Marine Protector class WPB replacement? Its Time!

33 meter Damen designed patrol boat

Bairdmaritime brings us news of a new patrol boat being built for a private security company that is protecting Nigeria’s offshore oil industry. Looks like a possible replacement for the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPBs. Yes it is bigger, but all our vessels have gotten bigger. It is also faster, but the crew is no larger, although more accommodations are provided.

Is it too early to start looking at a replacement class? Actually we may already be a year or two late starting the process.  

Our 73 Marine Protector class 87 foot WPBs were commissioned over an eleven year period from 1998 to 2009. If we want to replace them when they reach 25 years old, the first new cutters should be commissioned in 2023. If it were possible, it could fit well into our shipbuilding program since it appears likely the last of the programmed 58 Webber class will be funded in FY2020 and the first of the new class could be funded in FY2021.

Additionally we probably would want to start with an initial low rate production until the bugs have been worked out, and we get DHS approval to enter full-rate production. At that point, we should enter into a Multi-year Procurement. We don’t want to get into a situation where we have to rush a crash program to replace overage vessels.

Unfortunately it looks like we are once again “behind the power curve.” It takes us ten years to procure a large ship. Maybe we can move a little faster on these smaller vessels, but if you look at the way we are doing ship contracts,

  • there will be a year for market research/requests for information
  • a year of competition to select three preliminary designs
  • a year to refine and select from among the preliminary designs
  • a year to complete the winner’s detail design
  • at least two years construction before the first ship is commissioned.

That is six years, meaning we needed to start the contracting process in 2018, but there is nothing in the FY2018 budget that would move us toward a WPB procurement.

Even before the procurement process begins, we really need to look at what characteristics the new WPBs should have. I think the documentation is still called ROC and POE, for Required Operational Characteristics and Projected Operating Environment.

Surely we would want a better ship’s boat (the same 26 foot over the horizon boat used on the Webber class) and probably more speed and greater range.

Is it going to be just a SAR and LE asset, or will we consider Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) and our newly remembered Defense Readiness missions?

If so, I would suggest that they provide at least one Mk38 mod3 mount with provision for mounting a second Mk38 mod3, a guided weapon (which might be on the Mk38 mount) to deal with small, fast, highly maneuverable threats, and weight and space for a pair of tubes for light weight torpedoes to deal with the largest terrorist threats and . We might also consider a pilot house armored against small arms, like that on the Nigerian boats.

We ought to be able to get all that in a boat less than half the displacement of a Webber class, eg, about the same size as the Island class 110s.

 

 

Metal Shark Builds WPBs for FMS

Metal Shark Illustration. RHIB pictured is 5.5 meters

NavyRecognition reports that Metal Shark has been awarded a contract

“…potentially worth upwards of $54 million, Metal Shark will build up to thirteen 85-foot Defiant-class welded aluminum cutters for the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and other United States partner nations. Additionally, Metal Shark will supply electro-optical infrared sensors, diagnostic equipment, in-country reactivation, crew familiarization, and test support to NCPV (Near Coastal Patrol Vessel–Chuck) operators.

That is only $4.154M/ boat. This looks an awful lot like a potential replacement for the Marine Protector class 87 foot WPBs, the first of which should be replaced in 2023. The Metal Shark boats are a version of Damen’s Stan Patrol 2606 design, so nominally 26 meters long and 6 meters of beam, but according to the Website, 87′ length overall with a beam of 19’6″. The Marine Protector Class were also a Damen 2600 series design, so the two classes share a great deal of DNA.

There is more information on the boats at the company website here. Unfortunately there appears to be no information on speed, range, or endurance. I would presume those characteristics would at least equal those of the Marine Protector class

Would not be surprised to see the Coast Guard personnel tasked with some training for the crews of these new patrol boats.

Contract Award for FRC 39-44, Thoughts on Patrol Craft

Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco (WPC-1122) enters San Francisco Bay during the 6,200-mile trip from Key West, Florida, to its homeport in Ketchikan, Alaska, April 28, 2017. The cutter is the second fast response cutter based in Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Following is quoted verbatim news from the Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) Website.

