Category Archives: littoral

Hovering around the Amazon

The Marina de Guerra del Perú recently published a photo essay on brown water infantry troops doing what they do via some interesting watercraft. As part of the 45th annual Exercise BRACOLPER, in which Colombian and Brazilian riverine units visit Peru for a joint training op, the Peruvians have been showing off their British-made T-class Griffon Hoverwork (GHL) 2000TD hovercraft, of which they own seven.

The 2000TD is in use with several NATO countries such as Belgium, the Baltic states, and Poland, as well as with the Royal Marines, Finnish border guard, and Colombian naval infantry– which is the largest user. Some 38-feet long, they can carry 20 passengers at a speed of 35 knots. The Peruvian models are fitted with aluminum armor and have a forward gun mount that can accept anything from a 5.56mm LMG to a Mini Gun.

The 25,000-member Peruvian Navy has a decent blue water force to include modern frigates and a professional submarine force (they were also the last fleet in the world to operate a large gun-armed cruiser outside of the U.S. and Russia) but, as the country is bisected by the Amazon, Apurimac, Ene, Mantaro, and Madre de Dios river systems, they also have significant riverine forces as well.

The Peruvians have a marine (naval infantry) brigade that includes three battalions oriented towards blue-water and coastal operations and two (Teniente Quevedo and Teniente Villapando) to riverine ops as well as a commando unit and supporting artillery and engineer assets.

For reference, check out this video of Peruvian 2000TDs at work.

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

Get Your BBQ on this weekend

I’ve heard of steel beach picnics, but maybe this is more of an aluminum beach event.

Official caption: “Cam Ranh Bay, Republic of Vietnam. Engineman Second Class D.W. Kirkpatrick barbecues some chicken (could be pizza) on a charcoal grill on the fantail of U.S. Navy Fast Coastal Patrol Craft (PCF 68) during a run on Cam Ranh Bay, July 1968.”

NARA Photo: 428-GX-K54697

Of the 193 PCFs fielded during the Vietnam era, two are preserved in the U.S., in a salute to the famed Brown Water Navy of that conflict. 

Also, a few Swift boats are still in operation, in Southeast Asia. 

 

 

Rig for divers

COMSUBPAC recently released several images of things you don’t usually see: Dry Deck Shelter and submerged diver operations on a Virginia-class hunter-killer submarine.

PACIFIC OCEAN (June 18, 2021) — The Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina (SSN 777) conducts operations off the coast of Oahu, Hawai’i. U.S. military forces are present and active in and around the Pacific in support of allies and partners and a free and open Indo-Pacific for more than 75 years. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex Perlman/Released)

The Navy only has about a half-dozen of the 38-foot DDSs (2-3 in each of the SDV Teams), which were put into service in the 1980s to replace the capability lost when the Pentagon scrapped the old transport submarines (see USS Perch) of the Vietnam-era. Boats such as Perch could put ashore platoon-sized elements of Marines or UDTs/SEALs via small boats and do so in relatively (for the blue water Navy) shallow water.

While usually older boats operate DDSs– for instance converted Tridents turned into SSGNs– 10 of Virginias are believed equipped to operate DDSs, which can support a SEAL platoon (16 operators) for dive or small boat (CRRC) operations.

Previous to these images, some of the last good quality released images of DDS shelters in use on DVIDS date to earlier this year and, beyond that to 2008, both on converted SSGNs.

Independence Class LCS = Surveillance Frigates

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 13, 2021) Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea. Tulsa, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Colby A. Mothershead)

The 17 Independence-class variants of the littoral combat ship– including some carrying hybrid surface warfare and mine countermeasures systems and seeing much better availability after switching from contractor to sailor-performed maintenance– have been getting some more attention and love from the Navy lately.

“We’ll always be operating in and around the archipelagos, probably Ryukyus, the Philippines, and areas into the Philippine Sea behind it. It turns out it is highly survivable and highly effective when operating in the environment it was built for,” said COMSEVENTHFLT Vice Adm. Bill Merz, commenting that one “pretty much owned” the South China Sea during a period last year where COVID had sidelined other, more sophisticated assets.

“It is not blue water ship by any means but when you put it in the archipelago and you combine low signature and high-speed, it turns out it’s very hard to target, very hard to kill and it’s very effective with a thousand places to get gas,” said Merz.

PHILIPPINE SEA (June 13, 2021) Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conducts routine operations in the Philippine Sea. Tulsa, part of Destroyer Squadron Seven, is on a rotational deployment operating in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with partners and serve as a ready-response force in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Colby A. Mothershead)

With that, Craig Hooper in a piece at Forbes argues the class could (finally) be settling into its groove, and points to its perhaps best use– creating mobile “surveillance bubbles” to point the Big Battle Fleet at stuff to kill.

