Names for FRCs #55 through 64

The crew of USCGC Joseph Gerczak (WPC 1126) prepare to moor at the port of Pago Pago, American Samoa, Aug. 3, 2019. They will conduct a joint fisheries patrol with NOAA Fisheries and American Samoa Marine Police members. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Below is an ALCOAST providing the names planned for Webber class “Fast Response Cutters” #55 through 64. This seems to show considerable confidence in Congress since only FRCs #55 and 56 have been funded, only #57 and 58 are in the FY2020 budget request, and administration’s plans for out years include no additional FRCs. This confidence appears justified in that Congress has consistently funded more FRCs that requested on an annual basis. 

united states coast guard

R 231327 OCT 19
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-092//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS//N05700//
ALCOAST 328/19
COMDTNOTE 5700
SUBJ:  NEW FAST RESPONSE CUTTERS NAMED FOR COAST GUARD HEROES
1. The Sentinel Class Fast Response Cutters (FRC), the Coast Guard’s fleet of multi-mission
ships that perform drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and coastal security;
fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense, efficiently and proudly complete
domestic and international operations on a daily basis.
2. Continuing the Sentinel Class’ tradition of honoring women and men who distinguished
themselves while serving as enlisted Coast Guard members throughout the history of the Service,
FRCs 55–64 bear the names of leaders, trailblazers and heroes of the Coast Guard and its
forbearers. These namesakes include recipients of the Gold Lifesaving Medal, Silver Star Medal,
Good Conduct Medal, and Medal of Freedom. These new cutters are scheduled for delivery
starting in 2023 and will be named for the following people:
    a. FRC 55 – Master Chief Radioman Melvin Bell. A Pacific-Island American, Master Chief
Bell broke many barriers in the Service. He mentored numerous others during his career and
embodied the Coast Guard’s Core Values.
    b. FRC 56 – Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate David Duren. Master Chief Duren was a Coast
Guard legend who was cited multiple times for heroism and received the nickname “Big Wave
Dave” for his bravery in small boat operations.
    c. FRC 57 – Seaman First Class Florence Finch. Serving under dire conditions in enemy-
occupied Philippines, Seaman Finch provided much needed medicines and supplies to American
POWs.  Seaman Finch later suffered torture and privation before eventually enlisting in the
Coast Guard. She received the Medal of Freedom for her heroism.
    d. FRC 58 – Captain John Witherspoon. An African American member with a career in both
the enlisted and officer ranks, Captain Witherspoon upheld the highest traditions of the
Coast Guard as an inspirational role model and mentor for Coast Guard men and women.
    e. FRC 59 – Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Earl Cunningham. Petty Officer Cunningham
sacrificed his own life so that others might live. His devotion to duty endures as a role
model for the men and women of the Coast Guard.
    f. FRC 60 – Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Mann. A Silver Star Medal recipient, Chief
Warrant Officer Mann saved the lives of a number of his shipmates when he oversaw firefighting
efforts aboard his burning transport during the Guadalcanal landings. He served out a
distinguished career and retired as a Warrant Officer.
    g. FRC 61 – Seaman Second Class Olivia Hooker. The first African American woman to wear
a Coast Guard uniform, Seaman Hooker enlisted later in life out of a sense of patriotism in
the face of discrimination. She served her country with distinction then returned to civilian
life to continue mentoring others.
    h. FRC 62 – Port Security Specialist Second Class Vincent Danz. Petty Officer Danz ran to
the scene of the 9/11 attacks, aiding victims and saving lives, before he lost his life when
the World Trade Center collapsed.
    i. FRC 63 – Machinery Technician First Class Jeffrey Palazzo. A member of the New York
Fire Department, Petty Officer Palazzo was one of the first responders to the World Trade
Center attacks and lost his life while heroically trying to rescue others.
    j. FRC 64 – Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Marvin Perrett. A veteran of World War II, Petty
Officer Perrett served as a landing craft coxswain in both the European and Pacific Theaters
and actively promoted the Coast Guard throughout his life.
3. Thirty-four FRCs are currently in service, with two in Ketchikan, Alaska; four in San Pedro,
California; six in Key West, Florida; six in Miami Beach, Florida; three in Honolulu, Hawaii;
two in Pascagoula, Mississippi; two in Cape May, New Jersey; two in Atlantic Beach, North
Carolina; and seven in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
4. The Fast Response Cutters are the mainstay of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol fleet,
providing multi-mission capabilities and interagency interoperability. The 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 sea-keeping. They are replacing the 1980s-era Island
Class 110-foot patrol boats. For more information, visit the Coast Guard Acquisition
Directorate’s FRC page at: http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-
for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Programs/Surface-Programs/Fast-Response-Cutters/.
5. RADM Melissa Bert, Director of Governmental and Public Affairs, sends.
6. Internet release is authorized.

