More on the Navy’s New MkVI Patrol Boat


CIMSEC brings us a report on the new MkVI patrol boat. This one written by a former Coastie, Lawrence A. Hajek, reportedly previously he “served active duty with the US Coast Guard’s Deployable Specialized Forces as a Tactical Law Enforcement Team South LEDET Boarding Officer & later as a Sector Boarding Officer.”

We have talked about these boats before. In fact it has been one of the blog’s mot popular posts.

He gives us some indication of the possible concept of they will operations for the class, stating they will operate in pairs and suggesting they may be teamed with LCS. Perhaps not surprisingly Mr. Hajek see great advantage in teaming these boat with Coast Guard deployable boarding teams.

The post has a video (very gung ho) and a particularly good interior shot. There are several workstations with monitors and everyone has a shock mitigating seat.

It appears the crew served weapons mounts on top of the deck house have a panel outboard of the mounts. I suspect they are to provide ballistic protection. This seems like a reasonable precaution, if you are going to put gun crews out in the open. We did talk about protection alternatives three years ago.

Navy Merges Coastal and Riverine Forces

Some of the Navy units that the Coast Guard most commonly works with are being reorganized.

The Ports, Waterways, and Coastal Security (PWCS) mission the Coast Guard does in the US, when required outside the US, is a Navy responsibility, although they frequently seek Coast Guard assistance.

The Navy has decided to reorganize the way they do this mission, by combining at least to some extent, the organizations that do river and coastal missions.

They are also getting some new platforms to allow them to operate further from shore, including the new 85 foot patrol boat we talked about earlier.

There isn’t an exact correspondence between the way the Coast Guard defines the PWCS mission and the mission set for this new organization, but there are a lot of similarities and we can expect that there will be opportunities to train and exercise together.

Navy Partner being Disestablished

Interesting little note that proves again actions speak louder than words. An asset that supported the drug interdiction effort and helped in the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief is going away.

“…the Navy proposes to decommission a squadron at the air station in Belle Chasse, a move that would eliminate the only naval aviation unit dedicated to stemming the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States. Under the 2013 spending plan released Monday, the Navy Reserve’s Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77 would cease to exist Sept. 30…. the Navy ‘remains committed’ to countering narcotics trafficking.”

“VAW-77…played an instrumental role in the massive rescue operation following Hurricane Katrina. With their electronics and radar…the aircrews helped control airspace crowded with rescue helicopters. The squadron takes credit for rescuing 1,840 people in the New Orleans area.”

I suppose the surface surveillance capability may be replace by the BAMS program, still too frequently, it seems, a capability is removed with the promise that it will be replaced by a wonderful new system, only to see the new system become unaffordable and never come to fruition.

File:E-2C Landing.jpg

DoD photo by: MC3 (SW) JOHN HYDE, USN Date Shot: 13 Jul 2006

(Thanks to Lee for the info)

What Might Coast Guard Cutters do in Wartime? Part 1, Navy Shortfalls

Many of the new generation cutters may be around for another 50 years so it is likely they will see some conflict as previous generations have. What might cutters be doing if we go to war? What sort of environments? What possible missions? What capabilities do they have? And what might we want to be added?

We need to start with the question, what limitations does the Navy have that might prompt them to call on the Coast Guard? Why would the US Navy, by far the most powerful in the world, need help from the Coast Guard? Let’s look at their missions and the forces available.

Navy Missions

The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.

Included in that might be:

Protecting the US and its allies from attack from the sea in any of a number of forms, overt or covert, by air, surface, sub-surface, or missiles (both cruise and ballistic).

Projecting power against hostile forces, by a similar diverse range of options.

Protecting US and friendly nations’ use of the oceans and the air above them for purposes including (but not limited to) both military and economic exploitation.

Denying that use to hostile powers.

Those objectives entail a huge range of subsidiary tasks. New missions, like defending population centers against ballistic missile attacks, have been added, but centuries old historic missions still must also be addressed.


