Category Archives: USCG

Bollinger Delivers 47th Fast Response Cutter to USCG, Last of 6 Headed to Persian Gulf

Sentinel (Webber)-class 154-foot Fast Response Cutter USCGC Clarence Sutphin (WPC-1147) in Key West, Florida, shortly after delivery. Note that she doesn’t seem to have her PATFORSWA gear installed/mounted yet, and may pick it up at the USCGY in Maryland. Photo: Bollinger Shipyards.

Via Bollinger:

LOCKPORT, La., — January 6, 2021 – Bollinger Shipyards LLC (“Bollinger”) has delivered the USCGC CLARENCE SUTPHIN to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Florida. This is the 170th vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 47th Fast Response Cutter (“FRC”) delivered under the current program.

The USCGC CLARENCE SUTPHIN is the final of six FRCs to be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, which will replace the aging 110’ Island Class Patrol Boats, built by Bollinger Shipyards 30 years ago, supporting the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest overseas presence outside the United States.

“Ensuring that the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard have the most state-of-the-art, advanced vessels as they work to build and maintain the necessary regional alliances to ensure maritime security in the region is a top priority,” said Bollinger President & C.E.O. Ben Bordelon. “Bollinger is proud to continue enhancing and supporting the U.S. Coast Guard’s operational presence in the Middle East and ensuring it remains the preferred partner around the world.”

Earlier this year at the commissioning ceremony of the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz lauded the “enhanced seakeeping” capabilities of the PATFORSWA-bound FRCs, saying “these ships are truly going to be game-changing in their new theater of operations” and “offer increased opportunities for integrated joint operations with our Navy and Marine Corps colleagues” as the Coast Guard seeks to be part of the whole-of-government solution set in the region.

PATFORSWA is composed of six cutters, shoreside support personnel, and the Maritime Engagement Team. The unit’s mission is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard Forces in support of U.S. Central Command and national security objectives. PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command in furthering their goals to conduct persistent maritime operations to forward U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment.

Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished themselves in the line of duty. Clarence Sutphin, Boatswain Mate First Class, USCG, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his courageous actions during the invasion of Saipan Island in 1944. His citation reads: “For heroic achievement in action against enemy Japanese forces during the invasion of Saipan, Marianas Islands, on June 15 and 16, 1944. Swimming with a line through heavy surf to a tank lighter stranded on a reef, SUTPHIN remained aboard under mortar and artillery fire until the boat was salvaged. Returning to the beach, he aided in salvaging another tank lighter under enemy fire and, when a mortar shell struck a group of eight Marines, promptly treated the wounded and moved them to a first aid station. His courage and grave concern for the safety of others reflects the highest credit upon SUTPHIN and the United States Naval Service.”

About the Fast Response Cutter Platform

The FRC is an operational “game-changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. FRCs are consistently being deployed in support of the full range of missions within the United States Coast Guard and other branches of our armed services. This is due to its exceptional performance, expanded operational reach and capabilities, and ability to transform and adapt to the mission. FRCs have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands—a 4,400 nautical mile trip from their homeport. Measuring in at 154-feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, a state of the art C4ISR suite (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), and stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.

As we have covered in previous months, the FRCs are a very interesting class of patrol boats, with one recently returning from a 7,000-mile extended patrol in remote island chains.

Besides their stabilized MK 38 25mm gun and half-dozen M2 mounts, the six-pack of FRCs headed to Bahrain are equipped with the CG-HALLTS system, a hailer that has laser and LRAD capabilities, as well as a special S-band Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 pulse doppler with full-time 360-degree coverage, and other goodies to include four Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on the O-1 deck. Additionally, the already experienced cutter and boarding crews of PATFORSWA have to go through 5-6 weeks of Pre Deployment Training (PDT) with the service’s Special Mission Training Center at Camp Lejune.

Coast Guard Doubles Down on 2nd New Heavy Icebreaker (err Polar Security Cutter)

ST Engineering/Halter in Pascagoula (Moss Point, actually), has been hard at work on the Coast Guard’s new Polar Security Cutter since they received a $745 million contract in 2019. The 460-foot 19,000-ton (launch weight) icebreaker has required significant enhancements to Halter’s yard on the river.

