C4ISR Upgrades

The Coast Guard’s Acquisitions Directorate (CG-9) is reporting that

The Coast Guard awarded a $31 million contract to Lockheed Martin Aug. 21, 2014, to purchase equipment to upgrade the electronic systems known as C4ISR – or Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance – on three National Security Cutters and at the NSC C4ISR training facility.

This is part of a larger Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Project.

“The C4ISR upgrade focuses on improving “interoperability,” or the ability of Coast Guard operating units to share information and coordinate operations with each other, with shore-based command centers and with other government agencies and allies. Other components will allow cutters (and aircraft?–Chuck) to send and receive tactical information including sensor, navigational and planning data to other U.S. military units as well as tactical sharing with international assets.”

•For NSCs, networked communications, radio direction finding and other capabilities to integrate with Navy battle groups and the broader U.S. government intelligence community
•For NSCs, HC-144As and HC-130Js, an advanced C4ISR suite that includes a common baseline across assets and transitions to an open architecture system of Coast Guard-controlled components with government software data rights
•The OPC’s C4ISR suite will be derived from the baseline used for NSC and other new platforms
•For in-service cutters, installation of commercial satellite communications and AIS
•For 378-foot and 270-foot cutters, Seawatch C2 system”

All well and good, but does it include Link 16? If so why not say so? If not why not? It seems to be very common and affordable. It is installed on boats smaller than the Webber class and on a wide range of aircraft including helicopters so it is certainly doable.

Bird’s Eye View for Ships

 Photo:  Valkyrie Virtual Mast System model   Kelsey D. Atherton 

ThinkDefence reports L3 is resurrecting an old idea to extend the horizon distance for  surface vessels. Their “virtual mast” puts sensors at high altitude without the need for a helicopter or UAV. Popular Science has a bit more detail, reporting that the proposed system could fly as high 5,000 feet. Sensors at that altitude would have a radar and visual horizon of 76 nautical miles.

Not sure how they would warn off air traffic that might otherwise hit the cable or the autogyro.

Historical Note: During WWII German U-boats used a similar unpowered tethered autogyro to take a lookout aloft, but their altitude was much more limited.

Not Your Father’s CG Aircraft

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Company officials unveiled the design for the Scorpion, in works since January 2012, during the annual Air Force Association Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. (Textron AirLand)

It looks like a small attack aircraft, but it is being marketed as a an ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) asset–kind of a manned drone.

“Weaver also indicated that the suitability for maritime surveillance could lead to sales with the Coast Guard.” (emphasis applied)

Probably ravings of a delusional company executive, but it is a bold move on the part of Textron, maker of Cessna aircraft.

Here is the Company’s web page. Five of the six missions they suggest are Dept. of Homeland Security Missions–Border Security, Maritime Security, Counter-Narcotics, Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Response, Aerospace Control Alert (the CG sort of does this around DC). Somehow I think it is doubtful the DHS will start getting their own “fighters.” That will almost certainly be how they would be seen–they have six underwing hardpoints.

It is a straight winged twin engine jet and probably has much in common with the Cessna Citation family of business jets. Reportedly it will fly 400+ knots, go out 150 miles, loiter for 5 hours, and return while carrying 3,000 pounds of ISR equipment, at a cost of “only” $3000/hour (how does that compare with the HC-144?) Didn’t we just give up our jets? And I think they had a toilet for those longer missions.

Textron's Scorpion, seen during a Dec. 5 taxi test, will take its first flight next week. The plane is designed for a multi-mission role, with an emphasis on ISR capabilities.

Textron’s Scorpion, seen during a Dec. 5 taxi test, will take its first flight next week. The plane is designed for a multi-mission role, with an emphasis on ISR capabilities. (Textron)

What Do We Do With All These Drones Now?

Defense News reports the Air Force is now attempting to figure out how to employ the hundreds of Reaper and Predator UAVs that entered USAF service or are still on order that now appear excess as a result of the end of the US participation in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several options are considered but none appears to be sufficient to use the large number that will be in the inventory.

There is one very interesting statistic included in the report, comparing the cost of the Reaper UAV with a manned alternative, the MC-12:

“And it’s not cheap to fly a Reaper. An hour of air time costs about $8,000, according to a 2012 audit by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Compare that to the $6,000-per-hour tab for an MC-12 Project Liberty, a twin-engine King Air plane flown by a pilot and a co-pilot with a technician and analyst in the back.”

Related: Surplus ISR Aircraft–MC-12Ws

Surplus ISR Aircraft–MC-12Ws


Illustration: from stephanelhernault@yahoo.fr via Wikipedia

Earlier we talked about how the Beech King Air C-12 might serve as replacement for the UAV capability currently missing from the Coast Guard’s system of systems.

Now there is a report that ten to twelve MC-12Ws already equipped for ISR may be declared surplus by the Air Force.

I think they are worth a look as possible Coast Guard assets.

DHS might also consider these valuable assets for disaster response.

(Thanks to Lee for the Heads-up)

Navy to Review Ship Needs–Opportunities for Cooperation?

File:BAMS-UAS.jpgAccording to Reuters, when the new Chief of Naval Operations addressed the Surface Navy Association on January 10, he offered some clues as to how he thought the Navy might address the changing environment and stated that a review of the Navy’s force structure is expected this spring.

There are a few areas where CG and Navy interests might intersect.

“The four-star admiral mapped out some areas of continued investment, including unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles…”

The CG could benefit, if Navy systems don’t become so sophisticated they are priced out of reach. Hopefully the Navy will apply their Broad Area Maritime Surveillance System (BAMS) (Navy illustration left) to areas of interest to the Coast Guard and the CG will be able to use it to help maintain maritime domain awareness.

“Greenert, who took over as the Navy’s top uniformed officer in September, told a packed audience that he made some changes to the Navy’s budget plan after visiting the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important shipping lane, which Iran last month threatened to shut off if new U.S. and EU sanctions over its nuclear program halted Iranian oil exports.

“He said funds were added for more mine warfare equipment, counter-swarm, and anti-submarine warfare.”

This could refer to mission modules for the Littoral Combat Ship program, but increased emphasis on ASW could mean another ship type may be needed. There could be an opportunity to share a hull with the OPC.

“Other priorities for the Navy in coming years included work on a next-generation destroyer to replace the Arleigh-Burke DDG-51 destroyers, a ship that he said would need a common hull and modular systems.”

So modular systems are being extended beyond the LCS program. This may be a way for cutters to have a meaningful war time role without the burden of maintaining weapon system on board in peacetime.

He also underscored the Navy’s interest in development of an anti-torpedo torpedo and new electronic warfare capabilities.

An anti-torpedo torpedo, might also be the basis of a system even small cutters could use for stopping large merchant ships.