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An interesting smattering of AKs, from somewhere in the Arizona desert

So this popped up on my newswire from CBP’s media people. While the story of the bust isn’t that interesting, the guns recovered are.

In the above image from Border Patrol, there appears to be a Bulgarian-made Arsenal SLR-106 pistol at the top with the side rail, a Hungarian AMD-65 style gun with a very un-Hungarian side-folding stock, what looks like an Arsenal SAM-7 rifle with the stock detached, some really beat AK that probably still runs like a champ, and a Century-imported Serbian-made Zastava M85 pistol with the mag well to accept AR mags.

More in my column at Guns.com.

‘Worn out’ 110s will likely live on for decades

USCG Photo

Here we see the 110-foot Costa Rican Coast Guard (Guardacostas) patrol boat Libertador Juan Rafael Mora Porras (P1101), formerly the USCGC Long Island (WPB-1342), headed to the port of Caldera on Costa Rica’s west coast after picking up an overhaul, new radar, radios and paint at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, with costs paid for by the State Department’s Foreign Military Sales program.

Some 44 members of the Costa Rican Coast Guard have been in Baltimore since October training on their new vessels. The former cutters Long Island and USCGC Roanoke Island (WPB-1346) (the latter now Gen. Jose M. Canas Escamilla) were previously based in Alaska and were decommissioned in 2015 after more than 20 years’ service.

Just 22 of 49 completed Island-class cutters remain in service, with Edisto decommissioning in California last weekend, rapidly being replaced by the larger and more modern 158-foot Sentinel-class of Fast Response Cutters.

The Coast Guard Cutter Edisto sits moored at Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego, April 13, 2018. Edisto was decommissioned after 31 years of service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joel Guzman/released)

Even non-nation actors are using retired 110s in maritime patrol roles. I give you Sea Shepherd’s pair, currently off Baja supporting local operations to preserve Vaquitas, rare porpoises that live off the coast of Mexico:

The former USCGC Block Island (WPB-1344) and the USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), now renamed the MV John Paul DeJoria and the MV Farley Mowat, were purchased in Baltimore in 2015 as surplus by the group.

 

Now that is a party favor

In the Minigun biz, Garwood is a household name. Mr. Garwood himself, who started a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company specializing in an improved generation of the multi-barreled 7.62mm machine gun in 1999, allegedly told the ATF that a number of M134G rotor housings– considered the receiver of the Minigun– were destroyed, but the parts, controlled items under the National Firearms Act, were recovered in a 2017 search warrant at a suspected cross-border weapon smuggler’s home in Texas with their markings partially obliterated.

The U.S. Attorney’s office was not pleased…more in my column at Guns.com

How about 35 equipment casualties within the first 19 days at sea?

170607-N-ZP059-031 PORTLAND Ore., (June 7, 2017) – The medium endurance cutter Alert (WMEC-630) arrives in Portland for Rose Festival Fleet Week. The festival and Portland Fleet Week are a celebration of the sea services with Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard Members from the U.S. and Canada making the city a port of call. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco/Released)

The Oregon-based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alert (WMEC 630), a 210-foot Reliance class medium endurance cutter had her keel laid Jan. 5,. 1968, at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay,. Md., and the cutter was commissioned Aug. 4, 1969. This puts the old girl at 48 years young– and those years have not been kind to her.

She just had to return home just a third of the way through her latest patrol, proving perhaps more in need of help than anyone she could render assistance to.

From the Coast Guard:

The crew departed Astoria Feb. 5 to conduct a counternarcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific when the ship suffered more than 35 equipment casualties within the first 19 days of their patrol, including malfunctions in the ship’s radar, propulsion and fuel systems.

The ship’s main diesel engine also suffered a crankcase explosion, resulting from a seized bearing on an oil pump, which caused a week-long delay in Panama while the crew inspected the engine. Following the inspection, a decision was made to end the patrol.