Properly kitted out, an Independence Class surveillance frigate can serve as an electromagnetic warfare threat, collecting everything from tactical targeting data to strategically relevant emissions. Potentially add in a Marine Corps reconnaissance element, and things could get interesting.

Hooper argues to upgrade the sensor package on the Indys, fill them with UAVs, and turn them into proper surveillance frigates, with doctrine to match.

He may be on to something.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the LCS turn out to be something that can work?

Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) arrives in Trincomalee Sri Lanka June 23 2021

Austal One of Five in Running for Navy’s New Expeditionary LSTs

Austal– who has been making 417-foot Independence-class littoral combat ships (the ones that actually kind of work) and 337-foot Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (EPF) vessel at their U.S. location in Mobile, Alabama– is one of the companies that has been greenlighted to work up plans for the Navy’s new Light Amphibious Warfare (LAW) ship, envisioned to shuttle around little groups of Marines around contested Pacific atolls and islets to give China heartburn in time of conflict there.

Via Austal:

Austal Limited (Austal) (ASX: ASB) is pleased to announce Austal USA has been awarded a concept studies and preliminary design contract by the United States Navy (USN) for the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program.

The USN’s new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program envisions procuring a class of 28 to 30 new amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, particularly in implementing a new Marine Corps operational concept called Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). The Navy envisions the first LAW being procured in FY2023.

LAW will provide US Naval forces a manoeuvre and sustainment capability to conduct littoral and amphibious operations. The medium-sized landing ships are expected to be approximately 60 to 120 metres length overall (LOA) with an ability to embark at least 75 US Marines with approximately 370 – 740 square metres of cargo area to transport the Marines’ weapons, equipment, and supplies to the beach or austere ports.

Austal USA is one of five companies approached by the US Navy to develop LAW concept designs, with a follow-on option for preliminary design. A single shipyard is expected to be down-selected for a detailed design and construction contract by the end of the third quarter of CY2022.

Austal Limited Chief Executive Paddy Gregg said the contract allows Austal USA to continue developing LAW designs to meet US Navy requirements and further strengthens the company’s position to construct steel ships for the US Navy in the future.

“Austal USA is well placed to pursue this Light Amphibious Warship opportunity, with a proven capability to deliver multiple naval shipbuilding programs and new steel manufacturing facilities now under construction,” Mr Gregg said.

“The Austal USA team will continue to develop their concept designs and ultimately provide a highly capable and cost effective LAW solution for the US Navy.”

Warship Wednesday, June 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Here at LSOZI, we will take off every Wednesday to look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and 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, June 16, 2021: Rig for Red

Called a skalomniscope by American sub wonk Simon Lake, the periscope of sorts was first invented in 1854 by a French guy by the name of Marie Davey, submersibles have had various “sight tubes” ever since. While early boats had a single short scope attached directly to the (single) top hatch (!) by the 1930s it was common for large fleet submarines to have multiple search and attack periscopes in the sail.

Over the years, these devices in U.S. parlance led to the term “periscope liberty” which denoted side use in observing peacetime beaches and pleasure craft with bikini-clad femmes at play and, of course, the old-school “Rig for red” use of red lighting for those who would use the scopes while the boat was at periscope depth at night or was preparing to go topside should the boat to surface in the o-dark-o’clock hours.

Here are some of the cooler periscope shots in the NHHC’s collection, among others.

Vessel sighting mechanism details LC-USZC4-4561 Robert Hudson’s submarine 1806 periscope patent

The eye of the submarine periscope, Gallagher card.

Aircraft carrier Taiho, seen through the periscope of submarine USS Albacore

Japanese destroyer ‘Harusame’, photographed through the periscope of USS Wahoo (SS-238) after she had been torpedoed by the submarine near Wewak, New Guinea, on 24 January 1943

Japanese armed trawler seen through the periscope of USS Albacore (SS-218) during her tenth war patrol. Photo received 17 November 1944 NHHC 80-286279

80-G-13550 Guardfish periscope

Submarine officer sights through a periscope in the submarine’s control room, during training exercises at the Submarine Base, New London, Groton, Connecticut, in August 1943 80-G-K-16013

Periscope death of the destroyer Tade, (1922) Montage of eight photos showing her sinking after being torpedoed by USS Seawolf (SS-197) on 23 April 1943 NH 58329

Shoreline of Makin Island, photographed through a periscope of USS Nautilus (SS-168) on 16 August 1942, the day before U.S. Marine raiders were landed 80-G-11720

Periscope photograph taken from USS Seawolf (SS-197), while she was on patrol in the Philippines-East Indies area in the fall of 1942. 80-G-33184

Periscope photograph made PUFFER SS-268 freighter Teiko Maru (ex-Vichy French steamship D’Artagnan 1943. Torpedo is shown hitting NH 68784

USS Barb 1944 “fiendish antisubmarine weapon bird” blocking Lucky Fluckey’s view on approach. He reportedly sank the Japanese ship with his observation periscope

In January of 1951, the recently GUPPY’d USS Catfish slipped into San Francisco Bay underwater and remained in the harbor for three days taking photos of the Bay Area through their periscope in daylight as part of an authorized mission to see if they could do it with a minimum of civilian reaction. The mission was successful to a degree, as no one called SFPD or the military, as reported by the San Fran Chronicle.

