Category Archives: security and preparedness

There are now 40 154-foot patrol craft in the USCG

The new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter (FRC) has been termed an operational “game-changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 platform with some mods for U.S. use, Louisiana’s Bollinger Shipyards won a contract for the first unit, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), in 2008 and has been plowing right along ever since.

A couple weeks ago, the yard delivered the 40th FRC to the Coast Guard, not a bad job in just 12 years.

USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), note her 25mm gun has not been installed. Photo via Bollinger. 

The newest vessel, USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140), was placed in commission, special status, on 30 July and will remain in Florida while the crew completes pre-commissioning trials and maintenance. The cutter is scheduled to arrive in Santa Rita, Guam, later in 2020, and will be the second of three planned FRCs stationed in Guam, an important upgrade to sea surveillance and patrol capabilities in America’s forward-deployed territorial bastion.

“The Fast Response Cutters are a real game-changer here in the Pacific for the Coast Guard,” said LCDR Jessica Conway, the Coast Guard 14th District’s patrol boat manager. “Already the FRCs stationed here in Hawaii are conducting longer missions over greater distances than the older patrol boats they are replacing.”

FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, a state of the art C4ISR suite, a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat, and a combat suite that includes a remote-operated Mk38 25mm chain gun and four crew-served M2 .50 cals.

Note the 25mm gun forward. Unlike older models, it is the stabilized Mod 2 variant with a day/night electro-optical sight. The Mod 2 has shown to be 3x more likely to hit a target than the eyeball-trained and manually-slewed Mod 0/1 guns.  

While listed as having a range of ~2,500nm, FRCs have deployed on 4,400nm round-trip patrols to the Marshall Islands from Hawaii– completing two at-sea refuelings from a Coast Guard buoy tender– and have shown themselves particularly adept at expeditionary operations in devastated littorals in the aftermath of hurricanes. Further, the class has deployed to the coast of South America in joint Operations Tradewinds exercises for the past two years.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry staging out of San Diego headed to Oahu,  2,600-nm West on a solo trip. Not bad for a yacht-sized patrol boat

“Here in the Pacific one of our greatest challenges is distance,” said Conway. “With the FRCs boasting a larger crew size and greater endurance, they are able to complete missions both close to shore and over the horizon, aiding both the people of Guam and our partners in the region.”

In a hat tip to the fact they are so much more capable, the USCG uses the WPC hull designation, used last by the old “buck and a quarter” 125-foot cutters of the Prohibition-era with these crafts, rather than the WPB patrol boat designation of the ships they are replacing.

Most important, later in 2020, Bollinger will be delivering the first of a half-dozen FRCs to the USCG that will be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, to replace the 1980s-vintage 110-foot Island Class Patrol Boats supporting Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the service’s largest unit outside of the United States. PATFORSWA is almost continually engaged with Iranian asymmetric forces in the Persian Gulf region.

M1911s and Browning Hi-Powers: Outdated Carry?

I get myself involved in firearms debates pretty frequently with people and, as a guy that has extensively carried and/or used dozens of different handgun platforms across the past 30 years, I have logged lots of time with both contemporary guns– such as Glocks, HKs, S&W M&Ps, FN 500-series, et. al– as well as more traditional classic guns like Smith J- and K-frames, Colt D- and I-frames, Walther P-38s, etc.

With that being said, I took a 2,000~ word deep dive over in my column at Guns.com into the subject of if two of John Browning’s most-admired handguns, the M1911, and the Hi-Power, are still relevant when it comes to EDC and personal protection these days.

Some things, like an M1911A1 GI, a Browning Hi-Power, a Swiss Army knife or a P-51 can opener, have been augmented by more modern offerings but that doesn’t mean they stop working as designed. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

Your thoughts? More on the article, here, for your reference.

An 8-pound pistol

So for the past few weeks, I have been fooling around with a T&E DB15 pistol. Featuring a 7-inch barrel, it is a fairly compact blaster and I have to admit that the KAK Flash Can and Gearhead Works Tailhook is growing on me.

While right out of the box, the 23-inch long 5.56 NATO handgun weighs just 4.53-pounds, I have added a Sig Sauer Romeo 5 red dot, a 600-lumen Streamlight and a Magpul D60 drum to it, bringing its loaded all-up weight with spare batteries (in the MOE grip) and boolits of 8.7-pounds.

Nice. For reference, the total cost as shown with all accessories is still under $1K. 

More in my column at Guns.com. 

Nipping at the heels

Apparently taking the sidelining of the Teddy Roosevelt carrier battlegroup in Guam and the Ronald Reagan group in Japan during the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis as the blood trail of a wounded beast, Iran, China, and Russia are sniffing around and flexing a bit where the U.S. is forward-deployed.

WestPac

China’s six-ship Liaoning carrier group (Liaoning along with two type 052D guided-missile destroyers – the Xining and Guiyang – two type 054A guided-missile frigates – the Zaozhuang and Rizhao – and a type 901 combat support ship, the Hulunhu) passed through the tense Miyako Strait, between Okinawa and Taiwan, over the weekend, under the eyes of various JMSDF, U.S. and ROC assets.

