“ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY RETIRES PATROL BOAT MAITLAND” –Baird Maritime

HMAS Maitland conducts a passage exercise with USCGC Kimball during Operation Solania. Photo: Seaman Isaiah Appleton

Baird Maritime reports, the Australian Navy is retiring one of their Amidale class patrol boats, HMAS Maitland. The vessel is relatively young by USCG standards, having been commissioned in 2006. It seems the class was stressed by high tempo, long distance, alien migrant interdiction deployments. This is the third of the original 14 vessels of the class to be decommissioned. One was as a result of a fire in 2014. The second was decommissioned March 2021.

These vessels are to be replaced by a class of 12 much larger OPVs, but in the meantime, the Australian Navy is also procuring, in many ways similar, 190 foot Cape Class patrol boats. The decommissioning follows closely on the delivery of the first of these “evolved” Cape class.

“Coast Guard cutter leaves Petersburg after 32 years” –KFSK

The cutter Anacapa tied up at the Coast Guard’s mooring in Petersburg (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

There is a very nice story by local media about the departure of USCGC Anacapa from Petersburg, AK. The 110 is not being decommissioned. She is changing homeport to Port Angeles, WA, where there will be a crew turn-over.

The Anacapa’s replacement in Petersburg is an 87-foot San Francisco-based Marine Protector class cutter called the Pike, built in 2005.

Anacapa’s engines and generators are being replaced, so looks like she will be retained a few more years.

There was an earlier post that featured Anacapa, “What Does It Take to Sink a Ship, Illustrated,” when she was tasked with sinking a derelict Japanese fishing vessel, back in 2012.

Shipboard Panoramic Electro-Optic/Infrared (SPEIR) program

L3 Harris Mk20 mod1 Electro Optic Sensor System. (Picture source Navy Recognition)

It appears the Navy has a new AI aided sensor system going into low-rate production called the “Shipboard Panoramic Electro-Optic/Infrared (SPEIR) program.” It looks like it may ultimately go on every Navy surface combatant, and that it may be scalable to make it applicable to units as small as patrol boats.

The DOD daily digest bulletin for 26 March reported,

NAVY

L3 Technologies Inc., Systems Company, Camden, New Jersey, is awarded a $205,899,580 cost-plus-incentive-fee, cost-reimbursement, firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract for engineering, manufacturing, and development; engineering support labor; low rate initial production systems, and spares for the Shipboard Panoramic Electro-Optic/Infrared (SPEIR) program. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $593,050,756. Work will be performed in Mason, Ohio (54%); Northampton, Massachusetts (16%); Bothell, Washington (12%); Hamilton, Ontario (7%); Austin, Texas (7%); Tulsa, Oklahoma (2%); Norfolk, Virginia (1%); and various locations across the U.S., each less than 1% (1%), and is expected to be completed by November 2025. If all options are exercised, work will continue through March 2031. Fiscal 2021 research, development, test, and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $11,000,000 will be obligated at time of award and will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with one offer received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-22-C-5514).

This 2017 report from Military Aerospace Electronics seems to provide insight into the program’s objectives and challenges.

This 2015 report seems to have been an earlier version with the same program, under the name CESARS, which in turn combined two earlier programs, the Shipboard Panoramic EO/IR Cueing and Surveillance System (SPECSS); and Multispectral EO/IR Countermeasures for Advanced Threats (MEIRCAT). The objectives included target acquisition, tracking, classification, identification, 3-D ranging, threat assessment, countermeasures execution, and countermeasures effectiveness monitoring against threats including cruise missiles (particularly optically guide cruise missiles that are not active emitters), small surface vessels, and Unmanned Air Systems. It would of course, also detect ships and conventional aircraft.

A major advantage of this type system is that it can provide situational awareness while allowing the ship to maintain strict EMCON (emissions control) minimizing active emissions that might be picked up by an adversary.

The good news for the Coast Guard is that, from the 2017 report,

This project also seeks to identify a family of imaging systems that could handle the situational-awareness needs of surface vessels ranging in size from a patrol craft, a frigate, a destroyer, and an aircraft carrier.

On small units, this system might provide some of the situational awareness capability provided by multi-mode radar and/or ESM on larger units, that is otherwise not available on these units.

Contract Award for the Fourth Offshore Patrol Cutter

Photo: Rendering of the future USCGC RUSH (WMSM 918) provided by Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. Click on the photo for a better view. 