Sighting the target submarine periscope by Georges Schreiber, Navy Art Collection 88-159-ji

USS JOHN HOOD (DD-655) and USS SNOWDEN (DE-246) photographed through a submarine periscope, while underway 1950s USN 1042008

View from the HALIBUT’s periscope of the March 1960 launch of the Regulus missile.

USS Seadragon (SSN 584) crewmembers explore ice pack in the Arctic Ocean through the periscope

President John F. Kennedy through the periscope aboard USS THOMAS EDISON (SSBN-610) 14 April 1962 USN 1112056-F

USS New Jersey (BB-62) seen through the periscope of USS La Jolla SSN-701

Bohol Strait USS Triton spies a local fisherman on April 1 1960

Key West submarines USS Sea Poacher, USS Grenadier, and USS Threadfin wind their way up the Mississippi River toward New Orleans, as seen through the periscope of USS Tirante, Mardi Gras 1963

Periscope view as Captain G.P. Steele searches for an opening in the ice through which to surface, September 1960 USS Sea Dragon SSN-584 USN 1050054

USS Cowpens through the periscope of the nuclear fast attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN 716), Western Pacific, September 1994.

Many modern submarines, including the U.S. Virginia and RN’s Astute class, no longer use traditional periscopes, having long since ditched them in favor of modern telescoping digital optronics masts housing numerous camera and sensor systems with the Navy’s current standard being the AN/BVS-1 photonics mast.

Astute class CM10 Optronic Masts from Thales. periscope

GROTON, Conn. (Dec. 20, 2019) Sailors assigned to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Minnesota (SSN 783) stand topside as they pull into their homeport at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Dec 20, 2019, following a deployment. Minnesota deployed to execute the chief of naval operation’s maritime strategy in supporting national security interests and maritime security operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Steven Hoskins/Released)

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Bollinger Looks to Get a Slice of that Sweet, Sweet OPC Pie

With as many as 25 of the Coast Guard’s 4,500-ton/360-foot new Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter/Maritime Security Cutter, Medium set to be built (don’t be surprised if the number of hulls increases) a big name in the USCG build game is trying to get in on the action.

New Orleans-based Bollinger and the Coasties go way back, delivering 170 vessels in the last three decades, all of which have had a long and (mostly) successful history. This includes the 110-foot Island-class (49 delivered), the 87-foot Marine Protector class (77 delivered), and now the 158-foot Sentinel-class (44 of 64 delivered to date). The yard also built the Navy’s Cyclone-class patrol ships (14 delivered) in the 1990s and is building the 5,100-ton/263-foot Navajo-class rescue and salvage ships (7 building) as well.

Now, the yard wants to step up to the larger cutters and has submitted a package to get in on the second flight of 11 OPCs, vying against Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, a largely commercial tug/supply boat company, that is building at least the first two of the initial flight of 11. The ships are projected for a rapid build-out with the Coast Guard expecting the first 22 by the early-to-mid 2030s, which sounds far away but really isn’t.

They will be replacing the 30-to-50-year-old 1,300-ton, 210-foot Reliance-class and 1,800-ton, 270-foot Famous-class medium-endurance cutters, which, along with the circa 1967 former Navy Edenton-class rescue ship which has been serving as USCGC Alex Haley (WMEC-39), amount to some 30 hulls.

“Bollinger is the right shipyard at the right time to build the Offshore Patrol Cutter program for the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Ben Bordelon, Bollinger President and CEO. “Our long history building for the Coast Guard is unparalleled and has shown time and time again that Bollinger can successfully deliver the highest quality vessels on an aggressive production schedule.”

Bollinger was a contender in every step of the U.S. Coast Guard’s OPC acquisition process, including the execution of the Stage 1 Preliminary and Contract Design, where the company was included in the final three shipyards, as well as execution of the OPC Stage 2 Industry Study.

The OPCs are essentially a scaled-down light frigate, with lots of commonality sensor and weapon-wise with the Navy’s LCS and planned new Constellation-class FFGs, as well as the Coast Guard’s larger National Security program cutters.

