New S. Korean Cutter

SKoreaLargestCutter

Jane’s 360 is reporting that the S. Korean Coast Guard has commissioned their largest and most heavily armed cutter.

Lee Chung-ho has a length of 150.5 m, a beam of 16.5 m, a loaded displacement of 6500 tonnes and a complement of 104 persons, although 140 persons can be embarked.

The hybrid propulsion system has four MTU 20V1163M94 diesels (each rated at 9,900 bhp) and two 750KW electric motors that are connected to the propellers.

How big is it?

The cutter, at 6,500 tons, is 44% larger than the Bertholf class. While its length and beam are almost identical to Japan Coast Guard’s two largest cutters, the displacement is reportedly far less. I have seen no info on the draft, so that is at least possible. In any case, it is definitely much smaller than the huge cutters the Chinese have built.

The post compares the new cutter to the slightly smaller Sambong-ho (pennant 5001), which entered service in 2002 and was previously the largest cutter in the S. Korean Coast Guard, stating it is three knots faster. That would indicate a top speed of 24 knots. The new cutter has a four diesel power plant compared to its predecessor’s two engine plant. In addition, the two 750 HP electric motors mounted on the shafts which should allow the cutter to slow cruise while the main diesels are cold iron.

Weapons: 

According to Wikipedia, S. Korean has 34 cutters over 1000 tons. All are armed with one or more 20 mm Vulcan Gatling Guns and .50 caliber machine guns. Fourteen have Bofors 40 mm guns, and one other also has a 76 mm. The 20 mm and 40 mm mounts are locally produced in S. Korea.

Looking at the armament, it may be an upgrade compared to the typical S. Korean cutter, but only slightly better armed than what appears to be, becoming a world wide standard for offshore patrol vessels–a medium caliber gun, 57 or 76 mm, and a pair of 20 to 30mm machineguns in remotely controlled weapon stations. It is really no better armed than the 1,150 ton PC-1005, the Hankang, smallest of S. Korea’s 34 cutters major cutters, commissioned in 1985.

All the weapons appear to have been recycled from previous installations. In the photo, an older model OTO Melara 76 mm, like those used on the FRAMed Hamilton class WHECs and Bear class WMECs is clearly visible on the bow. There is also a Vulcan 20 mm mount on the O-3 deck superfiring over the 76 mm mount forward of the bridge. It also appears to have a locally built twin Bofors 40 mm compact mount using an earlier version of the Bofors than the 70 caliber weapon currently offered, which appears to be atop the superstructure aft. She has no CIWS, missiles, or ASW capability.

What is it with these very large cutters?:

Japan, China, and S. Korea, have now each built two very large cutters. Why to they exist?

It is their size, not their weapons, that make them exceptional. The Russian Coast Guard has smaller, but much more heavily armed ships (Krivak III frigates and Grisha II class corvettes).

There has been a general trend for ships of all types to grow in size. Their crews are not exceptionally large, so the operating cost may not be that much more.

Still these are significantly bigger than other cutters built by the same coast guards, at the same time, apparently for the same missions.

None of these three nations has a patrol area as distant and demanding as Alaska.

Japan did have a reason for building the first of these. Shikishimacommissioned in 1992, was intended to escort plutonium transport ships between Europe and Japan, but I have seen no explanation for the ships that followed.

Is it prestige, just “keeping up with the Jones?”

Are they intended for a future shoving match? If so, they are giving up agility for presence.

Are they perhaps intended as flag ships for long term operations?

I would love to hear the reasoning from someone in the know.

 

 

 

Navy Rethinking Ship Designations–Time for the CG to do so too?

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Photo: Doesn’t this look like a Patrol Frigate?

The USNI is reporting that, “The modified Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class will be redesigned as frigates, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on Thursday at the Surface Navy Association 2015 symposium on Thursday.”

Mabus noted, ““It’s not an ‘L’ class ship,” he said. “When I hear ‘L’ I think amphib, so does everybody else.”

The FF designation for the LCS will be the first of a planned set of nomenclature changes for other ships classes as well that will come in the coming weeks, Mabus said.

