What’s in a Name

The program currently stands at 23 vessels delivered with 22 commissioned. They are being delivered at a rate of 5 per year meaning the last of 58 planned should be commissioned by the end of FY2024. 

MarineLink has a story about Bollinger and their production of the Webber class WPBs. I found this particular paragraph interesting.

Making it Personal
To help combat complacency Bollinger came up with the Sentinel Program, to both incentivize its shipbuilders and to make each vessel more meaningful to them. “Each of these vessels is named for a hero in the Coast Guard,” Remont said. For every vessel Bollinger creates a name board, a 4 x 3 board that describes the ship’s namesake with details of their heroic act. “What we’re trying to do is personalize it for our shipbuilders. It’s not just some big hunk of metal with a bunch of cables, it (the ship) is there for a real reason. We erect these sign posts at each station where the vessel is getting created, and the name board follows the ship, traveling with the boat as it moves through the production line. “Every time our shipbuilders get on that vessel they can read about the person, and understand why we are building it.” When the vessel is delivered the name board is given to the CO of the boat so that they and the crew can be reminded of the namesake, too. Following the delivery ceremony, Bollinger selects one employee from each department who exhibits the same characteristics of the vessel’s namesake, and they are publicly recognized and awarded.
This points to yet another reason the decision to name these cutters after Coast Guard heroes was a good one. I knew it would mean something to the crew, but apparently it means something to put a human face on the ships, even to the shipyard works, and perhaps to others that come in contact with the ships. It also teaches Coast Guard history in easily digestible bits.
Hopefully we will continue with this when we name the Offshore Patrol Cutters. I don’t think we could do better than name the first of class for the captain of the Revenue Cutter Hudson during the Spanish-American War, Frank H. Newcomb. There has never been a cutter named after him, and the honor is long overdue.

Frank H. Newcomb

USRC/USCGC McCulloch Wreck located

n 1914, USRC Cutter McCulloch was ordered to Mare Island Navy Shipyard where the cutter’s boilers were replaced, the mainmast was removed and the bowsprit shortened. In 1915, McCulloch became a US Coast Guard Cutter when the US Revenue Cutter Service and US Life-Saving Service were combined to create the United States Coast Guard. (Credit: Gary Fabian Collection)

You may have heard the wreck of the Cutter McCulloch, a participant in the Battle of Manila Bay, has been found of Pt. Conception.

The best coverage I have found is on the NOAA website.

There does seem to be an error in that it refers to the guns on the McCulloch as four 6-pounder, 3-inch rapid firing guns. 6-pounders were 57mm weapons (sound familiar?) while 3-inch guns typically fired a projectile of 13 pounds. Those figures are very close to projectile weights of the modern 76mm Mk75 and 57mm Mk110. The confusion may have originated from the fact that while the McCulloch, as built, was armed with 6-pounders, before the Battle of Manila Bay, she was up-gunned.

There is an interesting footnote on the McCulloch’s Spanish American War service.

Dewey presented USRC McCulloch with four of the six 1-pounder revolving Hotchkiss guns taken from the Spanish flagship, Reina Cristina. Each of these Hotchkiss cannons had five, revolving 37mm barrels. These four guns are displayed in pairs to either side of the front of Hamilton Hall facing the parade ground at the United States Coast Guard Academy.

As an advocate of torpedoes on cutters, I liked seeing the McCulloch had a torpedo tube, see, there is precedence.


Interview: Adm. Paul Zukunft demands Coast Guard respect–Defense News

DefenseNews had an interview with the Commandant. You can read it here. I will not repeat the Commandant’s responses here, but I will repeat one of the questions and add my own thoughts.

Admiral, you have said that the Coast Guard’s identity as an armed service is forgotten. Can you tell me what you mean by that?

The Commandant talks here about budget, but I think this starts with self image. We do SAR. We rescue sea turtles. Armed services are first and foremost ARMED. We are by law a military service, but we are currently inadequately armed for even our peacetime counter terrorism, DHS mission. We are less capable of forcibly stopping a ship than we were 90 years ago.

Do our people know what their role will be if there is a major conflict with the Chinese or Russians? You can bet Navy and Marine Personnel have a pretty good idea of their roles.

We have had a quarter century hiatus in a mono-polar world where no one could challenge American seapower. That is changing rapidly and it is time for the Coast Guard to see itself in a new light. Just as the nation has benefited from having two land forces (Army and Marines), it can benefit from having two sea forces. The Coast Guard is a substantial naval force. Certainly we will not replace the Navy’s sophisticated systems, but there is a need for a high low mix and the marginal cost of adding capability to Coast Guard vessels that are going to be built anyway is very small.

