Portugal to Build a New Type of Ship–UxS Carrier

The “plataforma naval multifuncional” (multifunctional naval platform). Portuguese Navy image.

It is not often an entirely new category of ship emerges, but this seems to be the case. Perhaps it was inevitable, but it looks like the Portuguese may be the first to make it happen–a specialized, built for purpose, unmanned systems mothership.

Wish the specs in the lower right above were readable. 

First heard about this ship from Cdr. Salamander. He has some interesting ideas about how such a ship could be used. It is part research ship, part disaster response vessel, and, significantly for the Coast Guard, part Offshore Patrol Vessel. There is more about the ship from Naval News. It is not particularly large, with a crew of about 90 and accommodations for another 100. The cost is reportedly about $100M US, much less than the cost of the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Judging by the size of the helicopter (reportedly an NH-90) on the model, it appears to be 100 to 110 meters (328-360 feet) in length, about the length of the OPC, maybe less. It must be pretty broad if that is an MQ-1C Gray Eagle on the deck. The Span of the Gray Eagle is 56 ft (17 m), but it just does not look like it is in scale. Maybe they have a European sourced UAS in mind. Beam looks to be about 20 to 22 meters based on my presumptions about the length, that is 66 to 72 feet. Those proportions are similar to those of the 6,615 ton Canadian Harry DeWolf class Arctic Offfshore Patrol Ship, 103.6 m (339 ft 11 in) long and a beam of 19 m (62 ft 4 in). By comparison, the beam of both the NSC and OPC is 16m or 54 feet.

The thing that makes this ship totally unique is the runway and ski-jump designed expressly for fixed wing unmanned air systems.

Artist rendering of MQ-9B STOL landing on a big-deck amphibious assault vessel. Photo: Courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical.

What might make this very useful is the newly developed STOL version of the MQ-9B with shorter span, high lift, folding wings.

Not sure I like this particular design. It is not clear how many UAS and helicopters can be carrier or if there is hangar space. The island is unnecessarily thick and looks too far forward. No indication of speed or endurance. The speed in unlikely to exceed 20 knots, between 16 and 18 knots seems likely, but the concept is novel. Look forward to seeing the ship in final form.

Late Addition: 

After posting this on Facebook, I got some additional information. This is a Google translate from Portuguese. Thanks to Pedro Mateus.

MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM SHIP Lisbon, Portugal June 20, 2022 On June 20, 2022, the Portuguese Navy launched a tender limited by simplified prior qualification, via procedure no. of a Multipurpose Vessel/Platform (N-PM), with an execution period of up to 3 years (with delivery until December 2025), for a base price of 94.5 million Euros.

This Multipurpose Ship/Platform (N-PM) will have a total length, between perpendiculars, of 100 meters, a maximum beam (at flight deck level) of 20 meters and a maximum draft of 7.5 meters. It will follow STANAG 4154 (Ed 3) standards and will be able to maintain the operation of lowering and hoisting vessels in sea state 5 on the Douglas Scale. Its garrison will be composed of 1 commander, 7 officers, 8 sergeants and 29 soldiers, in a total of 45 elements. It has accommodation sized up to 28 officers, 30 sergeants and 32 enlisted men, for a total of 90 elements (in addition to the commander). It will be dimensioned for a range of 45 days at a cruising speed of 10 knots.

The N-PM shall comprise a set of aviation facilities including, among others, a flight deck (a ski-jump runway, a spot for helicopter operation, with lighting system, GPI, etc.), hangar for a helicopter (with support for hydraulic maintenance stations, overhead crane, technical lighting, etc.) and a hangar for unmanned aircraft. In terms of organic helicopter, it should support the Lynx MK95A and NH90 aircraft (either in “spot” or in hangar) and EH101 (“spot”). The flight deck must allow the operation of different types of unmanned aircraft, commonly known as “drones” (Ogassa OGS42, Tekever AR3, etc.), as well as all the support required for vertical refueling operations (VERTREP).

Within the scope of semi-rigid vessels, the N-PM will have 3 vessels: a vessel with
SOLAS (“Safety of Life at Sea”) certification for operation as “Fast
Rescue Boat”, with a power of not less than 250 hp; and two non-cooperative approach vessels, with capacity for 8 equipped soldiers, with a maximum speed of 35 knots or higher and a minimum autonomy of 60 nautical miles, for inspection missions , policing, combating drug trafficking, assault and support for a small embarked force.

