk38 Mod4 rather than the familiar 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 which currently arms Webber class Fast Response Cutters.

There were a couple of additional pieces of information as well.

  • Other Coast Guard vessels will also get the Mod4.
  • There are no plans to replace existing 25mm mounts with the 30mm Mod4.

The answer on the Polar Security Cutters is probably definitive because it is still three years in the future. Presumably the Navy will use up the 25mm mounts they have already purchased before installing the Mod4. The Offshore Patrol Cutter program extends so far into the future, it is likely most of them will receive the 30mm.

I would argue, vessels for which the Mk38 is the primary armament, particularly if they have only one, should receive a higher priority for the more capable Mod4 since we know the 30mm is more effective than the 25mm, and these vessels have no more powerful alternative weapon they could employ. It appears the WMEC270 that are going through the service life extension program fall in this category.

As for upgrading existing installations, there is a strong case to be made for upgrading the PATFORSWA Webber class WPCs. The 30mm offers options that are not available for the 25mm including an airburst round that can be used against UAVs and a swimmer round that is particularly effective against swarming fast inshore attack craft, both significant threats in the Persian Gulf.

The post also refers to the possibility of mounting missiles on the mount. That possibility was discussed in more detail here. I would like to see all the 25mm guns replaced by the 30mm, but if the earlier Mk38 Mod2/3 mounts were modified to mount APKWS guided rockets or Hellfire and its successor, there would be less need for the larger caliber gun.

“2021 Naval Engineering Awards Recipients Announced” –My CG

Coast Guard Cutters Emlen Tunnell and Glen Harris are moored pierside in Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 31, 2022. The two fast response cutters are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. DeAndre Dawkins.

MyCG announced special recognition of significant Naval Engineering accomplishments in the form of awards. I would like to point out one element, in one award statement, because it is the only official statement, I have seen so far regarding upgrades to the Webber class cutters that are assigned to Patrol Forces SW Asia.

“CAPTAIN RICHARD D. POORE AWARD…Mr. Michael Parrish, Deputy Product Line Manager, Surface Forces Logistics Center (SFLC) Patrol Boat Product Line (PBPL)…He used innovative financial methods to procure $4.7 million in warfighting packages to outfit six PATFORSWA cutters to help protect the U.S. Fifth Fleet.”

“Coast Guard to host groundbreaking ceremony at Base Boston for Fast Response Cutter pier construction” –News Release

Below is a First District news release. This is good news for those hoping to see some new cutters in New England. We have known for a while that Webber class FRCs were going to Boston, but the surprise I see here is, “…$35 million recapitalization of current Coast Guard facilities at Base Boston and acquisition of six new Fast Response Cutters (emphasis applied–Chuck) at a cost of $380 million.”

This follows the pattern we have seen lately of these vessels being clustered, rather than being widely distributed in ones and two.

Base Boston (photo above) must certainly have much to recommend it, but as a high-cost area, it seems likely it will host no large patrol cutters in the future. It was once homeport to several High Endurance Cutters. Until recently, it hosted three WMEC270s, Escanaba, Seneca, and Spencer. All three have since moved to Portsmouth, VA. We already know the Coast Guard plans to base OPCs #5 and #6 in nearby Newport R.I. at the former US Navy base, where there had been no large cutters.

Wikipedia has a good list of Webber class WPCs and their homeports. It does not reflect the addition of two more ship to the program of record, FRCs #65 and #66, in the FY2022 budget, but it does list 64 named vessels and homeports for 50 cutters including two expected to be homeported in Boston, USCGC William Chadwick (WPC-1150) and USCGC Warren Deyampert (WPC-1151), expected to arrive in the second half of 2022. Homeports are not yet identified for 16 ships. Four of those are presumably going to Boston so where are the remaining 12 going? One is each is expected to go to Seward and Sitka. Two will go to Kodiak. That leaves eight. Some may be added to already identified homeports. One of the 50 identified includes the first ship going to St. Petersburg, FL. St. Pete will likely get at least two more. Assuming that is the case that leaves six. We also know that two will go to Astoria, Oregon. That leaves four. The recent addition of two was probably with the intention of stationing them in America Samoa. Two there would only leave two which might go to previously identified homeports, so we may not see any additional homeports added.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 1st District Northeast

Media Advisory: Coast Guard to host groundbreaking ceremony at Base Boston for Fast Response Cutter pier construction

Editors’ Note: Media interested in attending are requested to RSVP at 617-717-9609 by 4 p.m., April 13, and should arrive no later than 9:45 a.m., Thursday.