The Navy currently has approximately 285 vessels, but not all these are combatant ships. The exact composition changes frequently but they have roughly:

  • 2 Fleet command ships
  • 11 aircraft carriers (there is talk that this may go down to 9. In the not to distant past 15 was the norm)
  • 28 Amphipbious assault ships (LHA/LHD/LPD/LSD)
  • 83 Guided missile Cruisers and Destroyers
  • 26 Frigates (soon to be decommissioned)
  • 2 Littoral Combat ships (LCS) (55 ships planned, expected to replace remaining frigates, the 14 mine countermeasures ships, and the 11 Cyclone class patrol craft)
  • 57 SSN and SSGN submarines armed with torpedoes and tactical missiles
  • 14 SSBN Strategic Defense Ballistic Missile submarines
  • 14 Mine Counter Measures Ships (MCM) (soon to be decommissioned)
  • 11 Cyclone Class Patrol Craft
  • 37 Underway replenishment ships

This is the fewest ships in the US Navy in almost a hundred years. Additionally in view of current budget limitations the size of the fleet is likely to shrink further. Nine cruisers and three LSDs are expected to be decommissioned including some as young as 20 years old, and since the “super committee” has failed to act, the entire LCS program may be in jeopardy, and the fleet may be reduce to approximately 230 ships.

Even if its budget is not cut, if it only remains static, the fact that ship prices are going up faster than inflation, and the Navy is choosing to concentrate more and more technology in fewer and fewer ships means the number of ships will likely continue to fall.


Most of these ships are individually superbly capable, but the US Navy has some known weakness.

  • Inshore
  • Mine Counter Measures (MCM)
  • Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
  • Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS)
  • Sea Control
  • Base Security

INSHORE: The Navy has very few shallow draft patrol craft of a type useful for boarding and  inspecting coastwise traffic. This is why the Coast Guard has been in Iraq, and why 82s were sent to Vietnam. Fortunately recent requirements have been small because the Iraqi coast line is short. Almost anywhere else, controlling coastal traffic will be much more difficult.

MCM: Despite the fact that since WWII, mines have done more damage to US Navy ships than any other weapon, the US Navy’s MCM capability is modest and generally regarded as both more poorly equipped and less professional than their European counterparts. The LCS program has been expected to address this, but the mine countermeasures systems planned for the LCS are still a long way from maturity. Still the concept of add-on, portable, modular systems is appealing.

ASW: Anti-submarine Warfare capabilities were allowed to decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was understandable under the circumstances, but now the ASW problem is reemerging. Historically ASW has been a “numbers” problem as well as a quality problem. Certainly the US Navy has the quality, but they no longer have large numbers. Not only is the number of escort vessels down dramatically including the impending total disappearance of specialized ASW escorts, carriers no longer have fixed wing ASW aircraft, and Maritime patrol aircraft numbers are way down. Reserve fleets have disappeared and additionally, allied fleets have also declined even more precipitously.

NSFS: Since the decommissioning of the Iowa Class battleships, there has been concern that there has not been enough Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) assets. This concern went as far as resulting in a Congressional mandate (Section 1011 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 (Public Law 104-106; 110 Stat. 421)). There have been several attempts to address this need including putting NLOS missiles on the LCS ships and a plan to build 32 “Land Attack” Zumwalt Class Destroyers with advanced gun systems. The NLOS missile has been canceled and the Zumwalt class has been truncated at only three ships. In a benign environment close air support can fill this void, but if there is an active air defense or air superiority is contested, NSFS may be essential.

SEA CONTROL: Julian Corbett was the disciple of Sea Control and as he would say, Battle force ships make sea control possible, but cannot be exercised by “battleships” alone. There is the question of simple numbers.  At the end of WWII the Navy had 6,768 ships, including 1,600 ships of over 1,000 tons, and those ships were complimented by similarly large numbers of allied vessels. The number of ships in the Navy has been steadily declining and it appears they may decline even more. Numerically this is the smallest US Navy since World War I, almost 100 years. Salt water covers approximately 69% of the earth’s surface or about 352,103,700 km²–roughly 100 million square nautical miles (rounding down a bit). That is roughly 352,113  sq. miles/ship. If we look at only cruisers, destroyers, and the projected LCS force (less than 140 ships) then that is about 715,000 square miles per ship. Spread evenly across the ocean they would be more than 800 miles apart, but of course ships are not spread evenly across the ocean and they are not all underway all the time, and they have missions other than sea control. Our attempts to control the flow of Narcotics by sea and attempts to prevent piracy off Africa demonstrate how truly hard Sea Control can be. The US and its close allies no longer control the majority of merchant and fishing fleets. Potential enemies control substantial numbers of ships that could damage the US and its allies in a number of ways including landing agents, smuggling weapons, laying mines, or directly attacking assets. Russian attempts to market the “Club-K” cruise missile as a containerized system that can weaponize any vessel with space for a standard 40 foot container highlights the potential dangers of failure to control enemy shipping.

