Coast Guard will begin testing unmanned surface vehicles off Hawaii

At left, a concept photo of the unmanned surface vehicle that will be demonstrated by Spatial Integrated System in the maritime domain awareness technology evaluation by the Coast Guard Research and Development Center this summer. At right, the technology evaluation will also include a SailDrone, shown here during a project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ocean Climate Stations.

Just passing this new release along, in view of possible future significance and unusual nature. More info here.

united states coast guard 
News Release U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific

Coast Guard will begin testing unmanned surface vehicles off Hawaii 
HONOLULU — The U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center, in partnership with local Coast Guard units, will be conducting test and evaluation of unmanned surface vehicles off the south shore of Oahu from October 7th through November 5th.

The tests will focus on autonomous vessel systems from Saildrone and Spatial Integration Systems, in addition to a USCG owned autonomous research vessel made by Metal Shark.

This evaluation will examine each vessels’ ability to provide persistent maritime domain awareness, especially in remote areas of the oceans. While potentially applicable to many Coast Guard missions, there is potential these technologies will help enable the Coast Guard to better protect critical natural living marine resources from Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and other illicit activities.

RADM Eric Jones’ Comments on the U.S.C.G.’s D7 Operations and the Fast Response Cutter at Virtual SNA 2020 –by Peter Ong

Guest Author Peter Ong is back, to give us a taste of the 2020 Surface Navy Association comments from Seventh District Commander Eric Jones.

The surprise here for me, was that they are looking for a way to provide an airborne use of force package to support the Webber Class WPC. The system they need may have already been developed as a palletized system for the airframe the Coast Guard designates the HC-144. There are currently HC-144s based in Miami. 

“To be Battle-Ready is to always be ready.”—RADM Eric Jones (U.S.C.G.) at SNA 2020

 United States Coast Guard’s District Seven Operations and Assessment

At the Surface Navy Association 2020 (SNA 2020) in August 25, 2020, virtual due to COVID-19, RADM Eric Jones (U.S.C.G.), stressed Readiness and Responsiveness in his Question and Answer session on-screen with “Battle-Ready Cutters.”  He emphasized, “Battle-Ready Cutters are more than ships. They’re the right team; the right training; the right partnerships; the right authorities; the right technology,” said Jones. “Frankly, the right Force Package. Battle-Ready Cutters are greater than the sum of their parts to meet both National Security and Regional Demands across the full spectrum of military operations, law enforcement, environment response, and Humanitarian Assistance.”

U.S.C.G. Area of Operations District Seven covers waters around South Carolina,
Georgia, Florida, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico–Map: U.S.C.G. D7 Homepage
(Area in blue is part of District 8. District 7/8 boundary in the Gulf of Mexico extends 199 degrees true from the coastal boundary to the Mexican coast–Chuck)

RADM Jones is responsible for District Seven’s (D7) Atlantic Area of Operations that cover the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and the (Eastern–Chuck) Gulf of Mexico.  Headquarter in Miami, Florida, D7’s District details and operational duties include:

  • 8 million square miles with 18,000 miles of coastline from South Carolina to South America
  • Covers and patrols 34 foreign nations and territories
  • Interfaces with four Combatant Commands (COCOMs)
  • Has 3,600 Active Duty personnel
  • Has 745 Reservists
  • Has 173 Civilians
  • Has 4,400 Auxiliary personnel
  • Icebreaking excepted (not covered at SNA 2020)
  • Provides protection for Cape Canaveral rocket launches
  • Provides U.S. Navy Ballistic Missile Submarine protection, but that is outside the scope of the Rear Admiral’s discussion at Virtual SNA 2020
  • District 7 has aging Medium Endurance Cutters (WMEC) of the Famous-class and Reliance-class Cutters, and new FRCs. D7 possess the largest fleet of 19 Fast Response Cutters in the U.S. Coast Guard. (Soon to be 20 FRCs–Chuck)
  • Duties include combating the Drug War, pursuing and apprehending Human smugglers, Search and Rescue, and responding to disasters.”1

