UAS Developments

There has been some interesting news on unmanned air systems (UAS).

A “sense and avoid” radar system has been developed for the the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) land based system. Replacing “See and Avoid” with no eyes on board has been a problem in integrating UAS with the domestic air traffic control system. This system does not give all around detection, but then eyes don’t see under the plane or what is coming up behind either.

Lighter than air, or in this case slightly heavier than air always seems almost ready. The Army and Northrop Grumman’s optionally manned long endurance, multi-intelligence vehicle (LEMV). has had its first flight.

“HAV business development director Hardy Giesler told AIN today that, configured as a freighter, the airship could carry a payload of 20 tonnes, but for the ISR mission it is designed to carry a 2,500-pound payload at 20,000 feet for 21 days. The Army says the airship will perform the ISR mission with fuel consumption 10 times less than that of mission-comparable platforms, and that it will provide a 2,000-mile radius of action.”
There is also a report that the few land based drones the Department of Homeland security has employed over water have not been as successful as might have been hoped. It does look like this report originated with Customs and Border Protection’s aviation unit. They might have their own agenda.

Summer 2012 “Delivering the Goods” Available

The new addition of the Acquisition Directorate’s news letter, “Delivering the Goods” (pdf), is available here.

It is an informative issue. There are stories about

  • Developing the infrastructure to accept the first 18 Webber Class Cutters–6 to Miami, 6 to Key West, and finally 6 to San Juan
  • The 35 foot “Long Range Interceptor” LRI II boat for the National Security Cutters
  • Rescue 21 maintenance contract
  • Expected completion of the 110 Mission Effectiveness project. (Only 17 of the 49 (now really only 41) will get this treatment.)
  • There is a note about installation of the “Watchkeeper” software for inter-agency operations centers
  • A profile of the C-130 project manager
  • And, Master Chief Ayers talks about Coast Guard interest in small Unmanned Air Systems, particularly Scan Eagle.

Offshore and Aviation Fleet Mix Study Published

The Coast Guard has made public the Executive Summary of its Offshore and Aviation Fleet Mix Study. “FierceHomelandSecurity” has published a short summary of the content.

They also provided a direct link to the “Executive Summary” (a 24 page pdf). It is heavy with acronyms, and there is no list of acronyms attached to the Executive Summary, although there is probably one in the full study. I’ve attached a list of those I found, at the end of the post for those who might want a little help going through the summary.

“This initial phase of the FMA (Fleet Mix Analysis-ed.) is intended to address offshore surface and aviation capabilities. Follow-on FMA phases will assess capabilities needed for coastal and inland missions as well as emerging missions, such as Arctic operations and those of the Deployable Operations Group (DOG).

“ES.5.1  SCOPE:

“The FMA explored the projected Fleet mix requirements to meet the CG’s 11 statutory missions in FY2025. Mission requirements were based on nine Mission Performance Plans (MPPs) and an assessment of critical activities, such as training and support, which consume asset mission availability.

“The FMA included all CG aviation (fixed- and rotary-wing), all white-hull cutters (FRC up to NSC), and all applicable C4ISR systems.

“The FMA focused on activities in the offshore and aviation operating environment. Offshore and aviation are defined in the FMA as being generally 50+ nautical miles offshore and/or requiring extended presence. The FMA also considered missions within 50 nautical miles that consume air asset availability.

“The FMA used the 2007 CG Fleet, as defined in the 2007 Modeled CONOPS (Concept of Operations-ed.) and the “Deepwater” POR (Program of Record-ed.) as Baselines for comparative performance and cost analysis.


“Preliminary Operational Requirements Document (P-ORD) thresholds were used for the OPC (Offshore Patrol Cutter-Chuck).

“The OPC and NSC will operate 230 days away from homeport (DAFHP). No specific crewing method is assumed (i.e., crew rotation concept [CRC]).

“The HC-144A will operate at 800 programmed flight hours (PFH) per year. (This is a reduction from previous assumption–Chuck)

“U.S. Navy out-of-hemisphere (OOH) (2.0 OPC/NSC) and Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) (7.0 OPC/NSC) support was consistent with the FY2010 demand.

“Additional acquisition/next generation platforms have the same capabilities and cost as the FMA Baseline Fleet mix cutters and aircraft (e.g., the next-generation short range recovery (SRR) helicopter is an MH-65C).


“The High Latitude regions of the ice shelf and Deployable Operations Group (DOG) mission requirements were not considered.

“No specific MDA performance measures have been established to model.

“87-ft coastal patrol boat (CPB), 225-ft seagoing buoy tender (WLB), Department of Defense (DoD)/Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and foreign asset contributions were considered, but force level requirements for 87-ft CPB, 225-ft WLB, DoD/DHS and foreign assets were not assessed.

“Additional shore facilities (e.g., schools, berthing, simulators/training aids, etc.) beyond those directly associated with platforms (e.g., piers, hangars, etc.) are not included in costs.