Apparently he also intends to address the designations of the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), and the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).

I will repost something I quoted in a comment to a previous post regarding an article by Norman Polmar in the US Naval Institute Proceedings “US Navy-LCS, JHSV, MLP…What?”

Quoting his conclusion: “Unquestionably, the LCS, JHSV, and MLP designations must be changed—it is logical and sensible to do so. It can be done with the stroke of a pen by a Secretary of the Navy notice. At the same time, two other ship classes should have their hull numbers changed: The three ships of the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class and the three submarines of the Seawolf (SSN-21) class should be assigned realistic hull numbers within their respective types, and thus be in accord with the 90-year-old directive that stated ships were to be designated in sequential order within their designation types…“The U.S. Navy’s basic ship-designation system is excellent and deserves to be carried out professionally and logically.”

Perhaps it would be a good time for the Coast Guard to take another look at their designation system too, and bring them back into line with the Navy system. I talked about this earlier, “Ship Type Designations–The Bertholfs are Minesweepers?”

The designations currently chosen for the Bertholf class (WMSL) and the Offshore Patrol Cutter (WMSM) are do not fit within the established and customary designation conventions of either the US Navy or NATO.

I would suggest, W-PFL (CG Patrol Frigate, Large) for the Bertholfs and W-PFM for the Offshore Patrol Cutters or more simply W-PL (CG Patrol, Large) and W-PM (CG Patrol, Medium). We might also apply the new designations to existing WHECs and WMECs as well.

We might also want to take a look at icebreakers and AtoN vessels, but those designations are really less problematic.

Changes in the Fleet

Defense Industry Daily has an update on the status of the National Security Cutter (NSC) program. The seventh (Kimball) has been ordered and they report how the previously ordered cutters are progressing.

HII receives a $497 million fixed-price, incentive-fee contract from the U.S. Coast Guard to build WMSL 756, the 7th Legend Class National Security Cutter. Construction is expected to begin in January 2015, and delivery is scheduled for some time in 2018.

Ingalls has delivered the first 3 NSCs. WMSL 753 Hamilton is 81% complete and will deliver in Q3 2014; WMSL 754 James is 52% complete and will launch in April 2014; and WMSL 755 is scheduled for launch in the Q4 2015.  Sources: HII, “Ingalls Shipbuilding Awarded $497 Million Contract for Seventh U.S. Coast Guard National Security Cutter”.

Hamilton will be the first of two NSCs expected to be based in Charleston. Note the contract prices quoted are not the full cost of the ships.

Gallatin is being transferred to the Nigerian Navy, making this the second 378 transferred there. This leaves the Coast Guard with ten “high endurance cutters”, seven 378s and three NSCs, all on the West Coast.

The eighth Fast Response Cutter (FRC) has been commissioned and the ninth has been delivered.

 

Trade-offs in the 378 FRAM

File:USCGC Sherman WHEC-720 Vietnam War.jpg

Coast Guard photograph, PHC Ken Mather, USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) in her original configuration with a 5″/38 and dual hedgehogs, April 1969. 

This is hardly a current topic, but it is one I have seen discussed several time, most recently in comments on a post about the new Canadian Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ship (AOPS), e.g. why the Coast Guard used the 76mm Mk75 gun on the 378 FRAMs rather than the 5″/54 Mk45.

It is true that, although about four tons heavier, the early model 5″/54 Mk45 mounts were a drop in replacement for the 5″/38 mounts we had on the 378s. It would have appeared an easy choice, but in order to accommodate the additional weight of the Harpoons and CIWS, perhaps the Coast Guard had no choice but to go with a lighter gun. That gun (and its associated firecontrol system) was certainly seen as a significant improvement over what we had had in essentially all respects including reduced manning and maintenance.

If we look at the weights as built that were removed:

one 5″/38 (20.5 tons) and two hedgehogs (14.4 tons), totalling approximately 35 tons

and compare that to some of the weights added

one 76 mm Mk75 gun (8.2 tons), two Mk141 quad harpoon launchers (11.8 tons total), eight Harpoon (6 tons), and a Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS (6.8 tons).  Total approximately 32.8 tons. Plus more weight for the addition of the hangar. Essentially the difference was a wash.