“We have several countries worried about the flow of weapons and bulk cash from the U.S.A. into their nations,” RADM Jones said. “That is where having SOUTHCOM [Southern Command] as a local and very strong partner helps.” Jones stated that in a given year, there are around 20 to 30 Coast Guard operations in the Caribbean.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, D7 Cutters conducted 1,200 ship boardings for illegal fishing inspections and issued numerous citations when many at-sea fishermen thought no one in the U.S. government was looking for, policing, or paying attention because of the pandemic and shelter-in-place Lockdown.

Coast Guard Cutters and crews are going 40, 50, and even 70 days at sea even with COVID.  “This is what it takes to remain Battle-Ready,” said Jones.

“District Seven Cutters and crew interdicted 1,500 migrants at the Southeastern region of the United States at sea [north of the Greater Antilles]. In addition, Cutters and crews also interdicted 116 migrants off of Florida, and over 500 migrants bound for Puerto Rico.”

RADM Jones said that SOUTHCOM was boosted in the past five months with an infused force of, “17 Coast Guard Cutters and 7 Navy ships with embarked Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments, as well as four Allied ships in the Caribbean region, and continues to support ongoing U.S. government as well as internationally supported government operations, reducing the availability of illicit drugs and saving countless lives in the United States and throughout the region.”  The Allied ships in the region have Flight-Decks and are from the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

RADM Jones continued, citing that the joint “Battle-Ready Coast Guard and Navy fleet in the Caribbean have interdicted 14 suspected smuggling vessels, seizing 6,200 kilograms of cocaine and 7,900 pounds of marijuana and detaining 47 suspected narco-traffickers.  In addition, this fleet has disrupted an additional 10,400 kilograms of cocaine and 6,400 pounds of marijuana.  All told, interdiction of these drugs has placed a $600 million dent in drug profits.”

USCGC Kathleen Moore (WPC-1109)

The U.S.C.G. Fast Response Cutter, Sentinel-class

According to the United States’ official Coast Guard website, “The fast response cutter is capable of deploying independently to conduct missions that include port, waterways and coastal security; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense.”


  • Number Planned: 64
  • Length: 154 feet
  • Beam: 25 feet
  • Draft: 9 feet 6 inches
  • Displacement: 353 long tons
  • Maximum Speed: 28+ knots
  • Range: 2,500 nautical miles
  • Endurance: Five days
  • Crew: 24


  • Enhanced response time with a minimum top speed of 28 knots
  • Ability to conduct missions on moderate seas up to transit speed for eight hours in all directions
  • Ability to survive in very rough seas up to loiter speed for eight hours in all directions
  • Armed with a stabilized 25-mm machine gun mount and four crew-served .50-caliber machine guns
  • Fully interoperable command and control systems with Coast Guard existing and future assets and with the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.”2

RADM Eric Jones was asked a question at Virtual SNA 2020 about his thoughts on the Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class (WPC) Fast Response Cutter (FRC) now that all 19 are in the D7 Area of Operations and mature with sailing and the FRC crews’ working experience.

“They’re fantastic assets. They’re very capable. But we/they do want to use them as interceptors and pouncers so we’re always looking for the best way to provide maritime patrol aircraft and intelligence to make sure that we got them in the right spot to intercept the cases as they come across. Very capable crew; it is not a 110 [110-foot Island Class patrol boat] . It has over twice the tonnage of a 110.  Its endurance is well beyond what a 110 can do. Far more comfortable for the crew and having that stern-launched small boat allows them to do intercepts.  And as we were discussing earlier, we’re looking for ways to provide airborne use-of-force at a similar Force Package to what you see in the deep Caribbean or Eastern Pacific to allow the AUF [Airborne Use of Force] to combine forces with the FRCs to successfully prosecute cases that move across the Central Caribbean from the north coast of Columbia and Venezuela to the south coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.”

