Category Archives: china

National Security Cutters Get Chance to Flex National Security Muscle

Via the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska (emphasis mine):

During a routine maritime patrol in the Bering Sea and Arctic region, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750), spotted and established radio contact with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) task force in international waters within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, Aug. 30, 2021. All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international laws and norms. At no point did the PLAN task force enter U.S. territorial waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrated its commitment to the Bering Sea and Arctic region with deployments of national security cutters Bertholf (WMSL-750), and Kimball (WMSL-756), and a U.S. Arctic patrol by icebreaker Healy.

“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”

Crews interacted with local, national and international vessels throughout the Arctic. During the deployment, Bertholf and Kimball observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast. While the ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters.

The PLAN task force included a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international standards set forth in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium’s Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

While the PLAN doesn’t “officially” have any cruisers, the brand new Type 55 DDGs (NATO designation Renhai-class) are big ships, running to 13,000-tons, and having a 112-vell VLS launcher installed with missiles cued by a phased array radar. In other words, a bigger, newer version of a Tico. They are the largest and most advanced Chinese surface combatant. 

PLAN’s Nanchang (DDG-101) Type 55, from a Japanese MOD intel picture/press release earlier this year. Look at all those VLS cells…

Bertholf. At 4,500-tons and armed with a 57 mm gun, a 20mm Close-In Weapons System, four .50-caliber machine guns, two M240B 7.62mm GPMGs, and space for two helicopters, along with passive EW and SRBOC systems, it is about as heavily armed as current US Coast Guard cutters get. Of course, I’d like to see a few Harpoons/NSSMs, Mk 32 Torpedo tubes, and maybe a RAM missile system on her, but that’s just me.

Facing off against this, the pair of 4,500-ton Legend-class National Security cutters combined had two 57mm Bofors, two CIWS, and some mounted machine guns.

In all seriousness, such interactions, coupled with the use by the Navy of the same class of white hulls to cruise through the contested South China Sea on Freedom of Navigation Patrols, point to the USCG’s larger cutters at a minimum getting an armament upgrade to swap out CIWS for C-RAM and pick up a few Naval Strike Missiles to at least put them on-par with the admittedly under-armed littoral combat ships. 

If you act like a frigate, no matter the color of your hull, you better be able to back it up. 

September 2021, Royal Australian Navy fleet oiler HMAS Sirius (AO-266) conducts a dual replenishment at sea with the amphibious assault dock HMAS Canberra (LHD-2) and USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021. (RAN Photo by LSIS Leo Baumgartner)

Frigate-sized Goodwill

Via Kazuhiko Koshikawa, the Ambassador of Japan in the Philippines, yesterday, on the occasion of the launching of the largest cutter ever for the Philippine Coast Guard (Tanod Baybayin ng Pilipinas), from the Mitsubishi Shipbuilding launching ramp in Japan:

Attended the virtual launching ceremony of the 94m class patrol vessel with (Philipines Department of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade). This huge vessel was unveiled through a nautical tradition of blessing the ship and its crew on its voyage, and will become the PCG’s largest flagship in early 2022!

The new 308-foot Multirole Response Vessel (pennant number 9701), as Koshikawa noted, will be the largest ship in the 17,000-member PCG, a force that has been beefing up in recent years to confront interlopers (See: China) into the huge Filipino Maritime Zone.

Remember, if you can’t police your EEZ, you don’t have an EEZ.

The two building 94m-MRRVs are funded through a ¥16.5-billion ($150M) grant from the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and are set to become the largest vessels in the PCG. At that price, you can be sure they are constructed to commercial standards rather than military but they do have a frigate profile with significant at-sea endurance and helicopter handling capabilities, as well as the capability to host a platoon-sized VBBS force. 

Part of the Philippine Department of Transportation, the PCG– which has a lineage going back to 1901– has long just fielded a force of several hundred small (day running) brown water craft such as whalers, RIBs, and Swift boats.

