Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress–Nov. 30, 2017

OPC “Placemat”

The Congressional Research Service has issued an updated report on Coast Guard Cutter procurement by Specialist in Naval Affair, Ronald O’Rourke. It is available in pdf format here or you can read it on the US Naval Institute site here.

Quoting from the Report,

Summary

The Coast Guard’s acquisition 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 cutters and patrol craft. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests a total of $794 million in acquisition funding for the NSC, OPC, and FRC programs.

NSCs are the Coast Guard’s largest and most capable general-purpose cutters. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $695 million per ship. The first six are now in service (the sixth was commissioned into service on April 1, 2017). The seventh, eighth, and ninth are under construction; the seventh and eighth are scheduled for delivery in 2018 and 2019, respectively. As part of its action on the Coast Guard’s FY2017 budget, Congress provided $95 million for procurement of long lead time materials (LLTM) for a 10th NSC. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $54 million in acquisition funding for the NSC program; this request does not include additional funding for a 10th NSC.

OPCs are to be smaller, less expensive, and in some respects less capable than NSCs. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $421 million per ship. The first OPC is to be funded in FY2018 and delivered in 2021. On September 15, 2016, the Coast Guard announced that it was awarding a contract with options for building up to nine ships in the class to Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City, FL. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $500 million in acquisition funding for the OCP program for the construction of the first OPC, procurement of LLTM for the second OPC, and certain other program costs.

FRCs are considerably smaller and less expensive than OPCs. They have an estimated average procurement cost of about $65 million per boat. A total of 44 have been funded through FY2017. The 24 th was commissioned into service on October 31, 2017. The Coast Guard’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $240 million in acquisition funding for the procurement of four more FRCs.The NSC, OPC, and FRC programs pose several issues for Congress, including the following:

  • whether to fully or partially fund the acquisition of a 10th NSC in FY2018;

  • whether to fund the acquisition of four FRCs in FY2018, as requested, or some other number, such as six, which is the maximum number that has been acquired in some prior fiscal years;

  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring FRCs;

  • whether to use annual or multiyear contracting for procuring OPCs;

  • the procurement rate for the OPC program;

  • planned procurement quantities for NSCs, OPCS, and FRCs;

  • the cost, design, and acquisition strategy for the OPC; and

  • initial testing of the NSC.

Congress’s decisions on these programs could substantially affect Coast Guard capabilities and funding requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.

Armed Drones: The Coast Guard’s Next New Frontier?–USNI Proceedings

Coast Guard air crews unhook a Fire Scout UAS during a test on the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf near Los Angeles, Dec. 5 2014. The Coast Guard Research and Development Center has been testing UAS platforms consistently for the last three years. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton)

The Dec. 2017 issue of the US Naval Institute Proceedings magazine has an excellent article, by LCdr Craig Allen, Jr., USCG, considering the possibility of the Coast Guard employing armed drone, specifically to assume the airborne use of force (AUF) role.

He considers both the pros and cons of taking this step, and along the way makes a compelling case that it is not only feasible but probably also desirable.  Additionally he suggests that drones may allow the Webber class WPCs to employ AUF.

Mexican Navy’s New Helicopters

Mexican Navy AS365 MBe helicopter, by AIRBUS.

NavyRecognition reports that the Mexican Navy has taken delivery of ten new helicopters. They might look a bit familiar. These are the latest development of the AS365 family of aircraft.

As we have noted, the Mexican Navy parallels the USCG in many ways, including missions and equipment (here and here). They also are in the process of procuring a fleet of patrol craft that are smaller, 42 meters vice 47 meters over all, but closely related to the Coast Guard’s Webber Class cutters.

 

19 More Names for Webber class WPCs

The graphic above is a bit dated. 26 of the class have been delivered to date. 

ALCOAST 349/17 has announced, and the Navy League has reported, the names selected for 19 more Webber class WPCs. I have provided a copy ALCOAST below.