Chinese carrier ‘Liaoning with escorts. Photos via Chinese Internet

Further, as reported by the South China Morning Post: “On Thursday [9 Apr], an H-6 bomber, J-11 fighter and KJ-500 reconnaissance plane from the PLA Air Force flew over southwestern Taiwan and on to the western Pacific where they followed a US RC-135U electronic reconnaissance aircraft.”

Of note, the ROC Army has sent some of their aging but still very effective M60A3 tanks out into public in recent days in what was announced a pre-planned exercise. Still, when you see an MBT being camouflaged in the vacant lot down the block, that’s a little different.

Photo via Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Note the old KMT cog emblem. Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Very discrete. Taiwan’s Military News Agency (MNA)

Meanwhile, in the Arabian Gulf

A series of 11 Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels on Wednesday (15 April 15) buzzed the expeditionary platform USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), and her escorts, the destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), the 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Sirocco (PC 6), and two 110-foot Island-class Coast Guard cutters, USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304), while the U.S. vessels were conducting operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

The below footage seems to be from the running bridge of one of the Coast Guard 110s, likely Maui from reports, and you can see what the Navy terms a Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC), armed with a heavy machine gun with a deck guy’s hands on the spades.

The IRGCN fields hundreds of such 30- to 50-foot fast boats, armed with a variety of rockets, machine guns, and small mines, and have been the organization’s bread and butter since the early 1980s.

For reference

As noted by the 5th Fleet:

The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long-range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.

After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened the distance between them.

ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the north Arabian Gulf. U.S. forces are conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Potomu chto ya byl perevernut

Not to feel left out, 6th Fleet reports (emphasis mine) that a Syrian-based Russian Flanker-E came out over the Med to buzz a P-8:

On April 15, 2020, a U.S. P-8A Poseidon aircraft flying in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-35. The interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-35 conducting a high-speed, inverted maneuver, 25 ft. directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the interaction. The duration of the intercept was approximately 42 minutes.

While the Russian aircraft was operating in international airspace, this interaction was irresponsible. We expect them to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA). Unsafe actions‎ increase the risk of miscalculation and the potential for midair collisions.

The U.S. aircraft was operating consistent with international law and did not provoke this Russian activity.

Soup Sandwich

With so many Joes being ordered to cough up their own facemasks (no pun intended), there is an official line that said ersatz booger shields should be as uniform as possible.

Thus:

U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) guidance on masks

However, to get the point across to the cammie-clad masses and single out the E4 Mafia, other bases have gotten a little more specific to include a “don’t be this guy” section.

Fort Stewart Hunter Army Airfield, Re: masks

U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Re: mask

Of course, since I have been using my own bandana-derived mask, I rather look more like an Old West desperado.

Or perhaps the Avenging Shadow!

The Masked Rider (May 1934) Western Pulp: The Avenging Shadow

 

What’s in a mask, anyway?

As someone who took CBRN classes back when it was just called NBC, and has had the joy of fumbling with those BS canteen cap straws through the old M17 mask, you know that I have some decent stuff set to the side for the who-knows-what. However, not wanting to start burning through the small stack of sealed filters for my M40s, or wear my shop respirator to the local produce stand and look like Bane from Batman, I sat around and coughed up an ersatz bandana mask.

Basically, using about a three-foot length of 550 paracord, a stack of coffee filters, and an oversized bandana, it is simple and wears well. Just fold the filters inside, knot the two ends, pass the cord through in a horizontal line with the two ends loose. To put on, slip it over your head with the horizontal paracord to the back around your neck and pull the loose ends tight across the top of your scalp, then tie in place. Pop a cap on to help keep in place and remember that glasses/shades are your friends these days.

Boom. The bonus of using a single piece of cord wrapped A) around the back of your neck and B) over the top of your head, holds the mask tight both horizontally and vertically and keeps from having your ears rubbed raw. If you don’t have paracord, a shoe/boot string works just as well. 

The above is slightly more engineered that your typical expedient mask but involves no sewing or real skill to make, and most guys have the three ingredients around the house.

For reference, here is the Marine Corps guidance on making facemasks from an old skivvy shirt:

Meanwhile, in the Army…

Proven handguns for tough times

While your best and most effective bet in the majority of hairy self-defense scenarios (barring something laser-guided or belt-fed) is a rifle– preferably a few different ones in a range of calibers– in a pinch a handgun is better than verbal judo, a pointy stick, or the lid off a can of sardines. With that in mind, I made a list centered on pistols and revolvers that are 1) modern, 2) accept common ammunition, 3) have spare parts that are readily available, 4) proven, 5) are simple to manipulate, and 6) easy to maintain.

Sure, each of these has their haters, but most importantly each type has a huge crowd of fans and users that have kept them in regular production for decades.

More in my column at Guns.com

COVID-19 Update 2

As I touched on briefly a couple weeks ago, we are all in this together and I thought I would talk briefly about what is going on in my life and neck of the woods when it comes to the whole Mexican beer flu (aka Coronavirus, COVID-19, Wu-Tang Clan flu, et. al).