FRC

BOSTON —The Coast Guard is scheduled to hold a media event for the Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Homeport Groundbreaking Ceremony at Base Boston, Thursday.

WHO: Rear Adm. Thomas Allan, commander, Coast Guard First District, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Congressman Stephen Lynch, and Mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu.

WHAT: Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Homeport Groundbreaking Ceremony

WHEN: Thursday, April 14, 2022, at 10 a.m.

WHERE: Coast Guard Base Boston, 427 Commercial Street, Boston, MA 02109

This ceremony marks the starts of a large Coast Guard investment in the Northeast with a $35 million recapitalization of current Coast Guard facilities at Base Boston and acquisition of six new Fast Response Cutters at a cost of $380 million. The FRCs are the Coast Guard’s newest cutter class replacing the Legacy Island Class Patrol Boats and will operate throughout the Coast Guard’s First District from New York, to the Canadian border. 

These cutters are designed for missions including:

  • search and rescue
  • fisheries law enforcement
  • drug and migrant interdiction
  • port, waterways, and coastal security
  • national defense

In addition, the Coast Guard will increase personnel presence in the area with 222 new Coast Guard members to crew and maintain the cutters. These new crews are expected to have an annual economic impact of $45 million on the local economy. 

Thetis Escorts FRCs Transatlantic

USCGC Thetis (WMEC 910) is moored behind USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) and USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) in Mindelo, Cabo Verde, on Dec. 29, 2021. Mindelo served as the cutters’ first stop after crossing the Atlantic Ocean before continuing the escort of the fast response cutters to the Mediterranean en route to their new homeport of Manama, Bahrain. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

Below is a press release regarding USCGC Thetis’ escort of Fast Response Cutters Emlen Tunnell and Glen Harris across the Atlantic, enroute Bahrain, where they will become part of the PATFORSWA. Contrary to the title on the release, this was not a counter-narcotics deployment. Appropriately enough, they did have a SAR case enroute.

There are some notable differences between this transit and the previous one. The previous escort by Hamilton, apparently made a more northerly transit and Hamilton and the FRCs parted company in the Mediterranean. Hamilton made several port calls in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

This transit, perhaps to avoid the North Atlantic in Winter, actually crossed the equator, replenishing in Fortaleza, Brazil Dec. 22/23. They apparently stayed only one day, and then sailed NE to Mindelo, Cape Verde arriving Dec. 29, 2021. They were, unfortunately, underway over Christmas. Fortaleza to Mindelo is only 1477 nautical miles, one of the shortest ways to cross the Atlantic. The FRCs should have been able to make the crossing with ample fuel reserves, without refueling from Thetis.

There is no mention of Thetis entering the Mediterranean or doing any “capacity building” anywhere other than Mindelo. Their SAR case was Jan. 4.

Thetis’ odyssey started in Key West Nov. 18 and ended Jan. 26, 2022.

I expect we will hear about the arrival of the two WPCs in Bahrain very soon.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jared Phillips speaks with Lt. Mary Mills on the bridge of USCGC Thetis (WMEC 910) in the port of Fortaleza, Brazil, on Dec. 23, 2021. Phillips served as the navigation evaluator while leaving the port and communicated with the cutter’s combat information center through a sound-powered phone. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class John Hightower)

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area

USCGC Thetis returns home from 68-day counter-narcotic deployment

USCGC Thetis fast response cutter escortUSCGC Thetis returns home from 68-day counter-narcotic deploymentUSCGC Thetis returns home from 68-day counter-narcotic deployment

USCGC Thetis returns home from 68-day counter-narcotic deploymentUSCGC Thetis in BrazilU.S. Coast Guard, partners conduct joint rescue of migrants in Atlantic

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

KEY WEST, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Thetis’s crew (WMEC 910) returned to homeport in Key West on Wednesday, after a 68-day transit escorting the Coast Guard Cutters Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and Glen Harris (WPC 1144) across the North Atlantic en route to their new homeport in Manama, Bahrain.

Thetis’ crew worked alongside NATO Allies and interagency partners in the region while transiting in the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet area of responsibility.

