New Zealand Adds One of a Kind Ice Class Underway Replenishment Vessel

HMNZS Aotearoa Logistics Support Vessel

Naval News reports that the New Zealand Navy has commissioned what I believe is a one of a kind vessel, a Polar class underway replenishment vessel, HMNZS Aotearoa (not that it is an icebreaker, no icebreaking bow).

There is an excellent description of this ship here.

(Anyone know if the Polar Security cutters can do underway replenishment?)

Unlike US Navy replenishment ships, this will be armed and have a military crew.

I doubt the ice-strengthening and winterization really cost a whole lot. With the Arctic opening up, maybe the Navy should be thinking about something like this.

“Meet the ‘Smuzzle,’ the Army’s new hybrid suppressor that reduces sound, recoil and flash” –Army Times

Army Times reports that the Army has developed a new hybrid device that can reduce the noise, recoil, and flash of a variety of weapons including those common in the Coast Guard. It functions as a muzzle break to reduce recoil that adversely effects accuracy, as a suppressor to reduce noise that may cause hearing loss without the usual adverse effects of a suppressor, and as a flash hider.

“It’s a hybrid device that cuts half the volume at the shooter’s ear, reduces recoil by a third and drops volume down range by one quarter, said Gregory Oberlin, a small arms engineer at the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Center Army Research Lab.”

The Mellon’s Last Patrol, and the History of Coast Guard 378 ASW and Anti-Ship Missiles

USCGC Mellon seen here launching a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile in 1990.

I have a bone to pick with Pacific Area, public affairs (D11-DG-M-PACAREA-PA@uscg.mil). First I got a news release dated Friday, Jul 17, 2020 7:22 pm. Reading it I found what I thought were errors and emailed them with comments.

I wrote,

Just read the news release and there are some errors in this paragraph.

“In January of 1990, the Mellon was the first and only Coast Guard cutter to become fitted with an anti-ship missile. The cutter also received an anti-submarine warfare suite that included the AN/SQS-26 sonar and Mark 46 torpedoes. The suite and anti-ship missile served as proof of capability for all Coast Guard cutters; however, they were later removed due to budget constraints.”
Mellon may have been the only 378 to test fire a harpoon, but all the 378s were equipped to launch Harpoon.
The 378s were all built with an ASW suite that included the AN/SQS-38 sonar and Mk32 torpedo tubes for launching light weight ASW torpedoes, first the Mk44, then the Mk46.
The FRAM replaced the 5″/38 and Mk56 gun fire control system with the 76mm Mk75 gun and Mk92 fire control system, added the Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapon System), they received equipment to support the LAMPS I ASW helicopter and a collapsible hangar was added.
None of the 378s including Mellon were ever equipped with the AN/SQS-26 sonar.
The ASW equipment was removed after the Soviet Union collapsed which largely eliminated the submarine threat.
Three days later PACAREA sent out a revised news release dated Mon, Jul 20, 2020 9:41 am. You can see it repeated here. It included this revised paragraph:
“In January of 1990, the Mellon was the first of five Coast Guard cutters to become fitted with an anti-ship missile. The cutter also received an anti-submarine warfare suite that included the AN/SQS-38 sonar and Mark 46 torpedoes. The suite and anti-ship missile served as proof of capability for all Coast Guard cutters; however, they were later removed due to budget constraints.”
We have noted some tendency for the Coast Guard to be somewhat careless in preserving and telling its history, but this telling says that Mellon got her sonar and torpedoes at the same time she got her Harpoons and then quickly had them removed because it cost money. It ignores the fact that Mellon and the other eleven 378s had been equipped with sonar and torpedoes since they were built, beginning with Hamilton in 1967. For over 20 years these ships were part of the US response to the Soviet Union’s submarine threat. For over 20 years ASW training was part of their annual refresher training and it only stopped after the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to mark the end of the submarine threat.
USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715)

Mini-torpedo, Torpedo Decoys, and three Gun Systems from Leonardo

Graphic from Leonardo

Naval News reports on a virtual conference expo showcasing five systems presented by Leonardo aimed at Middle Eastern clientele.

There is information about an anti-torpedo defense system, the 5″/64 gun, the familiar 76mm/62 gun, and the Marlin 40mm gun systems and their associated ammunitions and support systems. But the real surprise was a mini-torpedo, called Black Scorpion.

Graphic from Leonardo

I have a hard time figuring what will be done with this mini(micro)-torpedo. They say it will work from “Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs), SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDVs), Patrol Boats, Fast Attack Crafts, helicopter/drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUVs).”

Launchers are illustrated for submarines, fast inshore attack craft, and helicopters and drones.