The USCG and USN must be happy with the progress thus far because this came in yesterday’s DOD Contract announcements:

VT Halter Marine Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $552,654,757 fixed-price incentive modification to previously awarded contract N00024-16-C-2210 to exercise an option for the detail design and construction of the second Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi (61%); Metairie, Louisiana (12%); New Orleans, Louisiana (12%); San Diego, California (4%); Mossville, Illinois (4%); Mobile, Alabama (2%); Boca Raton, Florida (2%); and other locations (3%), and is expected to be completed by September 2026. Fiscal 2021 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard) funds in the amount of 485,129,919 (80%); fiscal 2020 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard) funds in the amount of $100,000,000 (17%); and fiscal 2019 procurement, construction, and improvement (Coast Guard) funds in the amount of $20,000,000 (3%) will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

As the USCG only has a single active heavy icebreaker, and it has been limping along for the past couple of years on bubblegum and duct tape, these new vessels can’t come fast enough.

Basswood of the Pacific

Here we see the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Basswood (WAGL-388, later WLB-388) underway during World War II. Marianas Section, off Victor Wharf, Agana Heights, Guam, late 1945.

Library of Congress photo HAER GU-3-1.

Commissioned on 12 January 1944, Basswood was one of 39 180-foot Balsam-class seagoing buoy tenders built from 1942–1944, specifically being one of the 20 improved Class C (Iris) subvariants. She is fairly well armed to tend navigational aids, with her 3″/50 gun visible pointing over her stern while” Y-gun” depth charge throwers are clearly visible on her starboard side. If you look to her stack– under her mast with an SL1 radar system– you can see two 20mm Oerlikons mounted. Unseen are two Mousetrap ASW rocket systems as well as a QBE-3A sonar suite. Several former Warship Wednesday alumni from the same class got to use those weapons during the war.

Capable of a blistering 13-knots, Basswood would go on to have a long career in the Western Pacific, supporting nuclear weapons testing during Operations Greenhouse (1951), Castle (1954), and Redwing (1956). She also completed three deployments to Vietnam in 1967, 1971, and 1972, earning a trio of both Vietnam Service Medals and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medals.

The Coast Guard Cutter Basswood works a buoy as busy Vietnamese fishermen travel to open sea and their fishing grounds from Vung Tau harbor during her 1967 deployment. The cutter battled monsoon weather for a 30-day tour to establish and reservice sea aids-to-navigation dotting the 1,000-mile South Vietnamese coastline. USCG Historian’s Office photo

Decommissioned 4 September 1998 after 54 years of service, she was disposed of in 2000, eventually scrapped.

The Star of Peace gleams hopefully over the guns of war

“Christmas Eve in the Pacific,” aboard USS LST-770.

Drawn by Coast Guard Combat Artist, BMC John J. Floherty, Jr. NARA 26-G-12-14-44

Official caption:

The Star of Peace gleams hopefully over the guns of war in this Christmas drawing by Coast Guard Combat Artist John J. Floherty, Chief aboard a Coast Guard-manned LST “Somewhere in the Pacific.” A gunner stands his lonely vigil, his eyes alert for signs of the enemy. His thought drifting over the thousands of miles of restless sea to his loved ones at home. Coast Guardsman Floherty’s home is Port Washington, N.Y.

Floherty, 37 at the time of the above work, has several other scenes of Iwo Jima and Okinawa scenes that are far less peaceful, digitized in the National Archives. 

A skilled commercial artist, cartoonist, and painter, Floherty studied at Columbia University, the Art Students League with George Bridgman, and at the Grand Central School of Art with Harvey Dunn. He was a member of the Society of Illustrators and had studios in New York City and Northport, Long Island. He passed away in 1977, at age 70.

7,000 Miles on a 154-foot Patrol Boat

The Coast Guard Cutter William Hart participates in the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Kurukuru off American Samoa, Oct. 29, 2021. Operation Kurukuru is an annual coordinated maritime surveillance operation with the goal of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart/Released)

The Coast Guard is really stretching the legs on their new Sentinel (Webber)-class Fast Response Cutters, especially in parts of the Pacific that may become very interesting in the coming years. Just 154-feet long overall and powered by an economical diesel suite, these vessels are a hair smaller than the Navy’s Cyclone-class PCs which are typically just assigned to coastal ops in the Persian Gulf region (a role the USCG is likely to take over once the Cyclones are retired).