During the patrol, Thetis’s crew received a report from Spain’s Las Palmas Rescue Coordination Center of two overloaded migrant rafts taking on water. Thetis, Glen Harris and Emlen Tunnell crews worked together to rescue 103 migrants from overloaded and unseaworthy vessels and recovered two deceased migrants. The rescued individuals were provided food and medical care prior to being transferred to a Royal Moroccan Navy frigate.

“While escorting two new cutters across the Atlantic, we responded to a distress call and quickly transitioned to our service’s core mission of search and rescue,” said Cmdr. Justin Nadolny, the commanding officer of Thetis. “Working alongside a Moroccan ship, we were able to rapidly respond to those in distress. The case reinforced the importance of joint operations and reaffirmed the U.S. Coast Guard’s presence in the region to ensure the safety of life at sea. I am exceedingly proud of our professional and highly capable team. The crew of all three ships showed remarkable vigilance and adaptability. This case highlighted the Coast Guard’s ability to operate worldwide to protect and save those in distress on the ocean, along with our ability to work seamlessly with international partners to accomplish a shared mission.”

Thetis’ crew strengthened international partnerships in various ports, hosting military and Coast Guard leaders in Fortaleza, Brazil and Mindelo, Cape Verde. Thetis’s crew also embarked a Cape Verdean Coast Guard officer aboard for two weeks. The professional exchange was mutually beneficial, providing U.S. Coast Guard members with a deeper understanding of maritime activity in the region while passing on valuable lessons to our foreign allies.

Prior to departing Cape Verde, U.S. Ambassador Jeff Daigle visited Thetis. The ambassador’s visit showcased the importance of the maritime partnership between the U.S. and Cape Verde while demonstrating the commitment to the shared goal of global maritime security and stability on the African continent.

Thetis deployed with a MH-65 helicopter and aircrews from Air Station Miami and Houston to increase their capabilities. The aviation detachment and cutter crew worked together to conduct day and night flight operations and practice rescue hoists.

Thetis is the first 270-foot medium endurance cutter to escort fast response cutters across the Atlantic in support of the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia mission. These cutters are the third and fourth to be deployed to the region, with the final two scheduled to be delivered to Bahrain in the spring of 2022.

Thetis is a 270-foot Famous-class cutter homeported in Key West with a crew of 104. Its primary missions are counter-drug operations, migrant interdiction, enforcing federal fishery laws and search and rescue in support of U.S. Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Coyote Counter UAS

The Drive reports on tests of the Coyote Block 2 counter to Unmanned Air Systems (cUAS). This is apparently derived from the earlier Coyote Block 1 system. I may be guessing, but I presume they use the same controls and the Block 2’s launcher would be backwardly compatible.

These are specs for the earlier Block 1 as reported in Wikipedia:

  • Airspeed: 55 knots (102 km/h) cruise, 70 knots (130 km/h) kts dash
  • Deployment altitude (air launch): up to 30,000 feet (9,100 m) MSL (in non-icing conditions)
  • Comms range: 50 nautical miles (93 km) (May 2016); 70 nautical miles (130 km) (ground test October 2016)
  • Endurance: 1 hr+ @ cruise (May 2016); 2h (2017)
  • Weight: 13 pounds (5.9 kg)
  • Length: 36 inches (0.91 m) [20]
  • Wingspan: 58 inches (1.5 m)

The Block 2 appears to be similar in length and probably in weight, but it is a very different kind of loitering munition since it is jet powered.  Reportedly it is four times faster than the propeller driven Block 1 meaning capable of at least 220 knots and perhaps as much as 280 knots. The block 2 is also claimed to have a longer loiter time and to be more maneuverable. There is also a block 3 version.

“Raytheon announced in August 2021 that a demonstration of the Block 3 in an air intercept test had used a non-kinetic warhead to defeat a swarm of 10 drones. This type of payload reduces potential collateral damage and enables the variant to be recovered and reused.”

The Coyote Block 2 is not a possible future system, it has already been cleared for foreign military sales and,

“According to the company, Raytheon expects to achieve full-rate production of Coyote Block 2 in 2020.”

Iranians and their proxies appear to be stepping up the use of UAS. Breaking Defense reports,

“What is different… is a dramatic uptick in the UAV activity in the region, both in terms of their capability, their profiles, and the density of activity,” Vice Adm. Brad Cooper said.