There are a lot of unexplained parameters for this weapon. Presumably it can operate at depth some depth if it is to be launched from a submarine but there is specific reference to ASW in the littoral, so it might be relatively shallow. What is its range and speed? Less than 44 inches long and with an all up weight of less than 44 pounds, it is unlikely the warhead is much larger than ten pounds. It unlikely to sink anything of more than about 100 tons, but it might be enough to disable the rudder or propeller on even a large ship. There are warnings in the text not to expect too much.

“The Leonardo conference host presenter stressed that this is a miniature lightweight torpedo and performs as such. Thus, the user should not expect the range, performance, and characteristics of a comparable lightweight, medium, or heavyweight torpedo…”

I sure would like to see some testing of this and the Grumman Common Very Light Weight Torpedo which is about five times larger. One of them might be the ship stopper the Coast Guard needs.

 

 

Russia’s New 57mm Remotely Operated Weapon Station for Naval Applications

AU-220М “Baikal” caliber 57-mm remote weapon station. (Picture source Topwar.ru)

Navy Recognition reports that Russia’s Burevestnik scientific-and-research Institute has developed a naval version of their 57mm Remotely Controlled Weapons Station (ROWS).

The baseline AU-220M ROWS weighs 3,650 kg (with a gun mount) (about 8000 pounds–Chuck) and is armed with a 57 mm automatic cannon and a 6P7K 7.62 mm coaxial general-purpose machinegun (GPMG). The main gun’s ammunition load comprises 80 armor-piercing (AP), high-explosive fragmentation (HE-Frag), and guided artillery (GAP) projectiles. (It is not clear if the guided projectile would work against a moving target–Chuck) The weapon produces a rate of fire of 80 rounds per minute and engages ground targets at a distance of up to 14.5 km. The GPMG carries an ammunition load of 500 7.62 mm cartridges. The module’s frontal armor provides Level 5 STANAG 4569 protection against 30 mm rounds; the station also features Level 3 STANAG 4569 all-round protection against 7.62 mm bullets. The AU-220M’s sensor suite comprises a TV camera, a thermal imager, and an independent dual-axis field-of-view stabilizer. The module is also fitted with laser rangefinders.

For comparison, our 57mm Mk 110 weighs 16,535 lbs. (7,500 kg), more than twice as much, and requires a separate, additional fire control system. The 25mm Mk38 Mod3 weighs 2,300 lbs. (1,042 kg).

The Swedish designed USN 57mm does have a higher rate of fire (220 rpm vs 80) and more rounds on the mount. Range and projectile weight are similar. Our firecontrol systems associated with the USN 57mm are certainly more sophisticated than the one included on this stand alone Russian system.

I’m guessing, but the US system probably also has higher train and elevation rates, making it a better anti-aircraft mount, but that would have little effect on its performance against surface target.

It may be used in lieu of the 30 mm/65 (1.2″) AK-630. U.S. Navy Photograph No. DN-SC-93-05853 aboard USNS Hiddensee.

I suspect we may see this mount used much like the 25mm Mk38 Mod 2/3, instead of the AK-630, 30mm Gatling gun (above), currently mounted on many small Russian Combatants (including Russian Coast Guard vessels like these) with only simple optical fire control systems. For these installations, it is primarily an anti-surface system rather than an anti-missile Close In Weapon System.

I do envy their 57mm’s Armor Piercing round. That might be useful in forcibly stopping a vessel.

“PROJECT TRIDENT CALL FOR ARTICLES: REGIONAL MARITIME POWERS AND STRATEGIES” –CIMSEC

A water cannon battle between Taiwanese and Japanese Coast Guard vessels.

Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is partnering with  the Yokosuka Council on Asia Pacific Studies, the Institute for Security Policy Kiel University, and the Dominican Command and Naval Staff School in a call for articles addressing the  impact of regional maritime powers and strategies on future international maritime security.

There is certainly no shortage of problems to address. We have Chinese bullying in the South China Sea; piracy in the Gulf of Guinea; transnational criminal organizations; Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing; excessive claims of sovereignty by Russia and Venezuela; unresolved claims to mineral resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Hopefully some of our readers will have opinions that might address these or other concerns.

“Patria and Kongsberg Teaming Up for U.S. Turreted Mortar Programs” Defense-Aerospace

Defense-Aerospace.com reports that,

Patria and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace have teamed up for the future U.S. turreted mortar programs.

The news here is simply that the US Army has a program to procure a turreted mortar. I don’t think the US has ever had one, at least not since the 19th century.

They offer some interesting possibilities for arming small naval craft like patrol boats. For our purposes, they are effectively low velocity short range cannon, that can fire a relatively large projectile, while requiring far less of the vessel than a typical higher velocity naval gun.