—RADM Eric Jones (U.S.C.G.) at SNA 20203


1 Informative slide about U.S.C.G. D7 Operations at RADM Eric Jones presentation at Virtual SNA 2020.

2 WPC-1101. U.S.C.G. Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter.  Referred from

3 RADM Eric Jones, U.S.C.G. at Virtual Surface Navy Association, August 25, 2020

Modern Merchants Can Be Very Big, and Very Hard Targets

Just wanted to pass along some photographs I ran across recently, to show why the Coast Guard might have a hard time stopping a modern merchant ship with our 25 and 57mm guns.

This is an extreme example, but it is the way the industry is going. The ship is 1302 ft in length, 207 ft of beam, and has a maximum speed of 31 knots. That means it can transit the 200 nautical miles from the edge of the EEZ to the coast in less than 6.5 hours.

Thanks to James Udan for bringing this to my attention.

“Coast Guard fields new Glock pistols” –UPI, Departure from DOD Standard

The U.S. Coast Guard began fielding the new Glock 19 Gen5 MOS pistol this week, according to the company. Photo courtesy of Glock Inc.

UPI is reporting that the Coast Guard is introducing a new pistol,

The Glock Gen5 MOS pistol will replace the .40mm Sig Sauer P229 DAK which the Coast Guard has used since 2006. The Army, Navy and Marines chose to replace the aging handgun with Sig Sauer’s M18 Modular Handgun System, and have begun rolling out the new weapons to

units around the world.

Cannot help but wonder if departing from the DOD standard is a good idea.


Canada Receives First of 16 C-295 SAR Aircraft

The first C295 lands at 19 Wing, Canadian Forces Base Comox, in British Columbia (Copyright Garry Walker, all rights reserved)

Dmitry Shulgin reports the arrival of the first of a fleet 16 SAR aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

We reported the award of this contract back in 2016. As noted at that time,

The deal means Airbus will supply 16 C295s to replace six de Havilland Canada CC-155 Buffalos and 13 CC-130H Hercules at four bases spread across Canada, providing search and rescue services from the Arctic to the southern border with the USA.

This aircraft, the Airbus C-295, is in much the same class as the 14 USCG C-27Js. It is the big brother of the Coast Guard’s C-144s which are Airbus C-235s.

“10,000 Tons Patrol Vessel ‘Haixun’ Launched For China’s Maritime Safety Administration” –Naval News

Artist impression of 10,000 tons class patrol vessel Haixun

Naval News reports the launch of a 10.700 ton cutter (more than twice the size of a National Security Cutter) for the Chinese Maritime Safety Agency. We knew this was coming.

“The 165-meter maritime security patrol vessel has a displacement of 10,700 tonnes and a speed of over 25 knots (46 km / h). It can travel more than 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 kilometers) at an economical speed of 16 knots (30 km / h) and make trips of more than 90 days.”

This is not the China Coast Guard (CCG). That is a separate agency and they already have built ships that may be larger than this.

Like the China Coast Guard ships, these may have a wartime role as fast attack transports. Unlike the CCG ships, these do not appear to have significant armament.

Speed of construction is significant. “Construction of the vessel began in May 2019…and is set to enter service next year.”

“Check out these otherworldly photos from a Coast Guard cutter’s trip into the Arctic” –Navy Times Observation Post

Campbell alongside the Royal Danish Navy vessel. (Seaman Kate Kilroy/U.S. Coast Guard)

The Navy Times “Observation Post” has a series of great photos taken during USCGC Campbell’s two month deployment to waters off Canada and Greenland, most of it north of the Arctic circle. The photos feature operations with the Danish Offshore Patrol Vessel HDMS Knud Rasmussen.

Below my remarks is the Atlantic Area news release on the operation, and it is extremely well done.