BASE SECURITY: Once the US Navy was present in virtually every American port and there were a host of small ships that provided security for these bases. Navy resources are increasingly concentrated and the flotillas of small craft are gone. The Chinese vision of how to counter the US includes attacks on vulnerable rear area and logistical support. In Adm. Liu’s vision. “In applying tactics to ‘active defense’ operations, we would act on the guiding principle that we advance if the enemy advances. That is, if the enemy attacked our coastal areas, we would attack the enemy’s rear.”…Liu recounts addressing a June 1984 forum. He was gratified that the navy had embraced “a unified guiding ideology for its combat operations. It had made clear the combat principle of ‘active defense, offshore battles’ and the combat forms of ‘positional warfare for firm coastal defense, mobile sea warfare, and sabotage guerrilla sea warfare.’”


When you start with only 120 to 140 surface combatants, after assigning ships to escort eleven carriers and ten Amphibious ready groups, assigning ships for Ballistic Missile Defense, and factoring in maintenance requirements, there simply is very little left for other missions.

Changing Naval Balance

For background:

Numbers of course, are not the whole story. The US fleet is, by tonnage, far in excess of any competitor. The relatively strong allied fleets of Japan and South Korea are not included. The US still far outspends most of the rest of the world and most of the top ten navies of the world are our allies.

Still the decline of the Russian (Soviet) Navy and the continued growth of the Chinese Navy are clear. China’s rapidly improving quality including ships comparable to Aegis destroyers is not.

Source: Combat Fleets of the World here.

Shipbuilding–My Grand Plan–Navy and CG Work Together

One of the criticisms of the Navy and Coast Guard’s ship building programs has been that they were not coordinated; that they should have been able to come up with a common hull. I think there may still be an excellent opportunity to do that and get the benefit of large scale series production, by combining the 25 ship Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) with the last 31 ships of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.

Continue reading

Bring Back the Coast Guard ASW Mission

With the end of the Soviet Union, it looked like there was no longer a significant threat from submarines. The Coast Guard, whose ASW assets were already largely obsolete, took the opportunity to simplify its training and maintenance requirements by eliminating what remained of the Coast Guard’s ASW capability. It made sense at the time, but times have changed.

The Emerging Threat

For the first time, with narcotics traffickers starting to use true submarines, it looks like an ASW capability is essential to do a peacetime mission. (The primary surface ship ASW sensor, the towed array, can also help us find semi-submersibles and possibly other targets as well.)

In addition, the threat of military submarines has reemerged.  There are still relatively few nuclear submarines in the hands of possible adversaries (other than possibly Russia) but their numbers are growing, and new air independent submarine technologies are making diesel electric submarines deadlier then ever.

Why the Navy will need Help

Continue reading

Counting the Cutters

Every year the Navy addresses the Congress and tells them how many ships they have and how many ships they need to do their missions. These numbers do not include Coast Guard ships, but perhaps they should.

The numbers of ships the Navy requires is, to at least some extent, based on the number of Cutters in the Coast Guard.

Protecting a nation’s coast and its ports is normally the most basic and immediate task of any navy. For the US Navy this has hardly been a consideration. Overt threats are kept at arms length by projecting power at great distance, pushing the defensive perimeter far from our shores. But for covert threats, there is also the presumption that those threats will be addressed by the Coast Guard. If there were no Coast Guard, the Navy would have to provide these ships, distracting form their forward strategy.

Additionally war plans anticipate the use of cutters for tasks other than defense of the US coast. If there were no Coast Guard, the Navy would also need to supply these ships.

What would including the Coast Guard do for us? It would

  • Identify national security implications of a shortfall in Coast Guard assets
  • Identify assets that could be either Coast Guard or Navy and result in more explicit consideration of trade-offs
  • Identify capabilities the Navy would like to see in Coast Guard vessels and recognition of the benefits of marginal improvements in cutters toward the national defense

In terms of personnel the Coast Guard is now larger than the Royal Navy. In effect it is the Navy’s closest and most reliable ally. The economic advantages of close coordination are compelling.

We have heard references to a “National Fleet.” Perhaps it is time to apply the concept to procurement planning as well as operations.