Looking specifically at the 120mm mortar, it fires a 4.7″ diameter projectile weighing about 30 pounds (I have seen weights quoted from 28 to 31 pounds. Part of the weight would be consumed propelling the projectile since this is both projectile and propellent).  That is less than half the weight of a modern 5″ projectile (70 pounds) but about five times the weight of a 57mm projectile, and the Patria turret has been mounted on some very small vessels. It has even been tested at sea in a standard sized 20 foot container.

Unguided mortar rounds tend to be less accurate than typical naval guns, but guided rounds are changing that. The Army is working on a new round.

The HEGM program objective is to create a round accurate to within one meter CEP, with dual GPS/SAL (Semi-Active Laser–Chuck) guidance to hit targets that have relocated and to function in a GPS-degraded environment.

Range is about 8,000 yards, similar to that of the Hellfire or the effective range of the 57mm Mk110 or 76mm Mk75 guns using unguided projectiles. I have seen ranges double that for smart mortar rounds. In any case, it would have sufficient range to fire from outside the effective range of likely improvised armament for a terrorist controlled vessel.

The Coast Guard is not without experience in the use of mortars on patrol boats, having mounted them on 82 foot WPBs as well as other vessels during the Vietnam era.

Gun crew on board USCGC Point Comfort (WPB-82317) firing 81mm mortar during bombardment of suspected Viet Cong staging area one mile behind An Thoi.(August 1965)

It is behind the pay wall, but the US Naval Institute Proceedings has a short argument for the Navy to look seriously at adding mortars to Its inventory of weapons. In addition to its use as a weapon, the author contends that they could be used to launch decoys or UAS. He suggests:

“The Navy could take an incremental approach to integrating mortars onto ships:

  • “Task the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Indian Head, Maryland, with testing a variety of available mortar rounds for effectiveness against maritime targets, potential for countermeasure launching, and suitability for shipboard use.
  • “Encourage the Marine Corps and the Naval Research Lab to pursue an anti-armor version of the ACERM.
  • “Fire existing Marine Corps and Army mortars from ships during a SinkEx. Assess their effectiveness on the target and their structural impact on the ship.”

This is not as good an answer to the problem of stopping larger vessels, that might be used in a terror attack, as torpedoes (probably the best solution) or missiles like Hellfire (a good solution against small vessel threats with some capability against larger vessels), but it has some capability and would also make our patrol boats more useful in the support of troops in the littorals against targets on land.

As always, this is never going to happen unless the Navy adopts the weapon. That is unlikely for the larger Navy, but the Special Warfare community might be interested.

Diesel Outboard

The video above is from the December 2018 New Orleans International Work Boat Show

MarineLink reports that Cox has announced that they have begun shipping production models of their 300HP diesel outboard motor.

The Coast Guard had a hand in developing this diesel outboard, noted here Feb. 2017.

“The US Coast Guard has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with British diesel engine innovator, Cox Powertrain. The CRADA will evaluate and test the advantages, disadvantages, required technology enhancements, performance, costs and other issues associated with diesel outboard engine technology.”

Quoted here from a Marine Log report in November, 2018:

“Delivering 300 horsepower at the propeller, the CXO300 is the world’s highest power density diesel outboard engine. The four stroke V8 diesel CXO300 offers up to 25% more range compared to gasoline outboards and is designed to last up to three times longer. The engine combines the simplicity and economy of an outboard installation with greatly improved safety and reliability achieved by eliminating the need for highly volatile gasoline.”

“Videos – Stellar Banner becomes largest ship to be sunk deliberately” –SWZ Maritime

SWZMaritime reports the intentional sinking of the four year old 300,000 ton ore carrier Stellar Banner, reportedly the largest vessels ever scuttled.

That they chose not to attempt to scrap this vessel tells us a lot about the state of the world wide ship salvage and recycling business. This happened off Brazil. Something similar could happen in a US port. In the future, a Coast Guard Captain of the Port might be asked about the possibility of an intentional sinking.

Thanks to Sven for bringing this to my attention.

Tidbits from the FY2021 Budget

US Capital West Side, by Martin Falbisoner

Thanks to Justin1142, I was prompted to look through the Administration’s proposed Coast Guard FY2021 budget, all 343 pages.

This did clarify some things for me. This is by no means a comprehensive analysis, but just a few things I pickup on a Sunday afternoon.

The total budget request is up very slightly from the FY2020 enacted and less than the FY2019 enacted. The Operations and Support request is up almost 4.84% from 2020 which was up 4.59% from 2019. This is almost the 5% per year growth the CG has been saying they need. On the other hand the FY2021 Procurement, Conversion, & Improvements (PC&I) request was down 7.64% from the 2020 enacted and that was down 21.16% from the 2019 enacted.

