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Two WWII vets, still hard at work

Here we see past Warship Wednesday subject, the oldest vessel in the U.S. Coast Guard, and one of the last ships afloat and in active service that dates from World War II: the Gorch Fock-class segelschulschiff USCGC Eagle (WIX-327), America’s only active-duty square rigger.

This uncommon view of her was taken last week at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, the only one in the service, as Eagle undertakes the next step in her five-year SLEP modernization. She is inside the former U.S. Navy ARD-18 Class Auxiliary Repair Dock, USS Oak Ridge (ARDM-1).

Built at Alameda in 1944, the Oak Ridge is 81-years young and during her lengthy Naval career was based in the Philippines, Groton, Rota, and Kings Bay until she was disposed of in 2001. The 551-foot dock can lift ships up to 437-feet long, making her ideal for the Coast Guard as her largest vessels, the new National Security Cutters, are just 418-feet oal.

The dock was transferred to the Coasties in 2001 with the assumption she had about five more years left on her before she would be condemned, and Eagle may be Oak Ridge‘s last customer.

The dock is in bad shape.

According to a 2015 DHS report, she sank in 2011 resulting in $4 million in repairs and costs $1 million per year to barely maintain– 11 times greater than the more modern Syncrolift shiplift system the Yard has installed.

Her gantry cranes, installed in 1963, are inoperative as “it is no longer cost-effective to fabricate replacement parts for crane engines, structure, and controls.” Further, “Other installed equipment including diesel generators, auxiliary pumps, boilers, streamlines, welding gas, air compressors, airlines, and crew berthing have all been removed from
service over the past 10 years as a result of disrepair.”

As far as her hull, she is supposed to be dry-docked herself every 10 years but hasn’t been since the 1990s and there are no active shipyards within a safe distance from the CG Yard capable of drydocking her, so, “this work has been permanently deferred until Oak Ridge is removed from service,” which is expected in 2018.

As for Eagle, on the other hand, the last mid to walk her decks likely hasn’t been born yet.

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As GPS becomes questionable, backups in commo and nav afoot

Quartermaster 1st Class John Lenson, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82), peers through a marine sextant, a navigational instrument used to determine celestial navigation. Lassen is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility supporting law enforcement operations as part of Operation Martillo. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr./Released)

There are a lot of interesting things going on when it comes to GPS systems and their use.

The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS, is operated and maintained by the U.S. Air Force and is a series of 24 satellites in orbit‎ that helps find things down to about 5m. Set up in the late 1970s, China (BNSS), India (NAVIC), the EU (Galileo), Russia (GLONASS) and Japan (Zenith) have likewise set up their own systems to assist their own needs.

Long the gold standard for land and sea nav, GPS has replaced Loran and Omega systems as well as in many cases traditional celestial navigation and good old compass/map based land nav as well. I mean why not, you can buy a GPS system for sub-$100 these days.

From an article in Maritime Executive, MARAD found about ships operating in and around the Black Sea have observed cases of GPS spoofing. These included cases of lost signals and “For few days, GPS gave a position inland (near Gelendyhik aiport) but vessel was actually drifting more than 25 NM from it.”

Some 20 vessels reported problems. Last year, the Norks jammed GPS in the DMZ.

This comes as the Navy has returned celestial navigation (CELNAV) courses to the Naval Academy’s curriculum (NROTC dropped it in 2000, USNA in 2006).

Further, an improved radio-nav system known as eLoran is making in-roads in navigational support with the Coast Guard being the proposed recipient of $200 million in funding to help muscle it up.

Meanwhile, the Navy, in particular Guam-based CTF-75, has been testing HF systems in the case of satellite communication failure, recently sending broadcast voice and data 6,050 miles from Naval Base Guam to Port Hueneme on the West Coast via radio.

It seems like everything old is new again.

I’m just waiting on the seaplanes and battleships to come back.

With that, let’s roll this 1971 CELNAV training film for those who want some naptime.

What the deuce? Black powder in an AR…

As someone who has written a number of zombie books (shameless plug), I found the above attempt to run black powder hand loads through an AR-15 very interesting.

Using normal primers and powder-coated lead bullets, he runs them through a Ruger Blackout in .300BLK with the gas system opened up all the way and gets some decent accuracy, though the smoky loads only hit about 900fps. Of course, they jam on every shot, but even taking time to clear the action it is a faster follow-up shot than a Civil War-era muzzleloader any day.

A look at JIATF South

CBS takes an in-depth look at Joint Interagency Task Force South. Based out of Key West, it’s commanded by a USCG flag officer but includes assets from throughout USSOUTHCOM and 4th Fleet. It’s a neat video with a lot of access granted. They go inside the CIC of a National Security Cutter– USCGC James (WMSL-754)– see HITRON fire some rounds, and get a close up of Bigfoot, the narcosub over at Truman Annex that everyone poses for pictures with.

USCG keeps the lineage intact with OPC cutter names

The Coast Guard just dropped the names for the first flight of 11 new 360-foot Offshore Patrol Cutters.

