“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.

 

 

“Ukraine, France discussing delivery of OCEA FPB 98 patrol boats ” –Naval News

A Suriname Coast Guard FPB 98 patrol boat (Credit: OCEA)

Naval News reports that Ukraine has announced they are in negotiations for joint production of 20 Patrol Boats to a French OCEA design for their “Sea Guard of the State Border Guard Service,” their coast guard. Sounds like it is a done deal with only minor details to work out.

As noted in the report, the Algerian Navy bought 21 of these and has ordered ten more.

They have a GRP hull and are powered by two 3,660 HP Caterpillar diesels using waterjets. Specs on the Algerian boats as follows.

  • Displacement: 100 tons
  • Length: 31.8 meters (104’4″)
  • Beam: 6.3 meters (20’8″)
  • Draft: 1.2 meters (3’11”)
  • Speed: 30 knots
  • Range: 900 nmi @ 14 knots
  • Crew: 13

Most of these boats are armed with a single auto-cannon forward. In most cases a 20mm, the Algerian boats have a 30mm. Given the Ukranians’ tensions with Russia, curious to see if they may choose to provide more weapons.

We have seen products from OCEA before. They provided four smaller patrol boats to the Philippine Coast Guard. These boats like those that went to the Philippines have provision for a RHIB launched by davit.

19 meter (62 foot) Motor Surf Boat, Maybe a Small Port WPB Alternative

Earlier, when I discussed  developing a WPB replacement, I was primarily concerned that in addition to a SAR response, that the Coast Guard in major ports have a response to unconventional maritime attacks by terrorists or other hostile forces. But there are also a number of WPBs in small ports where such attacks would have far less impact and consequently are far less likely. The US shipbuilder Metal Shark has new 87 foot patrol boats in series production for Foreign Military Sales (FMS) that were evolved from the Marine Protector class. They might fulfill the needs of these smaller ports. They appear to be relatively cheap. Looks like the last group had a cost per boat of about $4.3M each. That is way less than the approx. $60M we are paying for the more capable FRCs. Still there might be a better alternative,

A recent Marine Log report that the EU is buying nine large motor lifeboats to help the Turkish Coast Guard deal with their immigrant crisis, got me to thinking that perhaps, at these small ports, what is really needed is a larger motor lifeboat. Specs for the Damen designed Turkish Coast Guard boats are here. They are apparently a version of the Netherlands own motor lifeboat.

Damen SAR 1906 motor surf boats

There has been a lot of work on development of Motor Surf Boats since the 47 footers and the now over 50 year old 52 footers. Canada and the Netherlands have both made such craft over 60 feet in length. The RAFNAR hull form looks particularly promising. They may not be more survivable than the ones we have now, but they may be better in other ways. Where we don’t need the long term endurance of a WPB, we could have a boat of about Marine Protector class size or perhaps some what smaller, that could operate with a smaller crew, be faster, tow equally large or larger vessels, reduce G-forces on the crew, and still be able to operate in weather where the legacy WPBs could not. There might also be Foreign Military Sales potential for such a vessel. 

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. 

The 87 foot WPB Replacement, an Addendum

The discussion on earlier posts, “The 87 Foot WPB Replacement –Response Boat, Large –Interceptor” and “57mm ALaMO Round” has prompted some additional thoughts that seem to require more than a comment, mostly regarding the 57mm Mk110 and its new ALaMO guided projectile.

I also had intended to mention the fact that, if the WPB replacement included provision for stern launch of an 8 meter over-the-horizon boat, as was done with the Webber class FRC, then any mission modules that might developed for the Webber class to take the place of the boat, as discussed in the post, “Webber class Could be the Navy’s Light Duty Pickup Truck,” would probably also be apply to the WPB replacement. These might include anti-ship cruise missiles, Unmanned systems, or small towed array sonar systems

While the Iran swarming boat attacks are the normal justification for developing the ALaMO round, the emerging threat, unmanned surface vessels (USV) used to make “suicide” attacks may have also been a consideration. As can be seen above, small fast unmanned surface vessels can be hard to kill, and they have proven an effective weapon as can be seen below. One method of attempting to deal with the swarming boat threat has been to have the projectile burst above the boat, showering it with shrapnel. These airbursts could work pretty well against manned boats by killing the exposed boat operators, but the technique is less effective against unmanned craft. It may even be possible to shield critical components of unmanned craft against the effects of shrapnel. This is also a threat the Coast Guard may want to consider since unmanned explosive motor boats are relatively easy to construct.

