Tag Archives: PATFORSWA

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.

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.

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 Gremlin to Join the Fleet

Pennsylvania-born Emlen Lewis Tunnell earned a nickname in his football career of “The Gremlin” and was both the first African-American to play for the Giants (14 seasons before going to Green Bay, at the insistence of then-assistant coach Vince Lombardi) and the first to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

However, before all that, he was 17 years old during the attack on Pearl Harbor and, cutting short a subsequent college football career at the University of Toledo due to a broken neck (!) in a game against Marshall, he tried to enlist in first the Army, then the Navy, during WWII once he recovered.

Rejected by both, he kept trying and was accepted into the Coast Guard as a volunteer enlistee in the USCGR, serving on the Coast Guard-manned Crater-class cargo ship USS Etamin (AK-93) in the Pacific. When Etamin was disabled by a torpedo hit in Milne Bay in April 1944, Tunnell “saved a fellow crew member who was set afire in the blast, beat out the flames with his hands, sustained burns to his own hands, and carried the shipmate to safety.”

Just after the war, while assigned to frigid Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland, Tunnell again saved a life by leaping into the water to save a man overboard, despite the fact that it was 32 degrees.

Tunnell was active in USCG team sports– playing on the racially integrated All-Pacific Coast service football team and the San Francisco Coast Guard basketball team– as well as served close enough to the fighting to catch a Japanese torpedo.

While the Coast Guard awarded two Lifesaving Medals to Steward’s Mate 1st Class Tunnell (one posthumously) and named an athletic building on the Coast Guard Academy campus in his honor, this week they will welcome a new 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter into the fleet named after the Coastie and NFL great who kept knocking on recruiters’ doors to get in the game.

The USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) will be commissioned in Philadelphia this week.

USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145)

The 45th of her class, like her namesake, however, will soon be headed overseas. The new cutter will join the USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) for transit to homeport later this year in Manama, Bahrain, and serve as one of six Sentinel-class FRCs with the U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) as part of CENTCOM. Very much on the sharp end.

New Sentinels for the Persian Gulf

This weekend Coast Guard Sector Key West waved goodbye to the newly delivered Sentinel (Webber)-class Fast Response Cutters USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141). The 154-foot cutters were recently delivered by Bollinger and were purpose-built for their new mission.

The two cutters are headed to the Arabian Gulf in support of Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia in Bahrain. They are equipped with the CG-HALLTS system, a hailer that has laser and LRAD capabilities, as well as a special S-band radar with full-time 360-degree coverage, and other goodies. 

If you note, they four have Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on the O-1 deck as well as four Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 S-Band pulse doppler radar arrays on their masts. The cutters’ Mk38s are also painted FDE.

Note the 270-foot Famous-class medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913) in the background– the last class in American service with a MK 75 OTO.

As noted by the Coast Guard:

PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command to conduct maritime operations forwarding U.S. interests. These efforts are to deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism, and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities to secure the maritime environment in the Central Command area of responsibility.

Under Naval control, PATFORSWA first deployed to the region in 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom with six Reagan-era 110-foot Island-class patrol boats and has been extensively involved with Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces there ever since, augmenting the Navy’s 170-foot Cyclone-class PCs.

Much more capable craft than the aging 110s, the FRCs are expected to replace the latter on a one-for-one basis.

Navy Drops the Ax on Bonnie Dick, 2 LCS, and 3 PCs

As the fiscal year plays out the Navy has released tentative inactivation dates for eight vessels. One is the battered and economically unsavable USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD-6), which blazed away last year to the point of no return. Perhaps a mothballed LHA can be retrieved from Pearl Harbor’s loch and returned to service for a few years to make up for the shortcoming.

Another hit, laying up the old MSC-controlled fleet tug USNS Sioux (T-ATF 171) is a natural course of action as the Navy is building a new and more capable class of tugs to replace the older vessels.

In a gut punch, the two initial class leaders for the Little Crappy Ships, USS Freedom (LCS-1) and USS Independence (LCS-2), will be taken out of commission this summer, their apparent beta tests concluded after just 12 years. USS Fort Worth and USS Coronado, ships with even fewer miles, are certain to follow.

USS Fort McHenry (LSD-43) will be laid up in April. The 33-year-old Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship will not be needed anymore in a gator fleet that is gaining big hulled 25,000-ton LPDs at the same time that the Marines are shedding all of their tanks and most of their artillery. Notably, she is the first of her class on the block.

Finally, three of the much-maligned 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol craft, USS Zephry (PC-8), USS Shamal (PC-13), and USS Tornado (PC-14) will be deactivated by 2 March 2021, with the first two set to be scrapped and the Tornado placed up for Foreign Military Sales. As class leader Cyclone was given to the Philippines in 2004, you can guess where Tornado will likely wind up.