Acquisition Update: Coast Guard Exercises Contract Option For FRCs 39-44

June 16, 2017

The Coast Guard awarded a $289 million contract option to Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport, Louisiana, June 9 for the production of six more fast response cutters (FRCs). This option award brings FRCs 39-44 under contract with Bollinger. The current FRC contract contains options for up to 58 cutters and is worth $1.5 billion if all options are exercised.

The Coast Guard is acquiring 58 FRCs to replace the 1980s-era Island-class 110-foot patrol boats. FRCs feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment; over-the-horizon cutter boat deployment to reach vessels of interest; and improved habitability and seakeeping. The cutters are designed for multiple missions, including drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense.

Twenty-two FRCs are in service, with six stationed in Miami; six in Key West, Florida; six in San Juan, Puerto Rico; two in Cape May, New Jersey; and two in Ketchikan, Alaska. Future FRC homeports include: Pascagoula, Mississippi; Atlantic Beach, North Carolina; San Pedro, California; and Honolulu.

Note a few things:

  1. While this is not the total cost of the vessel, the shipyard cost is less than $48.2M. As I recall this is a decrease from previous buys, reflecting the maturity of the program and the decision to order six at a time.
  2. This is presumably FY2017 money and it leaves 14 vessels for future funding. Both the previous and current administration have consistently requested four or fewer vessels be funded, but the Congress has been fairly consistent in funding six per year. It seems likely the remaining 14 will be funded over the next three years. If so all 58 will be fully funded by FY2020.
  3. Bollinger is delivering at a rate of five per year. We just commissioned #22, so we can expect the last of the currently planned 58 in FY2024.
  4. The first three of the 87 foot Marine Protector class WPB were commissioned in 1998. It was 26 years from the commissioning of the first 110 to the commissioning of the first Webber class WPC. If there is a similar 26 year span from the first 87 footer to the commissioning of the first of its replacement class, we should see that boat come on line in FY2024, just as Webber class construction is ending. To make that happen, we need to start market research and planning in FY2021, the year after the last WPC is funded or FY2022 at the latest.
  5. There is talk of building six additional WPCs to replace the six 110s currently in Bahrain. I’ll have more on this later.

My Unfunded Priority List

An earlier post reported a plea by Representative Duncan Hunter, Chair of the Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, for the Coast Guard to provide an unfunded priority list to include six icebreakers and unmanned Air System.

Thought perhaps I would list my own “unfunded priorities.” These are not in any particular order.

PLATFORM SHORTFALLS

Icebreakers: We have a documented requirement for three heavy and three medium icebreakers, certainly they should be on the list. Additionally they should be designed with the ability to be upgraded to wartime role. Specifically they should have provision for adding defensive systems similar to those on the LPD–a pair of SeaRAM and a pair of gun systems, either Mk46 mounts or Mk38 mod 2/3s. We might want the guns permanently installed on at least on the medium icebreakers for the law enforcement mission. Additionally they should have provision for supporting containerized mission modules like those developed for the LCS and lab/storage space identified that might be converted to magazine space to support armed helicopters.

110225-N-RC734-011 PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

110225-N-RC734-011
PACIFIC OCEAN (Feb. 25, 2011) Guy Mcallister, from Insitu Group, performs maintenance on the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). Scan Eagle is a runway independent, long-endurance, UAV system designed to provide multiple surveillance, reconnaissance data, and battlefield damage assessment missions. Comstock is part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, which is underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility during a western Pacific deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph M. Buliavac/Released)

Unmanned Air Systems (UAS): We seem to be making progress on deploying UAS for the Bertholf class NSCs which will logically be extended to the Offshore Patrol Cutters. So far we see very little progress on land based UAS. This may be because use of the Navy’s BAMS system is anticipated. At any rate, we will need a land based UAS or access to the information from one to provide Maritime Domain Awareness. We also need to start looking at putting UAS on the Webber class. They should be capable of handling ScanEagle sized UAS.

File:USCGC Bluebell - 2015 Rose Festival Portland, OR.jpg

Photo: The Coast Guard Cutter Bluebell sits moored along the Willamette River waterfront in Portland, Ore., June 4, 2015. The Bluebell, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, is one of many ships participating in the 100th year of the Portland Rose Festival. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.)

Recapitalize the Inland Tender Fleet: This is long overdue. The program was supposed to begin in 2009, but so far, no tangible results. It seems to have been hanging fire for way too long.