However, the fleet has expanded greatly in recent years with the adoption of true blue water assets such as the 274-foot French-built OPV BRP Gabriela Silang, four Australian (Tenix)-built 184-foot San Juan-class OPVs, 10 Japanese (JMU)-built 146-foot Parola-class OPVs, and four Ilocos Norte-class 115-foot Tenix patrol boats, all of which have been added in the past ~15 years. Note that the Parolas, the PCG’s most numerous over-the-horizon vessels, were also built in Japan with JICA funds.

Lightly armed for constabulary use, they generally have M2 .50 cal machine guns installed for muscle, in addition to the small arms of their landing teams, as well as soft-kill devices such as LRADs and water cannons.

Also, you have to love the traditional launching festivities used by the Japanese. Compare the above joyous image above to this one, taken some 96 years ago this week:

Launch of Lead Ship, Destroyer Mutsuki at Sasebo Naval Arsenal on July 23rd, 1925

Royal Navy Headed Back ‘East of Suez’

In a reversal from the Admiralty’s policies since 1997, the British Ministry of Defense is planning on permanently stationing warships in the Pacific region.

During a two-day visit to Japan this week, the UK’s Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, met with Japan’s Prime Minister Suga and Defence Minister Kishi. The big news from that meeting, going past the upcoming visit by the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Group’s historic cruise through the area:

Following on from the Carrier Strike Group’s inaugural deployment, the UK will permanently assign two offshore patrol vessels to the Indo-Pacific region from later this year. It will also contribute a Littoral Response Group (LRG) in the coming years, thereby demonstrating the UK’s commitment to collective defence and security in the region in the decades ahead.

The nuts and bolts of the announcement, the RN’s River-class offshore patrol vessels, are constabulary/coast guard style vessels, running in the 2,000-ton neighborhood and mounting a medium 20mm or 30mm gun. The British are increasingly using the Rivers in the old “station ship” roles in low-risk areas around the world, a task formerly fulfilled by light cruisers before WWII.

HMS Medway (P223), a Batch 2 River-class OPV. The most advanced version of the class, they mount a single 30mm gun forward and have a few stations for GPMGs and Mini-Guns. Slow (24 knot) vessels, they can operate a medium helicopter for a short period and carry a platoon-sized element of Royal Marines or SBS Commandos. They have an independent endurance of 35 days. (MoD image)

Currently, HMS Medway (P223), a Batch 2 River, is the West Indies guard ship (Atlantic Patrol Tasking North) while her sistership HMS Forth (P222) is the Falklands guard ship and a third River, HMS Trent (P224), is forward-deployed to Atlantic Patrol Tasking South out of Gibraltar, with an area of operations than spans along the West African coast.

The British Littoral Response Group concept recently stood up is basically a dialed-down version of a U.S. Navy Amphibious Ready Group. The LRG established earlier this year for a Baltic cruise was made up of the 20,000-ton amphibious assault ship HMS Albion (L14), the 16,000-ton landing dock RFA Mounts Bay (L3008), plus Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster, with embarked Wildcat helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron and a light battalion-sized element of Royal Marines from 45 and 30 Commando.

However, the Brits are platform poor. They only have eight River-class OPVs (with just five of them being the more advanced Batch 2 ships), two Albion-class LPDs, and four Bay-class landing ships. With that, the likelihood of a pair of Rivers heading to the Far East to assume a long-term station alone is going to be a heavy lift and the prospect of an LRG more likely to be a passing cruise every other year or so.

Nonetheless, the move stands to return the RN to the Pacific, which has only been visited by the occasional transitory unit once the post of Commodore-in-Charge, Hong Kong, was disestablished in 1997. Permanently based at that treaty port was a trio of Peacock-class patrol corvettes, which were roughly the same size as today’s Rivers but were at least armed with a 76mm OTO Melara gun.

The Peacocks were sailed to Manila and sold to the Philippines, warm transferred in a bittersweet handover.

Prior to that, the Singapore-based British Far East Fleet disbanded in 1971 after the expiration of the bilateral Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement, ending a station that was held since 1837.

What a Difference a Step Makes

Founded May 1, 1844, the Hong Kong Police lost its “Royal” designation in 1997 after the long-time treaty port was handed back to China. Now, some 24 years later, some Commonwealth traditions endure.

In 2016, a dozen Hong Kong Police sergeants graduated from a three-week British Army course at the Army School of Ceremonial in Catterick in pacing, colours, and sword drills, graded by some of the toughest Colour Sergeants in the Guards. They took the training back home and have enshrined it in the HKP’s parade work where four British SNCOs traveled and provided supplemental instruction to others.

Although PLA soldiers in olive green uniforms have been seen giving instructions at Hong Kong Police College’s parade ground on how to march in the Chicom goose-step fashion, the 33,000-strong HKP is planning to keep as much of its Commonwealth martial tradition as possible and will continue to keep its British Army marching style– blending it with the Chinese style on some public occasions.

PLA soldiers deliver marching training to police officers at the parade ground in Wong Chuk Hang. Photo: Handout

“At the moment we do not have plans to change our marching style,” said HKP Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung.

‘Cognitive Warfare’ and Chinese Aircraft Carriers

A recent photo of the CO and XO of the Flight IIA Burke-class destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) observing the Chinese Type 001 (Kuznetsov-class) aircraft carrier Liaoning (16)  off the warship’s port side bridge wing is getting lots of heartburn in the Western Pacific.

PHILIPPINE SEA (April 4, 2021) CDR Robert J. Briggs and CDR Richard D. Slye monitor surface contacts from the pilothouse of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin. Mustin is assigned to Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force. (U.S. Navy photo 210404-N-YA628-2309 by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Arthur Rosen)

Largely because of editorial cartoons such as this:

From the South China Morning Post: 

“In the photo, Commander Briggs looks very relaxed with his feet up watching the Liaoning ship just a few thousand yards away, while his deputy is also sitting beside him, showing they take their PLA counterparts lightly,” said Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung. “This staged photograph is definitely ‘cognitive warfare’ to show the US doesn’t regard the PLA as an immediate threat.”

The Australian Financial Review: 

The US Navy has released a provocative photo showing senior officers watching a Chinese warship as China and the United States flex their maritime muscle in the East and South China Sea.

The Taiwan News: 

A researcher at the Beijing-based Yuan Wang think tank conceded to the newspaper that there is still a “big gap between the US and Chinese aircraft carrier strike groups.” Meanwhile, Kanwa Defence Review editor-in-chief Andrei Chang asserted the photo was meant to serve as a “warning to the PLA” that the U.S. was fully aware of the carrier group’s movements.

Meanwhile, the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group [USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, USS Bunker Hill (CG 52), USS Russell (DDG 59)] and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group [USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Somerset (LPD 25), USS San Diego (LPD 22)] with the 15th MEU embarked, recently joined forces in the South China Sea to conduct Expeditionary Strike Force operations. 

SOUTH CHINA SEA (April 9, 2021) The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group transits in formation with the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group in the South China Sea April 9, 2021. The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73) are conducting expeditionary strike force operations during their deployments to the 7th Fleet area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, 7th Fleet routinely operates and interacts with 35 maritime nations while conducting missions to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Terence Deleon Guerrero)

Chainsmokers

A group of Marines having a smoke while checking out what looks to be a shell and fuse for either an 81mm mortar or 75mm howitzer.

Dig the M1917A1 Brodie helmets with EGAs, sewn-on stripes on light khaki uniforms, and the top-charging M1928A1 Thompson submachine gun. The Tommy gunner also has pretty bad trigger D and what looks to be a set of wire cutters in his five-cell stick mag pouch. At least there isn’t a mag in the Chicago typewriter. 

I can’t find a full-fledged source for the image, but reverse sources are all Chinese-language pages for 1938 Shanghai, a tense place and period in history as the country was torn between the Reds and KMT while under aggressive attack by the Empire of Japan as the rest of the world stood by to wish the Chinese the best of luck.

These men are likely of the 4th Marine Regiment, the famed “China Marines” stationed in Peiping, Tientsin, and Shanghai from 1927 to 1941. Pulled out of the continent only weeks before Pearl Harbor, they were withdrawn to the Philipines just in time to defend Bataan.

There is this great follow-up picture of these Devils.

Little Blue Men en masse

It appears that a huge flotilla of 220 People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia vessels are massed at Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, notably inside what the Philippines sees as its EEZ.

Via the Philippines National Government:

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) received a confirmed report from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) that around two hundred twenty (220) Chinese Fishing Vessels (CFVs), believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel, were sighted moored in line formation at the Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) on March 7, 2021.

The Reef is a large boomerang-shaped shallow coral reef at the northeast of Pagkakaisa Banks and Reefs (Union Reefs), located approximately 175 Nautical Miles west of Bataraza, Palawan. It is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Continental Shelf (CS), over which the country enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources which encompass both living resources, such as fish, and non-living resources such as oil and natural gas.

Founded in the 1950s as something kind of akin to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxillary, the CMM has grown massively in size over the past 20 years and has increasingly been on the “front lines” of China’s expansion into the Pacific in the past decade or so, in short, using government-sponsored fishing ships equipped with PLAN-capable satellite communication terminals and manned by trained paramilitary crews in lieu of official naval assets. This includes the persistent 2009 interference with USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), the 2011 harassment of Vietnam’s survey vessels (Viking II and Binh Minh), swarming the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM-25) in 2014, the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff (Tanmen Militia) and the Haiyang Shiyou-981 oil rig standoff.

Pretty uniform…

Peacetime training for CMM’s “little blue men” includes target identification, intelligence collection methods, and operation of communication terminals, typically running at least 15 days per year to include one of political education. During times of war, it is expected that CMM trawlers and longliners will be used for scouting and recon purposes, resupply of outposts, and minelaying.

Basically the old “Russian trawlers” of the Cold War, only in supersized numbers. 

USS ABNAKI (ATF-96) Keeping the Soviet Trawler GIDROFON under surveillance in the South China Sea, December 1967. K-43379

Legio III Augusta, via Beijing

Chinese UNPROFOR troops Photo: Xinhua

Ironically one of the first countries to engage the United Nations in open, undeclared combat (see= Korean War), China joined the UN in 1971– taking the seat held by the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1981, it began chipping in funds to support peacekeeping, then in 1992 embarked on its first major peacekeeping operation, sending 50 military observers and 400 military engineers to the UN mission in Cambodia. By 2016, China became the second-largest financial contributor to the UN peacekeeping budget and has since become the largest contributor of the peacekeepers of the permanent members of the Security Council.

With some 2,520 uniformed peacekeepers wearing UN blue (of 81,832), China is only the 9th highest contributor by nation. However, their peacekeepers seem to be part of an Africa-centric policy, deploying almost exclusively to Mali, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Darfur. It shouldn’t be a big surprise as Bejing has been upping weapon sales to the continent– the country was the primary supplier to Zimbabwe for years– maintain military attaches in at least 14 African capitals and, in July 2017, set up its first overseas military base at Djibouti– which is expanding with a pier large enough to accommodate an aircraft carrier. Then there is the whole question of access to vital rare earth minerals on the continent.

A look at the Chinese side of the missions, as told by the totally unbiased SCMP.

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020: All I Want for Christmas is a New SSK

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020: All I Want for Christmas is a New SSK

Photo via the Taiwanese MNA

Here we see the beautifulTench-class diesel attack sub, ROCS Hai Shih (SS-791) of the Republic of China Navy during a celebration at Keelung Port last summer. Formerly USS Cutlass (SS-478), the Taiwanese boat is the oldest operational submarine in the world, at some 76 years young, and is set to continue to hold that title for a few more years.

Designed by the Bureau of Ships in conjunction with the Portsmouth Navy Yard and Electric Boat, the Tenches were the epitome of WWII U.S. Navy fleet boats. Some 311-feet overall, these 2,000-ton boats were an enlarged version of the preceding Balao-class. Strong, with 35-35.7# high-tensile steel pressure hull plating and eight watertight compartments in addition to the conning tower, they had a 400-foot operating depth. Their diesel-electric arrangement allowed a surfaced speed of just over 20-knots and a submerged one of 8.75 while a massive fuel capacity granted an 11,000nm range– enough to span the Pacific.

Some 80 Tenches were planned (some reports say over 120) but most– 51– were canceled in the last stages of the war when it became clear they would not be needed.

Janes’s referred to the class in 1946 somewhat curiously as the Corsair-class.

With construction spread across three yards– Boston NSY, Electric Boat and Portsmouth– the subject of our tale, the first and only U.S. Navy ship to be named after the Cutlass fish, was laid down at the latter (as were most of those that were completed) and commissioned 5 November 1944.

After shakedowns, she headed for the Pacific and left out of Pearl Harbor on her maiden war patrol on 9 August 1945 from Midway. By the night of the 14th she reached the Kurile Islands, some 1,700 miles to the West.

As described in her 17-page patrol report, by 0700 on 15 August, Cutlass received the initial news that the Japanese may be surrendering while surfaced seven miles offshore of the enemy’s coastline.

As noted by a history of Cutlass on a reunion site:

Everyone was at his station when the Chief Radioman yelled up the open hatch from the control room, ‘Sir, they are celebrating, in New York; the war is over”

Nonetheless, Cutlass was still in an active war zone and soon busied her crew with the task of sinking floating mines, a sport she spent the next two weeks pursuing. After detonating one such floating device on the 24th, her log noted, “the explosion came as a surprise because the mine was old, rusty and filled with barnacles.”

Mooring at Midway again on 27 August, Cutlass’s war was effectively over and the next month she departed the Pacific for the East Coast, hosting curious visitors for Navy Day in New York on 24 September.

USS Cutlass, likely in 1948, with only one 40mm gun mounted. USN photo # 80-G-394300 by Cdr. Edward J. Steichen

Spending most of the next two years on a spate of service around the Caribbean– tough duty– she entered Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in March 1949 for modernization.

A New Life, a New Look

She was to become a GUPPY, specifically an SCB 47 GUPPY II series conversion, ditching her topside armament, picking up a new sail, better batteries, and, most importantly, a snorkel.

Of the 48 GUPPY’d WWII diesel boats that were given a second life in the Cold War. Cutlass was one of the 14 Type II conversions

Cutlass (SS-478) port side view, circa the 1950s with stepped “Portsmouth Sail” as an early Guppy type. Photo courtesy of John Hummel, USN (Retired) via Navsource.

In her Cold War career, she spent the early 1950s at Key West, then shifted to Norfolk for the bulk of her career before returning to Florida to cap it. This included hosting President Truman on at least one occasion in March 1950.

Via NARA

Note the differences in sails. Cutlass (SS-478), Trutta (SS-421), Odax (SS-484), Tirante (SS-420), Marlin (SST-2) & Mackerel (SST-1), alongside for inspection at Key West. Wright Langley Collection. Florida Keys Public Libraries. Photo # MM00046694x

USS Cutlass (SS-478) Torpedoman’s Mate Second Class William Meisel prepares to load a torpedo in one of the submarine’s torpedo tubes, circa 1953. Photographed from inside the tube. #: 80-G-688314

Cutlass: Quartermaster Seaman Ronald Petroni and Henry Seibert at the submarine’s diving plane control, circa 1953. 80-G-688318

On 28 June 1961, Cutlass was given the task of testing Mark 16 War Shot torpedoes, by sinking the ex-USS Cassiopeia (AK-75) (Liberty Ship, Melville W. Fuller, Hull No. 504), 100nm off the Virginia Capes. She did so with a brace of four fish, earning the sub the distinction of claiming 10,000 tons on her tally sheet.

She would later receive the partial GUPPY III treatment in the early 1960s to include a tall, streamlined fiberglass sail and fire control upgrades but not the distinctive BQG-4 PUFFS passive ranging sonar. This much-changed her profile for the third time in as many decades. 

USS Cutlass (SS-478), early 1960s NH 82299

Cutlass photographed 9 May 1962, while operating with USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN (CVS-29). USN 1107442

Cutlass (SS-478) at Genoa Italy, 29 June 1968. Note the windows in the sail. Photo courtesy of Carlo Martinelli via Navsource

USS Cutlass (SS-478) photographed circa 1970. NH 82301

Busy throughout the 1950s and 60s, she would hold the line during the Cuban Missile Crisis and deploy to the 6th Fleet on Med cruises at least four times, one of which she would extend by a tour around the Indian Ocean, operating with the Pakistani Navy– a fleet that would go on to use a few of her sisters (losing PNS/M Ghazi, ex-USS Diablo in the Bay of Bengal in 1971).

She ended her career as part of the rusty and crusty GUPPYs of SUBRON12 in Key West, tasked primarily with being a target vessel for destroyers, aircraft, and SSNs to test out their sonar and fire control on, often making daily trips out to the Florida Straits to be the “fox” for the hounds.

An anecdote from that time:

While on these operations, CUTLASS was a target for destroyers going through Refresher Training. During the week CUTLASS would outwit the destroyers by firing beer cans from the signal gun, so as to give the destroyers a false target for their Sonar while the CUTLASS evaded them. Then on Saturday CUTLASS went out to get “Sunk” so as to allow the destroyers to pass their exercise.

On her last Med Cruise in early 1972, she was able to get close enough to the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt to fire a signal flare within torpedo distance of her in an exercise, to the reported dismay of FDR’s destroyer screen. It wasn’t just American carriers the 28-year-old diesel boat counted coup upon that cruise, she also came close enough to the Soviet Moskva-class helicopter carrier Leningrad to get a snapshot. 

Nonetheless, she was not long for the U.S. Navy. 

Another New Life

Finally, as SUBRON12 was disbanded and the last GUPPYs were liquidated in the early 1970s, many were gifted to U.S. allies overseas. With that, Cutlass was refurbished, her torpedo tubes sealed, then was decommissioned, struck from the Naval Register, and transferred to Taiwan under terms of the Security Assistance Program, 12 April 1973. 

There, she was renamed Hai Shih (Sea Lion) (SS-1) and was intended to serve as an ASW training platform, essentially an OPFOR for Taiwan’s destroyer and S-2 fleet.

1973 entry in Jane’s, noting that Cutlass and Balao-class near-sister USS Tusk (SS-426), were the country’s first submarines.

As a matter of course, the long-held belief is that the Taiwanese soon got both Cutlass and Tusk’s combat suite up and running with a combination of assistance from freelance Italian experts and West German torpedoes.

While the GUPPY combat record in 1982 wasn’t impressive, it should be noted that even old SSKs can prove extremely deadly in a point defense role of an isolated island chain when operating on home territory. They can basically rest with almost everything but their passive sonar off and wait for an enemy invasion force to get within torpedo range. After all, there are only 13 beaches that are believed suitable for an amphibious landing in Taiwan.

She recently underwent extensive refurbishments of her hull, electronics, and navigational systems to allow her to continue operations for another six years. 

Those tubes sure look well-maintained for being sealed dead weight.

Check out the below video of Cutlass/Hai Shih in action (go to the 2:58 mark).

 

While Taiwan currently has Cutlass on the books until 2026 (Tusk is sidelined as a pier-side trainer) and operates a pair of 1980s vintage Dutch-built Zwaardvis/Hai Lung-class boats, the country is set to produce their own design moving forward and is requesting MK-48 Mod6AT torpedoes and UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles from the under FMS sales. 

It would be interesting if Cutlass came “home” in 2027 after her then-54-year career with Taipei. At that point, she will be well into her 80s.

As for her remnants in America, the Cold War logbooks, WWII war diaries, and ship drawings of USS Cutlass remain in the National Archives, with many of them digitized. Two of her classmates, the “Fleet Snorkel” converted USS Requin (SS-481) and USS Torsk (SS-423), are preserved as museums in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively. 

A Cutlass reunion site was updated as late as 2018 and has some interesting ship’s lore archived. 

