The Coast Guard as a Navy, How Do We Stack Up?

Coasties frequently compare the size of their service to the New York City Police Force. The Marines think they are a small service, but Coast Guard is only one fifth their size. We usually only see comparisons with Navies in terms of how old our ships are, but how do we stack up in terms of numbers of people?

Would it surprise you to know that with over 42,000 active duty Coast Guardsmen, we have as many, or more people, than the British or French Navies?

The following list is not exhaustive and I can’t guarantee it’s 100% accurate (Wikipedia), but it is representative of the personnel numbers for some significant Navies around the world. As near as possible I’ve only included active duty. In some cases, even when not marked, the figure includes Marines.

U.S. Navy: 330,729
People’s Republic of China : 250,000
Russia: 161,000
India: 56,000
Japan: 46,000
(North) Korean People’s Army Naval Force: 46,000
France: 42,550
Spain: 47,300 including Marines
Republic of Korea (South): 68,000 including 27,000 Marines
Royal Navy: 39,100 including 7,500 Marines
Italy: 35,200
Chile: 25,000
Pakistan: 24,000
Republic of China: 23,000
Argentina: 17,200
Germany 17,000
Australia: 12,500
Netherlands: 10,000
Canada: 9,000

The US Navy is shrinking. We seem to be included in Navy planning more than in the past, but it still seems the services potential as a “naval reserve” frequently goes unrecognized and the potential of relatively modest expenditures to enhance that role are not considered.

National Security Cutter as Navy Patrol Frigate

Navy Times’ “Scoop Deck” asks what the Navy will do “After the frigates are gone” and suggest that variants of the National Security Cutter (NSC) might be a better solution than the Littoral Combat Ship (LSC).

Back in March, Defense News also suggested that the NSC might be the Navy’s best option.

This has been an on going discussion for a long time, fueled no doubt by Northop Grumman’s desire to sell more ships. But the suggestion has been taken seriously. In July 2009, the Congressional Budget Office Study did a study that included an upgraded 20 NSCs as an option to 25 of the LCS.

That study suggested that these 20 NSCs be upgraded as follows:

“For approximately $260 million, the Navy could replace the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) currently used on the national security cutter with the SeaRAM Mk-15 CIWS. Unlike the former system, which consists of a rapid-firing gun designed to engage subsonic antiship missiles at close ranges, the SeaRAM CIWS would incorporate a rolling airframe missile on the same physical space but provide the ship with the ability to engage supersonic antiship cruise missiles out to 5 nautical miles. The SeaRAM system includes its own sensor suite—a Ku band radar and forward-looking infrared imaging system— to detect, track, and destroy incoming missiles.

“An additional layer of antiship missile defense could be provided by installing the Mk-56 vertical launch system with Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSMs) along with an Mk-9 Tracker/Illuminator system to detect, track, and engage antiship missiles. The ESSM can engage supersonic antiship missiles at a range of nearly 30 nautical miles. Installing 20 sets of a 12-cell launching system (which would carry 24ESSMs), buying the missiles, and integrating the weapons with the ships would cost about $1.1billion.”

So these upgrades would cost $1.360B/20 ships or $68M/ship

With many more critics than supporters, there is a lot speculation that the Navy will not build anywhere near the 55 LCSs currently planned. The black-eye lean manning is getting in the Navy lately, and the fact that the LCSs are designed for lean manning with no apparent option for growing the crew, is adding to criticism of its limited weapons and poor endurance. The Coast Guard is looking smart for providing the NSCs and OPCs with both realistic crews and room for growth.

If the government wanted to open an option for the future, it might be smart to increase the CG buy of NSCs to 12, to make up some of the shortage of ship days that is certainly in our future and direct that the last 6 be made as a “B” class with a weapons fit including the systems sited above, a towed array sonar, and all necessary space and equipment for support of two MH-60Fs, with the marginal cost paid out of the Navy budget. The nation would have an additional capability and the Navy would have have a ready option in a mature design, that could take on the functions of the FFGs.