One FRC just clocked 7K miles in a 39-day patrol. Sure, sure, it wasn’t an unbroken 39 days underway, but still, that’s some decent mileage on a small hull, especially on an operational cruise. Further, the patrol targeted IUU fishing, a big bone of contention with China and a legitimate cause of international heartburn in the Pacific with Bejing seen as a bully by many small Oceanic countries in the region, especially when you take the “Little Blue Men” of China’s Maritime Militia into account. 

Via the USCG PAO:

HONOLULU — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart completed its 39 day patrol over 7,000 nautical miles in Oceania in support of the Coast Guard’s Operation Blue Pacific, last week.

Operation Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships between our partners in the region.

“This patrol had multiple goals which really displayed the adaptability of our crew,” said Lt. Cmdr. Cynthia Travers, the commanding officer of the William Hart. “While we continued to support international efforts to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the region, we’ve also worked with our partners including New Zealand’s National Maritime Coordination Centre (NMCC), the nation of Samoa, the National Park Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on a number of joint endeavors.”

In November the crew of the William Hart, one of the Coast Guard’s new Fast Response Cutters, participated in the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA) Operation Kurukuru, an annual coordinated maritime surveillance operation with the goal of combating IUU fishing.

IUU fishing presents a direct threat to the efforts of Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) to conserve fish stocks, an important renewable resource in the region.

Following the successful conclusion of Operation Kurukuru, the William Hart’s crew continued to patrol the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of the United States, Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati and Fiji to prevent illicit maritime activity.

Upon request from NOAA, the crew visited Fagatele Bay in the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa, using the cutter’s small boat to ensure there was no fishing or activity which would damage the coral within the United States’ largest national marine sanctuary.

The crew of the William Hart also supported a National Park Service boat during a transit between Tutuila Island and the Manu’a Islands, providing search and rescue coverage.

The cutter’s crew then departed for Fiji’s EEZ, where they supported New Zealand’s NMCC by locating an adrift Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoy and reporting the buoy’s condition to Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand and other stakeholders.

DART buoys are real-time monitoring systems strategically deployed throughout the Pacific to provide important tsunami forecasting data to researchers.

“These expeditionary patrols are important to the continued stability and prosperity of Oceania,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jessica Conway, a Coast Guard 14th District operations planner. “Partnerships are key to promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific. Operation Blue Pacific allows us to coordinate with regional partners and most effectively employ our assets towards shared goals.”

Birddogging Chinese AGS 

 
In related news from the West Pac, the Coast Guard responded to a request from the Republic of Palau pursuant to the U.S.-Palau bilateral law enforcement agreement– one of 11 bilateral law enforcement agreements with Pacific Island Countries and Territories throughout Oceania– to assist with locating the Chinese-flagged research vessel Da Yang Hao (IMO: 9861342, MMSI 413212230) and observe its activity.
 
Owned by the China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association, the ship’s main purpose is prospecting for mineral resources, but it has the equipment useful in making the kind of accurate seabed charts needed by submarines to operate safely in the area of seamounts. Of note, Palau is important for vital maritime prepositioning assets of the MSC, which would be a ripe target in the opening 24 hours of a China-US conflict. 
 
The 4,600-ton vessel entered Palau’s EEZ on Nov. 29. On Nov. 30, the Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center (JRCC) Honolulu received a notification from the Palau Division of Maritime Security that the Da Yang Hao was observed north of Kayangel State within Palau’s EEZ without proper authorization. 
 

Via Naval News 

 
JRCC Honolulu deployed a Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point HC-130 Hercules aircraft to locate the research vessel and confirm the vessel was not in distress given its varying course and minimal speed while operating in the Palauan EEZ.
 
The USCG Herky bird arrived on scene and located the research vessel approximately 100 nm WNW of the main Palauan island of Babeldaob transiting at slow speeds eastbound.
 
The Da Yang Hao communicated to the Hercules aircrew via radio that they were conducting storm avoidance. A subsequent overflight the following day relocated the research vessel transiting slowly north approximately 190 nautical miles northwest of the islands, approaching the limits of Palau’s EEZ.
 
