“We Need More Coast Guard” says 7th Fleet

Waesche Carat 2012

NationalDefenseMagazine.org has a piece that reports the Seventh Fleet advocating for the Coast Guard.

There is an apparent error in that Capt. David Adams is identified as “Commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet.” I assume they mean he is a spokesman for ComSeventhFleet. Nevertheless, the good news is that someone in 7th Fleet is advocating for the Coast Guard. The bad news is that the Coast Guard may not be, being recognized for what it is already doing.

The implied desire in the article that the Coast Guard send ships to the South China Sea to confront the Chinese Coast Guard,

“We have no white hulls in the Pacific, hardly,” Adams said. “We are going to have to fund the Coast Guard, not to do their conventional missions, but to come and help with the white-hull problem out in the Pacific.”

is probably a non-starter, both because of a shortage of Coast Guard assets and because the Coast Guard has no authority in the waters in question, but that may not have been what the Captain was really saying, although taking Philippine and Vietnamese fisheries enforcement officers aboard a National Security Cutter and using it for fisheries enforcement under their authority in the South China Sea could be interesting.

Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian studies center suggested,

“‘The Coast Guard is a civilian entity, and there is little reason to my mind that [it] should not exercise in conjunction with the coast guards and civilian law enforcement entities of American allies’ in the Asia-Pacific region, he said”

Mr. Cheng, must have missed USCGC Waesche’s participation in CARAT 2012, the transfer of two 378s to the Philippines and boats to Vietnam and really for the 1000th time, the Coast Guard is a military service.

(Actually very few of the China Coast Guard ships are repainted navy ships and most of their cutters are not as well armed as their USCG counterparts.)

What more can the Coast Guard do? We could certainly sell (or the State Department could give) cutters, boats, and aircraft to SE Asian countries and help train their coast guards. Foreign Military Sales of Offshore Patrol Cutters, Webber class WPCs, and HC-144s with subsequent training might be an instrument of foreign policy. There used to be a something called “seconding” whereby officers of one country filled billets in the armed services of another, but the USCG is not going to be enforcing their laws.

If the nations of Southeast Asia do as Bob Marley sang and “Stand-up, stand-up for your right,” and the Chinese gray hulls “over the horizon” are indeed tempted to intercede, I hope some haze gray 7th Fleet ships are near by to dissuade them from doing anything foolish. Coast Guard cutters will not.

Note, I changed this post after realizing I had misread parts of the referenced post.

Chinese Drift Net F/V Seized in the North Pacific

CCGD17 is reporting an unusual fisheries case.

This seizure was a result of an international effort. The F/V was spotted by a Canadian CP-140 (similar to a P-3) and boarded by a team from Morgenthau assisted by two Chinese agents, 625 miles East of Tokyo (Japan was also listed as a participant in the operation). After violations were discovered, the vessel was detained and custody subsequently transferred to a Chinese Coast Guard cutter.

I can’t help but be curious what will happen to the vessel, its owners and crew, when the Chinese government seems to condone and even encourage violation of international fisheries norms elsewhere.

How to Create Enemies and Make People Hate You–China vs Indonesia

We have already talked about China’s difficulties with her neighbors Japan and the Philippines. Now we have a report of a confrontation with Indonesia. Apparently Indonesia had chosen to keep this quiet, but the Chinese have chosen to brag about it.

The Indonesian vessel involved was reportedly a Todak class, which is a German Lurssen “PB-57” design, a bit larger than the FRC at 447 tons fl, 58.1 meters long and 7.6 meters of beam, armed with a Bofors 57mm (like that on the NSC), a 40mm and two 20mm. Clearly if it had come to a fight, the Indonesian vessel would have enjoyed an advantage, at least until Chinese reinforcements arrived.

China is showing a complete disregard for the provisions of the UNCLOS treaty to which they are a party.

Making an enemy of Indonesia is a particularly bad idea for China, in that Indonesia potentially controls all the major straits through which the vast majority of Chinese trade must pass and all the alternatives are also in the hands of nations China seems intent on alienating.

The Chinese Coast Guard to Build World’s Largest Offshore Patrol Vessel–and More

This is a post I prepared for CIMSEC. It reiterates material we’ve already discussed, but also adds some additional thoughts.

File:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg
Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Shikishima, this class of two are currently the largest offshore patrol vessels in the world. Photo from Japanese Wikipedia; ja:ファイル:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg
Since its formation in 2013 by the consolidation of four previously independent agencies into a single entity (notably excluding the SAR agency), the Chinese Coast Guard has been experiencing phenomenal growth and has become China’s instrument of choice in its “small stick diplomacy” push to claim most of both the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
They commissioned two 4,000 ton cutters in January alone. It appears the growth will continue. The Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Company has just been awarded a contract for four new 5,000 ton cutters, and China Ship-building Industry Corporation has been contracted to build two additional surveillance ships, one of 10,000 tons and another of 4,000-tons.
The US Coast Guard’s largest patrol cutters are the 418 foot, 4,500 ton full load Bertholf Class National Security Cutters. The illustration that accompanies the story of the four new 5,000 ton cutters shows a ship, in many ways similar to the National Security Cutter. It appears there is a medium caliber gun on the bow. (This would be a significant but not unexpected change for the Chinese Coast Guard.) There is a frame over what appears to be a stern ramp not unlike that on the NSC. The hull shape also appears similar to the NSC.
The “10,000 ton” cutter is likely to look similar to the Japanese Coast Guard’s two 492 foot, 9,350 full load, Shikishima class high endurance helicopter carrying cutters seen in the illustration above, but they may actually be much larger. Comparing their new ship to the Japanese cutters, the displacement of the Japanese ships was quoted as 6,500 tons, their light displacement. If the 10,000 tons quoted for the Chinese cutter is also light displacement, it could approach 15,000 tons full load. As reported here the new Chinese OPV will have a 76mm gun, two 30mm, facilities to support two Z-8 helicopters, and a top speed of 25 knots.
The size of the helicopters is notable. The Z-8 is a large, three engine, 13,000 kg helicopter based on the Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon. The transport version of this helicopter can transport 38 fully equipped troops. The same airframe is also used for SAR, ASW, and vertical replenishment.
Undoubtedly the new vessels tonnage would give it an advantage in any sort of “shoving match” with vessels of other coast guards, but why so large?
The original justification for the Japanese cutters was to escort plutonium shipments between Japan and Europe, but the second cutter was built long after that operation was suspended, so clearly the Japanese saw a different justification for the second ship of the class.
Even so the Chinese ship may prove larger still. Other than prestige, why so large? China’s EEZ is small (877,019 sq km) compared to that of the US (11,351,000 sq km) or even Japan’s (4,479,358 sq km). Even adding the EEZ of Taiwan and other areas claimed by China, but disputed by others (3,000,000 sq km), the total is only 3,877,019 sq km, and patrolling it does not require the long transits involved in patrolling the US or even the Japanese EEZ.
10,000 tons is about the size of a WWII attack transport, and with its potential to embark two large helicopters China’s new large cutter could certainly exceeds the capability of WWII destroyer and destroyer escort based fast transports (APD). Using its helicopters and boats it could quickly land at least an infantry company as could many of the smaller cutters. Chinese Coast Guard ships are already a common sight throughout the contested areas of the South China and East China Seas. Will Asia wake up some morning to learn there have been Chinese garrisons landed throughout the contested areas by the now all too familiar Chinese Coast Guard Cutters.

New Chinese Cutters–How Many?–Sorry, I’ve Lost Count

The China Defense Blog has three new posts with several photos of new Chinese Coast Guard Cutters.

The first is news of the award of a contract for four new 5,000 ton cutters. and while the text says they will be similar to an earlier 5,000 ton cutter (CMS01), the illustration that accompanies the story shows a very different ship, in many ways similar to the National Security Cutter. It appears there is a medium caliber gun on the bow. (This would be a significant but not unexpected change for the Chinese Coast Guard.) There is a frame over what appears to be a stern ramp not unlike that on the NSC. The hull shape also appears similar to the NSC.

The second post reports the commissioning of the second of two 4,000 cutters commissioned this month.

A third post asks, “What would a 12,000 ton Coast Guard Cutter Look Like?” reports as was reported here earlier, China’s intention to build the world’s largest Offshore Patrol Vessel. They don’t have any illustration of the new ship, but they do say it will have a 76mm gun, two 30mm, facilities to support two Z-8 helicopters, and a top speed of 25 knots.The size of the helicopters is notable. The Z-8 is a large, three engine, 13,000 kg helicopter based on the Aérospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon. The transport version of this helicopter can transport 38 equipped troops. The same airframe is also used for SAR, ASW, and vertical replenishment. The post also says it shows photos of new 3,000 ton cutters, but all the photos except those of hull number 3306 were referred to elsewhere as 4,000 ton cutters.

New hull numbers seen in this series of posts are 1401, 2401, 3401, 3306, and MSA-01). Unlike most earlier Chinese cutters, all of these ships have helicopter decks.

This is the fruition of their earlier stated ambition to build 36 cutters in three years for the Chinese Maritime Surveillance Agency (CMS, only one of four agencies that combined to form their Coast Guard).

Chinese to Build World’s Largest Cutter

File:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg
Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Shikishima, this class of two are currently the largest offshore patrol vessels in the world. Photo from Japanese Wikipedia; ja:ファイル:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg

German Navy blog “Marine Forum” reports (21 January) that the

China Ship-building Industry Corporation has been contracted with developing and building a 10,000-ton and another 4,000-ton surveillance ship.
(rmks: for paramilitary China Coast Guard or China Marine Surveillance)

Meanwhile, in a move designed to bolster their claims in the South China Sea, they also report,

With Vietnam: China will expand paramilitary infrastructure at Sansha City (Paracel Archipelago) in the South China Sea … permanently base a 5,000-ts patrol ship (rmks: prob. China Marine Surveillance – CMS) and begin regular patrols.

Don’t expect China’s new 10,000 ton cutter to look like a US Coast Guard Cutter. The Chinese seem to measure their Coast Guard primarily in comparison to the Japanese Coast Guard which has until now operated the largest cutters in the world, two 9,350 full load, Shikishima class high endurance helicopter carrying cutters. Like their Japanese counterparts, they are likely to be built to merchant standards, will be only lightly armed, but will have excellent aviation facilities. The additional tonnage is likely to give them an advantage if they get in a “shoving match” with opposing coast guards, and they are likely to have a secondary military transport role. With a relatively large number of boats, they could probably land a fair number of personnel in a relatively short time. By way of comparison the National Security Cutters are 4,500 tons full load.