Webber Class Cutter Robert Ward Gets Another Pacific Drug Transit Zone Bust

The Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward (WPC-1130) is shown shortly after mooring for the first time at its homeport at Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach, Oct. 31, 2018. The Robert Ward is the second of four new Fast Response Cutters to be stationed in San Pedro, which will help to protect the people, ports and waterways of the region and maintain security for the global supply chain and critical infrastructure within California. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Brandyn Hill)

Below is a fairly routine press release. I would not normally reproduce these, because there are other places where the information is already available, but this is a bit unusual, in that one of the busts was made by a Webber class WPC, USCGC Robert Ward (WPC-1130), the first Webber class to make a drug bust in the Eastern Pacific Drug Transit Zone. Apparently they are at it again.

She had seized 3,000 pounds of cocaine in mid-July, that was brought into San Diego  by Steadfast (WMEC-623). At the end of August she returned to her homeport, San Pedro, bringing in another 2,800 pounds. Now she has taken another 1,500 pounds.

This is the new norm.

Incidentally, it is well over 3000 miles from San Pedro to the Transit Zone. Seventh District WPCs are actually a lot closer.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 11th District PA Detachment San Diego
Contact: Coast Guard PA Detachment San Diego
Office: (619) 278-7025
After Hours: (619) 252-1304
PA Detachment San Diego online newsroom

Coast Guard offloads more than $92 million worth of cocaine in San Diego

 The Coast Guard Cutter Alert crew conducted a drug offload in San Diego, Oct. 16, 2019. The crew offloaded more than 6,800 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $92 million, seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard B-Roll footage by Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandon Giles)
 Coast Guardsmen prepare bails of cocaine to be offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter Alert in San Diego, October 16, 2019. The crew aboard the Alert offloaded approximately 6,800 pounds of cocaine. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Gray) The Coast Guard Cutter Alert crew conducted a drug offload in San Diego, Oct. 16, 2019. The crew offloaded more than 6,800 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $92 million, seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alex Gray) Bales of cocaine lie stacked under the deck of a suspected smuggling vessel in October interdicted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Approximately 6,800 pounds of cocaine were seized and three suspected smugglers were detained. (U.S. Coast Guard photo) A suspected smuggling vessel drifts in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean after being intercepted by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert in October. Approximately 6,800 pounds of cocaine were seized and three suspected smugglers were detained. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Editors’ Note: Click on images and video above to download full-resolution version.

SAN DIEGO — The Coast Guard offloaded more than $92 million worth of seized cocaine in San Diego Wednesday.

The cocaine, worth more than $92 million, was seized in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The contraband represents four suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the crews of three Coast Guard cutters off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America between late July and early October by the following Coast Guard cutters:

  • Alert (WMEC-630) was responsible for two cases, seizing approximately 4,000 pounds of cocaine
  • Robert Ward (WPC-1130) was responsible for one case, seizing approximately 1,500 pounds of cocaine
  • Seneca (WMEC-906) was responsible for one case, seizing approximately 1,400 pounds of cocaine

Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys throughout the country.

“I am extremely proud of this crew for doing their part to keep these dangerous drugs off the streets,” said Cmdr. Tyson Scofield, Alert’s commanding officer. “The Eastern Pacific Ocean is a challenging environment, especially on a ship that is in her 50th year of service, yet this crew persevered to disrupt the illegal flow of narcotics that fuels instability in Central and South America. The counter-drug mission is as important now as it has ever been, and these brave men and women can return home after a 69-day patrol knowing they made a difference.”