This is where we should point out that the 14th Coast Guard District recently welcomed their first new HC-130J Super Hercules long-range surveillance aircraft this summer. The older HC-130Hs at the station are being replaced with the more capable Super Hercules aircraft; the current schedule has a fleet of four HC-130Js in Barbers Point by the end of summer 2022. These Herks have a new 360-degree, belly-mounted, multimode surface search radar and other bonuses not seen on the older aircraft.
 

The HC-130J features more advanced engines and propellers, which provide a 20% increase in speed and altitude and a 40% increase in range over the HC-130H Hercules. Another notable difference is the liquid oxygen system, which allows crews to fly at higher altitudes, providing a better vantage point for many missions. These aircraft have a modernized glass cockpit, the capability to execute GPS approaches, and are outfitted with the Minotaur Mission System Suite, which provides increased capabilities for use of the sensors, radar and intelligence-gathering equipment.

Coast Guard says goodbye to their beloved 52s

Built at a cost of $235,927, the Coast Guard’s four Victory-class 52-foot steel-hulled motor lifeboats have earned their keep, stationed off the rugged and dangerous coasts of the Pacific Northwest since the 1950s and 60s. Built at the Coast Guard Yard after a century of experience with surfboats and life-saving vessels, they had a design that just wouldn’t quit.

As noted by the Coast Guard Historian:

All four of the steel 52’ MLBs have served their entire careers at lifeboat stations out on the Pacific Northwest coast where their ruggedness and long endurance are needed for the typically high surf conditions that exist there, along with the operational need to tow disabled fishing craft over longer distances and over inlet bars. These lifeboats have all survived multiple capsizing episodes, as well as pitch-poling incidents. The only criticism that has ever been mentioned of these craft is their relatively slow speed, but in the heavy seas and surf in which they typically operate, this has not been viewed as a significant detriment.

Now, after being sidelined earlier this year on “restrictive duty,” these indestructible craft are in their final stages of being decommissioned and have been towed away from their familiar stations.

The Victory, Intrepid, Invincible, and Invincible were towed to Ilwaco, Washington to be pulled out of the water for the last time, shrink-wrapped, and removed from service. 

Retired Master Chief Thomas McAdams reflects on his experiences aboard these magnificent boats as expressed in a poem he wrote inspired by their decommissioning, to the heartbreak of Surfmen everywhere. 

Christmas at Sea: 1942 Convoy Edition

Official caption: “Somewhere on the storm-tossed Atlantic aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter crossing the shipping lanes guarding a convoy of supplies to America’s fighting men on the far-flung battlefronts. Christmas is the same as any other day to the vigilant men of the Coast Guard who seek out the enemy submarines attempting to molest the continual bridge of ships supplying our men across the seas.” Photo released 11/25/1942.

Note the loaded K-gun, stern depth charge racks, liferafts at the ready to snag floating survivors, and the O1 Division guys trying to stay out of the wash. USCG photo. NARA 26-G-11-25-42(5)

Seagoing East Coast-based cutters were assigned to augment the Navy’s Neutrality Patrol in September 1939 and, by November 1941, the entire branch was transferred to the Navy in toto. While squadrons of brand-new U.S. Navy patrol frigates and destroyer escorts were crewed by Coasties later in the war, in 1942 the USCG had six of seven 327-foot Treasury-class cutters, four 240-foot Tampa-class cutters, the 216-foot USCGC Northland, and 12 165-foot Thetis/Argo class cutters operating in the EASTSEAFRON and North Atlantic.

One, USCGC Alexander Hamilton (WPG-34) was sunk on 29 January1942 by U-132 while patrolling the Icelandic coast. However, the service quickly avenged her death as USCGC Icarus (WPC-110) bagged U-352 off North Carolina’s “Torpedo Junction” in May while sistership USCGC Thetis (WPC-115) depth charged U-157 to the bottom of the Florida Straits in June.

Griffin it up

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 05, 2021) The Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) fires a Griffin missile during a test and proficiency fire in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 5, 2021. Firebolt, assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 55, is supporting maritime security operations and theatre security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aleksander Fomin) 211105-A-PX137-0082

Technically the BGM-176B Griffin B, or the Sea Griffin, is the navalized ground-launched version of Raytheon’s low-cost (compared to more advanced missiles) 34-pound bunker/tank buster that was lighter than the Hellfire used by the Army was originally designed for use from helicopters, UAVs and Marine KC-130s/USAF MC-130s.