The agency stuck with the naming convention of recycling historical cutter names which is so much better than, oh, naming them after current members of Congress in charge of purse strings or, say, the political whims of the SECNAV.

From the CG:

The first flight of 11 OPCs will include the Active, Argus, Diligence and Vigilant, named for four cutters of the first fleet [of Alexander Hamilton’s 10 revenue service cutters in 1791] and subsequent cutters with the same names.

OPC Pickering will pay homage to the distinguished combat record of the Quasi-War cutter Pickering.

OPC Ingham will carry the name of a 327-foot “Treasury”-class cutter that served with distinction in World War II. [See Warship Wednesday entry on Ingham here]

OPC Icarus will honor the fearless 165-foot cutter that sank one of the first Nazi U-boats after U.S. entry into World War II.

OPCs Chase and Rush will bear two cutter names long associated with the Coast Guard, most recently with two high-endurance cutters of the 378-foot Hamilton-class [who put in time on the gun line off Vietnam.]

OPCs Alert and Reliance will bear the names of two famed workhorses of the medium-endurance cutter fleet.

The first offshore patrol cutter is scheduled for delivery in fiscal year 2021.

Semper Paratus at 227

Point Class Cutters of USCG Squadron ONE stand out of Subic Bay in July 1965 for duty in Vietnamese littoral waters as part of Operation Market Time

Happy 227th Birthday to the U.S. Coast Guard!

From the top:

FM COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC//CG-092//
TO ALCOAST
UNCLAS//N05700//
ALCOAST 228/17
COMDTNOTE 5700
SUBJ: COAST GUARD’s 227TH BIRTHDAY
1. August 4th, 2017 will mark the Coast Guard’s 227th birthday.
2. On that date in 1790, President George Washington signed an Act, passed by
Congress and championed by the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton,
that authorized the creation of a federal fleet of 10 revenue cutters charged
with enforcing laws and protecting commerce of the new nation. Since the
federal government did not have a navy at the time, the small federal fleet of
sea-going, revenue cutters was the only naval force capable of protecting U.S.
maritime interests on the high seas and along the coastline. National defense
has therefore been a core mission since our founding.
3. Revenue and later Coast Guard cutters, along with the men and women in
Coast Guard service, participated in all of the nation’s major conflicts since
its founding, including the Vietnam War. Now 50 years hence, we honor those
who served our nation in Southeast Asia.
4. Coast Guardsmen first answered the call after the Navy requested Coast
Guard support for operations in the waters off South Vietnam. Coast Guard
afloat units, both WPBs and WHECs, served in two Coast Guard squadrons in the
waters of Southeast Asia and engaged in combat patrols, gunfire support, and
humanitarian missions. After a request for navigation support, the Coast Guard
established Long Range Navigation (LORAN) stations throughout Southeast Asia,
in an important operation codenamed “Tight Reign”. Additionally, Coast Guard
aviators served with Air Force search and rescue units and the buoy tenders
established maritime aids to navigation. A Port Security and Waterways Detail
and Explosive Loading Detachments ensured the safe loading and unloading of
vital munitions in theatre and a Merchant Marine Detail provided needed
support of merchant marine personnel and vessels. Many Coast Guardsmen and
their Public Health Service shipmates conducted numerous medical support
visits to South Vietnamese villages and distributed food, clothing, and toys
to those in need.
5. The Coast Guard role in South Vietnam ended with the closing of LORAN
stations in South Vietnam and Thailand in 1975, as Saigon fell to North
Vietnamese forces. The Coast Guard’s service was not without cost, as eight
Coast Guardsmen perished in the line of duty in Vietnam, while another
61 were wounded in action. It would do well, on this Coast Guard birthday,
to remember their sacrifices along with the sacrifices of all Coast Guardsmen
who gave their all in service of their country.
6. Over the next years the Coast Guard will continue to support efforts to
recognize the service of its veterans in Vietnam. For more information
please visit our website at https://www.uscg.mil/history/ops/wars/VTN/VTN
-Index.asp. Eligible Coast Guard Vietnam Veterans may obtain lapel pins from
The Vietnam War Commemoration. For details please see:
http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/lapelpins/.
7. Ms. Ellen Engleman Conners, Acting Director of Governmental and Public
Affairs, sends.
8. Internet release authorized.

Atomic age Shermans in downtown Motown

While the concept of a platoon of main battle tanks rattling down a major metro street these days sounds foreign outside of Third World coups, in Korean War-era Detroit, it was just another parade.

It should be noted Chrysler’s Detroit Tank Arsenal built over 15,000 M4s during the war, in no less than eight variants, or about a third of the entire Sherman production line.

sherman-tanks-detriot-july-28-1951-detroits-250th-birthday-festival

View of tanks on Woodward Ave. during the parade celebrating the 250th Birthday Festival of Detroit. Large American flag is draped on office building; spectators stand on sidewalks. Stamped on back: “Don Cooper, advertising & illustrative photography, 8619 Grand River, Detroit 6, Michigan. Detroit, 1701-1951, 250th Birthday Festival, official committee.” Handwritten on back: “Views of the big parade, July 28, 1951, Detroit’s 250th Birthday Festival.” Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

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