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2021) Sailors conduct a decommissioning ceremony aboard the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Shamal (PC 13) at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Shamal is one of three Cyclone-class patrol ships being decommissioned at Naval Station Mayport. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Austin G. Collins)

In short, Big Navy never liked the PCs and have repeatedly tried to kill them off over the years, shopping them overseas and to the Coast Guard. However, they have proved very useful in the Persian Gulf– where most are forward deployed– and as the sole assets for the 4th Fleet in the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean. With the Coast Guard’s new and more effective 158-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters reaching 50~ hulls, six of which are set to be deployed to Bahrain, it seems like the Navy is electing to go more Coasty in the Iranian small-boat Cold War.

I happen to know the resting place of Tornado’s sideboard from ger USCG days based at NAVSTA Pascagoula!

As well as Shamals

In related news, it looks like the Navy is also set to scrap their dozen 82-foot Mark IV patrol boats. An ambitious program originally intended to field 48 units in 2012, the wargamers say they will be live bait in a conflict with China. Duh.

And so closes another chapter in the book of how the Navy hates brown water and wants you to hate it to.

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!

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.

Headed to work, 16 years ago today

Here we see the Hamilton-class U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas (WHEC-716) as she escorts the motor vessel BBC Spain. Aboard Spain‘s deck are a quartet of USCG 110-foot Island-class patrol boats headed via the Mediterranean and Suez for deployment to the Persian Gulf, March 19, 2003.

While Dallas was stricken and transferred to the Philippines in 2012– where she continues to serve in a haze gray scheme as BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF-16)— and BBC Spain is now the Russian-flagged cargo vessel S. Kuznetsov — those four patrol boats are still under the same flag in the Persian Gulf, clocking in.

USCG Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), established in 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the U.S. The original four WPBs shown above on SpainAdak, Aquidneck, Baranof, and Wrangell– were joined by Monomoy and Maui in May 2004 bringing the number of 110s in the Arabian Gulf to six.

Why?

The Navy likes to use the Coast Guard’s small patrol boats (110s/87s) in confined littoral areas as the coasties have them while the Navy simply doesn’t. After all, why risk a $1 billion destroyer with a 300-man crew when the USCG has an $8 million patrol boat with a 22-man crew that can get in closer and already has hundreds of (often high-risk) boardings under their belt before they rotate into the Gulf.

Plus (and this is just my humble opinion) it would look worse if the Iranians shoot up a white hulled coastie than a haze gray warship. I mean these are lifesavers here.

180201-N-TB177-0211 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (Feb. 1, 2018) Island-class patrol boats USCGC Wrangell left, USCGC Aquidneck (WPB 1309), middle, and coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) patrol the open seas. Wrangell, Aquidneck, and Firebolt are forward deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners and preserve the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin J. Steinberg/Released)

They did the same thing in Vietnam when some 26 82-foot Point-class cutters served as an assembled Patrol Squadron off the South Vietnamese coast from 1965 to 1970.

Since 2002, the Coast Guard has forward deployed six of their WPBs to Manama, Bahrain to serve in the Persian Gulf littoral. After all these boats can stay at sea for a week at a time, have a cutter boat, a decent surface search radar, can make 29-knots, and float in just 7 feet of seawater– which the Big Blue has a hard time pulling off. The force is very active, typically having 3-4 patrol boats underway in the Gulf at any given time looking for pirates, smugglers, terrorists out to pull off another USS Cole-style attack, and, well, the Iranians.

USCGC Monomoy in the PG, looking a bit more hard-ridden and heavily armed.

Whereas normally Island-class cutters deploy stateside with a 16 man (2 officer/14 enlisted) crew, those that are part of PATFORSWA typically run with a 22 person complement (3 officers/19 enlisted) as they conduct more high-risk boardings and have an increased ship’s battery. The stateside armament suite of a 110 is a 25mm Mk38 chain-gun (which is usually covered) and two single M2 .50-cal BMGs (which often are locked up below in the armory) plus a thin smattering of small arms.

Those cutters in the Gulf still use the 25mm (usually very much uncovered and loaded, ready to go) and up to five mounts for Mk19 Grenade launchers and *twin* M2’s for quite a bit more punch against boghammars and armed dhows if needed. Likewise, there are more M4s, Remmy 870s, hard plate body armor and Sig P229Rs on these forward-deployed ships than one that is poking around the Outer Banks.

Nevertheless, they still keep the same traditional white hull and red racing stripe, but with the welcome addition of a deck canopy to keep that Persian Gulf sun at bay and the non-skid from heating up to waffle-iron temperatures.

NORTH ARABIAN GULF–U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Maui (WPB 1304) is on standby as the Close Support Vessel during a security boarding in the North Arabian Gulf, Aug. 11. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ltjg. Peter Lang.

 

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