To make it a bit easier to read, the Navy League’s listing is immediately below. Unlike the previous listings, I have not seen an explanation of what these individuals did. Hopefully their stories will be provided. I do recognize Maurice Jester as the CO of USCGC Icarus when she sank the U-352 These 19 bring the total number of names selected to 54.

■ Master Chief Angela McShan
■ Surfman Pablo Valent
■ Surfman Frederick Hatch
■ Mustang Officer Maurice Jester
■ Electrician Myrtle Hazard
■ Coxswain Harold Miller
■ Coxswain William Sparling
■ Coxswain Daniel Tarr
■ Coxswain Glenn Harris
■ Coxswain Douglas Denman
■ Pharmacist’s Mate Robert Goldman
■ Steward’s Mate Emlen Tunnel
■ Steward’s Mate Warren Deyampert
■ Seaman John Scheuerman
■ Seaman Charles Moulthrop
■ Boatswain’s Mate Clarence Sutphin
■ Boatswain’s Mate Edgar Culbertson
■ Keeper William Chadwick
■ Keeper John Patterson.

R 221121 NOV 17
FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-092//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS//N05700//
ALCOAST 349/17
COMDTNOTE 5700
SUBJ:  NEW FAST RESPONSE CUTTERS NAMED FOR COAST GUARD HEROES
1. In 1830, the Revenue Cutter Service, predecessor to the modern Coast Guard
launched its first standardized multi-ship class of cutters. The Morris-
class, named for the first cutter in the class, Robert Morris, was designed
with a topsail-schooner rig and a length of 78 feet. These cutters carried
six 9-pound cannons and a crew of 24 officers and men.
2. The thirteen Morris-class cutters fought pirates, interdicted smugglers,
enforced federal maritime laws and operated with American naval forces in
time of war. In the years leading up to the American Civil War, Cutter Morris
and her sister ships formed the backbone of the revenue cutter fleet.
3. As with the Morris class, the Coast Guard is building a class of cutters
designed to serve a multi-mission role. The “Sentinel” – Class Fast Response
Cutters (FRC) perform drug and migrant interdiction; ports, waterways and
coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense.
4. In the next few years, the Coast Guard will deliver 32 additional cutters
bringing our service numbers up to 58 FRCs intended to replace the fleet of
1980s-era 110-foot patrol boats. 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 characteristics.
5. Twenty-six FRCs are currently in service, with six stationed in Miami
Beach, Florida; six in Key West, Florida; six in San Juan, Puerto Rico; two
in Ketchikan, Alaska; two in Cape May, New Jersey; two in Pascagoula,
Mississippi; and two in Honolulu, Hawaii.
6. As with their FRC sister cutters, the next flight of 19 FRCs will bear the
names of enlisted leaders, trailblazers and heroes of the Coast Guard and its
predecessor services of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, U.S. Lifesaving
Service and U.S. Lighthouse Service. These new cutters will be named for
Master Chief Angela McShan; Surfmen Pablo Valent and Frederick Hatch; Mustang
Officer Maurice Jester; Electrician Myrtle Hazard; Coxswains Harold Miller,
William Sparling, Daniel Tarr, Glenn Harris and Douglas Denman; Pharmacists
Mate Robert Goldman; Stewards Mates Emlen Tunnel and Warren Deyampert; Seamen
John Scheuerman and Charles Moulthrop; Boatswain’s Mates Clarence Sutphin and
Edgar Culbertson; and Keepers William Chadwick and John Patterson. These
enlisted namesakes include recipients of the Navy Cross Medal, Silver Star
Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Gold Lifesaving Medal, Silver Lifesaving Medal,
Navy & Marine Corps Medal and Purple Heart Medal.
7. The Fast Response Cutters are the mainstay of the Coast Guard’s coastal
patrol fleet, providing multi-mission capabilities and interagency
interoperability. For more information, check the Coast Guard Acquisition
Directorate’s FRC web page at: http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-
Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Acquisitions-CG-9/Programs/Surface-
Programs/Fast-Response-Cutters/
8. RADM Peter W. Gautier, Director of Governmental and Public Affairs, sends.
9. Internet release authorized.