Expand the Program of Record to the FMA-1 level: The Fleet Mix Study identified additional assets required to meet the Coast Guard’s statutory obligations identifying four asset levels above those planned in the program of record. Lets move at least to first increment.

Alternative Fleet Mix Asset Quantities

————–POR       FMA-1      FMA-2      FMA-3       FMA-4
NSC                8             9                 9                 9                  9
OPC              25           32               43                50               57
FRC              58           63               75                80               91
HC-130         22            32               35                44               44
HC-144A       36            37               38                40               65
H-60              42            80               86                99             106
H-65             102         140             159              188            223
UAS-LB           4            19                21                21              22
UAS-CB        42            15                19               19               19

At the very least, looks like we need to add some medium range search aircraft (C-27J or HC-144).

Increase Endurance of Webber Class Cutters: The Webber class could be more useful if the endurance were extended beyond five days (currently the same as the 87 cutters, which have only one-third the range). We needed to look into changes that would allow an endurance of ten days to two weeks. They already have the fuel for it.

MISSION EQUIPMENT SHORTFALLS

Seagull_torpedo_trial_1

Ship Stopper (Light Weight Homing Torpedo): Develop a system to forcibly stop even the largest merchant ships by disabling their propulsion, that can be mounted on our patrol boats. A torpedo seems the most likely solution. Without such a system, there is a huge hole in our Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security mission.

121211-N-HW977-692

Photo: SeaGriffin Launcher

Counter to Small High Speed Craft (Small Guided Weapon): Identify and fit weapons to WPB and larger vessels that are capable of reliably stopping or destroying small fast boats that may be used as fast inshore attack craft and suicide or remote-controlled unmanned explosive motor boats. These weapons must also limit the possibility of collateral damage. Small missiles like SeaGriffin or Hellfire appear likely solutions.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

40 mm case telescoped gun (bottom) compared to conventional guns.

Improved Gun–Penetration, Range, and Accuracy: The .50 cal. and 25mm guns we have on our WPBs and WPCs have serious limitations in their ability to reach their targets from outside the range of weapons terrorist adversaries might improvise for use against the cutters. They have limited ability to reach the vitals of medium to large merchant vessels, and their accuracy increases the possibility of collateral damage and decreases their probability of success. 30, 35, and 40 mm replacements for the 25 mm in our Mk38 mod2 mounts are readily available.

Laser Designator: Provide each station, WPB, and WPC with a hand-held laser designator to allow them to designate targets for our DOD partners.

CONTINGENCY PLANNING SHORTFALLS

Vessel Wartime Upgrades: Develop plans for a range of options to upgrade Coast Guard assets for an extended conflict against a near peer.

 

USCG in Packistani Naval Exercise?

USS Hurricane (PC-3)

USS Hurricane (PC-3)

Interesting note from the German Navy Blog, “Marine Forum”

“10 February, PAKISTAN, Opening ceremony in Karachi for Pakistan-hosted multinational naval exercise „Aman 2017“ … until 14 Feb, three phases in and off Karachi: in-port, at-sea maritime, anti-terror (special forces/naval infantry) … participants from 37 countries, 9 of which with naval units … 24th Chinese task group (destroyer „Harbin“, frigate „Handan“, replenishment ship „Dongpinghu“), Russian Northern Fleet task group (destroyer „Severomorsk“, tanker „Dubna“, salvage tug „Altay“), USA with patrol boat „Typhoon“, AKE „Amelia Earhart“ plus two USCG vessels (emphasis applied–Chuck) … frigate „Arunta“ (Australia), frigate „Sultan Iskandar Muda“ (Indonesia), OPV „Samudra“ (Sri Lanka), frigate „Gelibolu“ (Turkey), destroyer „Daring“ (UK) … and, of course, hosting Pakistan Navy”

I can only think that since the Navy PC “Typhoon” is there, the two USCG vessels might be 110s out of Bahrain. Kind of surprising we have not seen any press releases on this.