“Navy at a Tipping Point,” What Does It Mean to the Coast Guard?

The Navy is shrinking and will have to make some hard choices. How will this effect the Coast Guard?

March 1, 2010 the Center for Naval Analysis published a now widely read and quoted treatise, discussing how the Navy can best reorder its priorities to deal with the new realities of a shrinking fleet and the rise of new potential competitors, particularly China, ” The Navy at a Tipping Point: Maritime Dominance at Stake?” It is available as a pdf and can be downloaded here.

It accepts that the Navy will shrink to approximately 230 ship from its current level of approximately 285 and outlines five alternative futures.

  • 2 Hub–continuously maintaining forward deployed Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean (IO) at the expense of engagement (nation building/maritime policing) and forcible entry (amphib) capability.
  • 1+ Hub–maintaining a forward deployed CSG in the Western Pacific and a tailored task group based on amphibs in the IO
  • Shaping–emphasizing maritime policing, Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HS/DR), and engagement with friendly navies/coast guards at the expense of combat capability (trying to create a more peaceful world but compromising warfighting ability)
  • Surge–Emphasizing strong combat capability but with much reduced forward deployment/engagement
  • Shrinking Status Quo–trying to continue doing all the same things with less

In the sparest terms their impact on the fleet are outlined below (ref. p 43):

  • 2 Hub–fewer amphibs and low end assets, more Aegis and SSNs
  • 1+ Hub–fewer CSG, more low end assets
  • Shaping–fewer CSG, Aegis, and SSNs, more amphibs and low end
  • Surge–fewer amphibs, low-end, and logistics, more Aegis and SSNs
  • Shrinking Status Quo–less of everything

Relative to their emphasis on the high end to low end spectrum the resulting fleet looks like this:

High End–2 Hub, Surge, Shrinking Status Quo, 1+ Hub, Shaping–Low End


The study doesn’t explicitly address some missions.

  • ASW protection for merchant shipping (and the attendant need for frigates), once a core mission of the Navy, wasn’t considered at all.
  • ASW operations against SSBNs wasn’t explicitly addressed
  • Nor were changes to our nuclear deterrents (SSBNs)
  • Possible future requirements to impose a blockade, if considered at all, were only addressed in nebulous terms of establishing “Sea Control” and the large number of low end units required was not addressed.

The USN doesn’t seem to regard coastal defense of the US as a mission that it needs to concern itself with. (I suppose that’s why we have a Coast Guard.) It is mentioned in the study only as a “wild card” that might constrain future options (page 22).

The Coast Guard performs many of the missions that Navies do in most countries. This has relieved the Navy of the requirement to maintain large numbers of low end assets. Unlike most countries, the US essentially has two Navies–the High End Navy and the low end Coast Guard. Since the USN has abdicated the low end tasks, expecting the Navy to mentor low end Navies around the world may be unrealistic anyway.

What I think will happen:

The Navy will make every effort to keep their high end assets–Carriers, Aegis equipped Guided Missile Cruisers and Destroyers and Submarines–exemplified in the  “2 Hub”  option, perhaps with deployments pulled back from the Asian mainland in recognition of the dangers of a Chinese first strike.

Amphibs and low end forces will be cut back further. The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) will be truncated far short of the originally planned 55 units.

Navy support for drug enforcement will be reduced, as will “engagement” in terms of interaction with small navies and coast guards. The Coast Guard will be asked to fill in, in the engagement role.

In wartime, the need for small vessels to do inspections for contraband, either as a quarantine or blockade or off the shores of friendly countries, as we did in Vietnam in Operation Market Time, or to protect offshore assets, as we are doing now off Iraq, will fall increasingly on the Coast Guard.

What I think we should do:

That the Coast Guard has a defense role needs to be more widely recognized, planned for, equipped, and appropriately funded, meaning a marginally larger force.

While I personally doubt its effectiveness, it can be argued that reduced Navy commitments in support of drug enforcement will need to be replaced by less expensive Coast Guard assets.

The Coast Guard can do engagement missions cheaper and possibly better, but they need to be properly funded, because they do effect our force structure. The same may be true of counter piracy.

To make it happen, we really need the Navy to strongly support the Coast Guard, and if they choose the high end option, they have an incentive to do so, as a way of explaining why they can reasonably walk away from some of the things they have done in the past and “let the Coast Guard do it.”