The July 2021 fatal UAS attack on the M/V Mercer Street provides ample evidence that defenses like the Coyote Block 2 are needed to protect shipping in the 5th Fleet Operating Area.

Having seen the upgrades to the Webber class FRCs going to PATFORSWA, it may be that they are being fitted with essentially the same systems as the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System. If that is the case, they may be equipped with the Coyote counter UAS system.

I also have to wonder if such a system could provide a close in weapon system to intercept at least sub-sonic cruise missiles. As a self-defense system, it would not have to be as fast as the incoming missile, it would just have to affect an intercept at some distance from the targeted ship.

Presumably these might also be useful against swarming fast attack craft.

“Coast Guard cutter undergoing repairs catches fire at Port Tampa Bay” –Tampa Bay Times

CGC BENJAMIN DAILEY, the first FRC stationed in Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Bigshipdriver

The Tampa Bay Times reports a fire on USCGC Benjamin Dailey, Friday night, December 10, while in dry dock. The cutter is based in Pascagoula, MS. It reportedly took 45 minutes to bring the fire under control.

Thanks to Long Boat John for bringing this to my attention. 

“British Navy tests new .50 machine gun mounting system ASP” –Updated, Its made in the US

After publishing my initial post about this stabilized gun mounting system, a comment from Secundius provided much better, more detailed photos of the system and gave me the manufacturer’s name, FlexForce. The FlexForce website told me they were headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and that the system is available on GSA schedule.

Their “News” page indicates the mount will be at the Work Boat Show in New Orleans,Booth 3877 aboard Lake Assault Custom Boats FP-M boat (33 foot US Navy Force Protection, Medium) December 1-3. If this becomes a standard USN system, it would make it more readily available, perhaps at Navy expense.

Below is their data sheet for maritime applications. The Coast Guard obviously knows about this mount. The first photo below is obviously of the system mounted on a Webber class WPC.

Click to access 20190115-ASP-Maritime-Datasheet.pdf

There is another better photo of the mount on a Webber class here and a photo of it mounted on a Coast Guard 25 foot boat here.

The Coast Guard has been looking for ways to make their weapons more accurate for some time. Unfortunately some of the links are broken, but I did this report back in 2014. Back in 2017, when I was able to do a tour of the Bailey Barco, the gunners mate told me they had done some weapons testing with Navy and Marine as well as Coast Guard observers aboard.

The Electro-Optic options should also help with targeting, especially at night. The remote option essentially makes this a remote weapon station meaning the operator need not be an obvious target. Significantly FlexForce claims the system is effective against UAS.

Hopefully this system or something like it will start showing up on Coast Guard cutters, most immediately those assigned to PATFORSWA.

(I wonder if it might be possible to mount the Fletcher APKWS launcher on this (with the remote option)?

“Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement” –CRS, Updated October 19, 2021″ –CRS

The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf enters the San Francisco Bay en route to their Alameda, California homeport following a three-month multi-mission patrol, Oct. 3, 2020. Bertholf is one of four Legend-class national security cutters homeported in Alameda. (Photo by Pablo Fernicola)

The Congressional Research Service has again updated their “Report to Congress on Coast Guard Cutter Procurement”. (This link will always take you to the most recent edition of the report.) My last post on this evolving document was in reference to a 15 September, 2021 update. The questions raised in that report remain largely unanswered. I have reproduced the one page summary in full below. The summary does not appear to have changed, except to reflect the commissioning of the 45th FRC. But first I will highlight what I believe to be the changes since the last update. The significant changes reflect the Senate’s actions reported on pages 27 and 28.

Senate

The Senate Appropriations Committee, in the explanatory statement it released on October 18, 2021, for the FY2022 DHS Appropriations Act (S. XXXX), recommends the funding levels shown in the SAC column of Table 2. (PDF page 144 of 160) The explanatory statement states:

Offshore Patrol Cutter [OPC].—The Committee provides the requested amount of $597,000,000 for the construction of the fourth OPC and LLTM for the fifth OPC. While the Committee supports OPC procurements, the Committee remains concerned about costs for the program and continues the requirement for the Coast Guard to brief the Committee within one week prior to taking any procurement actions impacting estimated costs for the OPC program.