The Coast Guard increased the U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda.

The Alert is a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Astoria, Oregon. The Robert Ward is a 154-foot fast-response cutter homeported in San Pedro. The Seneca is a 270-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Boston, Massachusetts.

-USCG-

“Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress” –CRS, October 11, 2019

Busy as always, the Congressional Research Service has already updated their examination of the Coast Guard’s cutter procurement program to reflect the results of the contract relief extended to Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) and the intention to re-compete for contracts to construct OPC#5 and later. You can see the new report here. 

Significant changes are found on pages 8-10 under the title “October 2019 Announcement of Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition,” and pages 13-15 under the title “Issues for Congress–Contractual Relief and Follow-on Competition for OPC Program.”

Delays in the execution of the OPC program might be seen as justification for NSC#12 particularly if it is seen as a trade-off for a future OPC.

Not new to this edition, but looking at “Table 1. NSC, OPC, and FRC Funding in FY2013-FY2020 Budget Submissions” on page 13, raises a question about how many Webber class FRCs are to be built. The Program of Record is 58, but this did not include replacements for the six vessels assigned to Patrol Forces SW Asia. Adding six for PATFORSWA should bring the total to 64. So far 56 Webber class have been funded, including four to replace 110 foot patrol boats assigned PATFORSWA. There is $140M in the FY 2020 budget request, which would fund two more, but there are insufficient funds in the out years to fund even a single additional FRC. This appears to mean the program will end with a total of 58 vessels unless Congress steps in.

 

A Modest Proposal for a Containerized Weapon System

Leonardo DRS has been chosen to provide the mission equipment package (rendering pictured) atop a Stryker combat vehicle to serve as the Interim Maneuver-Short-Range Air Defense system for the U.S. Army. (Courtesy of Leonardo DRS)

     After the recent report of Russia containerizing anti-air missile systems I got to thinking about containerized systems the Coast Guard might use. There are many systems that might be containerized–sonars, torpedo countermeasures, cruise missiles, drones, 120mm mortars, medical facilities, but there is one combination I found particularly appealing.
     We could tie into the Army’s attempt to develop a new short range air defense system (SHORAD) by mounting a marinized version of the SHORAD turret on a container.  The systems are meant to fire on the move, so they should be able to deal with ship’s movement. The container might be armored to some extent to protect it from splinters and small arms. The container could be equipped to provide power (external connection, generator, and battery), air conditioning, air filtration, etc as the supporting vehicle would have in the Army system.  It looks like the planned interim SHORAD system will include Stinger, Hellfire, an M230 30mm gun and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun. If we could mount some additional vertical launch Hellfire in the container, so much the better.
     For the Coast Guard these might be used on icebreakers and buoy tenders when they go into contested areas. They might be mounted on the stern of FRCs in lieu of the over the horizon boat using an adapter over the stern ramp, when additional firepower is required. 
     The Army and Marines might also use these containerized systems as prefab base defense systems. As fixed ground defenses, the containers might be buried leaving only the turret above ground level.
     They could also be used on Military Sealift Command and Merchant ships to provide a degree of self defense.

Coast Guard Commander Craig Allen talks about challenges with national security cutter connectivity.

HMAS Success (AOR-304) refuelling probe goes in for a hook-up with the US Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Waesche (WMSL-751) as the Royal Australian Navy Auxilliary Oiler Replenishment Ship conducts a dual RAS (Replenishment at Sea) off the coast of Hawaii during the Sea Phase of Exercise RIMPAC 2014, 19 July 2014. (RAN Photo by Leading Seaman Brenton Freind RAN)

The 8 Aug. 2019 US Naval Institute podcast features Cdr. Craig Allen, currently XO of USCGC Waesche discussing the topic of his winning USNI Coast Guard Essay contest.

Despite the title, connectivity on other Coast Guard platforms was also discussed.