Below is a press release from Eastern Shipbuilding Group. To review the situation, the Coast Guard is expected to make a decision in the near future regarding the award of the next batch of Offshore Patrol Cutters. Eastern is one of the competitors.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

         April 26, 2022

Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. Announces Construction of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Fourth Offshore Patrol Cutter

PANAMA CITY, FL – Today, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) announced the U.S. Coast Guard has awarded a contract to begin construction of the fourth Heritage Class offshore patrol cutter (OPC), the future USCGC RUSH (WMSM 918).

The OPC will form the backbone of the service’s future fleet around the globe. ESG has worked hard to earn this opportunity and is honored to be chosen to perform this important work for the United States. ESG, in collaboration with its partners, produced the winning design of the OPC and was awarded detail design and construction of the first hulls in 2016. The new OPC designs reflect cutting-edge technology and will replace the service’s 270-foot and 210-foot medium endurance cutters, which are becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and operate.

“This follow-on award signifies the OPC team and our partners continue to provide quality craftsmanship and unparalleled service. We have a focused vision to support the OPC Program with shipbuilding excellence and provide the country with a long-term industrial capability that can produce exceptional vessels that support national security interests,” said Joey D’Isernia, President of Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc.

As prime contractor, ESG has successfully achieved program goals and mitigated the impacts of COVID-19 and current supply chain challenges. It expects to christen the first vessel this year, is nearly halfway through completion of the second vessel, and will host the keel authentication of the third OPC in a few weeks. The pace of production accelerates with each vessel that comes online.

“We utilized state of the market technology, design, and construction methodologies to offer a more capable vessel than legacy assets currently in service. The innovations built into the OPCs were designed for sustainability and endurance and come from the ingenuity of the best engineers and manufacturers in the world. We thank the hundreds of partners and employees in the thirty-four states supporting us in this effort,” continued D’Isernia.

Construction is taking place at ESG’s Nelson Street Shipyard in Panama City, Florida, a facility that is optimized for multi-hull construction of the Offshore Patrol Cutter and dedicated to supporting the U.S. Coast Guard.

ESG survived the third largest U.S. hurricane in 2018 and has fully rebuilt its operational facilities. The company made many infrastructure investments from $50 million in state appropriations and economic development grants that benefit the OPC project with enhanced manufacturing capabilities and efficiencies that reduce cost and schedule risk. These infrastructure investments include an aluminum fabrication facility specifically designed to support full construction of the OPC aluminum superstructure in a covered and controlled environment. ESG has also completed launch way upgrades, upland bulkhead upgrades, construction platen expansions, and waterway deepening projects to further enhance ESG’s capability to launch and deliver two OPC sized vessels per year.

At its Allanton Shipyard, ESG has constructed a state-of-the-art C5ISR Production Facility to conduct testing and integration of navigation, communication, and command and control, equipment, and simulators on premises prior to final installation on the vessel.

“Coast Guard Cutter Munro visits Suva, Fiji, hosts shipriders during Operation Blue Pacific” –D14

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro, a 418-foot national security cutter, and its small boat transit the Gulf of Mexico, February 12, 2017. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

Just a news release, but an interesting one, about an increasingly common type of operation. Fiji has an interesting history, take a look.

PR people, please stop reminding everyone that Munro was, “the only Coast Guardsman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.” Other Coast Guardsmen should have received the same recognition. Say he was a Medal of Honor recipient and briefly outline what he did, that he was killed in action rescuing Marines from an ambush on Guadalcanal.

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific

Coast Guard Cutter Munro visits Suva, Fiji, hosts shipriders during Operation Blue Pacific

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

SUVA, Fiji – The crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Munro visited the Port of Suva, Fiji April 20-24, as part of Operation Blue Pacific. Prior to the port call, five Fijian shipriders representing Fiji’s Immigration Department, Ministry of Fisheries, Revenue and Customs, as well as the Fiji Navy, worked alongside the Munro’s crew to conduct fisheries boardings in Fijian waters.