Fast Response Cutter [FRC] Program.—In accordance with the Coast Guard’s recapitalization plan, the Committee has completed funding for the replacement of legacy 110-foot Island Class patrol boats with FRCs that will operate similarly in the coastal zone. The Coast Guard is encouraged to notify the Committee if additional FRCs are necessary to support the Department of Defense in Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. (PDF page 69 of 160)

The explanatory statement also states:

Fleet Mix Analysis.—The Committee recognizes ongoing acquisition programs for various cutter classes that are responsible for many of, but not all, Coast Guard missions. While programs have correctly been prioritized around recapitalizing the oldest vessels in the fleet, several cutter classes are rapidly approaching the end of their service lives, while others have long surpassed their service lives. In order to best understand future capital investment needs, the Coast Guard shall provide to the Committee within 180 days of the date of enactment of this act, a comprehensive analysis that provides a fleet mix sufficient to carry out the assigned missions of the Coast Guard and other emerging mission requirements. The Coast Guard shall brief the Committee within 60 days of the date of enactment of this act on its plans to carry out this requirement.

Full-Funding Policy.—The Committee again directs an exception to the administration’s current acquisition policy that requires the Coast Guard to attain the total acquisition cost for a vessel, including long lead time materials [LLTM], production costs, and postproduction costs, before a production contract can be awarded. This policy has the potential to make shipbuilding less efficient, to force delayed obligation of production funds, and to require post-production funds far in advance of when they will be used. The Department should position itself to acquire vessels in the most efficient manner within the guidelines of strict governance measures.

Domestic Content.—To the maximum extent practicable, the Coast Guard shall utilize components that are manufactured in the United States when contracting for new vessels. Such components include: auxiliary equipment, such as pumps for shipboard services; propulsion equipment, including engines, reduction gears, and propellers; shipboard cranes; and spreaders for shipboard cranes. (PDF page 68 of 160)


Summary

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR), which dates to 2004, calls for procuring 8 National Security Cutters (NSCs), 25 Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) as replacements for 90 aging Coast Guard high-endurance cutters, medium-endurance cutters, and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests a total of $695.0 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs, including $597 million for the OPC program.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are replacing the Coast Guard’s 12 Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters. NSCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $670 million per ship. Although the Coast Guard’s POR calls for procuring 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2021 has fully funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. In FY2020, Congress provided $100.5 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 12th NSC, so as to preserve the option of procuring a 12th NSC while the Coast Guard evaluates its future needs. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $78.0million in procurement funding for activities within the NSC program; this request does not include further funding for a 12th NSC. The Coast
Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget also proposes rescinding $65.0 million of the $100.5 million in FY2020 funding for LLTM for a 12th NSC, “allowing the Coast Guard to focus investments on building, homeporting, and crewing Polar Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters.” The remaining $35.5 million appropriated in FY2020 for LLTM would be used to pay NSC program costs other than procuring LLTM for a 12th NSC. Nine NSCs have entered service; the ninth was commissioned into service on March 19, 2021.

OPCs are to be less expensive and in some respects less capable than NSCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 29 aged medium-endurance cutters. Coast Guard officials describe the OPC and PSC programs as the service’s highest acquisition priorities. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $411 million per ship. The first OPC was funded in FY2018. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $597.0 million in procurement funding for the fourth OPC, LLTM for the fifth, and other program costs. On October 11, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), of which the Coast Guard is a part, announced that DHS had granted extraordinary contractual relief to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) of
Panama City, FL, the builder of the first four OPCs, under P.L. 85-804 as amended (50 U.S.C. 1431-1435), a law that authorizes certain federal agencies to provide certain types of extraordinary relief to contractors who are encountering difficulties in the performance of federal contracts or subcontracts relating to national defense. The Coast Guard is holding a full and open competition for a new contract to build OPCs 5 through 15. On January 29, 2021, the Coast Guard released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for this Stage 2 contract, as it is called. Responses to the RFP were due by May 28, 2021. The Coast Guard plans to award the Stage 2 contract in the second quarter of FY2022.

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 49 aging Island-class patrol boats. FRCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 64 have been funded through FY2021, including four in FY2021. Six of the 64 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the 58-ship POR quantity for the program, which relates to domestic operations. As of October 19, 2021, 45 of the 64 have been commissioned into service. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $20.0 million in procurement funding for the FRC program; this request does not include funding for any additional FRCs