“”The need for non-operational/shore billet increases commensurate with the projected increases in operational manning was not assessed and is not included in costs.

“All cost estimates are rough order of magnitude (ROM) and are not budget quality.

“Additional specific assumptions utilized for modeling, simulation, and costing are included in their respective chapters of the final report.

“ES.3  Methodology:

“The Fleet Capacity Analysis (FCA) combined information developed in the mission validation phase, the capability definition phase, and a Warfare Analysis Laboratory Exercise (WALEX) to produce an objective Fleet mix and incremental Fleet mix alternatives. To develop the objective Fleet mix, the FMA used three independent teams with unique force projection tools or methodologies – the Database Enhanced Center for Naval Analysis (CNA) IDS Asset Assessment Tool (CIAAT) Model (DECMv2), the Mission Effectiveness Asset Needs Model (MEAN), and a qualitative analysis by a panel of CG SMEs – to develop a force structure that was aligned with MPP capability and capacity targets. Each team applied their methodology using a common set of asset characteristics and mission demands to develop a zero-based force mix (capable of meeting all mission requirements) projection. The results from these independent projections were considered as three “lines of position” (LOPs) and were consolidated to form a conceptual “fix.””

Seven Alternative Fleets:

The Study looks at seven levels of effort: Continue reading

Unmanned Air Systems, Small Enough for WPB? is reporting the Israelis are seeking an Unmanned Air System (UAS) for their Dvora class patrol boats (here, here, and here) that range in length from 71 to 86 feet and 45 to 54 tons (smaller than a CG 87 foot Marine Protector Class WPBs). Steadicopter showed its Black Eagle 50, as a possible contender.

Perhaps it would not be unreasonable for the Coast Guard to start considering unmanned systems to complement the Webber Class that are six times as large.

Photo credit:, via Wikipedia

A Truely Low Cost Maritime Surveillance Aircraft

Spanish IT contractor Indra, SELEX Galileo, FLIR Systems and Airborne Technologies are equipping an Italian built, light twin aircraft to perform maritime surveillance.


“Regarding the sensors, the aircraft will be equipped with SELEX Galileo’s Seaspray 5000E radar whose detail degree allows distinction of the shapes and sizes of objects and is capable of detecting vessels or small objects in the sea. It will also carry a state-of-the-art  electroptical camera of large format and high definition of FLIR Systems. We should also add a vessel id system which captures the automatic signals of ships. This identification signal emitted by ships is compared with that supplied by the aircraft sensors, thus facilitating surveillance and detection of suspicious actions.”

In its civilian form, the Tecnam P2006 is the lightest certified twin engine aircraft sold in the US. It has two 98 HP engines that can run on either AvGas or premium auto-gas. The four seat is about the size and price of a Cessna 172. Fuel burn is less than 10 gal. per hour.

An ability to search up to 40,000 sq miles (e.g. 200×200) on a single sortie is claimed.

This might be thought of as an alternative to UAVs.

Deepwater program “Unachievable”–GAO, Part One

The GAO has issued a status report on the Coast Guard’s “Deepwater” programs. The Navy Times has a pretty good summary. (Note the Coast Guard has requested that the “Deepwater” designation be dropped, but it had not happened when the report was issued.)

Based on the the GAO report, we can expect that the programs will both cost more and take longer than planned. In fact these two problems appear to be mutually reinforcing. Because the costs are higher, the schedule is stretched out. Because the schedule is stretched out, the cost goes up.

Illustration below: The plan–six years ago

You can see the entire GAO report (pdf format) here. Below is the GAO’s own summary of the report taken from the “recommendations” page associated with this report on their web site.

“The Deepwater Program includes efforts to build or modernize ships and aircraft, including supporting capabilities. In 2007, the Coast Guard took over the systems integrator role from Integrated Coast Guard Systems (ICGS) and established a $24.2 billion program baseline which included schedule and performance parameters. Last year, GAO reported that Deepwater had exceeded cost and schedule parameters, and recommended a comprehensive study to assess the mix of assets needed in a cost-constrained environment given the approved baseline was no longer feasible. GAO assessed the (1) extent to which the program is exceeding the 2007 baseline and credibility of selected cost estimates and schedules; (2) execution, design, and testing of assets; and (3) Coast Guard’s efforts to conduct a fleet mix analysis. GAO reviewed key Coast Guard documents and applied criteria from GAO’s cost guide.

