WHEC Disposals

The Morgenthau has just been transferred to Vietnam’s Coast Guard.

This leaves us four remaining 378 foot WHECs. According to a MARAD report, “Office of Ship Disposal Programs Annual Report for FY2016” dated December 2016, page 43, Annex J, USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) will be decommissioned in FY2018, Midgett (WHEC-726) in FY2019, Mellon (WHEC-717) in FY2020.

Decommissioning for USCGC Douglas Munro (WHEC-724) (note the full name–the Coast Guard has two USCGC Munros now, both in the Pacific, hope there is no confusion) was listed as, to be determined (TBD). FY2021 seems likely, but they may be holding off until they get an Offshore Patrol Cutter to take her place in Kodiak.

Thanks to Edrick Masangkay for bringing this to my attention.

FY2018 Budget Request

The Homeland Security “FY2018 Budget in Brief” has been published. You can see it in pdf form here.

The Coast Guard portion is on pages 44-48. The breakdown of the elements of the Coast Guard budget request are on page 47.

The total DHS budget request is $70,692,491,000. Of that, the Coast Guard portion is 15.1%. The DHS request is 7.1% greater than the FY2017 annualized continuing resolution. By comparison, the Coast Guard request is down 2.4%.

Highlights of the Coast Guard budget request noted include:

(“FTE refers to personnel changes. They are “Full Time Equivilents”)

  • Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) ……………………………………. $500.0M, 0 FTE Provides funding to begin construction of the first OPC, which is scheduled for delivery in 2021. The OPC will replace the Medium Endurance Cutter classes that conduct missions on the high seas and coastal approaches;
  • Fast Response Cutter (FRC)……………………………………….$240.0M, 0 FTE Funds procurement of four FRCs. These assets replace the less capable 110-foot patrol boats, enhancing the Coast Guard’s coastal capability to conduct Search and Rescue operations, enforce border security, interdict drugs, uphold immigration laws, prevent terrorism, and enhance resiliency to disasters;
  • Polar Icebreaker ……………………………………………………. $19.0M, 0 FTE Continues efforts toward awarding a contract for detail design and construction in 2019. This acquisition is recapitalizing the Coast Guard’s heavy polar icebreaker fleet;
  • Inland River and Western Rivers Tender ……………………….. $1.1M, 0 FTE Supports exploratory activities to analyze potential options to replace the capabilities provided by an obsolete fleet of inland tenders and barges commissioned between 1944 and 1990;
  • C-27J ………………………………………………………………… $52.0M, 0 FTE Funds support continued activities of the C-27J Asset Project Office (APO), which organizes logistics, training development, maintenance support, and ensures that these newly acquired aircraft are ready for induction into the operational fleet. Continues funding for initial spares and logistics, training, and mission system development;
  • Pay and Allowances……………………………………………….$109.8M, 0 FTE Maintains parity with DOD for military pay, allowances, and health care, and for civilian pay raise and retirement contributions, including providing a 2.1 percent military and 1.9 percent civilian pay raise in FY 2018. As a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, the Coast Guard is subject to the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, which include pay and personnel benefits for the military workforce;
  • Operating and Maintenance of New Assets……………………$98.6M, 233 FTE Increases funding for operations and maintenance of shore facilities and provides sustainment funding for new cutters, boats, aircraft, and associated C4ISR subsystems delivered through acquisition efforts;
  • Mission Essential Systems and Cyber Security …………… ……$26.2M, 2 FTE Funds sustainment of critical Coast Guard network infrastructure and pays DOD working capital fund increases necessary to comply with DOD information network and cybersecurity requirements; and
  • Workforce Support Improvements ………………………………….$9.1M, 34 FTE Provides funding and personnel to manage the new Blended Retirement System, increase the frequency of Personnel Security suitability background investigations, and enhance capabilities to handle sexual assault allegations.