110 foot WPB USCGC Jefferson Island

110 foot WPB USCGC Jefferson Island

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

 

Don’t Go Out Without Protection

U.S. Coast Guardsmen, assigned to Port Security Unit 309 in Port Clinton, Ohio, conduct security patrols during exercise Combined Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (CJLOTS) 2015, at Anmyeon Beach, Republic of Korea, June 30. CJLOTS 2015 is an exercise designed to train U.S. and ROK service members to accomplish vital logistical measures in a strategic area while strengthening communication and cooperation in the U.S.-ROK alliance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kori Melvin/Released)Photo: TPSB with ballistic protection,  Anmyeon Beach, Republic of Korea, June 30. Exercise CJLOTS 2015 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kori Melvin/Released)

Got an interesting link from Luke S. “Evaluation of Composite Armor for Coast Guard Vessels” (pdf) is a study from 1989, looking at how selected portions of the 110 foot WPBs might be protected from small arms fire. Here is the summary of their findings.

Up to a firing range of 100 yards, which was the limit of this study, personnel inside Island Class cutters are vulnerable to lethal rifle fire coming from drug smugglers. Test results showed that unconditional protection for personnel inside can be obtained by adding KRP (KEVLAR reinforced plastic–Chuck) armor panels to the cutter. This is also a more weight effective solution than increasing the thickness of the hull and superstructure. Although it was found that placing the KRP either in front of or behind the 1/8″ aluminum was equally effective, it should be noted that the aluminum by itself was overmatched by the threats. In general, it is more efficieut to place the KRP behind metal.

The USCG R&D Center defined three areas of the Island Class cuttfer that required protection in order to allow it to continue its mission if it came ander fire. These were the bridge and the communications room, both behind 1/8″ aluminum, and the magazine behind 5# steel. A visit was made to the USCGC Matinicus to take measurements and assess the feasibility of retrofitting KRP armor in those areas. Retrofitting them inside the bridge and communications room could be done by placing them in the space between the exterior aluminum skin and the interior trim panels. This might require some fit and trim but KRP panels can be cut and drilled so there should be no particular difficulty. Another option is to place the panels on the exterior of the bridge and communications room. This would appear to be an easier task but would present a different set of considerations. Since the KRP panels would have to be spaced 3″ in front of the aluminum, the panel supports would have to be designed to withstand green water loading. Environmental effects on these panels caused by exposure to seawater and UV radiation is not a problem for adequately sealed KRP. For the remaining area requiring armor, the magazine, mounting the panels against the steel hull inside the vessel did not appear to be difficult.

The amount of material and weight added in each of the critical areas is summarized in TABLE 6 for the worst case threat, the 7.62mm, M80 at point blank range.

TABLE 6 included the location to be protected, the total area to be armored, the weight per square foot for the armor, and the total weight for protection to that level. I have summarize the data below, but did not include the weight per sq.

  • Bridge 33′ x 4′ – 132 sq ft, 1056 lbs.
  • Communication rm. 14′ x 6′ • 84 sq ft, 672 lbs.
  • Magazine 6. x 6′ 36 sq ft, 180 lbs.
  • Total area covered: 252 sq. ft. weight: 1908 lbs.

These numbers are guidelines because the minimum armor density required was not determined in this study. Nevertheless, realizing these numbers are on the high side, the material cost from a commercial panel manufacturer for a KRP panel weighing 8 psf (lbs/sq ft–Chuck) with 20% resin would be about $40,000. This is basd upon a panel cost in the $20 to $24 per pound range.

Makes me wonder if anything was done about this, particularly for the WPBs based in Bahrain. Also, was anything included in the Webber class WPCs?

Even this relatively light armor would also provide a degree of protection against heavier .50 cal. and 14.5mm machine guns if fired from a greater range and/or if the round strikes at an oblique angle.

In addition to the bridge, comm space, and magazine, the gunners on open mounts could also use some protection as I’ve suggested before.

I have heard that ballistic protection for the Offshore Patrol Cutter has been deleted. This may be a mistake, particularly if it is as inexpensive as it appears.

Late addition:

Just found this. The photo below is Prince Charles boarding the HMS Middleton (a 32 year old, 750 ton mine countermeasures vessel) in Bahrain. The post is interesting regarding the situation in Bahrain, but I wanted to mention the gun crew protection visible between the stack and mast. The gun is an M134 “mini-gun,” a six barrel 7.62mm “gatling” gun. The additional pretection is apparent. Apparently the Brits recognize the need to protect their gun crews. It is not just about protecting the gunner, it is also about keeping the gun that is defending the ship operational.

hmsmiddletonm34