The discussion on cutter connectivity doesn’t actually start until about time 10:05. Earlier in the podcast they talk about the Midshipmen and Cadets Essay Contest (deadline 31 Oct. 2019).

He mentions specifically difficult to share UAS data and images. Even so it sounds like the most significant difficulty is that operational data is crowding out administrative data that now can no longer be done offline. 

Sounds like there are three paths that might be pursued that might ease the situation.

First of course is to increase band width, but if that were easy I presume it would have already been done.

There was not discussion of tactical data links, like Link 16, but this is one way to a common shared tactical picture. Reportedly Link16 “supports the exchange of text messages, imagery data and provides two channels of digital voice (2.4 kbit/s and/or 16 kbit/s in any combination).” I am pretty sure the NSC has Link 16, but most Coast Guard units including Webber class, aircraft, and District and Area Commands do not. Moving the tactical information to data links could free bandwidth for administrative tasks. In addition if we ever want our district and area commands to be able to call on DOD assets to respond to a terrorist attack, having access to data link could make it a lot easier.

Third, it sounds like we may have shot ourselves in the foot by eliminating previously acceptable ways to handle administrative matters. Sounds like we are forcing operational units to make it easy for administrative support units, instead of the other way around, as it should be. The extreme measures he describes as required to get the job done should be an embarrassment to the Coast Guard. The administrative system worked before internet. It can work without it. There are ways around these problems.

“Trinidad & Tobago Orders 2 Cape-class Patrol Boats from Austal” –Naval News

The Australian Customs patrol boat ACV Cape St George on Darwin Harbour in 2014, Photo by Ken Hodge

Naval News reports that Trinidad and Tobago has signed a deal for two Cape Class 58 meter patrol vessels from Austal in Australia. Contract is valued at 126M A$ or about $85.4M US. That is less than the cost of our Webber class cutters. Not that I think the USCG is in the market for anything like this right now. (Perhaps the Navy might consider it.) Still a comparison is interesting.

The Cape Class is a enlarged, improved version of the earlier Armidale class patrol vessels. The Cape Class was originally developed for the Australian Border Force, but the Australian Navy is currently also operating two of the class. Compared to the Webber class.

  • Displacement about twice as large: 700 tons vice 353
  • Length: 57.8 m (190 ft) vice 46.8 m (154 ft)
  • Beam: 10.3 m (34 ft) vice 8.11 m (26.6 ft)
  • Draft: 3 m (9.8 ft) vice 2.9 m (9.5 ft)
  • HP, less: 6,772 vice 11,600
  • Speed, slower: 25 vice 28
  • Crew, smaller: 18 vice 24
  • Boats: two on davits vice one in stern ramp

The dramatic difference seems to be range and endurance, 28 days and 4,000 miles vs five days and 2,500 miles, although I continue to believe the Webber class’ endurance could be improved with only a little effort. These little ships also have aluminum hulls, while the Webber class hull is steel. Also the Australian ships are armed with nothing larger than crew served machine guns. That appears to be just a matter of choice but it would increase the cost.

In some ways these look a lot like the French “La Confiance” PLG. meaning they are similar to the Cutter X concept, although I would favor something a little larger so that it might be able to operate a helicopter.

Our previous contributor on the Tinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, Sanjay Badir-Maharaj, questions the wisdom of this purchase, since The Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard seems to be having trouble maintaining the vessels it has now. Some degree of maintenance is included apparently, we wish them luck.

“Coast Guard Ramps Up in Hawaii with 2 New Ships” –Military.com

The crew of USCGC Kimball (WMSL 756) arrive in Honolulu for the first time Dec. 22, 2018. Known as the Legend-class, NSCs are designed to be the flagships of the Coast Guard’s fleet, capable of executing the most challenging national security missions, including support to U.S. combatant commanders. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir/Released)

Military.com reports that 14th district is getting a second National Security Cutter, the Future USCGC Midgett arriving on Friday, Aug. 16 (to be commissioned along with Kimball Aug. 24 in a rare dual commissioning) and a third Webber class, the William Hart.

It also discusses the Coast Guard’s increased activity in the Western Pacific and Oceana.