My family and I have been social distancing by and large and, being away from the large “hot spots” have remained under a soft quarantine for the past couple weeks. I’ve canceled all my upcoming travel– with work trips to Minnesota and Tennessee scrubbed– and have barely put 100~ miles on my truck in the past two weeks.

The few trips I have made outside of the homestead are to touch base with a few friends in small (sub-8-person) groups, even then maintaining a good 2-meter distance from each other and talking outside in the drive/yard without touching anything. I proctored a 5K race make-up with six runners in a local club along the beach.

Most importantly, I have remained away from the big boxes and the crowds of scarecrows looking for TP.

I’ve responded to calls from friends for guns and/or ammunition, passing on three of the former and about 1,000 rounds of the latter to a variety of folks with concerns who have been confronted with empty store shelves. I’ve likewise done the same with extra venison from the freeze.

Lysol on doorknobs and surfaces, putting mail and delivered packages in a three-day quarantine of its own before opening, washing my hands 10x a day, using mouthwash after every conversation, nobody outside of the family inside the house, keeping up with my daily vitamin and supplement dosing to keep my immune system up, and the like have been the rule.

As far as work goes, I’ve passed on to the other editors that we still need to cover gun news but also to provide entertainment as there are millions of people stuck inside these days. We have responded with gun quizzes, TP in the wild photoshoots, classic gun coloring sheets, Glock word searches, and fun shooting videos. 

As many recent new gun buyers are apparently first-time gun owners, we have also repeatedly touched on gun safety tips in the past couple of weeks.

For reference, via the NSSF, should you feel the need to share:

Been working on my Victory Garden. I recommend everyone with the ability do the same, as this isn’t going to be over tomorrow.

Speaking of veggies, one thing I have stumbled upon is the fact that the local produce vendor has been stuck with a double whammy that they have to continue to accept contracted deliveries of fruits and vegetables while the restaurants they have traditionally supplied have all but shut their doors.

That leaves them with pallets of perishable produce and no buyers. A quick call to said vendor produced the below for $10, curbside service included.

I do believe I will keep heading back every week or so for such deals. Remember, shy away from veggies or fruits you cannot either peel, wash (most detergent-based soaps can also be used on food and rinsed with lots of water) or heat (to 149F for three minutes at least).

Stay safe out there guys, and remember to have fun.

Has everyone just hit the panic button on prepping?

Excuse me while I drag out the soapbox.

As a guy who ran a Y2K website 20+ years ago, penned zombie books (shameless plug) and have spent 40~ years living in a hurricane zone, I like to keep a stockpile of non-perishables on hand just in case. In short, if you don’t have 90 days worth of non-perishables on-hand even in good times then you just aren’t “adulting.” My grandmother, who grew up in the Depression in Weimar Germany and survived the leanest years of WWII, later became something of a “hamsterkauf,” socking away canned goods and cured/smoked meats on the regular. Open a cabinet to get a towel and you had to move sausages out of the way.

With that in mind, visiting my local big boxes for standard weekly shopping this week I was blown away by the panic buying I witnessed over the upcoming possibility of having to self-quarantine for the next 14-to-21 days in response to the COVID-19/Coronavirus scare.

Folks, jamming yourself into tight areas to queue for things that aren’t there is just a bad idea when it comes to catching a virus. Just think rationally, pardon the pun. Panic is always a mistake.

Furthermore, people are stocking up on the wildest stuff. Shopping carts full of TP, cans of garbage Chef Boyardee meals full of salt and preservatives, bags of over-sugared cereals and Pop-Tarts. People fighting over $7 packs of vanity napkins.

Meanwhile, the produce department has stacks of untouched long-lasting veggies like spaghetti/acorn squash, carrots, potatoes and onions along with fruits packed with natural sugars like apples– none of which have to be refrigerated. Likewise, nuts and raisins are untouched. Shelves of tinned fish products like sardines and herring are packed. Rice and beans left behind. These are the kind of staples people should have on hand.

The concept of flattening the curve of infection— simply limiting the rate of new cases to a level the healthcare system can match– is sound. After all, on any normal day, some 80 percent of the ventilators in circulation are already hooked up to a patient and the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) only has 4,000 of those vital machines in reserve. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be enough to break the cycle and let people get back to being addicted to Instagram while they wait in line for a pink drink.

With that, and the fact that the two upcoming trips I had booked for late March and Mid-April are canceled, have me all-in on “social distancing” and becoming largely a shut-in for the next few weeks.

I’ll start working on the fresh stuff and freezer full of deer roasts and feral hog sausage just in case the power grid gets iffy later on in this crisis while I work on my usual garden for the Spring.

I think I will at least double the size of my plot this year.

You guys be safe.

The naval formations of the future will likely look nothing like they do today

I just watched this really informative and thought-provoking 1~hour long lecture from Capt. Jeff Kline, USN (Ret.), professor of practice, operations research, at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif.

Then I watched it again.

The subject: Naval Warfare in the Robotics Age.

Check it out

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