Small Vessel Hellfire Vertical Launch System

Photos: Above, Modular Missile Launcher, also seen below amidships on the Textron CUSV (Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle). Note relatively small size and innocuous appearance. 

Textron Systems’ CUSV with Surface Warfare payload at SAS 2019

Naval News reports that, at this year’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition, Textron showed one of their Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) craft equipped with a remote weapon station and a modular vertical launch system for the Longbow Hellfire.

I find the Hellfire VLS particularly interesting, as it might find application on Coast Guard cutters. The launcher appears to be about 2’x2’x7. The missile itself is 64″ long (1.6 meters), 7″ in diameter (17.8 cm), with a 13″ span (33 cm).

The CUSV is about 39′ (12 meters) in length. The CUSV’s load space is reportedly 20.5′ x 6.5′.

This earlier report indicates a missile shoot from a CUSV is expected in 2019. 

There would of course be concerns about how to mount these missiles on a cutter. The effects of the smoke at launch on he crew and the possible effects of the engines ingesting the smoke would have to be considered.

The planned transfer of six Webber class cutters to Bahrain, to replace the six Island class cutters assigned to PATFORSWA, might provide the incentive necessary to plan and test a Hellfire installation on this class.

“Navy Mk38 Gun Systems Gaining Co-Axial Small-Caliber Machine Gun” –Seapower

7.62 mm Chain Gun as Coax as optionally installed on 25 mm Mark 38 Mod 3. Image copyrighted by NAVSEA Dahlgren.

The Navy League’s online magazine Seapower is reporting that ” The Navy is installing a co-axial 7.62 mm machine gun on the mounts of its Mk38 chain gun systems, a Northrop Grumman official said….the addition of the co-axial Mk52 machine gun gives the gunner another “right-sized” option for countering a small target, such as pirates or terrorists on jet skis…Northrop Grumman is installing the Mk52 guns in the Mk38 under an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract.”

This has been proposed for several years now, but this is the first indication it is happening. The proposed weapon, the 7.62mm Mk52, is in fact an electrically powered chain gun like the 25mm Mk242. (The article appears to be incorrect in this regard.)

The article also discusses the possibility of upgrading the Mk38 by replacing the 25mm gun with guns of 30 or 40mm.

I think the Coast Guard could make a good argument for upgrading its Mk38s to 40mm. The change would make very little difference to a DDG, also equipped with a 5″ gun and anti-ship missiles, but the Mk38 is the largest weapon available on about 75 Coast Guard cutters and these cutters could at any moment be required to face a vessel much larger than the Iranian boats the Navy has been fixated on. We already know the 30mm is a quantum leap in capability compared to the 25mm. Effectiveness is closely related to projectile weight. The 30mm projectile weighs about twice that of the 25mm. The 40mm projectile will weight three to four times as much as the 25mm. Since the rate of fire for these guns is similar, the 40mm is likely to be at least three times as effective against more difficult targets and also has a greater effective range.

Addendum:

The Coast Guard plans to install the Mk 38 on 64 Webber class and 25 Offshore Patrol cutters. The older crew served version of the Mk38 is on the remaining 378s, the 210s, and the remaining 110 foot Island class WPBs. I expect we may see the Mk38 on the Polar Security Cutters and the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPB replacement when they are built.

This would of course be less important if the vessels had something like the Long Bow Hellfire, which would be more effective than any of these guns against virtually any size targets.

 

FY2019 Budget


US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

With a bit of help from a friend, the actual FY2019 budget documents were located:  “The Joint Explanation” and “The Conference Report.”

I found the Joint Explanation easiest to wade through. The Budget breakdown is found on pages 65 to 69 of the 612 page pdf.

Note in some cases I have rounded to the nearest $0.1M


Our total Coast Guard FY2019 budget is $12,015,921,000. This is $91,803,000 less than last year, but $577,720,000 more than the budget request.

The Operations and Support allocation is $7,808.2M. That is $434.9M more than last year (a 5.6% increase), and $215.1M more than requested.

I have provided information on the PC&I budget below including a complete list of line items that I was unable to provide before.

