“A Blue Arctic, a Strategic Blue Print for the Arctic” –Dept. of the Navy

This map show the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) within the Arctic: Canada (purple), Greenland (orange), Iceland (green), Norway (turquoise), Russia (light blue), and USA (dark blue). As sea ice reduces there will be more opportunity for ice to drift from one EEZ to another, which has implications for the potential spread of pollutants.
Credit: DeRepentigny et al., 2020

Naval News has a short interview/critique of the new, 28 page, Navy publication, New U.S. Strategic Blueprint for a Blue Arctic is No Revolution – Naval News

 “Are the options outlined under “Build a More Capable Arctic Naval Force” enough to close the gap in your opinion?

“Timothy Choi – In short, no. No options are actually outlined. The document only serves to remind the navy that yes, Arctic conditions should be kept in mind when building future naval forces, without any indication on what kind of forces will be necessary. This is part of the problem with the “blueprint” – the Arctic is discussed in such general terms that it becomes impossible to give specific directions when it comes to force structure requirements and composition. For instance, the Russian submarine threat in northern Europe requires a very different set of capabilities than helping the coast guard monitor the EEZ off Alaska. Even worse, the USCG is only mentioned briefly even though any Arctic naval force development around North America would have to be done in close coordination with the USCG’s icebreaking capabilities. If a “blueprint” is supposed to describe in minute details the components of a completed ship design, this document is a long way from that and is closer to an initial Request for Information.”

The Naval News post includes a link or you can go directly to the document here: ARCTIC BLUEPRINT 2021 FINAL.PDF (defense.gov)

Golden Ray Wreck Removal

A Coast Guard Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin helicopter rests on the side of the Golden Ray, a 656-foot vehicle carrier, to drop off supplies for Coast Guard crews and port partners who attempt to locate and rescue the remaining four crewmembers aboard the Golden Ray, Sept. 9, 2019, in St. Simons Sound, near Brunswick, Georgia. A Coast Guard Air Station Savannah MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrew, Station Brunswick boat crews and other port partners rescued 20 people the morning of Sept. 8, after it was reported the vessel was disabled and listing. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Dickinson)

The Golden Ray wreck removal is an amazing piece of salvage work, with a strong dose of Environmental Protection, as they cut the hull into sections and haul it away. You can get updates here. I have posted some of the latest photos below to provide a taste of the magnitude of the work.

The Barge 455-8 deballasts as it receives Section Eight, the stern of the Golden Ray wreck. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

The Barge 455-8 is equipped with a containment barrier to capture any further pollution releases from the section. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Incident Commander Chris Graff of Gallagher Marine Systems and U.S. Coast Guard Commander Efren Lopez, Federal On-scene Coordinator, observe lifting and pollution mitigation operations at the Golden Ray wreck site. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

An aerial observer surveys the vicinity of the Golden Ray wreck for signs of pollution and relays observations to recovery vessels on the water. St. Simons Sound Incident response photo.

Thanks to Paul C. for bringing this to my attention. 

 

“New Year’s Eve Storm Breaks North Pacific Record” –gCaptain

Image NOAA

gCaptain reports,

” A Pacific storm of record proportions swept a remote stretch of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands chain on New Year’s Eve, battering a region…The center of what forecasters refer to as “bomb cyclone” was measured at a record-low barometric pressure of 921 millibars, equivalent to the eye of a Category 4 hurricane and the lowest documented over the Aleutians as far back as the 1950s.

The storm unleashed seas as high as 54 feet (16.5 meters) and winds topping 80 miles per hour (120 kph) – a force of Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale – in the western Aleutians, the weather service said.

Someone had a rough ride. Shemya was in the epicenter of the storm. Seems we have been seeing increasing reports of unusually severe weather in Alaska and the Arctic.

“Check out the 13 best military photos of 2020” –Task and Purpose

Feco, a single-purpose bomb dog assigned to a Coast Guard maritime safety and security team, wears protective eye and ear gear and a hoisting vest for hoist operation training at Moffett Air National Guard Base, Calif., June 15, 2020. (Air National Guard photo / Master Sgt. Ray Aquino)

Task and Purpose provides their pick of 13 best military photos of 2020 and provides a link to 72 more. Turns out, two are US Coast Guard related. The one above was presumably taken by an Air National Guard or Air Force Master Sargent, but the other was taken by Seaman Kate Kilroy, one of several from her coverage of the Campbell’s trip into Arctic waters here and here.

Thanks to a formerdirtdart for bringing this to my attention. 

“Arctic Operations: We Really, Really Need the Right Equipment and an Arctic Port” –EagleSpeak

Conceptual illustration, Finland’s squadron 2020 corvette

Naval blog “EagleSpeak” decries our inability of operate surface warships in the Arctic, but this is his bottom line

“Fault finding will get us nowhere, the need is to look to our allies who operate in these waters and see if, among the hull types we need they have some ice-hardened ships whose designs we can obtain. Now.”

If we do want to do that, there is really only one choice, Finland’s new ice capable corvette we talked about here. The original post is now more than five years old, but updated information is in the comments, much of which I have linked below.