FY 2018 Major Decreases:

  • Decommissioning of Legacy Assets…………………………. ($14.1M) (129 FTE) Decommissions one 378-foot high endurance cutter, three 110-foot patrol boats, and one HC-130H aircraft in line with the Coast Guard decommissioning plan; and
  • Management and Support Efficiencies ………………………. ($13.9M) (13 FTE) Reflects savings generated from an enterprisewide efficiency review that can be taken with no direct operational impacts and a minimal loss of current service delivery

This is neither the disastrous cuts that were talked about earlier, nor is it a substantial boost. While less than the FY2017 budget as ultimately funded, it compares favorably to the initial FY2017 request. If the Congress does what it has done in the past, and adds some to the AC&I budget, we may feel this is a better than workable budget.

Compared to the enacted FY2017 budget, Operating Expenses are up $333,772,000 while AC&I is down $720,382,000. Hopefully the Congress will bump this up to nearer what we need annually, about $2B. I would be very surprised if the Congress does not increase the Fast Response Cutter buy from four to six, and NSC#10 and another C-130J are possibilities.

How Does the Program of Record Compare to Historic Fleets

 The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722) heads out to sea from its home port in Alameda, California (USA), passing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

A question from a reader prompted me to look at how the “Program of Record” (POR) compares with Coast Guard patrol fleets of the past.

The program of record is
8 NSCs
25 OPCs
58 FRCs
—————

91 vessels total

1990: Looking back at the “Combat Fleets of the World 1990/1991” the Fleet was:
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMECs (16×210′, 10×270′ (three building), Storis, 3×213′, 3×205′)
34 WPB 110′ (plus 15 building)
3 WSES 110′ surface effects ships
4 WPB 95′
——————-
85 vessels total
(There were also five Aerostat Radar Balloon tenders.)
 –
2000: “The Combat Fleets of the World 2000-2001” showed
 –
12 WHEC 378′
32 WMEC (13×270′, 16×210′, Alex Haley, Storis, Acushnet)
49 WPB 110′
——————-
93 vessels total.
 –
2013: “The Combat Fleets of the World, 16th Edition,” copyright 2013 listed:
 –
3 NSCs
8 WHEC 378′
28 WMEC (13×270′, 14×210′, Alex Haley)
4 FRCs
41 WPB 110′
——————–
84 vessels total
 –
Comparing the Program of Record (plus NSC #9) to the fleet of 2000: You can look at it this way,
  • 9 NSCs and 3 OPCs is more than adequate replacement for the 12 WHEC 378s
  • 49 of the FRCs is more than adequate replacement for 49 WPB 110s (and we have only had 41 anyway since the WPB 123 screw up)
  • That leaves 22 OPCs and 9 FRCs to cover for the 32 WMECs.
Conclusion: 
I think we would all be pretty happy, if we had the Program of Record fleet in place right now. It really would be a substantial improvement, but while the NSCs and the FRCs are well on the way, the first of the long-delayed OPCs will not be delivered until 2021, and, if everything goes according to plan, the last probably not before 2034, at which time even the newest 270 will be 44 years old. A lot can happen between now and then.
The 2000 fleet was, I believe, the benchmark against which the program of record was measured in the Fleet Mix Study. By 2013 we were already down nine vessels. By my estimate, by the time the last 210 is replaced it will probably be 60 years old. That is expecting a lot. Can we possibly expect that none of these ships will become unserviceable before they are replaced? Building no more than two OPCs a year is really too slow. Once the first ship is built, tested, and approved for full rate production, we should accelerate construction to the maximum. That can’t happen until at least FY2022, probably FY 2023.
By the end of FY2022 we should have already funded 7 ships. The remaining 18 would take nine years, if we buy them at the currently projected schedule. Instead we could fund the entire remaining program from FY2023-2027 by doing a single Multi-Year Procurement of 18 ships. If Eastern alone could not do it, Marinette, which like the designer VARD, is also a Fincantieri company, would probably be more than willing to build an additional couple a year, particularly if the Navy stops building Freedom class LCS/frigates.
 –
We could have the program complete by FY2030, four years early.
 –
Thanks to Peter for initiating this line of thought. 
uscgc_citrus_1984

USCGC Citrus (WMEC-300), USCG photo

storisfoam

USCGC Storis WMEC-38)

USCGC Acushnet

USCGC Acushnet (WMEC-167), USCG photo

 

How About a Coast Guard Sink-Ex?