Following the good practices and installation and operation recommendations of the “Alliance of European Research Fleets” (EUROFLEET), in terms of support systems for scientific research, the N-PM will be designed to be able to operate subsurface Unmanned Vehicles (VENTs) and remotely operated vehicles – “Remotely Operated Vehicle” (ROV). It will have a sensor pavilion (“drop keel”) for the installation of scientific and acoustic sensors; a large volume “Rosette” CTD system (for deep water sampling, with probe capable of operating up to 6,000 m); an MVP system, “Moving Vessel Profiler”, capable of operating up to 700 meters deep with the ship sailing at 8 knots; an “Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler” (ADCP); a “Global Acoustic Positioning System” (GAPS), capable of operating up to 4,000 meters deep. In addition to these organic systems, the N-PM will have the capacity and integration for several other non-organic systems (Piston Corer – Calypso, Vibrocorer, Box Corer, Multi Corer, etc.) as well as all operating and support winches.

Under an integrated architecture of command and control, platform management, and digital information processing and management systems, this N-PM will have a set of navigation systems (IBS, DDU, TACAN, Secure GPS, etc.), with navigation radar surveillance systems, combined warning radar (ARPA capability, “Automatic Radar Plotting Aid” and IMO certification; ECM and Anti-Jamming) and IFF/W-AIS identification systems, as well as underwater surveillance systems (bathythermograph; support for XBT/XSV probe used in the Navy (XBT4, XBT5, XBT7 and MK-8 XBT/XSV) or CTD type probes). In terms of external communications, it will have, among others, satellite communication systems SATCOM and MILSATCOM, GMDSS, submarine telephone, SART, EPIRB and ICCS.

In terms of armament, the N-PM will be equipped, at least, with 4 “softmounts” for a Browning M2 .50 heavy machine gun, with a firing range limiter and respective accessories, and a base, with ballistic protection for the Browning part and respective operator; and with 2 pieces of Hotchkiss salvo. The N-PM will be equipped with magazines and armories capable of storing various portable weapons, ammunition, pyrotechnic material and demolition material and respective detonators.

Technical drawing and 3D model via the Portuguese Navy Ships Directorate
Editing and composition by “Espada & Escudo”

“Putin touts Russia’s ‘Arctic power’ with launch of nuclear icebreakers”

Launch ceremony for the nuclear-powered icebreaker "Yakutia" in Saint Petersburg

Launch ceremony for the nuclear-powered icebreaker “Yakutia” in St. Petersburg

Some news from MSN about two new Russian nuclear powered icebreakers, one launch, one “flag raising,” and a reference to a real monster,

Putin said a super-powerful nuclear 209-metre icebreaker known as “Rossiya”, with a displacement of up to 71,380 tonnes, would be completed by 2027. It will be able to break through ice four metres thick.

“U.S. 5th Fleet Reveals New Details on Iranian Drone Attack on Tanker” –USNI

Graphic illustration and images captured by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon, Nov. 16, showing the location where an Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) penetrated M/T Pacific Zircon’s outer hull during an attack Nov. 15. The one-way UAV attack tore a 30-inch-wide hole in the outer hull on the starboard side of the ship’s stern, just below the main deck. US Navy graphic

The US Naval Institute has a post providing addition detail about the November 15  drone attack on tanker Pacific Zircon.

The primary thrust of the post seems to be, to confirm that the drone was of Iranian origin, but then, that was almost assumed. They seem to have proven that, identifying it as a Shahed-136 design, a “loitering munition.”

For me the new information was where the tanker was targeted and the extent of the resulting damage.

When I first heard that this drone had hit the hull, I thought perhaps the Iranians had decided it was not to their advantage to kill crew members, as had happened in the July 30 attack on the tanker Mercer Street, but apparently that was not the case, since this strike was also on the stern where it is more likely to effect crewmembers.

As to the weapon’s effect, the Shahed–136 reportedly has a 30–50 kilograms (66–110 lb) warhead. referencing a 5th Fleet report, USNI notes,

On Nov. 15, a Shahed 136 explosive-tipped drone flew into the aft section of the merchant oil tanker M/T Pacific Zircon punching a hole through the hull, “while subsequently penetrating and damaging internal compartments. The UAV’s explosive impact also damaged a shipboard boiler, potable water tank and life raft,” reads the statement.

That they managed to damage engineroom equipment, which presumably required penetration of multiple internal bulkheads, after penetrating the hull, is more than I would have expected. The anti-armor, shaped charge version of the munition, which would result in a narrowly focused path of destruction, may have been used.

Another report from Business Insider vis Yahoo that includes more photos here.

