More on New Chinese WHEC

Some new information and an artist rendering of a 128.6 m (424 ft), 5,418 ton, 20.4 knot cutter to be delivered to the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) in May of 2012. (Most of the recent construction has been for the Chinese Maritime Surveillance (CMS).)

The post also includes a link to an August 2010 post that explains the five different agencies that perform Chinese maritime law enforcement.

Continuing Resolution, Changes in the Wind

Ryan Erickson is reporting that a continuing resolution has passed the house and will now go to the Senate. (Hopefully  the Federal Government won’t have to shutdown.) In addition to authorizing expenditures, included in the bill is language that will allow the Coast Guard to make some changes, that include decommissioning three ships.

“…the Coast Guard may decommission one Medium Endurance Cutter, two High Endurance Cutters, four HU–25 aircraft, the Maritime Intelligence Fusion Center, and one Maritime Safety and Security Team, and make staffing changes at the Coast Guard Investigative Service…”

There is more detail in Ryan’s article, but a couple of numbers stood our for me.

“…$73,200,000 shall be for vessels, small boats, critical infrastructure and related equipment…” in the AC&I budget, and additionally

… $1,191,502,000 shall be for the Integrated Deepwater Systems program…of the funds made available for the Integrated Deepwater Systems program, $103,000,000 is for aircraft and $933,002,000 is for surface ships.” So there is $155.5M in the Deepwater Budget that is not for aircraft or ships?

Presumably the Deepwater money for surface ships includes exercising the option for the fifth National Security Cutter (about $480M based on the last award) and four more Fast Response Cutters, #9-12 (about $166M based on the last award)

That would still leave about $287M. Could it be that the programs are accelerating? Can someone fill us in?

China Building Six Major Cutters a Year–How many are Enough?

China Defense Blog is reporting “In order to improve the capacity of marine law enforcement and safeguard marine rights, China plans to build 30 vessels for marine law enforcement in the next five years.” The source is here, but the blog has pictures, as well the complete text, while the source has none.

I found this quotation puzzling:

“China has a vast area of seas, but the number and the tonnage of vessels for marine law enforcement are both small. China’s fleet does not meet the standard of one vessel per 1,000 square kilometers (emphasis applied) and there is a huge gap compared to other developed countries, said Li Lixin, director of South China Sea Branch of State Oceanic Administration of China, on Monday.”

For comparison, from Wikipedia:

The US has the largest EEZ in the world: 11,351,000 sq km

Japan EEZ: 4,479,358 sq km

China’s EEZ is much smaller, 877,019 sq km. Even adding the EEZ of Taiwan and other areas claimed by China, but disputed by others (3,000,000 sq km) the total is 3,877,019 sq km.

Applying a one patrol vessel to 1,000 sq km would mean the USCG should have 11,351 cutters. In fact we have 43 patrol cutters over 1000 tons or about 1 per 264,000 sq km. If the Chinese had a ship to patrol area ratio like ours, they would only need three or four ships. Clearly there is a disconnect here.

We talked a bit about a comparison of the Japanese Coast Guard and their Chinese counterparts here, and it is clearly the Japanese they are comparing themselves to.  There is a pretty good article on the various agencies the Chinese use to do maritime law enforcement missions here.

The other nations with the largest EEZs are Australia, France, Russia. Japan, with the 9th largest EEZ, has the largest fleet of cruising cutters in the world. China’s EEZ is 32nd in size.

Still I think the Chinese may be on to something in terms of justifying their fleet. Maybe we ought to do some sort of resource to area of responsibility comparison. We know that our EEZs in the Southwest Pacific and Arctic are under served.

Rethinking the New Cutter Programs

Preparing to write this, I reread some older material from the Acquisition Directorate and was surprised to find that my long held assumption that the Coast Guard would be building OPCs at a rate of three a year (since that was the rate we had built the 210s they are replacing) is not the case. The plan as expressed in the CG9 Newsletter for Oct/Nov 09 by Captain Brian Perkins was to build only two ships a year.

Plus, the same newsletter notes, the OPC program is linked to the NSC program in that it will not be started until after the last NSC is contracted.