“We left on patrol with great hopes and a crew at top performance, thoroughly trained and operationally tested, but one of our main engines broke, sending us home before we got into any operations, which was very disappointing for everyone,” said Cmdr. Tobias Reid, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert. “Our engineers did an outstanding job responding to the casualty and put a huge amount of effort into repairing the engine on station, but it requires an extensive overhaul that can only be completed at home.”

The Alert was commissioned in 1969 and is one of 14 remaining 210-foot Reliance-class medium endurance cutters in the Coast Guard’s fleet. Alert is one of three 210-foot cutters stationed on the West Coast – two in Oregon and one in Washington. The cutter supports counter-smuggling missions throughout the Pacific Ocean from the U.S.-Canada border to South America.
The Coast Guard’s fleet of medium endurance cutters is in the process of being replaced by the offshore patrol cutter beginning in fiscal year 2021.

“The offshore patrol cutter will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. “It is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, for interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports.”

New iron for the Eagle

The nation’s tall ship, the Gorch Fock-class segelschulschiff training barque USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active duty square rigger, recently just picked up only her third engine (aka the “iron topsail”) in her 82-year career. Her first, a 700hp diesel, was installed by the Germans. Her second, 1,000 horsepower Caterpillar D399, was recently installed 30+ years ago.

The ship’s new model, an MTU 8V4000, has 1,340bhp (1000kW) of power. The choice of the MTU over a Caterpillar is a good primer for officers headed to a fleet where the two most common small patrol types, the 154-foot Sentinel-class and the 87-foot Marine Protector-class, both use various MTU diesel. Formerly the USCG utilized twin Caterpillars in both the Point and Island-class patrol boats, but the first is long gone and the second are heading out rapidly.

According to the Coast Guard, “This eight-cylinder engine is half the size of the old Caterpillar and is environmentally friendly. It releases cleaner air than it takes in.”

Eagle has a busy schedule this year, taking two different OCS classes out as well as a number of phases of cadet recruit training on a six-week international cruise that includes port calls in Colombia, Curaçao, Honduras and the DR.

Operation Deep Freeze: Making it by with tape and bubble gum for another year

An Emperor penguin poses for a photo in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star in McMurdo Sound near Antarctica on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018

The country’s only heavy polar icebreaker has pulled it off again..despite the flooding, engine failure, you know, the regular.

The 42-year-old 399-foot USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10) last week finished cutting a resupply channel through 15 miles of Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea and escorting supply vessels to the frozen continent to resupply McMurdo Station at the tip of Ross Island, the epicenter of the U.S. Antarctic Program (pop. 1200).

The trip was not without drama for the elderly cutter.

From the USCG:

“Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” said Capt. Michael Davanzo, the commanding officer of the Polar Star. “Our arrival was delayed due to these challenges, but the crew and I are certainly excited to be here. It’s a unique opportunity for our crewmembers to visit the most remote continent in the world, and in many respects, it makes the hard work worth it.”

On Jan. 16, Polar Star’s shaft seal failed causing flooding in the cutter’s engine room at a rate of approximately 20-gallons per minute. The crew responded quickly, using an emergency shaft seal to stop the flow of freezing, Antarctic water into the vessel. The crew was able dewater the engineering space and effect more permanent repairs to the seal to ensure the watertight integrity of the vessel. There were no injuries as a result of the malfunction.

Flooding was not the only engineering challenge the crew of Polar Star faced during their trek through the thick ice. On Jan. 11, their progress was slowed after the one of the cutter’s three main gas turbines failed. The crew uses the cutter’s main gas turbine power to breakup thick multi-year ice using its propellers. The crew was able to troubleshoot the turbine finding a programming issue between the engine and the cutter’s 1970s-era electrical system. The crew was able to continue their mission in the current ice conditions without the turbine.

“If the Polar Star were to suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure, the Nation would not be able to support heavy icebreaker missions like Operation Deep Freeze, and our Nation has no vessel capable of rescuing the crew if the icebreakers were to fail in the ice,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area in Alameda, California. “The crewmembers aboard Polar Star not only accomplished their mission, but they did so despite extreme weather and numerous engineering challenges. This is a testament to their dedication and devotion to duty.”