PROCUREMENT, CONSTRUCTION, AND IMPROVEMENTS (PC&I) $2,248.26M

Vessels and Boats

  • Survey and design:                      5.5M
  • In service vessel sustainment:   63.25M
  • National Security Cutter:              72.6M (Follow up on ships already funded)
  • Offshore Patrol Cutter:                  400M (Second of class + LLTM for third)
  • Fast Response Cutter: 340M (Six Webber class including two for PATFORSWA)
  • Cutter boats                                       5M
  • Polar Security Cutter:                     675M (First of class + LLTM for second)
  • Waterways Commerce Cutter:           5M
  • Polar sustainment:                            15M (Polar Star Service Life Extension)

—-Vessels Subtotal:  $1,581.35M

Aircraft

  • HC-144 Conversion/Sustainment:         17M
  • HC-27J Conversion/Sustainment:         80M
  • HC-1330J Conversion/Sustainment:   105M
  • HH-65 Conversion/Sustainment:           28M
  • MH-60 Conversion/Sustainment:         120M
  • Small Unmanned Aircraft:                        6M

—Aircraft Subtotal:  $356M

Other Acquisition Programs:

  • Other Equipment and System:                                               3.5M
  • Program Oversight and Managemen:                                    20M
  • C4ISR                                                                                    23.3M
  • CG-Logistics Information Management System (CG-LIMS):   9.2M

—Other Acquisitions Programs Subtotal:   $56M

Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation:

  • Major Construction; Housing; ATON; and Survey and Design: 74.51M
  • Major Acquisition Systems Infrastructure:                                 175.4M
  • Minor Shore                                                                                      5M

—Shore Facilities and Aids to Navigation Subtotal:  $254.91M

The PC&I total, $2,248.26M, was $446.48M less than FY2018, but it was $361.51M above the budget request.

R&D was cut by almost a third. This is probably a place to spend more not less.

Reserve Training disappeared as a separate line item, so I can’t tell what happened there.

Also included in the new budget is $5M for the National Coast Guard Museum

Incidentally, the total amount appropriated for the polar security program includes $359.6M (FY2018 and prior) + $675M (FY2019), or $1,034.6M, of which $20M is for Long Lead Time Material for the second ship, and the remainder is for the first ship and other program-related expenses.

With Operations and Support up more than 5% over 2018 and Procurement Construction &Improvement (PC&I) over $2B for the second year in a row, this is the kind of budget we can live with. It just needs to keep happening.

FY2019 PC&I Appropriations

I have not been able to find a complete FY2019 Coast Guard budget as it was signed into law, but we do have at least a partial list of Procurement, Construction, and Improvement appropriations for ships and aircraft based on two Congressional Research Service reports (Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” and “Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress “) and a Homeland Security Today report.

$1,507.6M For Ships (LLTI refers to Long Lead Time Material):

  • $675M   for the first Polar Security Cutter and LLTM for the second
  • $400M   for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter and LLTM for the third
  • $340M   for six Fast Response Cutters
  • $72.6M  for the National Security Cutter program
  • $15M     for life extension work on Polar Star
  • $5M       for initial work on procuring an additional Great Lakes Icebreaker

Coast Guard C-130J

$208M For Aircraft:

  • $105 for the HC-130J program (I think that is one aircraft)
  • $95M for MH-60T recapitalization (reworking existing aircraft I believe)
  • $8M for upgrades to the MH-65s

That is $1,715M for the items above. This, hopefully, is not all. I don’t have a figure for the Waterways Commerce Cutter (a small figure at this point), no information on unmanned systems, and there should also be money to address the backlog of shoreside improvements, but this does seem to show a recognition of the real needs of the Coast Guard for recapitalization. Looks like the $2+B annually for PC&I the Coast Guard has been saying they need is within reach.