During the port call, Munro’s crew hosted military and government officials from both Fiji and the U.S. during a media engagement and reception. Capt. Blake Novak, Munro’s commanding officer, visited the FMSRCC, Republic of Fiji Navy, that manages maritime surveillance and search and rescue coordination in the region. Munro crew members volunteered alongside Fiji Navy members at a local eldercare facility. Munro’s crew hosted hosted Fiji Navy members and other partners for a barbeque and ship tour Saturday. Shared interagency recreational activities during the port call included both soccer and rugby matches, and a waterfall hike.

USCGC Munro (WMSL 755) departed from Alameda, California in late March for a multi-month deployment to the South Pacific. The deployment aims to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated, (IUU) fishing and strengthen relationships to enhance maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region.  Operation Blue Pacific’s focus is to lead and promote international efforts that uphold the principles of security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania through operations and engagements to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.

In November 2018, Fiji became the latest nation to sign a shiprider agreement, which allows partnering nations’ defense and law enforcement officers to embark on U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy vessels to observe, protect, board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within their exclusive economic zones or on the high seas.

Fiji has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of around 1.3 million square kilometers.  It is difficult to protect Fiji’s sovereign rights for fishing and other economic activities over such a vast area of sea.  The shiprider program gives Fiji another tool to patrol and protect its sovereign waters.

The shiprider agreement allows cooperation between both nations to protect the fishing industry and Fijian sovereignty. This will also contribute to regional stability.

The Coast Guard is committed not only to the American people and its national interests, but also other nations, including Fiji and other the Pacific Island Countries, whose governments may be threatened or weakened by rival powers that challenge rules-based international order through inter-state aggression, economic coercion, maritime hybrid warfare, gray zone activities, and overreaching territorial claims.

As part of the U.S. National Security Strategy, the U.S. is committed to advancing a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific.

“We are pleased to work with Fiji to combat IUU fishing,” said Novak. “Working together, we were able to share technical expertise and ideas on how to improve safety, risk management and develop case packages for evidence preservation. IUU has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. Systemic disregard to IUU fishing normalizes illegal behavior and erodes governance structures that foster peace and stability.”

Through Operation Blue Pacific, the Coast Guard aims to strengthen relationships with like-minded nations.  Our shared efforts will improve maritime governance within Oceania, increase capacity for bilateral search-and-rescue and law enforcement and promote shared technical expertise and proficiency.

The Coast Guard combats illegal fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific. Combating illegal fishing is part of promoting maritime governance and a rules-based international order that is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Munro was the second U.S. Coast Guard cutter to visit Fiji this year, after Coast Guard Cutter Stratton.

Commissioned in 2017, Munro is one of four Coast Guard legend class national security cutters homeported in Alameda. National security cutters are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed in excess of 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days and can hold a crew of up to 170. Munro is the second cutter named for Signalman First Class Douglas A. Munro, the only Coast Guardsman awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Copenhagen Declaration, Blue Justice Initiative

We are seeing what appears to be growing international cooperation to curb Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and with it, other forms of maritime criminal activity frequently associated with it. A basis for this cooperation is found in the non-binding UN Copenhagen Declaration, Blue Justice Initiative. 48 Nations have signed on to the declaration. It is basically a letter of intent to cooperate. It is reproduced at the end of the post. Notably it has not been endorsed by the US, Canada, UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, India, or China, but this is very important to many smaller nations. I would think the US Coast Guard would be all-in on this. It certainly does not preclude the kinds of bilateral agreements the Coast Guard has with dozens of nations.

How did I learn about this Declaration?

NORTHCOM’s on-line magazine, The Watch, reported on a March 2022 meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM). This led me to look for more information on this organization. 

Below is the CRFM report on the meeting. Additional comments follow.


Belize City, Friday, 18 March 2022 (CRFM)—The Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) and the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS) hosted a Technical Meeting on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Organized Crime in the Fishing Industry this week. It marked an important milestone in the region’s efforts to fortify the region’s response to this very challenging and costly problem, through coordinated action at both the national and regional levels, with the support of the Government of Norway and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the Blue Justice Initiative.

The CRFM, its Member States, and partner agencies both at the CARICOM and international levels committed to advancing their collaboration using modern digital technology, to strengthen the region’s response to illegal fishing and transnational organized criminal activities, such as drugs, human and small arms trafficking, trade in contraband goods, document fraud and forgery, tax crimes, and money laundering, which use commercial and recreational fishing as a cover for their activities.