“Coast Guard Establishes Cyber Reserve Component and Cyber Billets” –Seapower

Coast Guard Information Systems Technicians inside a server room at the Telecommunication and Information Systems Command (TISCOM) Jan. 24, 2013. U.S. COAST GUARD / Petty Officer 2nd Class Etta Smith

The Navy League’s on-line magazine, Seapower, reports,

The Coast Guard is creating three reserve entities to strengthen its cyber capabilities, the service’s headquarters announced in an internal message.

“MH-65 upgrades were invaluable to mission success in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian” –CG-9

The report below is from the CG-9 website

MH-65 upgrades were invaluable to mission success in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Air Station Miami crew during Hurricane Ian

The Air Station Miami crew evacuates a person in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. In addition to Air Station Miami’s MH-65Es and HC-144Bs, the coordinated rescue included one MH-65E from Air Station Houston and two MH-65Ds from Air Station Savannah. Total statistics for the coordinated rescue: 46 lives saved, 36 lives assisted and 19 pets saved. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Miami.


Hurricane Ian caused nearly 150 fatalities when it swept through Florida in late September 2022 and has been cited as the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935. In the search and rescue efforts that followed, Air Station Miami crewmembers played a pivotal role in rescuing both human and animal survivors. According to the pilots, upgrades on the Coast Guard’s MH-65E proved vital during multiple rescue missions. In the days following the storm they were faced with harried conditions when fuel stops were limited, communications were intermittent and lives depended on the speed and awareness of the crew.

The upgraded MH-65E, or Echo, sports an all-glass cockpit and Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) that replaced legacy analog components. The new system aligns with Federal Aviation Administration next-generation requirements that call for performance and space-based navigation and surveillance, allowing for more three-dimensional approaches and flight patterns as well as higher visibility of the helicopter by other on-scene aircraft.

Integral to the CAAS is the automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, or ADS-B, which allowed command aircraft (both Coast Guard HC-144 and Navy P-3) to track the MH-65E even when it was no longer visible to the crews. The moving map on the pilot screens can be overlayed with the traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), which helps deconflict airspace with multiple aircraft maneuvering in tight quarters. The display can be placed across four multi-function display (MFD) screens and is accessible to both pilots.

“The TCAS was immensely helpful, especially being able to use the moving map overlay,” said Lt. Audra Forteza. “There were so many aircraft in the area, both military and civilian, and not everyone was making traffic calls as they should be – the TCAS allowed us to quickly and efficiently find the most imminent threat and maneuver to maintain separation. Knowing where exactly to look for a target made identification much faster and allowed us to focus on the mission at hand vice continually searching for other aircraft.”

The crewmembers were equally impressed by the bingo fuel alerts, an aviator term used to describe the minimum fuel an aircraft requires to land safely at its designated landing site. Fuel stops were severely limited because of widespread power outages on the ground. This meant that finding an airport with a generator strong enough to facilitate refueling was largely based on recommendations from other parties in communication with the aircrews. “Word of mouth was key to success for aircrews operating the area to determine which airports had fuel,” Forteza said. “And the people at the airfields were extremely accommodating in getting crews food, fuel, water and bathrooms.”

The MFD screens were also very useful when it came to hoisting survivors out of difficult situations while maintaining situational awareness and control of the aircraft. Forteza was able to monitor her co-pilot safely and effectively while they operated the hoist in a series of challenging urban environment rescues over the course of several days.

Additionally, utilizing the upgraded radar weather mode allowed for safe navigation between hurricane bands as the crews searched for survivors by painting a clearer, more accurate picture of the evolving weather situation even when their in-flight tablets did not have reception. In response to Hurricane Ian, Air Station Miami pilots flew a total of 46 hours over several days. Forteza and Lt. Danielle Benedetto personally contributed to saving the lives of 16 people, as well as five cats and three dogs. The air station fully transitioned to the MH-65E in July 2021.

Air Station Miami crew

Air Station Miami crew, from left: Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Kilbane, Petty Officer 2nd Class Nick Rodriguez, Lt. Audra Forteza and Lt. Danielle Benedetto. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Live shots taken by Minotaur-equipped HC-144

Live shots of Hurricane Ian damage taken by Minotaur-equipped HC-144 aircraft were used to support the Incident Management Team. U.S. Coast Guard photos.

MH-65E transition
The Coast Guard has completed 52 out of 98 total conversions including avionics upgrades to the Echo configuration and Service Life Extension work. Air stations that have completed the transition and number of aircraft:

Houston 3
Miami 5
Port Angeles, WA 3
Barbers Point, HI 4
North Bend, OR 5
Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron 12
Humboldt Bay, CA 3
San Francisco 7

Next up for conversion are Atlantic City, N.J., and Savannah, GA

For more information: MH-65 Short Range Recovery Helicopter Program page and Minotaur Mission System Program page

“Media Advisory: Coast Guard cutter to return home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment” –PACAREA

U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Stratton (WMSL 752) and Kimball (WMSL 756) steam in formation while patrolling the U.S.-Russian Maritime Boundary Line (MBL), in the Bering Sea, Sept. 26, 2022. This marked the first time two national security cutters jointly patrolled the MBL above the Arctic Circle. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo).