If instead, we had used the 5″/54 Mk45 mod 0 (24.5 tons) in addition to the harpoons and CIWS, the total weight would have been 16.3 tons higher or 49.1 tons.

There are other weights that might be added in calculating the total weight devoted to armaments, but obviously I don’t think this was an excessive amount, there are too many examples of smaller ships with far more weapons. I previously noted, (“OPC-Design for Wartime, Build for Peacetime”) that as built the little 255s had 140 to 150 tons of weapons.

Even so, an additional 16.3 tons topside (even if that is only about 0.5% of the full load displacement) might have been too much for the 378s. I don’t know. Perhaps a former 378 engineer or DCA could enlighten the discussion.

File:USCGC Mellon WHEC-717.jpgPhoto: Navy photo, USCGC Mellon, with 76mm, Harpoon, and Phalanx CIWS

Chinese to Build World’s Largest Cutter

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Japanese Coast Guard Cutter Shikishima, this class of two are currently the largest offshore patrol vessels in the world. Photo from Japanese Wikipedia; ja:ファイル:JapanCoastGuard Shikishima.jpg

German Navy blog “Marine Forum” reports (21 January) that the

China Ship-building Industry Corporation has been contracted with developing and building a 10,000-ton and another 4,000-ton surveillance ship.
(rmks: for paramilitary China Coast Guard or China Marine Surveillance)

Meanwhile, in a move designed to bolster their claims in the South China Sea, they also report,

With Vietnam: China will expand paramilitary infrastructure at Sansha City (Paracel Archipelago) in the South China Sea … permanently base a 5,000-ts patrol ship (rmks: prob. China Marine Surveillance – CMS) and begin regular patrols.

Don’t expect China’s new 10,000 ton cutter to look like a US Coast Guard Cutter. The Chinese seem to measure their Coast Guard primarily in comparison to the Japanese Coast Guard which has until now operated the largest cutters in the world, two 9,350 full load, Shikishima class high endurance helicopter carrying cutters. Like their Japanese counterparts, they are likely to be built to merchant standards, will be only lightly armed, but will have excellent aviation facilities. The additional tonnage is likely to give them an advantage if they get in a “shoving match” with opposing coast guards, and they are likely to have a secondary military transport role. With a relatively large number of boats, they could probably land a fair number of personnel in a relatively short time. By way of comparison the National Security Cutters are 4,500 tons full load.

CG Help for Bangladesh Navy

DefenseMediaNetwork has taken the occasion of the transfer of the former USCGC Jarvis (WHEC-725) to review the progress of the Bangladesh navy (BN). In addition to Jarvis the USCG is expected to transfer another 378 and

“…the USCG has been steadily delivering significant quantities of small craft – primarily 16 Safeboat Defenders and 20 Metal Shark Defiants, with more than 30 such craft delivered to date. Deliveries of Defiants are ongoing under the USCG Security Assistance Program.  Most of these craft are used by the naval Special Warfare and Diving and Salvage (SWADS) although a few have gone to the Bangladesh Coast Guard.”

Given what Bangladesh has done with their former British Castle Class OPVs (discussed at the end of the article), we may expect that the former cutters will soon be equipped with Chinese made sensors and weapons including anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Coast Guard Shipbuilding Program, 1964

I recently had an occasion to dig out an article, “Developments and Problems in Coast Guard Cutter Design,” that appeared in the 1964 US Naval Institute Naval Review (published at that time as a separate hard bound book, copyright 1963, United States Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 62-21028) that discussed the then new generation of Coast Guard Cutters.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/USCGC_Diligence_WPC-616_stern.jpg

Yes, this was a long time ago, even before I entered the service, but this was a great spasm of ship building, the 82 footers may be gone, but the 210s and 378s designed and built at that time still constitute the majority of our large cutters.