Commissionings:

During FY2021, they expect to commission one NSC (#9 to Charleston) and five Webber class “Fast Response Cutters” (FRC), #41-45 (PC&I-33, page 180 of the pdf). Numbers 41, 42, and 45 will go to PATFORSWA. Later they will be joined by numbers 46, 47, and 48 (OCO-7, pdf 328). #43 will join #39 and #40 in Guam. #44 will join six other FRCs in Key West.

Personnel will start reporting to the Pre-Commissioning detail for OPC#1 which will be homeported in San Pedro.

Decommissionings:

They expect to decommission the last two 378s, two 110s currently with PATFORSWA, and eight 87′ WPBs.

“In accordance with the Coast Guard’s patrol boat transition plan and the Congressionally-directed transition of Coast Guard patrol forces in the Arabian Gulf, two WPBs supporting Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) will be decommissioned. Following these decommissionings, there will be eleven 110-foot patrol boats in the domestic operational fleet and four supporting PATFORSWA… The two WPBs being decommissioned will be replaced by more capable Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), which will be in-theater and operational before the legacy WPBs are decommissioned.” (O&S-28/29)

Observations: 

There is this interesting snippet from O&S-25 (62 page of pdf), “The San Diego region saw a 100 percent increase of illegal immigration cases in the maritime domain in FY 2018. This trend will likely continue as the land border is reinforced.”

We are going to again see NSCs and FRCs doing fisheries and capacity building in the Western Pacific (Program Change 25, O&S-36)

What’s in the Budget?:

Improved SAT com for cutters is on the way.

Program Change 29 – Overseas Contingency Operations to Base Transition (O&S-38): At the end of the document, there is an explanation of Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO). This has been a separate funding item, but it is being folded into the normal Operations and Support (O&S) budget. In FY2019 it was $165M and $190M in FY2020. This has been zeroed out for FY2021 as funding ($215M) was included in O&S, so the O&S budget increase is not as large as it looks. (OCO-4, pdf 325)

Included are funds for the second Polar Security Cutter, the third OPC, and Long Lead Time Materials (LLTM) for OPC #4, as well as $25M for the Waterways Commerce Cutter program and $20M for FRC program follow up, but no additional FRCs.

There is money for In-Service Vessel Sustainment/Service Life Extension Programs (SLEP) for Polar Star, 270s, 225′ buoy tenders and 47′ motor life boats.

“WMEC SLEP includes electrical system upgrades, remanufactured main diesel engines, structural renewal for stern tube and piping, and installation of a new gun weapon system supplied by the U.S. Navy. “

Regarding the new weapon system for the 270s, I suspect that we are talking about replacing the 76mm Mk75 gun and Mk92 fire control systems with 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 systems. I heard that at one point, that that they were considering adding the 57mm but had decided against it. Replacing the 76mm and fire control with a Mk38 should significantly reduce maintenance and perhaps crew requirements, but it would mean loss of any air search capabilities. A new multimode radar might be a good idea for control of helicopter and Unmanned Air System such as Scan Eagle (assuming one is added).

As you know, if you have been reading here for any length of time, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the 25mm to forcibly stop anything more than a very small vessel (see  here also). I would feel a lot more comfortable with a larger caliber weapon and, larger or not, with at least two systems to provide a degree of redundancy. 

Don’t expect NSC#10 keel laying until FY2021, so its going to be a while before #10 and #11 are operational (2024 and 2025).

Completion of Polar Security Cutters (PSC) #1 and #2 is expected Q3 FY2024 and Q4 FY2025 (PC&I-41)

There is only $153.6M for aircraft in the FY2021 PC&I budget. Mostly C-27 and H-65 conversion and sustainment. No C-130J in the budget. (PC&I-48, pdf 195)

What will Congress do?:

In the last few years the Congress has consistently give the Coast Guard more than requested in the administration’s budget. Two of their favorite programs have been the Webber class WPCs (FRCs) and C-130Js. I suspect the Congress will add the last two Webber class planned but not yet funded. They will also probably fund an additional C-130J. That will add approximately $250M to the PC&I budget, pushing it slightly higher than enacted in FY2020 but still well below the FY2019 budget.

Will they fund NSC #12? Fully funding OPC #4 might make more sense. Delivery schedule probably would not be much different, but there is still an appealing symmetry to replacing 12 ships with 12 ships. There is not as much price difference between the ship classes as there once was. Eastern has yet to prove they can produce a cutter at the agreed upon price, and the NSC is a proven product. HII also probably has more influence in Congress. However, adding about $600M, along with the more probable additions above, would push the PC&I budget close to $2.5B. That is about 10% higher than I think we have seen before, certainly a huge increase over FY2020. After all the deficit spending in response to COVID-19, it seems unlikely.