As we have discussed the progress on the National Security Cutter Program has been slow. In the nine years since the ships were ordered, only two ships have been delivered and a third is building. Instead of seeing one new ship a year as might have been expected, there was an almost two year gap between the Bertholf and the Waesche, another almost two year gap between the Waesche and the Stratton, and it looks like an almost three year gap between Stratton and the forth NSC, Hamilton. Assuming that Hamilton is awarded this year (FY 2011) and one a year after that, the eighth and last NSC won’t be awarded until FY 2015 and we probably won’t see it in service until 2019. The first OPC(s) will not be funded until FY2016. The last 210 replacement will be funded in 2023 with deliver not likely until at least 2026 at which time the last 210 will be 57 years old. When the last 270 is replaced, in 2031 it will be 41 years old.

This is a plan for disaster.  That our fleet is already in trouble was demonstrated by the difficulties we encountered during the Haiti earthquake relief. How are these same ships going to perform in 10, 15, or 20 years.

There has got to be a better way.

First it surely isn’t necessary to take four years to make a decision on the OPC design. Its been discussed and mulled over for years. Might it not be possible to truncate the NSC program at six ships, fund the first OPCs in FY2014 and build them at the rate of three or four a year? And rather than multicrew the NSCs, increase the OPC program by six to provide one for one replacements for the 378s for a total of 6 NSCs and 31 OPCs. That still leaves us four ships short of where we are now, but a lot closer than the eight ships short currently planned.

Because the OPCs are considerably smaller than the NSC and made in greater quantity, they are potentially much cheaper while providing nearly all the capability of an NSC or 378. We are typically spending around $600M per NSC. I’ve heard that the Acquisitions Directorate expects to keep the costs for the OPC around $200M/ship. The ship I think they should build would be a bit more, because it would have added value for national defense, but building three or even four instead of one NSC is not a huge increase in the total Coast Guard budget and will save money in the long run.

The OPCs will have a smaller crew than the NSCs and a much smaller crew than the 378s.  The crew may even be smaller than that on the 270s. They are also likely to be much cheaper to maintain than the legacy ships. The sooner we get them in the fleet, the more we will save in manning and maintenance.

If we truncate the NSC program at 6 and begin the OPC program in FY 2014, funding three ships a year, we will have the 33 new ships currently planned by 2025, six years ahead of the current plan, and the entire program, including four additional ships, will be finished by early 2027.

If instead, in 2014 we began funding four ships a year, we would have our 33 new ships finished early in 2024, seven years ahead of the current plan and the the entire program would be completed in early 2025. Still a long way away, but better than the current plan. If we did that, the last 210 to be replace will only be 51 years old.

USCGC Spencer (WPG/WAGC/WHEC-36) Legacy

Nice piece about the current Spencer (WMEC- 905) honoring a sailor from the previous Spencer (WPG/WAGC/WHEC-36).

The earlier Spencer was unique in Coast Guard history, in that she is believed to have sunk at least two U-boats.

For some excellent photos of all seven of the 327s, from construction through the end of World War II, the Coast Guard Historian has a nice collection of photos with commentary showing their changing configuration.

Is the Fleet Shrinking?

Is the Fleet Shrinking?

I got curious and did a small survey of the fleet size using resources I had at hand (that’s why I used 1982 instead of the more logical 1980). So here is a comparison of the  fleet composition in 1982, 1990, 2000, and 2010 with some notes about the future. To make the information more meaningful, I have grouped the ships in categories by displacement and provided subtotals of all the ships in that category or larger. There is a more specific evaluation of patrol vessels near the bottom.  My sources are at the foot.

(note: loa is length over all.  tons (fl) is full load displacement)

Type         Class               loa    tons (fl)      1982    1990    2000    2010

WAGB     Healy              420    16,000          –           –             1           1
WAGB     Polar               399    12,087           2          2            2           2
WAGB     Glacier            310      8,449           1           –            –            –
=> 8,000 tons                                                  3         2           3           3
WAGB     Wind               269      6,515            2          –             –            –
WAGB     Mackinaw      290      5,252             1          1            1            –
WMSL     Bertholf          418      4,306              –          –            –            2
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