Russian FRC–Compare and Contrast

We already looked at a comparison of the Russian Security Service’s counterpart of the National Security Cutter with the Coast Guard version. Thought some of you might be interested to see what their version of a Fast Response Cutter looks like.

The first of the class Svetlyak class were delivered in 1988 and they are still in production. The little ships comes in three versions. The most numerous is a patrol version for the Security Service (Project 10410–photo), there is a cruise missile equipped version for the Navy (Project 10411), and an export version (Project 10412) apparently with MTU engines in lieu of the Russian diesels. The Russians have 26 of these, the Slovenians one lightly armed version (more here), and the Vietnamese have two with at least two, possibly four, more on order, armed like the Russian Security Service vessels.

 

Comparing the two classes, the Webber Class, with it’s high bow, certainly looks more sea worthy, and it’s boat appears much more ready to launch quickly in heavy weather.

The Russian design is slightly larger (375 tons vice 353), slightly faster (30 vs 28), and slightly longer (163 ft vs 154). They have three engines and three shafts instead of two and about 88% more power. They also have a bit larger crew with accommodations for 28 (vs 22-24). Again the USCG vessel has the advantage in range (2,500 nmi vs 2,200–some sources say as little as 1,300). Continue reading

What Does It Take to Sink a Ship?

The Coast Guard spends much more time thinking about how to keep ships from sinking, than it does about how to sink them. But because the Coast Guard is tasked with maritime security and because of the potential for terrorists using a ship as a means of attack, the question has become relevant. It becomes important when you consider, is the Coast Guard adequately armed for its missions. I’ve mentioned several times that I don’t believe the 57 mm gun is adequate to stop a medium to large ship being used as a weapon. I’ll try to explain why I have reached that conclusion and offer some examples.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/BB61_USS_Iowa_BB61_broadside_USN.jpg

Stopping–keeping it from reaching the target–rather than sinking a ship is probably more the relevant criteria, but generally ships don’t sink rapidly, particularly if you are trying to do it with a gun, so almost inevitably it is necessary to do enough damage to ultimately sink the ship if you are going to stop it in a timely fashion. Many of the ships that I will talk about continued to fight on for over an hour after the first hits were registered. Think of sinking a close surrogate for stopping a ship before it reaches its objective.

There are of course many examples of ships either surviving grievous attacks or alternately ships sink after a single hit. What it takes to sink a ship is highly variable and at best probabilistic. Its highly dependent upon ship design and preparation, but the most important variable seems to be size.

World War II experience

Over a long period, I’ve made an informal study of this subject. The primary source I used was the US Navy Report of War Damage series available here. The same index also includes reports of individual ship damage and reports of damage to British warships. I would also recommend the “Destroyer Report: Gunfire, Bomb and Kamikaze Damage, 17Oct41-15Aug45” which includes annotated damage control plates. The amount of damage these little ships took and in some cases survived is truly amazing.

The US Navy Report of War Damage series briefly outlines all incidents of damage to US Navy Battleships, Carriers, Cruisers, Destroyers, and Destroyer Escorts as they were known at the time the document was published and includes diagrams of the location of hits. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Harbor Defense Organizations–Part Three

This is the third in a series comparing two incidents from World War II, in which ships tried to force entry into a hostile harbor, in an effort to draw some lessons from them. Part one looked at the bloody, but ultimately successful British assault on the fortified port of St Nazaire. The second was the unsuccessful attempt by heavy units of the German Navy to reach Oslo, Norway, thwarted by an obsolete and undermanned fixed fortification. What went wrong? And what went right? What can we learn?

St. Nazaire Raid

Continue reading

A Tale of Two Harbor Defense Organizations–Part One

This is the start of a three part series, the story of two harbor defense organizations, how one, already at war, well trained and well armed, failed to stop a small force, while another, ostensibly at peace, facing a vastly stronger force, and in many ways poorly prepared, managed to stop their enemy.

I’ll put both stories in context, but what I found most interesting and most relevant to current Coast Guard missions was the means employed and the relative success of each in stopping a hostile ship from reaching its objective inside a port. The third part will talk about implications for the Coast Guard.

File:Saint Nazaire Harbour 1942.png
First, the St Nazaire raid. This is normally told from the prospective of the heroic British sailors and commandos who successfully ran a small ship (about the size of a 210) into the gates of the only dry dock on the Atlantic coast of occupied Europe where major German warships, including the Battleship Tirpitz, could be serviced. There the four and a half tons of explosive packed into the bow of the ship, exploded, wrecking the dry dock gates and disabling it for the remainder of the war. Continue reading

A Tale of Two Harbor Defense Organizations–Part One

This is the start of a three part series, the story of two harbor defense organizations, how one, already at war, well trained and well armed, failed to stop a small force, while another, ostensibly at peace, facing a vastly stronger force, and in many ways poorly prepared, managed to stop their enemy.

I’ll put both stories in context, but what I found most interesting and most relevant to current Coast Guard missions was the means employed and the relative success of each in stopping a hostile ship from reaching its objective inside a port. The third part will talk about implications for the Coast Guard.