Video: Houthi attack on Saudi Al Madinah-class frigate using unmanned explosive motor boat. 

The new ALaMO projectile may have been developed with this Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) threat in mind. This suggest to me that the projectile would be designed to home on the heat generated by the craft’s engine. This would work equally well against manned craft. If the ALaMO round is IR homing, then perhaps it would also home on the heat of a larger vessel’s engines as well, making it more useful for countering larger vessels. 

If the 57mm Mk110 gun’s projectiles have made it a reliable counter to small, fast, highly maneuverable threats and perhaps some midsized threats, and if it can discriminate between its intended target and other traffic that may be in the area, it may be worthwhile to consider its inclusion in the WPB replacement. I still do not see it capable of countering large or even many medium sized threats. I still think we need to know more about how the round works before we can assume this is correct, but assuming it is correct, can we put this weapon on a vessel this small? I think we can.

This brought to mind how some earlier craft that had had relatively large guns. I will discuss some of the them and point out what I believe were notable features.

Spica Class (Sweden):

Swedish Torpedo Boat T121 “Spica” Photo by Pressbild. “Tidskrift i Sjöväsendet”. 1966. November. Sid 595. Swedish and US public domain

If you look at the Spica class above, it is a bigger than the likely WPB replacement (139 ft loa and 235 tons full load, 40 knots, 12,750 HP). It is 2/3 the size of the FRC, and about 29% more than my assumed maximum (182 tons) for the WPB replacement. It was a steel ship. It was equipped with an earlier version of the same 57mm gun found on the National Security Cutter (NSC) as well as the 9LV combat system which was the basis for the Mk92 Firecontrol system used on the 378 FRAM, and six heavy weight torpedo Tubes. The Torpedoes each weighed approximately 1800 kilos or about two tons, while the gun weighted about seven tons, so the vessel had over 19 tons of weapons. The fire control,  ammunition, launchers, and Electronic Warfare equipment would have added to the payload weight. By comparison, if our WPB included the current model 57mm (16,535 lbs/7,500 kg), two Mk54 torpedoes (608 lbs/276 kg each), and eight Longbow Hellfire (108 lbs/49 kg) the total weight of weapons would only be a little over nine tons (18,615 lb/ about 8,461 kg) plus ammunition, launchers, Electronic Warfare equipment, and firecontrol systems. The Over-the-Horizon boat, a primary “weapon,” may add as much as four tons, so the full “weapons load” would be about 13 tons. (I could not find a weight for the Over-the-Horizon boat, but the larger Response Boat, Small weighs a bit over 8 tons.) That is about 68.4% of the weight of systems on the Spica. It is not a complete accounting, but I think it is indicative and I will continue to use this format below.

One thing I liked about this, and the next two designs, is that the bridge and operations rooms are located at or near the center of pitch (which seems to have been done with the FRC as well). This makes it more comfortable for the watch. It also results in a long foc’sle. This allows the gun to be well back from the bow while still being far enough forward of the superstructure to allow a wide arc of fire. That is, it is capable of firing well abaft the beam.