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Test firing of the 57mm Bofors aboard USCGC Bertholf, photo by MMagaro

Are our weapons adequate for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security Mission? Let’s find out.

The Navy Times is reporting that the Navy will have an unusually large number of ships available for “Sink-Ex” exercises in 2017.

The SINKEX fleet grew from five ships last year to seven ships available in 2017, including four frigates, the landing ship tank Racine and two attack cargo ships.

According to the source document, the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan (pp 13/14), one of the stated purposes of a Sink-EX is weapons effectiveness evaluation. I think this might be a good opportunity for us to test out our weapons for the Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) mission. This mission implies we must have the ability to forcibly stop a ship, regardless of its size. A Sink-Ex could be an opportunity to answer once and for all the question “Is the Coast Guard adequately armed for the mission?”  Personally I don’t think so, and what little evidence we have seems to indicate that is the case.

The two attack cargo ships are Charleston class LKAs, the ex-Durham (LKA-114) and ex-St. Louis (LKA-116), built in the late ’60s. These are medium sized auxiliary ships, 9,000 tons light and 18,500 tons fully loaded, 576 feet (176 meters) in length. Structurally they are not much different from merchant ships of the period. Unfortunately they don’t have the big diesel engines found on modern merchant ships, and the are far smaller than many current merchant ships but they are still, in most respects, representative of the target set the Coast Guard should be interested in.

USS_Charleston_(LKA-113)

Photo: USS Charleston (LKA-113)

We have four gun systems that might be tested. .50 cal., 25 mm, 57 mm, and 76 mm. The 25 mm and 57 mm are particularly important as the .50 cal is probably too small and short ranged and the 76 mm is going out of service. Still, we should still attempt to include the 76 mm because if the 57 mm proves inadequate, our next question should be, “Would the 76 mm have been successful?” Testing the 25, 57, and 76 mm guns would require use of at least two ships, a 378 for both the 76 and 25 mm, and a Bertholf class for the 57 mm. (Alternately an LCS might provide the 57 mm, a Bear class the 76 mm, and a 110 or Webber class the 25 mm.)

1280px-USCG_Gallatin_Mk_75_firing

This could be a CG R&D project, but of course it would require Navy assistance, perhaps a joint project. Because our objective is to at least stop the target, rather than sink it, loss of power or steering would constitute a success. To determine if this is the case, we need information about what is happening inside the hull when the we get a hit. Will the round penetrate not only the hull but also critical systems, the loss of which would result in loss of power or control of the ship? Because it would probably be dangerous to go back on board the target after it has been shelled, the target would need to be instrumented with sensors and the results broadcast back. Aside from putting cameras inside the spaces, a technique might be to seal up and pressurize equipment like boilers, turbines, and steering gear and have them instrumented to detect any loss of pressure that would indicate a breach.

We would also want to conduct the exercise at a reasonable ranges. Since the real targets might be equipped with weapons that might be typically available to terrorist organizations, including anti-tank missiles and Soviet era antitank and anti-aircraft guns,that might target critical systems on the cutter, I believe the cutter should stand off at least 4000 yards, but for the 25 mm, we would probably need to close to 3,000 yards. A logical sequence might be,

  1. 378 closes to 3000 yards engages with 25 mm then withdraws
  2. NSC closes to 4,000 yards and engages, then withdraws
  3. 378 closes to 4,000 yards and engages.

We would also want to fire a reasonable number of rounds, probably about 150 rounds of 25 mm, about 100 rounds of 57 mm, and about 80 rounds of 76 mm, basically shoot enough to exhaust the ammunition normally carried on the mount.

Realistically this would have to be part of a larger Sink-Ex with more than one target, but it might be reasonable to allow the Coast Guard a day to try their systems against one of the targets before the other firing units come on scene.

Should our current systems prove not up to the task, we would also want to know the results for possible candidate systems, so we might ask that these candidate systems be used against the target as well. These might include, APKWS, Griffin, Hellfire, the 5″ gun, and the light weight torpedo. I don’t think it has ever been tried, but with the right depth settings, is it possible to hit a deep draft surface target with our current light weight torpedoes?

Let’s at least find out if we have a chance of succeeding in this mission.