ASW on Small Craft

The 425 ton, 187 foot corvette HMS Gävle of the Swedish navy in Visby harbor. To be fitted with the Kongsberg Maritime ST2400 variable depth sonar.  Photo by Mr Bullitt

It seems warships are getting bigger all the time, but technology can sometimes make it possible to do more with less.

If we ever again face a submarine threat, there will never be enough destroyers and frigates to meet all the needs. The larger Coast Guard cutters will certainly be pressed into service, but there may also still be a need for protection of ports, coastal traffic, or choke points. These are prime submarine hunting areas. The Webber class might be adaptable to meet this need.

Certainly we would not I expect to see these on Cutters any time soon, but I wanted to point out the possibilities. Adding any ASW sensor, with the possible exception of the hull mounted sonar, would probably require that we land the 26 foot boat.

Below are three examples of ASW sensors applicable to small vessels. Most of the sensor technology comes from ASW helicopters, which like patrol boats, are limited as to space and weight. While helicopters can provide rapid response and movement, patrol boats have the advantage of persistence, including the ability to drift for days at a time.

We have already discussed how tubes for light weight torpedoes might be fitted to the Webber class for use against surface vessels. They could of course also be used against submarines.

Elbit Systems:

Elbit Systems’ Seagull unmanned surface vessel (shown firing a light weight torpedo) recently exhibited its anti-submarine detection capabilities using a dipping sonar rig and proprietary software.

The smallest is actually aboard a 39 foot unmanned boat, but it includes both a sensor in the form of a dipping sonar and an ASW torpedo weapon system.

Dipping sonars are a common feature on most ASW helicopters. The current US Navy system is the Airborne Low Frequency Dipping Sonar (ALFS) subsystem. ALFS began life as a Thales system.

Kongsberg Maritime ST2400 VDS variable depth:

Presentation of the Kongsberg Maritime ST2400 VDS variable depth sonar in the video above time 12:00 to 13:50

NavyRecognition reports this system is to be fitted on the Swedish Navy’s two remaining Göteborg class corvettes, which are already 24 to 27 years old. They are 20% larger than the Webber class, but they also are equipped with:

  • 1 × Bofors 57mm Mk2
  • 1 × Bofors 40mm/L70
  • 8 × RBS15 MkII AShM
  • 4 × 400 mm tubes for Type 43/45 torpedoes
  • 4 × ELMA Antisubmarine grenadethrowers
  • Mines & Depthcharges

Thales BlueWatch and CAPTAS-1

DefenseNews announced a new ASW sensor suite for ships as small as 300 tons that might include both a hull mounted sonar based on the same transducer currently used on the currently used dipping sonar, ALFS, and a towed sonar with a both an active transmitter element and a towed linear towed array receiver, the CAPTAS-1.

Thales Blue Watch Sonar System. (A hull mounted version of the AN/AQS-22.)

 

 

The U. S. Coast Guard in the South China Sea: Strategy or Folly?–CIMSEC

CIMSEC has a brief discussion of the possibility of deploying a Coast Guard presence in the South Chia Sea.

First let me say, I don’t think using cutters for Freedom of Navigation demonstrations would be an improvement. Our warships have every right to be there. Substituting Coast Guard Cutters to be less offensive to the Chinese might be seen as a sign of  weakened resolve, and it would be a whole lot easier for them to make a move against a cutter than a DDG.

The presumption in these discussions seems to be, that if we do put a presence in the South China Sea, it will be a large cutter. There is another alternative. If we want a Coast Guard presence in the area, perhaps we should start small. We could move three 110 foot WPBs to a port in the South China Sea. When enough Webber class become available, we could replace the WPBs with the newer WPCs and donate the 110s to a navy or coast guard in the area. (It would not hurt if some of the members of the WPB crews were of Asian descent.)

They could do the same kind of capacity building our cutters in South West Asia do. They could help with local fisheries enforcement, particularly the increasingly aggressive members of Chinese maritime militia units. If our cutters occasionally provide force protection or operate with a DDG conducting a Freedom of Navigation Exercise, that’s good too.