Last October, during a high-level meeting of CRFM Ministers, twelve (12) Member States signed the International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry (also known as the ‘Copenhagen Declaration’). They also endorsed the Blue Justice Initiative, which supports developing countries in operationalizing the Copenhagen Declaration, aimed at “promoting a sustainable and fair Blue Economy for all, that is free from fisheries crime.”

The CRFM and CARICOM IMPACS convened the technical meeting of senior fisheries and maritime law enforcement officers to identify priority actions to strengthen regional and international cooperation to combat and eradicate IUU fishing and transnational organized crime in the fisheries sector. The event marked an important milestone for the Caribbean region in collectively combating the scourge of crime connected with the fishing sector.

Over 90 participants from 15 Member States of the CRFM and representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat, the CRFM, CARICOM IMPACS, the Regional Security System (RSS), UNDP and the Government of Norway participated in the virtual session.

The meeting featured a diverse array of speakers who provided participants with insights on the Blue Justice Initiative and ‘Copenhagen Declaration, the UNDP Blue Resilience Project and its use of digital technology and institutional cooperation, tools and techniques to detect and analyze fisheries crime, and a general overview of fisheries crime in the Caribbean. Participants engaged in interactive sessions, as they contributed to charting the way forward.

In addressing the gathering, Hon. Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour, and Chair of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, said: “The fight globally has increased against IUU fishing and organized crime, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Member States of the CRFM continue to honor our duty… It is our quest in the Caribbean to partner with all international agencies to ensure that we reduce criminal activities when it comes to the Blue Economy. We intend to work with regional and international partners and other friendly governments such as Norway… because every Member State in the global community must play an important role.”

CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton noted the seriousness and impacts of illegal and criminal activities in the fisheries sector and expressed the CRFM’s appreciation for Norway’s commitment to the sustainable use of ocean resources, through the Blue Justice Initiative and the Copenhagen Declaration. He thanked the Government of Norway and the UNDP for supporting the region in its efforts to help address this intractable problem.

Important Dates:

15 October 2018:

The Copenhagen Declaration was initially adopted by 9 countries: Faroe Islands, Ghana, Indonesia, Kiribati, Namibia, Norway, Palau, Solomon Islands and Sri Lanka.

10 December 2020:

Several Ministers responsible for Fisheries from the CARICOM / CRFM Member States took part in a virtual High-Level International Blue Justice Conference that was convened by the Government of Norway. The main purpose of the Conference was to promote and advance political support for the non-binding Copenhagen Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the fishing industry.

 21 May 2021:

At the Fifteenth Meeting of the Ministerial Council of the CRFM, Ministers discussed the issues and recognized the need for Member States to cooperate with other affected countries to improve understanding and knowledge of the problem, identify countermeasures, and build capacity to prevent, deter and eradicate IUU fishing and transnational organized crime in the fishing industry, in the region and globally. The Ministers issued Resolution No. MC 15(6) of 2021, documenting their position.

 4 October 2021:

During a special ministerial meeting, several Ministers from the Caribbean Community responsible for Fisheries, the Blue Economy and related matters, delivered official statements endorsing The International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry (also known as the ‘Copenhagen Declaration’). They also affirmed their support for the Blue Justice Initiative, established by the Government of Norway to support implementation of the declaration. (View the proceedings and country statementshere.)

Twelve (12) CRFM Member States, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and The Turks and Caicos Islands, signed the Copenhagen Declaration on this occasion.


This in turn led me to a CRFM report of a 5-8 April Ministerial Meeting of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), an organization of 79 member states. Seeing this degree of widespread interest, I had to look up the declaration.


THE DECLARATION

We, the Ministers of Benin, Chile, Costa Rica, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Ghana, Greenland, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Kiribati, Liberia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Philippines, São Tomè and Principe, Scotland, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and Uruguay;

Encourage other Ministers to support this non-legally binding declaration.

Note the recommendations and the outcome of the 2nd International Symposium on Fisheries Crime held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia 10–11 October 2016 which was published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime at the occasion of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice during its twenty-sixth session in Vienna 22–26 May 2017.

Recognize that our countries are dependent on the sea and its resources and the opportunities it holds for the economy, food and well-being of our population and we are determined to support a healthy and thriving fishing industry that is based on fair competition and the sustainable use of the ocean.

Are committed to work towards the fulfillment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals particularly in relation to Goal 14 on “Life Below Water” and Goal 16 on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.”