 

 

“Coast Guard patrols South Pacific in support of international fisheries”

A boarding team from the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) approach a fishing vessel on the high seas in January 2019 while patrolling in support of counter-Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing and global security missions. Mellon’s crew is supporting international fisheries on the high seas and enforcement of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon)

When I reported Betholf’s departure for the Western Pacific, Jan. 22, 2019, I speculated that after Munro’s visit to the Solomon Islands and Fiji, reported Dec. 8, 2018, that perhaps we were seeing the start of a new trend. Apparently I was a bit late in my prediction because, apparently Mellon had already followed Munro into the Western Pacific, departing Seattle shortly after Christmas. The CCGD14 news release below will explain.

Something else I noticed in the news release, was that while in Hawaiian waters, Mellon had conducted Astern Re-fueling-at-Sea training with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126). We also had a report of an underway refueling of a Webber Class Cutter when USCGC Oliver F. Berry (WPC-1124) completed a 2,200 mile transit for Operations in the Marshall Islands. Could this be preparation for multi-unit operations in the Western Pacific?

Crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mellon performed two community outreach events while in Suva, Fiji, in January 2019. Children admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva had the opportunity to meet with and hear stories from the crew during their community relations event at the hospital led by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sarah Patanapaiboon and the crew also refurbished the hospital gardens. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Mellon)

The News Release

HONOLULU — Following a stop in Fiji in late January, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon (WHEC 717) continue their South Pacific patrol in support of counter-Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing and global security missions.
 
The presence of a high endurance Coast Guard cutter conducting operations in the region demonstrates the U.S. commitment to regional partnerships and strengthening a coalition of like-minded countries to strengthen regional maritime governance and promote a rules-based regime for fisheries.
 
Mellon’s crew is supporting international fisheries on the high seas and enforcement of the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Upon arrival in the WCPFC convention area, they partnered with the Canadian Armed Forces who flew seven reconnaissance flights improving maritime domain awareness and aiding in the enforcement of the WCPFC convention. Patrolling over 1,110 square miles within the WCPFC convention area, the Mellon’s law enforcement team boarded two vessels, one fishing vessel and one bunkering vessel. Both boardings resulted in potential violations of conservation management measures including high seas transshipment and specifications for the marking and identification of fishing vessels. 
 
“Participating in the WCPFC ties into a broader strategy the Coast Guard is pursuing in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Capt. Stephen Burdian, commanding officer, cutter Mellon. “Throughout the area, the U.S., and by extension the Coast Guard, is encouraging relationships respecting the sovereignty, supporting fair and reciprocal trade, and the rule of law in an open and free Oceania. Through a tactical lens, that strategy looks like a Coast Guard boarding of a foreign fishing vessel, while on the high seas or in a sovereign Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) jointly with a member of that country’s enforcement team. On this patrol, we are fortunate to have excellent support from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and our Canadian counterparts.”
 
While on a port call in conjunction with the US Embassy in Suva, Fiji, the crew strengthened partnerships with Pacific Islands Nation communities by participating in community relations events at a local animal shelter, children’s hospital and garden.  At the animal shelter crew members engaged with kittens and puppies while giving animals baths and general clean-up of the shelter.  At the children’s hospital and garden, the crew read books to children and tidied up the garden area.  
 
Mellon’s crew of 150 departed their homeport of Seattle shortly after Christmas. They made a brief stop in Hawaii for fuel and supplies. This stop was leveraged for training as the crew conducted Astern Re-fueling-at-Sea training with the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126). Also, they worked with Air Station Barbers Point crews to complete 72 shipboard helicopter evolutions over three days, resulting in the qualification of three M H-65 Dolphin helicopter pilots and 10 flight deck personnel aboard Mellon.  The cutter also embarked two Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans Officers, two U.S. Navy Aerographer’s Mates, and one U.S. Marine Corps Mandarin translator while in Hawaii for the upcoming operations. The crew is more than 8,000 miles into their patrol and have taken every opportunity for professional development with more than 40 crew earning new qualifications.
 
Oceania covers an area of 3.3 million square miles and has a population of 40 million and is home to some of our valued strategic partners in the Pacific Island Nations as well as Australia and New Zealand, with whom the U.S. has aligned for more than a century.
 