The perspective of the time make an interesting contrast to today’s ship building program. 41 of the 82s had been built, 210s were building, the first three entering service in 1964, and the 378s (referred to as 350′ WPGs) were still in the design phase, with the first, Hamilton, being laid down in 1965 and entering service in ’67.

The article was written by officers intimately involved in defining the requirements and design those ships, Cdr. Robert J. Carlson and LCdr. William F. Tighe. They described the Navy’s ships as old and the Coast Guard’s ships as “ancient.” Somethings don’t seem to change, but in fact the standards were different and, while they were facing block obsolescence,  they were in much better shape than the Coast Guard is now. Continue reading

Philippines to Acquire Decom 378(s)?

A report the Philippines would like to acquire one of the Hamilton Class; that they are in talks now; and that the ship “might arrive in the country within the first semester of this year.”

Sounds like the Philippine Navy is one of the few out there with a fleet older than the Coast Guard’s.

The Philippines has ongoing struggles with at least two insurgent groups, one Maoist, one Islamic radical, and is perhaps militarily the weakest of several countries, including the Peoples’ Republic of China, with competing claims to the Spratly Islands. A 378 will be a major increase in their capabilities. There is some indication they may want more than one.

How We Got in This Mess-A Short History of CG Shipbuilding

Over the last 60 years the Coast Guard has typically fielded about 45 large patrol cutters, 1000 tons or greater (Is the Fleet Shrinking?) with as many as 36 WMECs. Theoretically we could build an average of 1.5 ships a year and maintain a fleet with an average age of about 15  years with progressive improvements introduced based on experience. This may be something to work toward, but it hasn’t been working that way. The Coast Guard’s current fleet is largely the product of two great spasms of ship building, WWII and one beginning in the 60s, a smaller bump in the 80’s, and long periods when no ships were built.

The last Lake class 255ft WPG/WHEC entered service in 1946. In the 64 years since then, this is the record of Patrol Cutter construction.

  • 1947-1963 (17 years) no new construction patrol cutters entered service. The service did acquire ex-Navy destroyer escorts (what would now be called frigates), 311 foot Barnegat Class former seaplane and torpedo boat tenders, 213 foot former submarine rescue vessels, and 205 foot former fleet tugs.
  • 1964-1972 (9 years) The 16 Reliance class 210s, built in four different yards, including five by the Coast Guard Yard, entered service 1964-1969. The 12 Hamilton Class 378s, all built at Avondale, entered  service 1967-1972. (The original plan was for 36 378s.) (28 ships/9 years=3.11 ships/year)
  • 1973-1982 (10 years) no new construction patrol cutters entered service.
  • 1983-1990 (8 years) The 13 Bear class 270s entered service between 1983 and 1990. (13 ships/8 years=1.625 ships/yr)
  • 1991-2007 (17 years) no new construction patrol cutters entered service.
  • 2008 Bertholf entered service
  • 2009 no new construction cutters entered service.
  • 2010 Waesche entered service.

45 of 64 years, no new construction patrol cutters entered service. All 43 new construction ships (210s, 378s, 270s, NSCs) were delivered in only 19 years. The current rate of construction (two ships in three years) is less than the minimum average long term construction rate (1.5 ships/year).

The program begun in the 60s was a timely effort to replace the ships built in WWII and earlier, unfortunately it was stopped short of completing their replacement.

In 1990 when construction of the 270s stopped, we still had 10 WMECs that dated from WWII: Storis, three 213s, three 205s, and three 180 ft former WLBs. Logically we should have continued building two ships a year to replace these. (In 1991 they were all at least 46 years old.) They would have all been replaced by 1995. Continuing two ships a year, the first 210s could have been replaced in 1996. When replaced, they would have all been at least 32 years old. Continuing two ship a year we could have replaced all the 210s and 378s by 2009. The first replacement for the 270s should have been contracted in 2010 to enter service in 2013.

We had an opportunity to have an orderly replacement program, but we blew it, beginning approximately FY87/88, when we failed to continue building ship, and let our engineering expertise atrophy.