Fortunately they are already designed to us a great deal of familiar equipment much of it from US manufacturers.

They will use the same 57mm gun used by the NSC, OPC, and both classes of LCS.

They will use the Sea Giraffe radar common to the OPC and Independence class LCS.

They will use ESSM surface to air missiles, a standard item on most US surface combatants, apparently to be launched from Mk41 VLS.

The Finns will be using the Israeli Gabriel V as their surface to surface missile, but it should be relatively easy to substitute a standard US surface to surface missile, particularly the Naval Strike Missile, which is considerably smaller.

The sonars currently planned are from Kongsberg Maritime AS. If not replaced by US sourced units, they would be unique in the US fleet but the hull mounted “SS2030 sonars will be delivered to the Finnish Navy complete with hoistable hull units and ice protection to ensure safe and efficient operation in the often harsh conditions of the Baltic Sea.”  The variable depth “SD9500 is a light and compact over-the-side dipping sonar with outstanding horizontal and vertical positioning capabilities for diver detection, ASW duties and volumetric survey assignments in shallow, reverberation-limited waters.”

They would be unique among US warships in being able to both lay and counter mines.

Propulsion is CODLAG, combined diesel electric and gas turbine. Four diesel generators producing 7,700 KW (10326 HP) provide power for cruise (probably about 20 knots). A GE LM2500 gas turbine provides over 26 knot sprint speed. This is the same gas turbine that powers the NSC, Burke class destroyers, the new FFG, and numerous other ships. It is the most common gas turbine in the world.

The propellers were developed with the help of the US Navy.

“The propellers are a minor project on their own, and are set to be of a highly advanced design. This is due to the somewhat conflicting demands of high top-speed, small diameter (due to overall draught requirement), and low noise (and high cavitation margin). All this, while at the same time being strong enough to cope with ice.”

Its primary characteristics are reported to be:

  • Length: 114 m (374 ft)
  • Beam: 16 m (52 ft)
  • Displacement: 3,900 tonnes (3,800 long tons; 4,300 short tons)
  • Crew: 70 to 120 sailors
  • Speed: 26+ knots

This makes about 13% smaller than the OPC or NSC, but 30% larger than the 378s. First of class is expected to be completed 2024.

We could buy the plans and then compete procurement in a US shipyard. These might be built concurrently with the OPCs, possibly replacing some of them. Ten units could give a two squadrons, one for the Atlantic and one for the Pacific. In wartime that would almost guarantee the ability to keep three underway in either ocean.

“Swimming in Inequality” –USNI

MOBILE, Ala. Ð Rescue swimmers from Coast Guard Aviation Center Mobile show Luke Wiedeman how to properly inflate his life jacket, Nov. 7, 2011. Crewmembers from ATC Mobile worked with the Mobile chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help Luke realize his dream of becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. Luke was able to take part in training with the swimmers, navigate high-tech flight simulators and participate in a search and rescue demonstration. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

The US Naval Institute blog has a short entry that discusses what was, to me. an unrecognized barrier to more equal racial representation in the Coast Guard–the swim standard for OCS.

“… 70 percent of Black children are unable to swim and 60 percent of Latino children are unable to swim. Of the Black and Latino children that say they are able to swim, there also is a large portion that are self-taught swimmers. In comparison, it is estimated that only 40 percent of Caucasian children are unable to swim.”

Was also surprised to see the large disparity in representation between the Navy and Coast Guard.

“As it stands right now, 5.5 percent of commissioned Coast Guard officers are Black, and only 13.5 percent are minorities in total. It is possible that qualified minority candidates see the swimming standards as impossible obstacles to overcome.”

“As of 2017, the Navy reached 34 percent of minority officer representation.”

Sounds like we have a self imposed barrier to recruiting some good people. Certainly swimming is a desirable ability, but do we apply the same standard to all Coastguardsmen? Does the Navy apply it to their incoming personnel? Can we do something to provide this skill to those who do not come to us with the ability?

“Omnibus Spending Bill Funds Four Additional Fast Response Cutters” –Seapower

USCGC Joseph Doyle (WPC-1133)

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

President Trump on Dec. 27 signed into law the omnibus spending bill for fiscal Year 2021, which included funding for four more Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs), allowing Bollinger Shipyards to build and deliver four more FRCs to the U.S. Coast Guard, the company said in an Dec. 28 release. This increases the total number of funded boats to 64.

This would complete funding for both the 58 Fast Response Cutters (FRC) included in the Program of Record and the six required to replace the six Island Class 110 foot WPBs currently based in Bahrain, serving with the 5th Fleet as PATFORSWA.

There has been some discussion of basing FRCs in Palau. That could mean additional ships. We could conceivably replicate the PATFORSWA organization using three FRCs in Guam and three in Palau.

“U.S. presence in Palau could balance Beijing’s aggression, analysts say” –Indo-Pacific Defense Forum

The Indo-Pacific Defense Forum has a short article about the desirability of a US defense presence in Palau. Much of it is about Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported fishing, so it is largely concerning the Coast Guard.

There has already been some talk about basing Webber class WPCs in Palau.

The area may best be remembered for the Battle of Peleliu.