Comparing the two ships:

The two ships make an interesting comparison. Knud Rasmussen is almost the same displacement as Campbell, but has a smaller crew (18) than the Webber class WPCs, while the Campbell has a crew of about 100. Campbell is 20 years older. Both have flight decks, but only Campbell has a hangar.

  • Knud Rasmussen is shorter (71.8 m (235 ft 7 in) vs 270 ft (82 m)),
  • but broader (14.6 m (47 ft 11 in) vs 38 ft (12 m)),
  • and a bit slower (17 vs 19.5 knots) on almost exactly the same horsepower (7,300 vs 7,000),
  • with much less range (3000 nmi vs 9,900).

The Danish ship is “designed to operate in difficult ice conditions mainly without icebreaker assistance” (Finnish-Swedish ice class, 1A Super) including “Summer/autumn operation in medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions” (Polar Class PC 6). The Campbell is not ice rated.

The LCP, SAR2, is approaching offshore patrol vessel EJNAR MIKKELSEN a Knod Rasmussen class sister ship. (Photo: Johnny E. Balsved)

The Knud Rasmussen is equipped with three boats, one 10.8 meter (35.4 ft) launched from a stern ramp (photo above), one seven meter (23 ft), and a 4.8 meter (16 ft). The Campbell has two boats, a 26 ft (8 meter) “Over the Horizon Cutter Boat” and a 22 ft (6.7 meter) “Cutter Boat, Large.”

Both use the same Oto Melara 76 mm gun. Both have a pair of crew served 12.7mm .50 cal. machine guns. The Knud Rasmussen uses Denmark’s StanFlex system of containerized weapons. It has two StanFlex positions, one occupied by the 76mm gun, and a second one that could be used to provide a 6-cell Mk 48 Mod 3 launcher (location is not clear). Each cell could launch one RIM-7 Sea Sparrow or two Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles (ESSM) for a total of up to 12 missiles. The Danish vessel is also equipped to launch MU90 light weight torpedoes. This is normally considered an ASW torpedo, but there is no indication the Knud Rasmussen has a sonar. There are four StanFlex modules for Thales Underwater Systems TSM 2640 Salmon variable-depth active/passive sonar, but those are most likely to go on the four Thales class patrol frigates. The torpedo does have a minimum navigational depth of only three meters (10 ft).

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area
Contact: Coast Guard Atlantic Area Public Affairs
Phone: (757) 452-8336
After Hours:
Atlantic Area online newsroom

U.S. Coast Guard conducts joint Arctic operations, scientific research off Greenland

Argus Campbell smallboat and iceberg
Joint ops with the Danish navy Greenland's Premier Kim Kielsen aboard Campbell 

Editors’ note: To view more imagery or download please click images above and visit

KITTERY, Maine — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Campbell (WMEC 909) returned to homeport Tuesday, following a two-month deployment supporting joint Arctic operations off Greenland’s western coast.

Campbell’s crew contributed to joint exercises, research and development efforts, and critical diplomatic engagements while covering more than 11,500 miles (10,000 nautical miles).

“I am very proud of the efforts and adaptability of every one of Campbell’s crew who demonstrated the ability to operate and execute our mission aboard one of the finest Famous-class cutters in the fleet, said Capt. Thomas Crane, commanding officer of Campbell. “Their dedication to duty and commitment to the Coast Guard helps to affirm the United States as an Arctic nation. It is also a credit to the name Campbell and our five predecessors. In addition to notable narcotics seizures and being the command ship for the 1996 TWA 800 recovery, we are now the first 270-foot medium endurance cutter to earn the Arctic Service Medal.”