Offshore Patrol Cutters–Why the Navy Should Support the Program

A number of things have happened that makes the Offshore Patrol Cutters potentially important to the national defense, and suggest that the Navy should support their design and construction, including helping with project administration if we need that and testifying before Congress to justify the additional cost of naval features.

  • The number of ships in the Navy has decreased dramatically. From almost 600 ships 20 years ago, the number has fallen to about 280, in spite of constant statements to the effect that 313 is the minimum number required. Many expect that the number of Navy ships will fall to as low as 230. Much of the decrease has been in ships at the low end of the high/low mix and the planned replacement is behind schedule, and in the eyes of many, a failure. Our allies’ fleets have also been shrinking, in many cases, more rapidly than our own, while new challenges to American naval supremacy are developing, so the importance of any Coast Guard contribution is proportionately greater.
  • Despite having entered service between 1979 and 1989, the FFGs, which are the “maid of all works” within the Navy, are being rapidly decommissioned and will soon be all gone because of maintenance problems. These are the ships that do most of the Navy’s partnerships station and drug enforcement work. (29 of 51 built currently in service)
  • The Cyclone Class Patrol Craft, that entered service between 1993 and 2000, have been found to have deteriorated much faster than expected and have been sidelined. Never quite what the Navy hoped for, too small for some roles and too large for others, they became busiest vessels in the US Navy with proportionately more underway time than any other type. (Of 14 built, 10 in service with the USN, 3 with USCG, one transferred to Philippine Navy)
  • The Littoral Combat ships (LCS) were supposed to fix some of these problems. This was a program to build 55 ships that would replace the Navy’s 14 Mine Warfare ships, the remaining FFGs, and the Cyclone Class PCs. They were to be cheap to build, minimally manned, and use removable mission modules that would allow them to become alternately mine countermeasures, anti-submarine, or anti-surface warfare ships. The LCS program is in trouble. Ship construction is behind schedule, and module development is even farther behind. The ships are much more expensive than expected. The manning concepts appears flawed and berthing limitations mean more people cannot simply be added to the crew. If the program is killed the Navy is going to need a replacement.

If the LCS project is killed, a class based on the OPC’s hull might be able to take its place. If the LCS program is terminated at less than the planned number, Navy ships based on the OPC can supplement the LCS and do many, perhaps all of it’s missions, at a lower cost. Even if all 55 LCSs are built, Coast Guard OPCs can still make a significant contribution to the Nation’s defense; particularly, if they can use systems designed for the LCS.

Navy vessels based on the OPC could cost less than half the price of an LCS. Even without mission modules, the Navy could use the class as the basis for a common hull that could be fill the partnership, patrol, presence, counter-piracy, and drug enforcement roles of the FFGs at a much lower cost and also perform many of the PCs missions with greater endurance and better sea keeping. They are potentially affordable, relatively low tech platforms, that can be exported under the Foreign Military Assistance Program to help our friends. If their aviation facilities are made adequate for MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters (not much different from our own H-60s), with LCS modules they could fill the LCS roles. (This might require them to operate in pairs to carry all the equipment planned for a LCS)

To fulfill its potential in these roles, the OPC need not be much different from current planning. The ship’s description over at the Acquisitions Directorate web site has gotten progressively fuzzier over time, but I will be specific about what I think it needs.

  • Speed: 25 knots
  • Aviation Facilities including a hanger for at least: one USCG MH-65 and one MQ-8 Firescout UAV/one USCG HH-60J or MH-60T/one USN MH-60R or 60S with magazines and storage space for independent operation with these aircraft, not just the ability to land and refuel.
  • Air Search Radar that can track our helos at least 100 miles
  • Launch/recover facilities for at least two boats, 11 meters or larger, including at least one “Long Range Interceptor.”
  • Medium caliber gun and associated radar/optical firecontrol system–presumably 57 mm Mk 110, but Mk 75 would work too and might save money
  • At least one/preferably two Mk38 mod2 auto-cannon positioned as required to cover any bearings not covered by the medium caliber gun
  • Four mounts for .50 cal. positioned to provide coverage by at least two mounts any bearing
  • Two OPC operated together, should have the sufficient space/weight reservation and necessary supporting connections/utilities/etc to take on at least one full suite of LCS MCM or ASW mission modules.
  • Fitted for but not with: CIWS, ESM/decoy systems, and anti-surface missile chosen for the LCS, ie NLOS or system chosen to replace it