Tag Archives: Joseph Tezanos

Pushing the Coasties into the Western Pacific

Almost on cue in the past week, two maritime-focused events transpired which are obviously related.

First, National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien announced a push to take on Red China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific,” with some muscle from the U.S. Coast Guard, using the force to protect both American sovereignty, “as well as the sovereignty of our Pacific neighbors.”

In an effort to bolster our capacity and presence in the Indo-Pacific region, in Fiscal Year 2021, the USCG plans to evaluate the feasibility of basing Fast Response Cutters in American Samoa. If the survey is favorable, the United States could further expand its presence in the South Pacific.

Of note, the U.S. is responsible for the defense of not only Samoa and the territories of Guam (where four FRCs are already to be based) as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, but also the American associated states of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia‎, and the Republic of Palau, covering the bulk of the old Trust Territories of the Pacific.

In other words, most of the real estate between Hawaii and Japan. All they are missing is Wake Island, French Frigate Shoals, and Midway. 

With that being said, the Hawaii-based Fast Response Cutter Oliver Berry (WPC 1124) just returned to Pearl Harbor following a 6-week nearly 10,000 nm patrol of many of those western islands in conjunction “with the governments of Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia strengthening maritime domain awareness and resource security within their Exclusive Economic Zones.”

Official caption: The crew of the Oliver Berry travel in a round-trip patrol from Sept. 12 to Oct. 27, 2020, from Hawaii to Guam, covering a distance of approximately 9,300 miles during their journey. The crew sought to combat illegal fishing and other maritime threats across the Pacific to protect the United States and our partner’s resource security and sovereignty. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the CGC Oliver Berry)

As we have talked about extensively before, the 154-foot $27 million-per-unit FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, 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. The addition of other light armaments, such as MK-60 quadruple BGM-176B Griffin B missile launchers, MK19 40mm automatic bloopers, and MANPADs, would be simple if needed, provided the Navy wanted to hand it over.

It is thought the ultimate goal for the Coast Guard is to have at least 58 FRCs for domestic (ish) work– and six additional hulls for use in the Persian Gulf with the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, a regular front-facing buffer force with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The 41st FRC, USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC-1141), was delivered to the Coast Guard last week.  

Coast Guard picks up even more FRCs, go Glock

If you have followed me here for even a minute, you know that I am a fan of the Coast Guard’s 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter program.

Sept 24, 2020: Coast Guard Fast Response Cutter Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) arrives in Guam, where four of her class will form a squadron in the U.S.’s most forward-deployed territory, so to speak. 

The $27 million-per-unit FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, 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.

The addition of other light armaments, such as MK-60 quadruple BGM-176B Griffin B missile launchers, MK19 40mm automatic bloopers, and MANPADs, would be simple if needed, provided the Navy wanted to hand it over.

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.

Speaking of Bollinger, the yard just announced the USCG has exercised the contract option for another four craft, bringing the total number of hulls to 60, not an insignificant number.

It is thought the ultimate goal is to have 58 FRCs for domestic work– where they have proved exceedingly capable when operating in remote U.S. territories such as Guam, in the Caribbean, and in the Western Pacific– and six hulls for use in the Persian Gulf with the Coast Guard’s Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, a regular front-facing buffer force with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Changing pistolas

Guardsman on patrol somewhere along the Atlantic coast shown in the new uniform of the U.S. Coast Guard Mounted Beach Patrol, 1943. Note the M1917 revolver holster  S&W Victory Model in .38 Special and Army-pattern tack 

While under the Treasury Department, from 1790 to 1968, the Revenue Marine/Revenue Cutter Service/Coast Guard most commonly relied on pistols for their day-to-day work in countering smugglers, pirates, and other assorted scoundrels. These guns usually came from commercial sources. In fact, the old Revenue Cutter Service was one of the first organizations to buy large numbers of Mr. Colt’s revolvers, long before they were popular.

By WWI, the Cuttermen started using more standard handguns in line with the Navy, switching to .45ACP revolvers and pistols, which they utilized until switching to Beretta M9s in the mid-1980s– becoming the first branch of the military to be issued with the new 9mm.

In 2006, with the Coast Guard transferred to Homeland Security, they went with the then-common pistol used by the Secret Service and Federal Protective Service (the old GSA Police with better funding)– the Sig Sauer P229R DAK in .40S&W.

Fast forward to 2020 and the USCG is now using Glocks, piggybacking off the recent CBP contract, rather than go with the Sig Sauer M17/M18 as used by the rest of the military. 

The Coast Guard is now using the Glock 19 Gen5 MOS in 9mm as their standard handgun

Say it with me: Alto Tu Barco!

New FRCs are already giving hard service and proving useful

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joesph Tazanos, a fast response cutter, escorts the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) into San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joesph Tazanos, a fast response cutter, escorts the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) into San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. The ship is providing escort and security for the Comfort’s relief misson post-Hurricane Maria. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning

The big 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, built to replace the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats of the 1980s and 90s, (which in turn replaced the 1950s era 95-foot Cape-class cutters, et.al) are fast becoming a backbone asset for the Coast Guard. Designed for five-day patrols, these 28-knot vessels have a stern boat ramp like the smaller 87-foot WPBs but carry a stabilized 25mm Mk38 and four M2s as well as much more ISR equipment. The first entered service in 2012, just five years ago.

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 craft, rather than the WPB patrol boat designation of the ships they are replacing.

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

You can bet these cutters are being looked at for littoral work such as in the Persian Gulf where the Navy has a whole squadron of 170-foot Cyclone-class (PCs) that are showing their age. However, they are already proving themselves domestically.

With over 24 of the planned-on 58 of these vessels in service and hulls 25-44 in building stages, they have been very useful in the Coast Guard’s recent response to Hurricane Irma and Maria, with the latter in particular.

The smallest service has deployed 13 vessels in what they term a “Surface Asset Group” (like the Navy’s surface action group concept, only with cutters), and many of those 13 are FRCs.

With a draft of just over 9-feet, they can get to a lot of places that small tin-can style vessels cannot (FFG-7s draw over 22 while the LCS, depending on type and load, run 13-15). This has enabled them to appear in places where the larger craft would be off-limits.

USCGC Joseph Napier (WPC-1115), homeported in San Juan and commissioned last year, has been poking around small harbors in the USVI dropping off water and diesel fuel. Another FRC of 2016-vintage based in San Juan, USCGC Donald Horsley (WPC-1117), brought 750 liters of bottled water and 1,440 meals to Vieques. Yet another year-old San Juan-based 154-footer, USCGC Winslow W. Griesser (WPC-1116), brought Department of Homeland Security special agents and disaster relief supplies to St. Croix as well as critical prescription medication. Meanwhile, USCGC Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118), as shown in the first image in this post, is providing escort and security for the 70,000-ton Mercy-class hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), operating out of San Juan.

In another sign of the type’s flexibility, USCCGC Oliver Berry (WPC-1124) last week completed a 7,300-mile self-deployment from her builder’s in New Orleans to Key West where she did shake up work, to Pearl Harbor where she is the first WPC stationed there. Her last leg, from San Diego to Oahu was over 2,600 miles with no pit stops, a trip that showed the craft is capable of extended missions. Further, the class has deployed to the coast of South America in joint Operations Tradewinds exercises for the past two years.

It should be pointed out that typically patrol craft of that size are transported as deck cargo or on a heavy lift vessel for forward deployments.  This could prove useful in transfers to the Persian Gulf.

Current contracts for FRCs are running at about $48 million per completed vessel, plus Navy-supplied ordnance, and it looks like a good investment.