Campbell sailed with additional support, including an embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and aviation detachment consisting of two pilots and four aircrew, including a rescue swimmer. In all, eight shipriders augmented the 100 person crew during the patrol, assisting in operations, providing health services, and documenting the journey.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to be a part of this historic mission and am glad our crew’s experiences will be shared with family, friends, and future generations,” said Crane. “Going to sea is challenging and requires personal sacrifices both from our crew and loved ones left onshore. Still, the camaraderie, teamwork, and pride of our crew are the reasons I go to sea. Campbell is a great ship with a great crew able to execute missions of strategic national significance amid a global pandemic.”

In early August, Campbell departed Kittery for Nuuk, Greenland, to participate in joint search and rescue exercise operations with French and Royal Danish naval assets.

“This effort strengthens international partnerships and provides a foundation for standard operations in the rapidly developing Arctic maritime environment,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “As interest and maritime traffic in the area increases, the importance of the U.S. Coast Guard’s interoperability with allied partners becomes more critical to ensuring we protect national and shared security interests. Exercising our unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority, and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance is vital to the future of the Arctic.”

The Kingdom of Denmark defense force’s Joint Arctic Command Search and Rescue Exercise ARGUS included 13 simulated coastal and open-ocean scenarios, evaluating processes and interoperability through communications testing, vessel towing evolutions, rescue boat training, and helicopter sea and land operations.

Campbell’s crew employed its embarked Dolphin crew extensively, conducting joint evolutions and professional maritime exchanges with the Royal Danish navy vessels HDMS Knud Rasmussen and HDMS Triton. They also applied NATO procedures to test interoperability with regard to ship controlled approaches, launch, recovery, and hoisting. The crews conducted joint U.S.-Danish surface and air operations in Eternity Fjord and Disko Bay, Greenland, the most active iceberg-producing area globally.

Professional exchanges with HDMS Knud Rasmussen provide an opportunity to gain valuable navigation knowledge along Greenland’s coastline and fjord system. Campbell patrolled the Labrador Sea waters, Davis Strait, and the Baffin Bay, navigating Greenland’s largely uncharted western coast, including ice-laden bays and fjords, often using rudimentary sounding data as electronic charts are unavailable for the area. Throughout the patrol, Campbell safely completed over 200 helicopter evolutions, including 16 joint evolutions with the Danish navy.

In support of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, International Ice Patrol, and Coast Guard Research and Development Center, Campbell’s crew conducted testing of specialized equipment and resources in the Arctic environment. They deployed oceanographic research buoys across Baffin Bay, the Labrador Sea, and the North Atlantic to measure ocean currents and wave heights that influence iceberg drift and deterioration.

“This valuable data can provide a better understanding of the lifecycle of icebergs that impact transatlantic shipping lanes,” said Mike Hicks, of the International Ice Patrol.

IIP also analyzed 317 synthetic aperture radar and multi-spectral images from satellites to monitor iceberg danger during Campbell’s operations. This effort, led by IIP’s Lt. Don Rudnickas, denotes the first time in history, novel, scalable, and tailored iceberg warning products were produced with only satellite observations, depicting iceberg danger at higher granularity using oceanographic models to provide forecasted iceberg positions.

“This input significantly shapes the future of iceberg warning products in the North Atlantic and expands the capability of IIP to provide direct, tailorable support to vessels operating independently; an ability beyond the IIP’s statutory mission, but one that is likely to become highly desired with increasing Arctic operations,” said Hicks.

Mr. Matthew Lees was the RDC Demonstrations Liaison and coordinated technology evaluations for the patrol. These included:
– An Iridium Certus Terminal which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area;
– Two different enhanced night vision goggle devices improved law enforcement and flight operations, even integrated into ship’s display screens;
– A Long Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD, was evaluated for enhanced communications with vessels at longer distances;
– A handheld Glare Helios Green Laser tested for similar stand-off hailing capabilities.

The crew also learned essential lessons using a FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle in cold weather to conduct underwater inspections.

“As cruise ship and commercial vessel traffic increases through the Northwest Passage, Campbell’s recent patrol highlights our commitment to ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Allan, commander Coast Guard 1st District. “This was also a fantastic demonstration of how we work with our partners as we seek to respect sovereignty, maximize the use of our assets, and promote environmental stewardship.”