The Norrkoping Class (Sweden):

Swedish Norrköping class fast attack craft (missile and torpedo) HMS Ystad R142, 3 September 2010 Photo by Reedhawk

The Norrkoping class was derived from the Spica class and sometimes referred to as the Spica II class. It gained a little weight, being 143 ft loa and 255 tons (41 knots, 12,750 HP). Initially it was armed like the Spica class, but subsequently the four of the torpedo tubes aft of the superstructure were replaced by four RBS-15 missiles. These weigh in at about 800 kg or 1760 lb. Consequently the weapons load is almost a ton lighter than that of the Spica, but still over 18 tons plus ammunition, launchers, Electronic Warfare equipment, and firecontrol systems. At the same time the missiles were installed, the 9LV system’s radar was replaced by the Sea Giraffe which is the radar installed on the Independence class LCS and planned for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), US designation AN/SPS 77 V(1). This radar is also used on the Swedish Visby class corvettes completed 2002 to 2015. 

Willemoes Class (Denmark):

A danish navy Willemoes-class fast attack craft (missile + torpedoes) HDMS Sehested (P547) as a museum ship at the Holmen naval base. Photo by Flemming Sørensen

The Willemoes class were similar, slightly larger vessels (46 m/150 ft 11 in loa and 260 tons full load, 40 knots, 12,750 HP). Originally they were equipped with four torpedo tubes in addition to the Oto Melara 76mm gun. The after pair of torpedo tubes was replaced by launchers for eight Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles (1,523 lb / 691 kg with booster). Its weight of weapons after installation of the Harpoons was just over 15 tons, plus ammunition, launchers, Electronic Warfare equipment, and firecontrol system (also a 9LV).

The unique feature of this class was that they had small diesel engines for cruising at up to 12 knots.

The Storm Class (Norway:

The Storm Class, (120 ft loa, 138 tons, 30 knots, 7200 HP) is illustrated above, fully armed and launching a Penguin missile, and below in a later configuration after removal of missiles and transfer from the Norwegian Navy to Lithuania. It is considerably smaller than the vessels above, at the lower end of what I expect the WPB replacement to displace, but still capable of mounting considerable weaponry, in this case six Penguin anti-ship missiles, and 76 and 40 mm guns. The missiles weighed 385 kg (849 lb). The 40 mm weighed about 3.5 tons. I was unable to find the weight of this 76mm gun. It would not have weighed as much as the Oto Melara, but it has to be at least 6 tons, so a total weapons weight was at least 12 tons.

Lithuanian Naval Force, Norwegian built, Storm class patrol boat P33 “Skalvis”. Missiles removed. Photo by Ministry of National Defence Republic of Lithuania

Conclusion:

If we chose to do so, it appears we could build something like a slightly scaled down version of the Spica that could mount a 57mm Mk110 forward and still provide an 8 meter Over-the-Horizon boat aft. The firecontrol could be as simple as the electro-optic unit from the Mk38 Mod2 or as capable as the SeaGiraffe which would give us a true all weather capability. In addition, it could probably mount tubes for two light weight torpedoes and eight Longbow Hellfire in vertical launchers. (I would think the Hellfires offset to one side, at the back of the superstructure. Foot print for a 2×4 cluster of missiles would likely be only about 4 x 3 feet.) I know the torpedoes are an unconventional approach, but it seems the surest way to stop a large ship and supposedly the Mk46 Mod5 and later torpedoes have an anti-surface capablity.

Replacing the Marine Protector class WPBs with vessels equipped like this would give the Coast Guard a robust and truly capable Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security capability.

 

 

“Texas Navy” Hydrofoil Assisted Catamaran Patrol Boat

MarineLog reports a contract for an interesting new patrol boat for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“JANUARY 28, 2019 — All American Marine, Inc. (AAM), Bellingham Bay, WA, has won a contract from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TWPD) for construction of an 80’ x 27’ Teknicraft design aluminum catamaran for operation in Texas State waters and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.

This long-range hydrofoil-assisted catamaran will be … designed as a patrol vessel for an “Offshore on an Oceans” route.”


“…TPWD and Texas Game Wardens also patrol an additional 200 nautical miles into the U.S. exclusive economic zones through a joint enforcement agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency.”

A good look at this might inform our selection of future replacements for the 87 foot WPBs.