The importance of the Pacific Islands is very evident as the Coast Guard continues operations in the region and the U.S. strengthens partnerships with the governments of these nations. We recognize tourism and exports, both requiring a great deal of commercial vessel traffic, are a primary economic driver. Tuna represented a nearly $5 billion industry in 2015 with more than half the world’s tuna is sourced from the Western Pacific. In 2017 reported landings were 2.5 million tons of fish.
 
The presence of a high-endurance cutter in this part of the Pacific to enforce Conservation and Management Measures established by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission represents the U.S. and the Service’s commitment to our partnerships in the region. This body represents another essential collaboration. The WCPFC is an international body made up of 43 nations and international organizations. Members agree to allow the 13-enforcer nations in the pact to board and record any potential violations on their nationally flagged vessels. The findings go to the WCPFC who notifies the vessel’s flag state of the suspected infraction for further investigation.
 
“The U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans have a long history of working together to ensure the viability of fish stocks off North America.  Working with experts from Canada and regional leaders like Fiji is vital to ensuring food security and the rule of law in Oceania,” said Capt. Robert Hendrickson, Chief of Response for Coast Guard 14th District. “Working together we are helping to ensure a more secure, free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Webber class Could be the Navy’s Light Duty Pickup Truck

Coast Guard Cutter John F. McCormick (WPC 1121) crew transits through the San Francisco Bay, Saturday, March 4, 2017, during their voyage to homeport in Ketchikan, Alaska.  Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart

In 2012 the US Naval Institute published an important article by then CNO Admiral Johnathan Greenert, “Payloads over platforms: Charting a new course.” It starts off, 
“We need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection. “
He suggested that the Navy needs F150 pickups rather than Ferraris. Metaphorically the Webber class could be the Navy’s small Toyota pickup–cheap, reliable, versatile, and economical to operate. 
A strong point for the Webber class is that it is probably the smallest and cheapest combatant, being currently manufactured, that can self deploy anywhere in the world (other than the polar regions) with minimal support en route as demonstrated by their self deployment to Hawaii and Alaska and USCGC Olivier F. Berry (WPC-1124)’s successful patrol to the Marshall Islands, 2200 miles from her homeport in Honolulu.
As currently equipped there is not a lot of free space apparent on the Webber class, but removing the eight meter “over the horizon boat” would free up a large area where mission modules could be placed. We can think of it as the bed of the pickup.


180201-N-TB177-0211
U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Feb. 1, 2018) Island-class patrol boats USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332), left, USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309), middle, and coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) patrol the open seas. Wrangell, Aquidneck and Firebolt are forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg/Released)

Potential Missions
 
Countering the Swarm: 
 
The Navy’s most likely first use of a Webber class could be as replacements for the Cyclone class in South West Asia. Countering the large number of Iranian fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) is a mission the Cyclone class is expected to do now, protecting both larger Navy vessels and the tanker traffic that must pass through the Straits of Hormuz. 

The Fletcher laser guided rocket launcher fires BAE’s 2.75 inch laser guided rockets known as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System. (Shawn Snow/Defense News Staff)

An earlier post, “Modifying Webber Class Cutters for Duty in SW Asia,” was aimed at this threat as applied to the Coast Guard Webber class that will be going to Southwest Asia. As a minimum the Navy will likely want some form of guided weapon, Perhaps the APKWS would suffice, if provided in sufficient numbers.

Spike LR Missile launched from a Typhoon weapon station on an Israel Navy Super Dvora Mk 2. A similar configuration was recently tested by the US Navy, from an unmanned surface vessel (USV-PEM). Photo: RAFAEL

The 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 that are currently mounted on the Webber class might be up-gunned (30, 35, and 40mm guns are all possible) and the mount might also be modified to also launch APKWS. Alternately the Mk38 might be replaced by BAE’s 40mm/70 MK4 and the Toplite gun director c(urrently mounted on the Mk38) could be mounted on the mast to control the 40mm, as the Israelis have done with some of their installations of the system, assuming the 40mm Mk 4 does not weigh too much.  