This isn’t like the Alaska Patrols I went on, which concentrated on the Aleutians/Bering Sea and never went much North of the Arctic Circle. This patrol went across the top of Alaska and apparently, this is getting to be more common.

Media Advisory

Nov. 22, 2022
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area

Media Advisory: Coast Guard cutter to return home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment

Coast Guard cutter returns home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment

USCGC Stratton conducts operations offshore Little Diomede, Alaska Coast Guard cutter returns home following 97-day multi-mission Arctic deployment USCGC Stratton conducts flight operations while underway in Arctic Ocean

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

Who: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) and crew

What: Return home from multi-mission Arctic deployment

When: Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 at 9 a.m.

Where: Coast Guard Base Alameda, 1 Eagle Rd., Alameda, CA, 94501

ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) and crew are scheduled to return to Alameda, Wednesday, following a 97-day multi-mission deployment to the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea.

The cutter and crew departed Alameda in August to project U.S. sovereignty throughout U.S. Arctic waters, provide search-and-rescue capabilities in the region, meet with Alaskan communities and conduct an Arctic search-and-rescue exercise with international partners.

Stratton operated along the length of the U.S.-Russian maritime boundary line (MBL) from the Diomede Islands to well above the Arctic Circle, while they patrolled within the U.S. Arctic zone. Stratton also patrolled the U.S.- Canadian MBL in the Beaufort Sea, providing Coast Guard presence in the distant regions of the Arctic.

“I’m extremely proud of this crew and all they have accomplished,” said Capt. Stephen Adler, Stratton’s commanding officer. “The U.S. Coast Guard provides the Nation’s most active and visible maritime presence in the high latitudes, and coordinates with our international partners through joint exercises and professional exchanges to maintain a safe and prosperous Arctic region. The Coast Guard remains ‘Always Ready’ to preserve and protect our northern shores and waters. As more ships and people move into the Arctic, the Coast Guard will be there to ensure safety of navigation and preserve our national sovereignty, as it always has. The crew has truly lived up to our ship’s motto of, ‘We Can’t Afford Not To’ throughout our patrol.”

Stratton is one of four 418-foot national security cutters (NSC) homeported in Alameda. National security cutters are capable of extended, worldwide deployment in support of homeland security and defense missions. These cutters and crews routinely conduct operations from South America to the Arctic, where the combination of range, speed, and ability to operate in extreme weather provides the mission flexibility necessary to conduct vital strategic missions.

Media are encouraged to contact Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs at pacificareapublicaffairs@uscg.mil to arrange an escort on Base Alameda to attend the ship’s arrival. Adler and crew will be available for interviews following the ship’s arrival.

“All American Marine wins order for 74-foot patrol vessel” –Marine Log

California Department of Fish and Wildlife vessel will feature Teknicraft rapid RHIB launch and retrieval system, integrated into the stern

Marine Log reports,

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has awarded Bellingham, Wash., based All American Marine Inc. (AAM) a contract for the construction of an aluminum catamaran patrol vessel…Measuring 74 foot long by 27.5 feet wide…The design integrates a Teknicraft hull shape…complemented by Teknicraft’s signature integration of a wave piercer that is positioned between the catamaran sponsons to break up wave action and ensure reduced drag while conducting research missions.”

I did an 2019 post on the Texas Parks and Wildlife patrol boat this craft is based on. Notably that craft was designed to patrol up to 200 nautical miles offshore. A foil between the catamaran hulls reportedly reduces resistance and improves fuel economy.

Notably All American Marine is doing service life extension (SLEP) work on Coast Guard 47 foot MLBs.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this unconventional design to my attention. 

Want to Buy an Icebreaker?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Coast Guard is planning to buy the  icebreaking, anchor-handling tug-supply vessel Aiviq, “U.S. Looks to Buy Private Icebreaker to Help Patrol Contested Arctic.” The Coast Guard has been noncommital, but it seems likely. We have been talking about this ship since 2012. It is ten years old. When attempts to drill in the Arctic ended and the ship went on the open market without a buyer, I suggested the Coast Guard consider purchase. Probably not because of my urging, but the Coast Guard did look at it, and decided it did not meet our needs. Really it probably still does not. (The geared diesel propulsion looked like it might be problematic in the ice.) Buying it would probably help a major Congressional contributor cut his losses. It is going to require a major rework, and its only selling point is that it seems to be the only alternative, but is it?

gCaptain reports,

The Finnish Government is blocking Helsinki Shipyard from delivering an icebreaker to Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel.