This includes the BAE Mk110 (Bofors’ 57Mk3, which uses an interesting Mk295 3P fuzed ammo), an SPS-77 (Saab Sea Giraffe) 3D radar with gun cueing so that the 57mm can be used for AAA/anti-missile defense, a stabilized Mk 38 25mm gun (that can be upgraded to a 30mm or 50mm barrel on the same mount), two stabilized .50 cals and four good old M2s. Northrop Grumman was just named the systems integrator for C5ISR and control systems. They can interface with the fleet via Link 22 and have IFF/TACAN systems.

There is also weight and space available for anti-ship missiles and a CIWS and they can carry an HH-60-sized helicopter which means, in a pinch, they can support an Oceanhawk/Seahawk and a UAV at the same time due to a large hangar. 

The Sea Giraffe AMB has proved successful on the Independence-class LCS (the variant that seems to be having fewer issues) as well as the Swedish Visby class corvettes, Canadian Halifax-class frigates, Singapore’s Victory-class corvettes et. al. while the Bofors gun is used both far and wide overseas and the Navy is looking to up the lethality of that program as well since they are installing it on the Constellations.

Pascagoula, Miss. (Feb. 11, 2008)- The MK 110 57mm gun was fired off the bow of the Coast Guard’s first National Security Cutter, Bertholf, on Feb. 11 during sea trials (Northrop Grumman photo)

The 57mm’s 13-pound 3P Mk 295 Mod 0 cartridge projectile section delivers over 8,000 pre-formed tungsten fragments in reaction to 420 grams of PBX-explosive. It has a range of “at least” nine nm. (BAE)

The OPC also has lots of soft kills such as a newer version of the Slick 32, Nulka, and other countermeasures.

The program should prove interesting and could contrast well against the LCS debacle.

The Navy’s Other Small Boats

With the promised retirement of the dozen low-mileage Mark VI patrol boats by the Navy, it should be noted that service is not totally absent of small boats, still having the 33-foot SOC-R riverine boats of SBT-22 and the assorted 82-foot Mark V boats in the SWCC teams.

Then there are other, more numerous, assets in the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force.

Via a good article at Sea Power:

180918-N-EH436-081 PORT OF DJIBOUTI, Djibouti (September 18, 2018) Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer William Woodley, assigned to Task Group 68.6 (TG-68.6), stands watch as a crewman onboard a 34ft SeaArk patrol boat upon completion of a mission with the USNS Alan Shepard, Sept. 18, 2018. TG-68.6 is forward-deployed to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations and conducts joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Quartermaster 2nd Class Ashley Taylor)

In addition to the Mark VI PBs, the MESF operates 164 patrol craft. These include 117 SeaArk 34-foot Dauntless-class patrol boats and 17 SAFE Boats 25-foot Oswald-class patrol boats. The riverine assault craft, riverine command boats, and riverine patrol boats all have been retired and stored. The single Coastal Command Boat, a smaller predecessor to the Mark VI that was deployed to the 5th Fleet, was transferred to a test role in 2018.

Further, the Oswalds are being replaced by a series of 120 40-foot PB(X) boats over the next 10 years to replace the 34-foot and 25-foot PBs.

The Navy also has ordered 24 Force Protection-Medium (FP-M) patrol boats from Lake Assault Boats LLC, which was awarded a contract for up to 119 FP-Ms in February 2020. The 33-foot-long aluminum V-hull boats will be used for harbor and waterway patrols, interrogation of other waterborne assets, and escorting large vessels in and out of ports in various weather and water conditions. The first was scheduled for delivery this spring.

Second Offshore Cutter on the Way, 23 to go!

Late last month, Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) hosted the keel authentication ceremony for the U.S. Coast Guard’s future Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), USCGC Chase (WMSM 916), at their Nelson Street facility in Panama City.

USCGC Chase is the second OPC laid down, following on class leader USCGC Argus (WMSM 915), is part of a ~25 ship sloop/light frigate/corvette/offshore patrol vessel group meant to replace the over half-decade old 210-foot Reliance and 30-year-old 270-foot Bear-class medium endurance cutters.

OPC Characteristics:
•Length: 360 feet
•Beam: 54 feet
•Draft: 17 feet
•Sustained Speed: 22 Plus knots
•Range: 8500 Plus nautical miles
•Endurance: 60 Days

The main armament is a Mk 110 57mm gun forward with a MK 38 25mm gun over the stern HH60-sized hangar, and four M2 .50 cal mounts. 

I say replace the Mk38 with a C-RAM, shoehorn a towed sonar, ASW tubes, an 8-pack Mk41 VLS crammed with Sea Sparrows, and eight NSSMs aboard and call it a day.

But no one listens to me…

Anyway, 

The first flight of 11 OPCs will include the ActiveArgusDiligence, 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.

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