File:Saint Nazaire Harbour 1942.png
First, the St Nazaire raid. This is normally told from the prospective of the heroic British sailors and commandos who successfully ran a small ship (about the size of a 210) into the gates of the only dry dock on the Atlantic coast of occupied Europe where major German warships, including the Battleship Tirpitz, could be serviced. There the four and a half tons of explosive packed into the bow of the ship, exploded, wrecking the dry dock gates and disabling it for the remainder of the war. Continue reading

“The Forgotten Threat,” by Captain Jim Howe, USCG (retired)

The US Naval Institute, October 2010 issue, is their “Homeland Security” Issue.  There is not as much “Homeland Security” as you might expect. (There is a Eurofighter Typhoon on the cover.) It does includes articles on dealing with the threat of cross border violence from Drug Cartels and bio-terrorism, but clearly the article with the most Coast Guard implications is “The Forgotten Threat,By Captain Jim Howe, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired), that talks about the threat presented by terrorist attacks using vessels of less than 300 tons.

It outlines the problem and raises a lot of questions, but “it’s complicated.” Basically the thrust is that we have failed to plan. He’s probably right.

“Disappointingly, the resulting “Small Vessel Security Strategy” issued in April 2008 was little more than a skeleton, listing fundamental principles, cataloging a number of existing programs, and containing almost no detail on how potential threats would be addressed. Independent oversight bodies panned the report: DHS’s own inspector general said the agency “has not provided a comprehensive strategy for addressing small vessel threats.”1 Even more troubling, the follow-on implementation plan—arguably the most important piece of the notional strategy—languishes. As this issue went to press it had yet to emerge from the federal bureaucracy. There is, then, no road map to address terrorists’ potential use of small vessels.”

Clearly the Coast Guard is the number one stake holder–should I say bag holder.

What do we do about this is? In the spirit of “completed staff work,” draft a plan and provide it to the Department (this clearly puts the ball in their court). Clearly we have already done some of this. Otherwise we could not have come up with performance criteria.

Yes, some potential targets are impossible to protect. Some responsibility should go to other military services, state and local authorities, and to the owners of shore side facilities. We need to lay out our position. No, it won’t have force until its chewed over by all the interested parties and signed, but looks like someone needs to get it started and there is no one who has more interest in getting these questions on the table than the Coast Guard. That we need to resolve these issues in order to plan our procurement and force allocation should be obvious.

If Captain Howe is wrong and we have planned this out, I hope someone will correct the mistaken impression.

I’d like the headline to read “Coast Guard Foils Terrorist Attack” instead of …

And why weren’t there more articles with a Coast Guard flavor? Maybe we need to think and write more about our role in the department.

Group with Links to Al Qaeda Claims M.Star Was Suicide Attack

CNN is reporting that the attack on the Very Large Crude Carrier M. Star, discussed earlier, is now being claimed by a group with links to al Qaeda. Reportedly web sites have a picture of the man who reportedly carried out the attack.

Quoting from the CNN report:

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The group said the attack was intended to “strike an economic blow to the infidels.”

CNN was not immediately able to authenticate the claim.

The group, said to be inspired by al Qaeda, is believed to be behind several attacks in the Middle East, including the October 2004 attack on a hotel and nearby camp sites in Egypt that killed more than three dozen people.

The statement from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades said the attack on the tanker was the “conquest of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman” — a reference to the imprisoned blind cleric who inspired the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

“In a blessed episode of our Jihad in the name of God and in order to weaken the global infidel network, a battalion from our Jihadi brethrens managed to carry out an operation in order to strike an economic blow to the infidels,” the statement said.

“After midnight on last Wednesday, the hero, the martyrdom seeker Ayoub Tayshan, blew himself up in the Japanese tanker M. Star in the Strait of Hormuz between the United Arab Emirates and Oman causing damages, that were reported all over the international media outlets. This heroic operation will have a major effect on the global economy and the oil prices.”

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I’m tempted to yawn, but if they keep practicing, they may get better at this. Still it’s hard to keep experienced crews.

The Mumbai Terrorist Attack–additional information

Here is a bit more information about how the Mumbai terrorist attack developed, provided by UK based Warship magazine. That the boat carrying the terrorists was boarded and the boarding officers captured and killed without alerting the authorities should reaffirm the importance of supporting and keeping track of our people. Hopefully this would not have happened to a USCG team.

More on the South Korean Sinking–It was a torpedo–What next?

A bit more information about the Korean sinking here.

The South Koreans are in a very awkward situation. It will be interesting (as in the old Chinese curse) to see how this plays out.

Another question is, what kind of craft was used to launch the torpedo? The North Koreans have a wide range of platforms, from early Cold War Era Russian conventional sub designs, to midgets, planning hull semi-submersibles, torpedo boats, and “human torpedoes.” The more unconventional of these craft may make it to Iran and possibly on to terrorist groups.