Are convinced that there is a need for the world community to recognize the existence of transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry and that this activity has a serious effect on the economy, distorts markets, harms the environment and undermines human rights.

Recognize that this transnational activity includes crimes committed through the whole fisheries supply and value chain which includes illegal fishing, corruption, tax and customs fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, document fraud and human trafficking.

Recognize further the inter-continental flow of illegal fish products, illicit money and human trafficking victims in transnational organized crime cases in the global fishing industry and that all regions of the world need to cooperate when investigating such acts

Are convinced that inter-agency cooperation between relevant governmental agencies is essential at a national, regional and international level in order to prevent, combat and eradicate transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry,

Are also convinced that there is a need for international cooperation and that developing countries are particularly affected.

Recognize the particular vulnerability of small-island developing states and other Large Ocean Nations of the impact of transnational organized crime in the global fishing industry.

Are also convinced the need for continuous support on the highest level and the necessity for awareness raising on these issues through events such as the International FishCrime Symposium.

Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) Doing Coast Guard Work off West Africa

ADRIATIC SEA – (Feb. 19, 2022) The Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB 4) sails the Adriatic Sea, Feb. 19, 2022. Hershel “Woody” Williams is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national interests and security in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV/Released)

The Navy League’s on-line magazine, “Seapower,” has a post, “USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams Completes Gulf of Guinea Maritime Security Patrol,” reporting on the activities of this newly arrived 6th Fleet asset, the “first warship permanently assigned to the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.”

And what was this 784 foot (239 m) ship doing?

In March, the joint U.S. and African maritime team interdicted an illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing vessel operating in Sierra Leone’s economic exclusive zone.

In April, as part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, the joint team, led by Cabo Verde, worked in coordination with the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics, INTERPOL and Cabo Verde’s national Maritime Operations Center to conduct a compliant boarding of a Brazilian-flagged fishing vessel, which led to the seizure of approximately 6,000 kilograms of suspected cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $350 million.

The US Navy regularly hosts Coast Guard teams in the Caribbean or while operating off Central and South America. US Coast Guard cutters have operated with West African nations previously. Coast Guard teams embarked on US Navy ships have trained with West African nations, but this may be the first time US Coast Guard teams, operating from a US Navy ship, have participated in law enforcement operations on the behalf of a West African nation.

Reverse Industry Day

Just passing this along since it is easily missed on the CG-9 web site

USCG 2022 Virtual Reverse Industry Day
Date: Thursday, April 28, 2022
Time: Noon to 4 p.m. ET

Join the U.S. Coast Guard for the 2022 Virtual Reverse Industry Day, where we will be discussing topics that emphasize the importance of early engagement with industry to improve the quality of our requirements and increase the efficiency of our procurement process.

  • Session I:  Acquisition Planning – Early Industry Engagement/Program Management Office Access
  • Session II:  Developing Clear and Achievable Requirements
  • Session III:  Source Selection Debriefings

This event is being held in partnership with the Small and Emerging Contractors Forum (SECAF).  SECAF is an industry association that assists small businesses with growth strategies and provides a collaborative business network to help solve common challenges.

Registrants will receive an MS Teams meeting link prior to the event. The link will be sent to the email provided during registration, so please be sure that the information is correct. The deadline to register is April 27.

Click here to register.

For additional information, send an email to the Small Business and Industry Engagement team at openforbusiness@uscg.mil.

“Coast Guard cutters mark SLEP milestones for ISVS Program” –CG-9

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Seneca prior to prototype SLEP

Below is an Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) report on a couple of “In Service Vessel Sustainment” (ISVS) projects. This talks about the Polar Star, but we already knew about that. This is the first report on the WMEC270 SLEP that I can recall. It corrects my previous impression that Harriet Lane was to be the first. Seneca was the first. It also says,

Six more of the 13 in-service WMECs will undergo SLEP work, with production work starting in 2023.

I was under the impression that only six total were to be SLEPed. Does “production work starting in 2023,” mean what was done to Seneca and will be done to Harriet Lane is not a full-fledged SLEP?

If work on these two ships is “prototyping” and not “production,” it may be significant that these two cutters were built by different builders, Harriet Lane having been one of the four built by Tacoma Boat and Seneca one of the nine built by Robert Derecktor Shipyard. There may be some differences within the class.