BAE Bofors 40mm/70 mk4

Optimally, the outfit should include Longbow Hellfire. It could probably be mounted as single tube launchers affixed along the sides of the superstructure. I have seen a mockup of such a launcher. The missile itself is only about seven inches in diameter. If willing to replace the boat with missiles, its likely Lockheed could produce a 12 round launcher based on half the launcher being installed on the LCS. 

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)

Anti-Ship: 
In other theaters there is likely a desire to have a larger anti-ship missile. 
The Navy has been talking a great deal about “Distributed Lethality.” The concept has its origin in a January 2015 US Naval Institute article by then-Director of Surface Warfare Requirements (OPNAV N96) Rear Admiral Tom Rowden, RAdm. Peter Gumataotao, and RAdm. Peter Fanta. 
 
Rowden’s co-author and successor at N96, Rear Admiral Pete Fanta, continued the drum beat with the memorable phrase, “if it floats, it fights,” suggesting that anti-ship missiles should be put on virtually all units. 
On the Webber class, this would most likely the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), recently chosen by the Navy to arm its LCSs and frigates. A four cell launcher could probably replace the boat. The missile is only 13 feet long. 

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

Missile Truck
The Army and Marines have tracked and truck mounted missile launchers. 
 
A new missile, “Deepstrike,” is being developed for these launchers. “The missile will be able to strike targets up to 309 miles away with precision, including moving targets both on land at sea.” (see also)
 
A Webber class equipped with these could function in the same way as the Army and Marine vehicles operating in the littorals and many river systems. Targeting would be provided by offboard sensors through networking. 
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
This is probably unlikely, but there might be a place for craft that could perform ASW patrols off ports and amphibious objective areas or around choke points. 
The Canadians have a small containerized towed array sensor that looks like it would fit.

TRAPS containerized active/passive towed array from GeoSpectrum Technologies.

 I have looked at how we might add torpedo tubes to the Webber class that could launch ASW torpedoes, but it is more likely aircraft, most likely helicopters, would be called in to make the actual attack. The ship would be primarily a sensor node, minimizing the requirement to keep ASW Helicopters airborne.
120mm Mortar for Naval Surface Fire Support:
Another truck like use would be to add this containerized large mortar as a way to provide naval fire support. This weapon is not currently in the US inventory but it does look promising. Guided projectiles are being developed for the 120 mm mortar.
Security for MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet

I am not sure what precautions the Navy has made to protect the ships of the MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet, but if I were an enemy there are might be strong incentive to destroy these ships that transport the most ready reinforcements of heavy equipment.

Webber class PCs might have a role in protecting these.

 Large Unmanned Surface Vessel. 

The Navy is seeking to procure a medium unmanned surface vessel (MUSV), 12 to 50 meters in length. The Webber class might be the basis for such a vessel. The modular systems described above might also be used on the MUSV. 

Visit, Search, Board, and Seizure: 

This is the mission these little ships are built for and, consequently, no change may be necessary. The mission might be stopping and boarding hundreds of small craft as was done off Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time, or it might be enforcing a blockade against Chinese shipping at the Straits providing access to the South China Sea. If resistance is expected there are a number of ways the vessels’ armament could be augmented, including missiles or torpedoes, but in most cases its likely air or backup could be called in. The real advantage is that the Navy would not need to tie down DDGs doing this work, and potentially risk it being damaged by improvised weapons on a vessel being boarded. For more challenging assignments two or three could be teamed with one or two providing boats and boarding teams and the other as a weapons carrier.

SOUTHCOM Mothership?

HOS Mystique, 250 foot Multi-Purpose Support Vessel being chartered by the Navy for SOUTHCOM

Marine Link is reporting that the Navy has awarded a $7.4M charter to Hornbeck Offshore with the work expected to be completed 14 June 2019.

“The DOD says the multi-mission support vessel will be chartered to provide proof of concept for a single vessel to meet various training, exercise, experimentation, and operational mission support requirements.”

I am going to speculate that the intent is to support the operation of Cyclone class patrol craft in the Eastern Pacific transit zone. Perhaps Webber class WPCs as well?

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney