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Aegis Icebreakers?

More info on the new class of three planned Coast Guard Polar Security Cutters has bubbled up.

In short, they will be big boys, at 460-feet long and 33,000-tons. For reference, the Coast Guard’s current 50-year-old icebreaker, USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10), is 399-feet long and weighs in at comparatively paltry 13,800-tons.

However, the Polar Sea is a bruiser, packing 75,000 shaft horsepower in her CODAG plant. This allows her to crush up to 21 feet of ice by backing and ramming and cruise through 6-feet of pack at a continuous 3 knots. According to a statement released this week, the new PSC’s will have 42,500 shp but will still meet an 8-foot mark on ice-busting.

Hmmm.

Of note, the Coast Guard’s single medium icebreaker, the 11,000-ton Healy can crack ice up to 10 feet thick.

More from VTH in Moss Point:

As you can see, the design is based on Finnish and German tech that is being used on the (under construction) German research breaker Polarstern II, which is about the same size.

The plan for Polarstern II is a good starting point as that ship includes:

-Maximum 130 persons on board.
-44 person crew living in single and double rooms.
-Normal cruises up to 60 scientists.
-Safety equipment (lifeboats) on each side 100%.
-80 places for 20” Containers (laboratories and storage).
-Seakeeping stabilizer suitable for the transit cruises and station operation.
-Helicopter Deck and Hangar for 2-3 Helicopters.

In short, these big breakers, larger than the planned German ship, could potentially carry a light company-sized landing force with a couple of helicopters.

Currently, the USCG’s cutters just carry a small arms locker with the capability to mount a couple of M2 .50-cals if absolutely needed. The penguins and polar bears have not put up much of a fight in recent years.

That could be changing.

Changes from the design to make the Coast Guard’s new vessel capable of fighting are still being decided. However, according to the USNI, “The ship’s combat system will be derived from the Aegis Combat System, and the Coast Guard is still mulling over the weapons loadout, [USCG Adm.] Schultz told reporters on Wednesday.”

In 2017, Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft said the new icebreakers would be fully weaponized to include canister launched anti-ship missiles.

This was repeated in 2018 when he said:

“We need to look differently at what an icebreaker does… We need to reserve space, weight, and power if we need to strap a cruise missile package on it… U.S. presence in the Arctic is necessary for more than just power projection; it’s a matter of national security… If they remain unchecked, the Russians will extend their sphere of influence to over five million square miles of Arctic ice and water.”

Things could get interesting.

Found: 1 Trained Marine Mammal, Possibly of Russian Extraction

Fishermen in Norway had an interesting encounter with a white beluga whale last week near the fishing village of Inga.

“We were going to put out nets when we saw a whale swimming between the boats,” fisherman Joar Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “It came over to us, and as it approached, we saw that it had some sort of harness on it.”

The whale was really interactive, trying to retrieve items from the boat and accepting fish by hand. The same sort of behavior seen in trained marine mammals such as dolphins and sea lions such as in the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program (NMMP) which has been around for 50 years.

Anyway, the harness on the whale, which had a Go-Pro on it, was later recovered by Norwegian Fiskeridirektoratet (the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries) employees (shown in the above video working from the Zodiac) and it said “Equipment St. Petersburg” on it in English.

(Foto: Jørgen Ree Wiig, Fiskeridirektoratet)

(Foto: Jørgen Ree Wiig, Fiskeridirektoratet)

Of course, Russian State Media says it was all “alleged” but does call him “Comrade Belugov” which is awesome.

Subnauctic Berets GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Coast Guard awards new polar icebreaker (I mean Polar Security Cutter) contract

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships, Jan. 16, 2017. The resupply channel is an essential part of the yearly delivery of essential supplies to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships, Jan. 16, 2017. The resupply channel is an essential part of the yearly delivery of essential supplies to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

It’s really happening.

After a 40-year drought of polar icebreaking construction for the USCG, they just issued a real contract.

For this:

VTH’s planned Polar Security Cutter

The interesting thing is, it will be built in a swamp right around the corner from me at a facility where I trained the security forces for years. They have built a number of phibs for the Army as well as frigate-sized survey/AGOR types for the MSC/NOAA and the Navy in recent years. As far as I can tell, this would be the largest ship they have ever produced.

Additional footnote: Ingalls, just down the river from VTH, used to build icebreakers back in the 1950s, and they made the largest U.S. Naval breaker, the 9,000-ton USS Glacier (AGB-4).

The contract announcement, issued by the Navy:

VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $745,940,860 fixed-price incentive-firm contract for the detail design and construction of the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Polar Security Cutter (PSC) (formerly the Heavy Polar Ice Breaker). The PSC program is a multiple year Department of Homeland Security Level 1 investment and a USCG major system acquisition to acquire up to three multi-mission PSCs to recapitalize the USCG fleet of heavy icebreakers which have exhausted their design service life. The PSC’s mission will be to ensure continued access to both polar regions and support the country’s economic, commercial, maritime, and national security needs. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $1,942,812,266. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi (61 percent); Metairie, Louisiana (12 percent); New Orleans, Louisiana (12 percent); San Diego, California (4 percent); Mossville, Illinois (4 percent); Mobile, Alabama (2 percent); Boca Raton, Florida (2 percent); and various other locations (3 percent), and is expected to be completed by June 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through November 2027. Fiscal 2019 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard); and fiscal 2018 and 2017 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) in the amount of $839,224,287 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website, with three offers received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity (N00024-19-C-2210).

Presser:

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy, through an Integrated Program Office (IPO), awarded VT Halter Marine Inc., of Pascagoula, Mississippi, a fixed price incentive (firm) contract for the Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) of the Coast Guard’s lead Polar Security Cutter (PSC).

The initial award is valued at $745.9 million and supports non-recurring engineering and detail design of the PSC class as well as procurement of long lead-time materials and construction of the first ship. The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs. If all options are exercised, the total contract value is $1.9 billion. PSCs support a wide range of Coast Guard missions including search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, environmental response, and national defense missions.

The U.S. Coast Guard is the nation’s lead agency responsible for providing assured surface access in the polar regions. This contract award supports the United States’ ability to recapitalize heavy polar icebreaker capabilities that are vital to our nation’s ability to conduct national missions, respond to critical events, and project presence in the polar regions.

“Against the backdrop of great power competition, the Polar Security Cutter is key to our nation’s presence in the polar regions,” said Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard. “With the strong support of both the Trump Administration and the United States Congress, this contract award marks an important step towards building the nation’s full complement of six polar icebreakers to meet the unique mission demands that have emerged from increased commerce, tourism, research, and international activities in the Arctic and Antarctic.”

The acquisition of Polar Security Cutters is being jointly managed across the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard through an IPO that leverages the expertise and utilizes best practices across each enterprise to deliver a fleet of highly capable, multi-mission ships in the most cost-efficient and timely manner possible. NAVSEA is the lead contracting authority.

“This contract award reflects the great benefit achieved by integrating the incredible talents of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy acquisition and shipbuilding professionals to deliver best value at speed,” said James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. “Working with our industry partners, the team identified approximately $300 million in cost avoidances and accelerated the schedule for delivery of this capability to the nation by almost three years. This reflects the urgency in which we are operating to ensure we deliver capabilities necessary to support the U.S. Coast Guard and the nation’s missions in the polar regions.”

Construction on the first PSC is planned to begin in 2021 with delivery planned for 2024; however, the contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery.

The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy are committed to working together to ensure the success of this program and to deliver the capabilities necessary to meet national defense and homeland security mission demands in the polar regions.

More on the Polar Security Cutter program here.

It should also be pointed out that this means just about every new vessel being built for the Coast Guard is being made inside a 300-mile ride down I-10 along the Gulf of Mexico from Panama City, Florida to New Orleans. Ingalls is producing the large (4,500-ton/418-foot) Legend-class National Security Cutter, Eastern Shipbuilding Group in PC makes the (3,700-ton/360-foot) Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter, Bollinger in NOLA makes the 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter, and now VTH has the Polar Security Cutter.

Of Swamp Rats and Little Birds

The aging Reliance-class USCGC Decisive (WMEC-629) just returned to homeport in Pensacola, Florida, after 58-day patrol. I visited with the “Swamp Rats” when she was based at Pascagoula in 2011 and they have taken exceedingly good care of the now-51-year-old cutter.

On her helicopter deck, which regularly accommodate up to an HH-65-sized chopper and conduct HIFR on larger birds. A junior officer normally doubles as the ship’s LSO. (Photo: Chris Eger)

For an idea of just what era she dates from, for the first 20 years of her career, she carried a 3″/50 open mount forward as her main armament.

Sistership USCGC VIGILANT WMEC-617 12 May 1969, note her original 3″/50 and long helicopter deck. These ships were originally to be capable of supporting an 18,000-lb Sea King(!) augmented by a sonar and Mk32 torpedo tubes to conduct convoy operations/coastal defense in the event of WWIII. Those ASW upgrades never happened but these ships are still in service 50 years later. As far as helicopters went, they were only initially tested for and typically used with the 8,500-lb  HH-52 Seaguard, which is more of a baby Sea King than anything else. In wartime, they could have likely operated the SH-2 Seasprite, which went closer to 10,000-lbs.

Of interest in her latest deployment around the Gulf, which included a three-week TSTA at Mayport, saving a fishing vessel taking on water and conducting inspections, the Decisive became the first 210-foot Coast Guard cutter to conduct ship-helicopter operations with three U.S. Army MH-6 helicopters, “Little Birds,” from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR).

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Decisive conducted helicopter operations with three Army H-6 helicopters in the Gulf of Mexico, March 9, 2019. The training is meant to help pilots land on a moving platform and for crewmembers to work with unfamiliar aircraft. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo/Released)

Now that, is different.

CBP and the new Glock 47 (?)

Customs and Border Patrol, which existed for decades before they were merged Post-9/11 as the Dept. of Homeland Security’s CBP, loved six-shooters. Legendary smokewagon skinner Bill Jordan cut his chops as a Border Patrol officer/inspector in the 1930s and 40s before he helped invent the S&W M19 and M66 to give the .357 Magnum room to move.

Christine Davis (Gee) was the first female agent hired by US Border Patrol. She was a member of class 107, and graduated the academy on July 31, 1975. Note her S&W M19, which remained standard for another 20 years after this picture was taken

Therefore, it was no surprise that the agency was among the last federal law enforcement groups to ditch the wheelgun when in 1995 they adopted the Beretta 96 in .40S&W to put their M66’s to pasture. Then, in 2004, they moved from the all-metal Beretta to the polymer-framed HK P2000.

Dig those M14s tho (HK P-2000s in holsters)

Now, 15 years after the move to HK, the guns are still in frontline use, but have been passed up by a new generation of combat handguns and are as much of a throwback as the .357 six-shooter was in 1995.

Which compelled CBP to seek a replacement last year in a tender that specified an optics-ready handgun. This week they announced Glock got the nod to the tune of $85 million smackers, which is a lot of polymer (CBP has 45,000 LE officers and agents across all of its agencies).

The interesting thing about the move is that it appears they are the first adopter of the as-yet-to-be-announced Glock G47, which looks to be a G45 with a G17 MOS Gen 5 slide fitted.

I will be sure to check in with Glock for more info on that in the coming days.

Until then, check out my article on the move at Guns.com.

Looking pretty good for something that doesn’t offically exist

A top-secret product of the Lockheed Skunk Works, the F-117 Nighthawk, better known as the original “stealth fighter,” first flew in 1981. After gaining IOC in 1988, they became public knowledge during the Gulf War after they helped take down some of the key strategic nodes of Saddam’s air defense and C4I network.

Officially retired in April 2008, just 59 production models were delivered. Of those, one, #82-0806 “Something Wicked”, was lost to Yugoslav SAMs over the Balkans in 1998 and just one scrapped, leaving the other 57ish Nighthawks (those on public display are early YF-117A “Scorpion” prototypes) to be put in what the Air Force described as “Type 1000” climate controlled hangar storage.

Thus:

However, for an aircraft that is supposed to be put to pasture sans their wings, they sure do get a lot of air time.

Sabotage! 41 Rem Mag edition

Bloke On The Range is a great gun channel run by a British expat in Switzerland and he posted a few shots of this bad boy last week.

Meet Präzisionsgewehr (Precision-rifle) G 150:

This integrally suppressed “sabotage rifle” with a folding stock is chambered in the squat .41 Remington Magnum (10.4x33mmR) which fired a 409-grain bullet “at subsonic velocity for quietly messing with communications equipment, power transmission and so on in case of Soviet occupation of Switzerland.”

As the round was developed in the 1960s by accomplished red-blooded shootists Elmer Keith and Bill Jordan, they would probably have liked that concept.

Used by Projekt-26, Switzerland’s formerly top-secret (and still very hard to nail down even today) Cold War-era “stay behind” force, the G 150 is very interesting in an of itself. Built on a German-made Sauer rifle action, the rotary bolt action weapon had a three-round magazine and an unmarked 4-6X scope made by Schmidt & Bender, according to Maxim Popenker.

A Präzisionsgewehr G150 inside one such cache

The concept reminds me of the British Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units, “stay behind” cells consisting of some 500 independent patrols of 5-10 volunteers attached to Home Guard battalions 201 (Scotland), 202 (northern England), or 203 (southern England) during WWII. While most were equipped with Tommy Guns, P14/17 Enfields, and others, they also stockpiled a number of Winchester Model 74 rifles with a Parker Hale No.42 optic and a silencer (suppressor) to muffle its gentle .22LR report.

The more things change…

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