It was anticipated that the 76mm Mk75 gun was to be removed, along with, presumably, the Mk92 fire control system, to be replaced with a Mk38 gun mount.  There is no mention of this.


Coast Guard cutters mark SLEP milestones for ISVS Program

April 21, 2022

Two Coast Guard service life extension programs (SLEP) reached milestones in early April – prototype work was completed on a 270-foot medium endurance cutter (WMEC) and Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star commenced the second phase of its SLEP work.

SLEPs address specific systems and major maintenance to extend the service life of the vessel to meet cost, schedule and performance requirements. They are part of the In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program, which conducts strategic major maintenance and recapitalization as vessels age and critical systems become obsolete, improving the reliability of Coast Guard vessels, helping control maintenance costs and increasing time spent underway.

For the WMEC SLEP, Coast Guard Cutter Seneca recently departed Coast Guard Yard April 4 for its homeport in Portsmouth, Virginia. Seneca served as a prototype for the SLEP work on the WMECs, which is a renewal of several mission-critical systems including electrical updates with new generators, switchboards and Coast Guard machinery control system software updates.

“This wraps up a successful nine-month project at Coast Guard Yard that began in July 2021 totaling over $6.4 million,” said Lt. Charles Lortz, the Project Residence Office Baltimore 270-foot WMEC SLEP section chief. “Beyond the difficulties inherent to a prototype project, the Seneca project followed an expedited planning process to more quickly deliver a more capable asset to the fleet. It was certainly noted, by all involved, that this project was charting new territory.”

Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane arrived at Coast Guard Yard March 28 and will undergo prototype refinements. Six more of the 13 in-service WMECs will undergo SLEP work, with production work starting in 2023. The WMEC SLEP will sustain capabilities to meet mission needs until they are replaced by offshore patrol cutters.

As Seneca was heading to its homeport, Polar Star transited from the San Francisco Bay to Mare Island Dry Dock LLC in Vallejo, California. On April 8, it commenced the second phase of SLEP work items and recurring maintenance, which is taking place over a five-year, annually phased production schedule that runs through 2025. During the second phase, Polar Star SLEP will recapitalize two engineering control systems: one will operate and control the cutter’s 75,000 shaft horsepower gas turbines and auxiliary systems while the other control system is dedicated to the diesel electric propulsion plant. When completed, Polar Star’s SLEP will have replaced a number of major systems and extended the service life of the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker.

The Coast Guard is also investing in a new fleet of polar security cutters (PSC) that will sustain the service’s capabilities to meet mission needs in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The first PSC is on contract for delivery in 2025. Polar Star will stay in service until the second PSC is operational.

For more information: In-Service Vessel Sustainment Program page

“USCG’s Polar Security Cutters to Receive Mark 38 Mod 4 Guns” –Naval News

Naval News reports that the Polar Security Cutters will be armed with the new 30mm Mk38 Mod4 rather than the familiar 25mm Mk38 Mod2/3 which currently arms Webber class Fast Response Cutters.

There were a couple of additional pieces of information as well.

  • Other Coast Guard vessels will also get the Mod4.
  • There are no plans to replace existing 25mm mounts with the 30mm Mod4.

The answer on the Polar Security Cutters is probably definitive because it is still three years in the future. Presumably the Navy will use up the 25mm mounts they have already purchased before installing the Mod4. The Offshore Patrol Cutter program extends so far into the future, it is likely most of them will receive the 30mm.

I would argue, vessels for which the Mk38 is the primary armament, particularly if they have only one, should receive a higher priority for the more capable Mod4 since we know the 30mm is more effective than the 25mm, and these vessels have no more powerful alternative weapon they could employ. It appears the WMEC270 that are going through the service life extension program fall in this category.

As for upgrading existing installations, there is a strong case to be made for upgrading the PATFORSWA Webber class WPCs. The 30mm offers options that are not available for the 25mm including an airburst round that can be used against UAVs and a swimmer round that is particularly effective against swarming fast inshore attack craft, both significant threats in the Persian Gulf.

The post also refers to the possibility of mounting missiles on the mount. That possibility was discussed in more detail here. I would like to see all the 25mm guns replaced by the 30mm, but if the earlier Mk38 Mod2/3 mounts were modified to mount APKWS guided rockets or Hellfire and its successor, there would be less need for the larger caliber gun.