The cutter refueled at McMurdo Station Jan. 18 and continued to develop and maintain the ice channel in preparation for two resupply ships from U.S. Military Sealift Command, Ocean Giant, and Maersk Peary. The crew of Polar Star escorted the vessels to the ice pier at McMurdo Station, an evolution that requires the cutter to travel about 300 yards in front of the supply ships to ensure they safely make it through the narrow ice channel. The crew escorted the Ocean Giant to the ice pier at McMurdo Jan. 27 and conducted their final escort of the Maersk Peary to Antarctica Feb. 2. The crew escorted Maersk Peary safely out of the ice Feb. 6 after supply vessel’s crew transferred their cargo.

Sherman, arriving for last time

The Honolulu-based Coast Guard Cutter Sherman (WHEC 720, shown here as she returned home Sept. 20, 2017, after a 94-day, 16,000-mile patrol in the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by USCGC Sherman/Released)

The 50-year-old Hamilton-class 378-foot high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman (WHEC-720) has returned from her final trip under a U.S. flag last week following a 76-day patrol in the Bering Sea. She is scheduled to decommission in March.

From USCG Public Affairs:

During the three-month patrol, the crew supported the safe transit of a disabled vessel over 800 miles to Dutch Harbor, enforced fisheries regulations in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. They also provided a command and control platform capable of embarking a helicopter, thus providing search and rescue coverage to those operating in the Bering Sea.

Sherman has a storied history including being the last remaining U.S. Warship in the Coast Guard or Navy to have sunk an enemy vessel. It is also one of only two cutters to hold the Vietnam Service Award and the only cutter to hold the Combat Action Ribbon for action in the Vietnam War.

In 2001 it became the first cutter to circumnavigate the world, after conducting U.N. sanctions enforcement duty in the Persian Gulf and goodwill projects in Madagascar, South Africa and Cape Verde.

Adding to Sherman’s history, in March of 2007, a boarding team dispatched from the cutter discovered 17 metric tons of cocaine on the Panamanian-flagged freighter, Gatun. This seizure remains the largest drug bust in U.S. history with an estimated street value of $600 million. As the record holder, Sherman proudly wears the Golden Snowflake.

The crew rounded out the cutter’s storied career in the Bering Sea; conducting 16 fisheries boardings, issuing four fisheries violations and one safety violation, ensuring the integrity of the $6 billion fishing industry. As the primary search and rescue asset in the region at the time, Sherman also ensured the safe transit of the crew of the Resolve Pioneer, a Dutch Harbor-based ocean-going tug, following a severe casualty at the far end of the Aleutian chain, restricting their speed and maneuverability.

“As Sherman and her crew return home from this final patrol, it is humbling to look back on the history and the accomplishments of this crew and the previous,” said Capt. Steve Wittrock, commanding officer of Sherman. “This final patrol has been significant in that the Bering Sea mission is one of the most demanding and historically important in the Coast Guard and I am very proud of the way that the crew has performed throughout the last two challenging months.”

Sherman is one of the Coast Guard’s four remaining 378-foot high endurance cutters still in operation. The 1960s era fleet of cutters is presently being replaced by the 413-foot national security cutters, which will soon serve as the Coast Guard’s primary, long-range asset. Honolulu will serve as a homeport to two of the national security cutters, replacing Sherman and the already decommissioned Morgenthau.

So far, the State Department has passed on three of the stricken “378s” to the Philippines (USCGC Hamilton, Boutwell, Dallas), two to the Nigerian Navy (Gallatin and Chase) and two to the Bangladesh Navy (Jarvis and Rush). Morgenthau went to the Vietnam Coast Guard last year. With Sherman decommissioned, only USCGC Mellon (WHEC-717) and Midgett (WHEC-726) based in Seattle, and Munro (WHEC-724) in Kodiak remain in U.S. service and are expected to be replaced by the National Security Cutter program by 2021.

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