Originally pitched as an add-on for the LCS to enable it to zap especially rowdy pirates and asymmetric fast boat threats, the 13-pound warhead would only really be effective against a larger ship in the case of bridge shots and needs an operator with a semi-active laser to paint a target. With that, the Navy opted for a modified Longbow Hellfire– which can use the ship’s radar and be used against multiple targets at once– for the LCS, along with the Naval Strike Missile for heavy work.

However, adopted as the MK-60 Patrol Coastal Griffin Missile System (GMS), the chunky Griffin B has been getting it done on the 170-foot Cyclones, in twin four-cell topside mounts, since 2013. This gives each of these short boys eight decently powerful close-in (3-5nm) missiles, coupled with the ability to use the ship’s mast-mounted Bright Star EO/IR camera for targeting, which gives them a solid stand-off capability against Iranian Boghammars and similar threats. 

Personally, I’d like to see it installed on the Coast Guard’s very similar 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, at least for the six of the class intended to operate forward deployed with PATFORSWA in the Persian Gulf under CENTCOM. They could also likely be of use on the USCG’s increasingly WestPac units of the same class

Video of Firebolt’s recent test:

 

The Mighty B Comes Home for a Visit

Official caption: “The Almirante Didiez Burgos (PA-301), a Dominican Republic navy’s Cutter, sails into Museum Park Marina in Miami, Florida, Nov. 10, 2021. The Dominican Republic’s navy visited Miami to enable the next generation of Dominican commissioned officers to learn about U.S. Coast Guard.”

Not too shabby for being 78 years in service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Estrada)

If you are a fan of WWII USCG vessels, Burgos is immediately recognizable as a 180-foot seagoing buoy tender of the Balsam/Mesquite-class.

We’ve covered them before in past Warship Wednesdays and they gave lots of service during not only the war but well into the 1990s. 

Built as USCGC Buttonwood (WAGL-306/WLB-306) in Duluth, Minnesota on the Great Lakes, she commissioned 24 September 1943– heading almost immediately for the Pacific.

USCGC Buttonwood tied up after her commissioning- 27 September 1943. Her wartime armament included a 3″/50, two Oerlikons, depth charge tracks, two Mousetraps, four Y-guns, an SL-2 radar, and WEA-2 sonar. Not bad for a 900-ton auxiliary that had a top speed of 13 knots. USCG Historian’s Office photo

She arrived at Guadalcanal in May 1944 and alternated her aids-to-navigation duty with salvage and survey work, often under fire as she moved forward with the fleet. “Mighty B” endured a reported 269 attacks by Japanese aircraft, including 11 air raids in one day, being credited with downing two enemy aircraft with her AAA guns.

On Christmas 1944, she went to the assistance of the burning Dutch troopship Sommeisdijk, which had been hit by a Japanese torpedo, and rescued 182 men.

M.V. SOMMELSDIJK. Built for the Holland America Line and used as a Troopship, the SOMMELSDIJK is shown arriving at San Francisco, California, about 1943. After the war, she returned to commercial service for the line until her scrapping in 1965. Description: Catalog #: NH 89834

Other than her WWII service, Buttonwood had a very active Cold War– providing aids to navigation for military tests sites throughout the Pacific– and the War on Drugs.

USCGC Buttonwood underway in 1960. Note she still has her 3″/50 over the stern but now has a black hull, a common feature of ATON ships in USCG service even today. USCG Historian’s Office photo

For instance, during Korea:

At the outbreak of the Korean War, Buttonwood was re-equipped with sonar gear, guns, and depth charges. Though she was never directly involved with combat, Buttonwood was prepared and trained with the Navy by participating in “war games”. These games often seemed like “cat and mouse” where Buttonwood was tracked by Navy submarines and she, in turn, tried to detect the submarines with sonar equipment. The K-guns and depth charges were subsequently removed in the mid-1950s.

Buttonwood served with the Coast Guard until 2001, and was extensively surveyed for posterity before she was turned over to the Dominicans, who seem to have taken good care of her over the past two decades.

Plastic Reminders

While visiting the offices of my local parish, I came across this and thought it was a good idea. For a sub-$20 donation, something small like this can have a big impact on people’s hearts and minds. These little plastic soldiers are a tangible reminder that can lead to folks reaching out to help support their local Veterans groups, USOs, and military non-profits. 

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