The shipyard, which is known for its icebreaker construction, said Wednesday it had received a “negative decision” from Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 30th related to the export license of the vessel, confirming reports in Finnish press. The shipyard’s statement did not go into specifics…the icebreaker was to be largest and most powerful diesel-electric icebreaker ever built in Finland, with an integrated dual-fuel engine that can run on both LNG and low-sulfur diesel oil.

No it is not finished, but the design is complete. “Helsinki Shipyard in January said it had completed purchasing contracts for the vessel’s main machinery and propulsion equipment and construction was expected to start this year.” Delivery had been expected in 2024.

This looks like an opportunity to get a powerful, state of the art icebreaker and help a company that has been hurt because Finland stood up against Russian aggression. Since construction has not begun, there may also be an opportunity to tweek the design to meet CG requirements. It has been less than two months since the Finnish government stopped construction. I suspect Finland could complete the ship promptly, probably by 2025. It should at least be looked at. We would need special dispensation from Congress to buy a foreign built ship, but it has been done before. There would probably still be some fitting out work to be done in an American shipyard.

Icebreaking Anchor Handling Vessel Aiviq

As for the Aiviq, we could still lease it, see how it works out, and buy it later if we like what we have seen.

 

“Merchant Mariner Shortage Has Gotten Worse, but a Partial Solution Is Available” –Real Clear Defense

“Convoy WS-12: A Vought SB2U Vindicator scout bomber from USS Ranger (CV-4) flies anti-submarine patrol over the convoy, while it was en route to Cape Town, South Africa, 27 November 1941. The convoy appears to be making a formation turn from column to line abreast. Two-stack transports in the first row are USS West Point (AP-23) — left –; USS Mount Vernon (AP-22) and Coast Guard manned USS Wakefield (AP-21). Heavy cruisers, on the right side of the first row and middle of the second, are USS Vincennes (CA-44) and USS Quincy (CA-39). Single-stack transports in the second row are Coast Guard manned USS Leonard Wood (AP-25, later APA-12) and Coast Guard manned USS Joseph T. Dickman (AP-26 later APA-13).”

Real Clear Defense reports,

A mariner shortfall in 2018 was a grave concern. Today, with an escalating conflict in Europe and an increasingly bellicose China, the lack of seasoned merchant mariners is a clear and present danger to our national security.

Four years ago, the nation was about 1,800 mariners short to sustain sealift in a crisis beyond six months. Today that number is only increasing.

The proposed partial solution is to increae the size of the Merchant Marine Academy classes.

Coast Guard Academy graduates know the Merchant Marine Academy primarily as a football rival, but it is also a source of many Coast Guard Officers.

The central point of the post is that we don’t have enough mariners to support a war. The great distances of the Pacific exacerbate the problem. Logistics, as always, are key.

I would note that the shortages of mariners is not just in the officer ranks, so something more would have to be done.

This have anything to do with the Coast Guard? Well, a few months before the US entry into WWII, there was a test of our maritime logistics capabilities, and it found that the merchant marine crews of Army transport ships were unwilling to operate in the manner the military thought best, including darken ship. What happened? The ships were commissioned and crewed by the Coast Guard.

I am not suggesting that today’s merchant crews are unreliable, but if there are shortages, it is not impossible the nation will again turn to the Coast Guard to supply mariners for high priority logistics ships.

“Ukraine’s Maritime Drone Strikes Again: Reports Indicate Attack On Novorossiysk” –Naval News

Artist’s Impression of the Ukrainian Navy maritime drone attack on Novorossiysk, November 18 2022

Naval News reports,

It appears that a Ukrainian maritime drone, similar to those using in an attack on Sevastopol, has struck Novorossiysk. This would be strategically important, showing that more of the Russian Navy is under threat. Efforts may be underway to suppress this story in Russian media.

What might be missed in the report is that Novorossiysk, unlike Savastopol, is not in occupied Ukraine. It is in Russia. According to Wikipedia, “Novorossiysk is the biggest Russian seaport. In 2019 cargo turnover amounted to 142,5m tons. In 2021 cargo turnover amounted to 105,2m tons.”

It is too early to say that this is the start of a Ukrainian campaign against Russia’s oil and gas export industry, but it would be one way to apply additional leverage. If the Ukrainians are successful in their crowd funding drive to build 100 of these explosive Uncrewed Surface Vessels, they could make it very dangerous for Russia’s tankers and coastal energy infrastructure.