We are currently in an unrecognized naval arms race with China. It is time to give the Coast Guard back the ASW and ASuW capabilities it was building before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When I reported to the academy in 1965, it had a gun lab, and we were taught ASW (badly) during swab summer. The Coast Guard had 36 ships equipped with sonar, ASW torpedoes and 5″ guns. The ships were old (not as old as now), but we were building a new fleet of 36 Hamilton Class WHECs equipped with a better sonar in addition to torpedoes and a 5″ gun. Being armed did not stop us from doing SAR, fisheries, or aids to navigation.

At that time (1965) in terms of personnel, the US Navy was about 25 times larger than the Coast Guard and had 287 cruisers, destroyers, and frigates. Now it is only eight times as large as the Coast Guard and has only 85 ASW equipped surface ships. We also had a powerful naval ally in Europe in the form of the Royal Navy. Now the Coast Guard is supplying personnel to the Royal Navy and in terms of personnel the Coast Guard is larger than the Royal Navy or the French Navy. Equipping our planned 33 to 35 large cutters as true surface combattants could make a real difference.

Even if we never go to war, preparation can make us better at our peacetime roles. Drug interdiction, migrant interdiction, and even SAR benefit from military grade ISR and C4I. Recognition of naval capabilities in the Coast Guard may justify additional resorces that have dual use for peacetime missions. Its a win-win.


Marines (or Army) Sink Ship with Missiles from Coast Guard Ship–It Could Happen

PACOM wants the services to operate across domains. The Navy already operates aircraft over land, but he also wants the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corp to help control the sea areas. We noted earlier, that it appears the Army may be moving to form something like the old Coast Artillery.

Now the US Naval Institute reports the Army is set to sink a ship during the 2018 RIMPAC exercise, presumably from land. In addition,

“Headquarters Marine Corps and [Marine Corps Forces Pacific] are working to deploy HIMARS (M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) rapidly aboard ships to shoot at other ships.”

Now the Marines will probably do this from a Navy amphibious assault ship, but wouldn’t it be cool if the Army did this from a Coast Guard Cutter. That would really demonstrate cross service cooperation.

It is also something we might want to do operationally from an Icebreaker in the Arctic some day.

Webber Class WPC Bailey Barco Tour

I recently had the opportunity to board the yet to be commissioned Webber Class cutter Bailey Barco (WPC-1122), during a stop, as she made her way from the Gulf coast to her new home port in Ketchikan, Alaska. The Captain, Frank Reed, generously took the time to show me around. She was transporting a lot of spares and other gear to her new homeport, so may appear a bit more cluttered than normal, but everything was securely stowed.

I took some photos. I’m providing the diagram below for reference. Click on it to enlarge.

Mast and call sign

Bridge looking forward and a proud CO.

The bridge is large and spacious. Underway it becomes a secure space combining the functions of the CIC, Engineering Control Booth, Radio Room, and Firecontrol Shack in addition to the normal bridge functions. A secure space below passes information up to the bridge.  Normal underway manning is a three person watch.

Bridge displays and controls

Bridge looking aft.

Looking aft from the bridge, the watch can look back at the embarked over the horizon boat and observe as it is launched and recovered.

Ship’s boat.

Why a water tight door? As an XO who spent a lot of time making sure we could properly set Material Condition Zebra, these things are really important and can be a pain in the ass. The CO said earlier cutters of this class had had problems with their doors, but these were an improved version. The action was very positive and quick, requiring only a quarter turn instead of a three quarter turn for full actuation like the Quick Acting Water Tight Doors I was accustomed to.

Quick Acting Water Tight Door

Engine Room amidships looking aft

Engineroom port side looking aft.

Mess deck

The mess deck (above) is on the main deck and benefitted from natural light. The panels they use to cover the ports are apparently leatherette mounted using velcro. The crew probably thinks of these a way to cut annoying glare, but I see it as a much improved way to darken ship, compared with the way it was done on 378s and 210s. 
I was told the anchor and ground tackle is an improvement over that used on the earlier cutters. It was beautifully chromed.

Weapons Testing: During my visit the gunners mate told me that Bailey Barco had been used as a test platform for a stabilized .50 caliber mount. A number of Navy and Marine in addition to Coast Guard Personnel observed test firing. Apparently it got a bit crowed. I did not confirm this while there, but I suspect this was a stabilized gun platform rather than a remotely controlled weapon. I did an earlier post on one of these. Good to see the Coast Guard doing some weapons testing. If we have to use weapons in a US port we really need a high degree of precision.

Stress Monitoring: The Captain pointed out a device that he said monitored hull stress and that it automatically submitted a report monthly. It is permanently installed. Made me wonder if perhaps some day this might be used real-time as a decision aid in determining how hard the ship can be pushed.