They facilitated multiple key diplomatic engagement opportunities throughout their Arctic deployment. Campbell’s crew welcomed aboard Danish Maj. Gen. Kim Joergensen, commander of Joint Arctic Command, and Mr. Sung Choi, U.S. consul in Nuuk. Campbell’s diplomatic work was underscored by the opportunity to host Greenland’s Premier, Mr. Kim Kielsen, signifying the importance of international cooperation for the region.

“Campbell’s efforts continue the United States’ strong relationship with Greenland, furthering a positive foundation for how the Coast Guard will interact and operate in the region,” said Poulin. “As an Arctic nation, cooperation and understanding of the dynamic and ever-changing Arctic operating environment is vital. The U.S. Coast Guard is the primary polar and Arctic surface operator of the U.S. military. The Coast Guard is committed to working collaboratively with like-minded partners through exercises like ARGUS strengthening global maritime security, regional stability, and economic prosperity.”

“Metal Shark and Sea Machines to Supply New U.S. Coast Guard Autonomous Test Vessel” –DefenseMediaNetwork

“The welded-aluminum 29 Defiant craft is the latest product of Metal Shark’s “Sharktech Autonomous Vessels” division to be equipped with Sea Machines SM300 autonomous-command and remote-helm technology. The new vessel offers a full range of advanced capabilities including transit autonomy, collaborative autonomy, active ride control and collision avoidance, and remote control vessel monitoring.”

DefenseMediaNetwork posted a story about the acquisition of an optionally manned surface vessel for the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center.

During exercises scheduled for October off the coast of Hawaii, the RDC team will test and evaluate the Sharktech vessel’s autonomous capabilities for their potential in supporting USCG surveillance, interdiction, patrol, and other missions.

“Steer Clear of the Polar Regions” –USNI

 Photo: Official USCG Polar Star Facebook

The US Naval Institute Blog has a new post. Its bottom line,

For Semper Paratus to move beyond a mere slogan, the Coast Guard should steer clear of the Poles, decommission the two heavy icebreakers, and redirect resources toward coastal operations to better secure the homeland. As the smallest armed force, the Coast Guard must proactively roll back the nefarious reach of transnational human smuggling and narcoterrorism for the sake of national security. Leave the Poles to the Navy and to private sector research-and-development firms.

I am not going to comment, but I am sure someone will.

“Countering Drugs: Communicate the ‘Why’” –USNI Proceedings

US Naval Institute Proceedings web site has a well argued case for attempting to better explain the rationale for the Coast Guard’s drug enforcement operations to both its members and to the public. It was written by By Lieutenant Commander Jeff Garvey, USCG.

As a law enforcement and military arm, it is imperative that the Coast Guard fight violent TCOs, enforce our sovereign border, and maintain the rule of law that holds our society together. We cannot rest, as the work will never be finished. If the nation decides to alter our drug laws, that may change but not end the overall effort. As Plato pronounced, we are the guardians of the Republic, but guardians are humans who need a visceral understanding of the “why” behind their mission. Coast Guardsmen need to understand they are fighting transnational criminals, protecting our borders, and upholding the law.

There was one paragraph that, I thought particularly interesting.

Unfortunately, many Coast Guard and law enforcement partners are still focused on drug busts as the end result. Tactical questioning and intelligence collection for boarding teams is often a side effort and not a key line of effort. If we have information on a maritime drug shipment, the best course of action may not be to interdict it at sea, but rather to follow it or turn a crew member to get a more complete understanding of the network. This requires a change in mindset and how we build and share information across the interagency. Our measures of success should focus on how we are building an understanding of networks and dismantling them, not just the quantity of drugs seized. Understanding networks is harder to quantify and will take longer, but it will yield a more significant and lasting impact.