“The Deepwater Program continues to exceed the cost and schedule baselines approved by DHS in 2007, but several factors continue to preclude a solid understanding of the program’s true cost and schedule. The Coast Guard has developed baselines for some assets that indicate the estimated total acquisition cost could be as much as $29.3 billion, or about $5 billion over the $24.2 billion baseline. But additional cost growth is looming because the Coast Guard has yet to develop revised baselines for all assets, including the OPC–the largest cost driver in the program. In addition, the Coast Guard’s most recent capital investment plan indicates further cost and schedule changes not yet reflected in the asset baselines, contributing to the approved 2007 baseline no longer being achievable. The reliability of the cost estimates and schedules for selected assets is also undermined because the Coast Guard did not follow key best practices for developing these estimates. Coast Guard and DHS officials agree that the annual funding needed to support all approved Deepwater baselines exceeds current and expected funding levels, which affects some programs’ approved schedules. The Coast Guard’s acquisition directorate has developed action items to help address this mismatch by prioritizing acquisition program needs, but these action items have not been adopted across the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard continues to strengthen its acquisition management capabilities, but is faced with several near-term decisions to help ensure that assets still in design will meet mission needs. For example, whether or not the planned system-of-systems design is achievable will largely depend upon remaining decisions regarding the design of the command and control system. Important decisions related to the affordability, feasibility, and capability of the OPC also remain. For those assets under construction and operational, preliminary tests have yielded mixed results and identified concerns, such as design issues, to be addressed prior to initial operational test and evaluation. The Coast Guard is gaining a better understanding of cost, schedule, and technical risks, but does not always fully convey these risks in reports to Congress. As lead systems integrator, the Coast Guard planned to complete a fleet mix analysis to eliminate uncertainty surrounding future mission performance and produce a baseline for Deepwater. This analysis, which the Coast Guard began in 2008, considered the current program to be the “floor” for asset capabilities and quantities and did not impose cost constraints on the various fleet mixes. Consequently, the results will not be used for trade-off decisions. The Coast Guard has now begun a second analysis, expected for completion this summer, which includes an upper cost constraint of $1.7 billion annually–more than Congress has appropriated for the entire Coast Guard acquisition portfolio in recent years. DHS is also conducting a study to gain insight into alternatives that may include options that are lower than the program of record for surface assets. A DHS official stated that this analysis and the Coast Guard’s fleet mix analysis will provide multiple data points for considering potential changes to the program of record, but Coast Guard officials stated they have no intention of examining fleet mixes smaller than the current, planned Deepwater program. GAO is making recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that include identifying trade-offs to the planned Deepwater fleet and ensuring the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) design is achievable and to the Coast Guard that include identifying priorities, incorporating cost and schedule best practices, increasing confidence that assets will meet mission needs, and reporting complete information on risks to Congress in a timely manner. DHS concurred with the recommendations.”

For those of you who don’t want to wade through the entire report, I’ll be revisiting this topic to highlight GAO’s reservations regarding costs, scheduling, and capabilities.


Fleet Mix–Where are the Trade-Offs?

A recent GAO report offers some insight into how the AC&I budget will work for the next few years. The report is accessible here: Coast Guard: Observations on Acquisition Management and Efforts to Reassess the Deepwater Program
GAO-11-535T, Apr 13, 2011
Quick View Quick view toggle Summary (HTML)   Highlights Page (PDF)   Full Report (PDF, 18 pages)   Accessible Text

The thrust of the report seems to be that while the coast Guard has made some progress in managing its own programs since terminating Deepwater there are still a lot of problems and many of them stem from being unrealistic about budget expectations. There also seems to be an underlying frustration because the Coast Guard is not offering real alternatives to the fleet mix proposed by the discredited “Deepwater” program.

“We reported in 2009 that the administration’s budget projections indicated that the DHS annual budget was expected to remain constant or decrease over the next decade. When the Coast Guard submitted its fiscal year 2012 budget request, it also released its fiscal years 2012-2016 acquisition capital investment plan. In reviewing this plan, we found that the Coast Guard’s projected funding levels for fiscal years 2013 through 2016 are significantly higher than budgets previously appropriated or requested and therefore may be unrealistic. This unrealistic acquisition budget planning exacerbates the challenges Coast Guard acquisition programs face. As seen in figure 2, the average annual budget plan from fiscal year 2012-through fiscal year 2016 is about $520 million, or approximately 37 percent, higher than the average Coast Guard acquisition budgets previously appropriated or requested during the past 6 years.”

Continue reading

UAVs, Let’s Try This One

Here is a UAV that is already in use by the Navy. The ScanEagle, is so small it could operate routinely from the Webber Class WPCs.

Wing Span 10.25 ft (3.12m)
Length 6.5 ft (1.98m)
Max Take Off Weight 44-48.5 lb. (22 kg)
Max speed 80 knots
Cruise speed 50 knots
Ceiling 10,000 ft
Max endurance: 15 hours

In it’s “dual bay” configuration the sensor package can include a synthetic aperture imaging radar in addition to video. It can use standard diesel fuel, but it won’t use much since the engine is less than two horsepower.

It was reportedly used during the Maersk Alabama piracy incident in April 2009 (the first of three times pirates attempted to take the ship).

I think its worth a closer look, like perhaps a deployment on a 210.

Continue reading

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