“US Builds Global Coalition to Protect Gulf Shipping” –Global Security

USCG Monomoy (WPB-1326) and Adak (WPB-1333), elements of PATFORSWA

Global Security reports that the US is attempting to build a coalition to escort merchant ships through the Straits of Hormuz.

We would almost have to assume that the WPBs of PATFORSWA would be involved.

It would not be surprising to see the Coast Guard contribute up to six already commissioned Webber class WPCs in the near future. These could ultimately replace the current 110s stationed in Bahrain rather than waiting for FRCs specifically procured to replace the PATFORSWA WPBs, but for the duration of escort mission, they would augment them.

I would like to see some modifications done to these vessels before they go, but it is a question of urgency.

The Webber class could make the trip on their own bottoms if needed, especially if escorted by an National Security Cutter.

 

 

Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress, Updated May 22, 2019

Offshore Patrol Cutter future USCGC ArgusThe Congressional Research Service has once again updated their look at Coast Guard Cutter procurement.

I have quoted the summary below and will comment on some of the questions.

The Coast Guard’s program of record (POR) 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 FY2020 budget requests a total of $657 million in procurement funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters; they are intended to replace the Coast Guard’s 12 aged 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 a total of 8 NSCs to replace the 12 Hamilton-class cutters, Congress through FY2019 has funded 11 NSCs, including the 10th and 11th in FY2018. Six NSCs have been commissioned into service. The seventh was delivered to the Coast Guard on September 19, 2018, and the eighth was delivered on April 30, 2019. The ninth through 11th are under construction; the ninth is scheduled for delivery in 2021. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $60 million in procurement funding for the NSC program; this request does not include funding for a 12th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, 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 program as the service’s top acquisition priority. OPCs have an estimated average procurement cost of about $421 million per ship. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard awarded a contract with options for building up to nine OPCs to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The first OPC was funded in FY2018 and is to be delivered in 2021. The second OPC and long leadtime materials (LLTM) for the third were funded in FY2019. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $457 million in procurement funding for the third OPC, LLTM for the fourth and fifth, and other program costs.

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 $58 million per boat. A total of 56 have been funded through FY2019, including six in FY2019. Four of the 56 are to be used by the Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf and are not counted against the Coast Guard’s 58-ship POR for the program, which relates to domestic operations. Excluding these four, a total of 52 FRCs for domestic operations have been funded through FY2019. The 32nd FRC was commissioned into service on May 1, 2019. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $140 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of two more FRCs for domestic operations.

The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following: 

  •     whether to provide funding in FY2020 for the procurement of a 12th NSC;
  •  whether to fund the procurement in FY2020 of two FRCs, as requested by the Coast Guard, or some higher number, such as four or six;
  •  whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;
  •  the annual procurement rate for the OPC program;
  •  the impact of Hurricane Michael on Eastern Shipbuilding of Panama City, FL, the shipyard that is to build the first nine OPCs; and
  •     the planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCs, and FRCs.

Bertholf Class National Security Cutters (NSCs):

If there is going to be a 12th NSC, it almost certainly has to be funded this year. Future years will see the Polar Security Cutters and OPCs further crowding the budget. Frankly I see little to choose between the NSC and OPC for peacetime missions, but the replacement of the legacy fleet is becoming urgent and the price of the NSCs has decreased as funding became more regular, so a 12th might be reasonable. If we had started the OPC program earlier, it might have offered a lower cost alternative to additional NSCs, but we will not be ready to start multi-ship procurements of the OPCs until FY2021 and then only at the rate of two per year if we follow current planning.

Argus Class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs):

There is probably good reason to accelerate the OPC program beyond the two per year currently planned to begin in FY2021. If we maintain that rate, the last 210 foot WMEC will not be replaced until 2028, the last 270 not until 2034. I expect we may see some catastrophic failures that will result in either sidelining ships or unacceptably high repair costs, before the program of record is complete.

The Coast Guard should plan on expediting testing of the first OPC so that production could move from the current contract with options to a true Multi-Year contract as soon as the design has proven successful.

We probably will need more than 25 OPCs. The Coast Guard has operated more than 40 cutters of more than 1,000 tons for decades. It seems likely we are going to need more than 36 total NSCs and OPCs. (See the discussion about the Fleet Mix Study below.)

Webber Class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs):

We are nearing the end of the Webber class program with 52 of the 58 program of record vessels, plus four additional vessels for Patrol Forces South West Asia (PATFORSWA), already funded. Buying only two for FY2020 raises the unit costs of these vessels. Congress has consistently increased purchases to four or even six per year when only two have been requested. Adding the final two additional FRCs intended to replace the 110s assigned to PATFORSWA would bring the total buy to four. That would leave only four to be purchased in FY2021 which could wrap up the funding. The question is, will Congress stop the program at the 64 vessels total when there may be justification for more?

Impact of Hurricane Michael: 

The Coast Guard budget is not the place to provide disaster relief for businesses. Maybe they have insurance. Maybe the state or Federal Government wants to provide aid, but renegotiating the contract for OPCs is not the way to do it. No way should it come out of the Coast Guard budget.

If on the other had we do renegotiate the contract, it is not to late to make it a “Block Buy.”

One solution might be for the contract to be converted to a block buy, using purchase amounts no more than current contract with options. That would assure the contractor and its creditor that they would have a steady stream of work. The contract might even have options for production of additional ships at rates higher than two per year.

We Need a New Fleet Mix Study:

The number of OPCs and FRCs actually required to fulfill Coast Guard statutory missions was examined in a fleet mix study (see pages 19 and 20 of the report) that found that the Program of Record (8 NSCs, 25 OPCs, and 58 FRCs) fell far short of the number of vessels required to meet all statutory requirements. Phase One of the study (2009) found that the total “objective” requirement was 9 NSCs, 57 OPCs, and 91 FRCs. Phase Two found that only 49 OPCs would be required but found the same requirements for NSCs and FRCs (see page 22).

The problem is that the analysis is getting pretty old and its assumptions were wrong. The Coast Guard will have at least 11 NSCs. The FRCs appear to be more capable than anticipated. Perhaps most importantly, the study assumed the NSCs and OPCs would use the “Crew Rotation Concept,” resulting in an unrealistic expectation for days away from homeport. From my point of view, the study failed to even consider the requirement to be able to forcibly stop a medium to large size ship being used as a terrorist weapon. None of our ships are capable of doing that reliably, and even our ability to stop small fast highly maneuverable ships under terrorist control is far from assured, even if the objective fleet were available.

The Procurement, Construction, and Improvements FY2020 budget request is about $1.2B. Adding NSC #12 and a pair of FRCs using the costs in the CRS report ($670M/NSC plus 2x$58M/FRC) which are probably high for the current marginal costs, would still leave the PC&I budget under the $2B/year the Coast Guard has been saying they need and about $250M less than the FY2019 PC&I budget.

For the Future:

While we are thinking about cutters, with the FRC program coming to an end, it is not too early to think about the 87 foot WPB replacement. I think there might be a  window to fund them after the third Polar Security Cutter if we have our requirements figured out. That means preliminary contracts such as conceptual designs have to be done during the same period we are building PSCs, e.g. FY2022 and earlier. .

To avoid always being constantly behind the power curve, as we have been for the last two decades, we really need a 30 year shipbuilding plan. The Navy does one every year. There is no reason the Coast Guard should not be able to do one as well. The Congress has been asking for a 25 year plan for years now, but so far no product.

Thanks to Grant for bringing this to my attention. 

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.”