Specs:
(1945)
Displacement: 1,570 tons (std); 1,980 (normal); 2,415 tons submerged
Length: 311 ft. 8 inches
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Operating depth: 400 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks Morse main generator engines, 5,400HP, two Elliot Motor Co. main motors with 2,740HP, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Speed: 20 surfaced, 10 submerged
Fuel Capacity: 113,510 gal.
Range: 11,000nm @ 10 knots surfaced, 48 hours at 2 knots submerged, 75-day patrol endurance
Complement 7 officers 69 enlisted (planned), actual manning 10 officers, 76 men
Radar: SV. APR and SPR-2 receivers, TN tuning units, AS-125 antenna, SPA Pulse Analyzer, F-19 and F-20 Wave Traps, VD-2 PPI Repeater
Sonar: WFA projector, JP-1 hydrophone
Armament:
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 28 torpedoes max or up to 40 mines
1 x 5″/25 deck gun
2 x 40mm guns
2 x .50 cal. machine guns

(1973, as GUPPY II+)
Displacement: 1,870 tons (std); 2,420 tons submerged
Length: 307.5 ft.
Beam: 27 ft. 3 inches
Propulsion: 3 Fairbanks Morse (4) (FM 38D 8 1/8 x 10) diesels, 2 Elliot electric motors, 504 cell battery, 5400 shp, 2 shafts
Speed: 18 surfaced, 15 submerged
Range:  
Complement: 80
Armament:
10 x 21-inch torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft

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Formosa becomes Taiwan, again, 75 Years Ago Today

Chinese Nationalist Army (Kuomintang) Gen. Chen Yi, right, accepts the surrender of disarmed Japanese Gen. Rikichi Andō, the garrison commander and governor-general of Formosa, in compliance with Douglas MacArthur’s General Order No. 1, at Taipei City Hall, 25 October 1945 as delegates from the other Allied Powers look on.

On 2 September 1945, the Imperial Japanese Forces totaled 6,983,000 troops including construction units, naval, and air forces. Of these, Army and Navy forces stationed within the home islands numbered 3,532,000, which meant that nearly as many, some 3.4 million, were still scattered around the Pacific from Manchuria to the Solomons.

One of the last large groups to lay down their arms was Ando’s 10th Area Army in Formosa.

However, it should be noted that the force, which numbered six divisions and seven separate brigades on paper– some 170,000 men– actually consisted of poorly trained reservists, conscripted students, and local Boeitai home guard militia with some units equipped with nothing more than sharpened bamboo pikes and longbows. Officially disbanded in September, the Army had largely stacked arms before Chen’s arrival.

To be sure, British and American naval assets had appeared off Formosa as early as 1 September and, liaising with the Japanese, soon evacuated 1,300 Allied POWs being held there. Meanwhile, representatives of the KMT landed on the island on 5 September, tagging along with an OSS team.

TBM-3 Avenger no 60 of VMTB-233 from USS Block Island (CVE-106), at Matsuyama Airfield on Formosa, 5 September 1945. Piloted by Capt. Dick Johnson and carrying Major Peter Folger as a liaison officer in the back seat, the unarmed torpedo bomber became the first Allied aircraft to land in Taiwan after Japan’s defeat and surrender.

Prior to the 25 October handover, a “Peace Preservation Corps” of 1,000 Chinese gendarmes and 12,000 light infantry of the KMT’s 62nd and 70th Divisions were carried to the island using commandeered Japanese ships escorted by the U.S. Navy.

Of note, Formosa became part of the Empire of Japan in 1895 after the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan Province in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the shellacking they received during the 1894 Sino-Japanese War. Japan only formally renounced sovereignty over Formosa/Taiwan in the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, at which point it had become home to the KMT diaspora. 

October 25, 1945, KMT officers of the new Taiwan Garrison Command photographed after the “Taiwan Province Acceptance Ceremony of the Chinese Theater” was held in the Taipei Public Hall. Note the Kuomintang party flag on the left and the Republic of China cog is hung on the right half.

In the end, Andō, who had invaded French Indochina in September 1940 at the head of his Southern China Area Army without authorization from Tokyo and had been cashiered to Formosa for his efforts, was charged by the KMT with war crimes. He had the last laugh, however, and committed suicide by taking poison while in prison in Shanghai before he could go to trial.

As for Chen, he was caught up in the fallout of the KMT’s evacuation from mainland China to Taiwan Province and, branded a spy, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a military court to sentence the old general to a firing squad in 1950, aged 67.

Meanwhile, October 25 is remembered as Retrocession Day in Taiwan, celebrating the province’s liberation from Japan and return to China. Or something like that.

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