Tag Archives: PATFORSWA

The Sentinel-class is suddenly everywhere

The Coast Guard’s very successful Fast Response Cutter (FRC) program, the 154-foot Sentinel-class patrol craft, just keeps ticking along, with lots of important milestones this month. It makes you wish the Navy could get on board with a similar shipbuilding impetus.

50th Delivered

Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana– builder of the 110-foot Island-class and 87-foot Maritime Protector class patrol boats for the Coast Guard going back some 35 years– on 4 August delivered their 176th hull to the service, the future USCGC William Chadwick (WPC-1150). Chadwick, as the hull number points to, is the 50th FRC delivered since the first, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), was contracted in September 2008. All in all, not a bad record for just under 14 years.

USCGC Chadwick will be the first of six FRCs to be homeported in Sector Boston, which is known as “The Birthplace of the Coast Guard.” Photo via Bollinger.

Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 patrol vessel, the Coast Guard expects to order 64 of the increasingly useful vessels.

At a cost of about $65 million for each hull, the entire program of record is set to come in at under $4 billion which sounds like a lot but keep in mind the Navy has sunk nine times that much, over $36 billion, into the Littoral Combat Ship program already (even with the “cost savings” of decommissioning ships only a few years old, hyping that each LCS hull costs $70 million per year to keep in the water).

Besides a 25mm MK 38 Mod 2 forward, the FRCs have at least four mounts for M2 .50 cals, a decent C4ISR suite for their size, a 28-knot flank speed, and the capability to sortie over 2,000 nm on a two-week patrol without refueling or re-provisioning. They also have a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.

Douglas Denman arrives in Alaska after a 7,000-mile cruise

Set to be commissioned at her new home port at Ketchikan in September, the future USCGC Douglas Denman (WPC-1149), the Coast Guard’s 49th Fast Response Cutter, traveled nearly 7,000 miles from the most southeastern city in the U.S. to the most southeastern city in Alaska, transiting through the Caribbean Sea, the Panama Canal, and up the west coast of Central America and the U.S. in a 36-day voyage.

USCGC Douglas Denman (WPC-1149) via Bollinger

After delivery from Bollinger, FRCs and their plankowner crews spend almost two months at Key West where there is no shortage of missions in the Florida Straits on which to sharpen up.

From the 17th Coast Guard district on that process:

Following production of the ship in 2020, the first crewmember arrived in Ketchikan summer of 2021. Since then, the crew has undergone a year of administration and training in preparation to take ownership of the cutter. The engineering department alone attended a total of three months of school in addition to the crew’s seven weeks of familiarity training in Lockport, La., and seven weeks of Post Delivery Availability phase in Key West, Fla.

Full FRC six-pack in the Middle East

On 23 August, USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147), joined four other examples of the newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters as part of the Coast Guard’s long-standing Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), stationed in Bahrain where U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered.

The two FRCs completed a 10,000-nautical-mile transit to Bahrain, escorted by 270-foot medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913), which acted as a mothership, rather than having to be loaded as float-on cargo.

The Coast Guard has been using more of these mini surface action groups (or “Surface Asset Group” in USCG parlance), such as in the response to 2017’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and you can easily imagine such white-hulled SAGs in the event of a conflict.

Scheuerman and Sutphin were met by two other FRCs of the Coast Guard’s Persian Gulf squadron– USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) and USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145)— flying their characteristic oversized U.S. ensigns, for a great photo op through the Straits.

220822-A-KS490-1182 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 22, 2022) From the left, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144), USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Aug. 22. The cutters are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noah Martin)

Harris and Tunnell only recently arrived in Bahrain themselves, joining USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141), to retire the six aging Reagan-era Island-class cutters that had been there since 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Legacy 110 foot Island class cutters compared to the new 154-foot Sentinel (Webber) class FRCs

Besides their stabilized MK 38 25mm gun and half-dozen (up from four as seen on stateside FRCs) M2 mounts, the Sentinels in 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 dedicated 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 and undergo more training once they reach Bahrain.

Hosting RIMPAC Marines ISR team

Finally, it should be pointed out that the FRC USCGC Cutter William Hart (WPC 1134)— who has been working with embarked teams of Hawaii-based Marines for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tests in the littoral since 2021– apparently did more of the same in the recently-concluded RIMPAC exercises.

Hart has been very active in presence missions in Oceania, recently completing a 10-day voyage to Samoa last winter in Operation Kurukuru and then operating alongside ships from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (often from Chinese trawlers) in the region while on a 39-day patrol— which is a long time to spend on a 154-foot ship.

Still, they are getting it done and on the cheap at that.

Quiet Developments in 5th Fleet

It hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but CENTCOM has seen some interesting visitors and additions in recent days.

First up, the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), commissioned on 17 November 2018, arrived at Manama, Bahrain on 25 June, marking the completion of a “historic” 10,000-mile journey from her homeport in Mayport, Florida, becoming the first LCS of either class to operate in the Middle East.

Littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), arrives at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, on June 25. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Terry Vongsouthi)

Of course, the Navy wants to decommission all nine Freedom-class ships currently in service, Sioux City included, but at least it shows they can reach overseas if needed. Maybe.

The day after Sioux City arrived, she operated with unmanned surface vessels and crewed ships in the Arabian Gulf, on June 26. The vessels included a 23-foot Saildrone Explorer, a 38-foot MARTAC Devil Ray T-38, the Island-class patrol cutter USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318), the new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142), and the aging (27 years young on a hull built for 15) Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12).

Of note, the Coast Guard is rapidly replacing the Islands with the Sentinels, as we have covered several times before, while the Navy is ridding itself of the Cyclones, leaving the 5th Fleet to be staffed largely just with six forward deployed Sentinels of Coast Guard PATFORSWA, and visiting Navy units.

Speaking of which, two of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinels: USCGC Clarence Sutphin (WPC 1147) and USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), departed CONUS last week en route to their new homeport in Bahrain alongside their trans-Atlantic escort, the 270-foot medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913).

Of course, the Navy could always just forward deploy half of the Freedom-class LCSs there to take up the slack caused by the departure of the Cyclones and leave the other half stateside as training platforms, allowing crews to fly out and rotate.

Handoff? USS Sioux City Blue Crew (LCS 11) and Cyclone-class USS Thunderbolt PC-12 transit the Strait of Hormuz, June 24. For years the Navy wanted to get rid of the Cyclones and even loaned a couple to the Coast Guard. Then, after 2001, they saw the utility in forward deploying most of them to Bahrain as a standing FU force to the Iranian IRGCN.

The hulls could do good work in minesweeping and as drone mother ships, a job in which their iffy combining gear wouldn’t be a deal-breaker as they would serve largely as depot/station ships. I mean, they are littoral combat ships, right?

Maybe Sioux City could be a harbinger of a Plan B for her class.

Three less Islands…

In PATFORSWA, the Coast Guard’s now 20-year-long mission in the Persian Gulf/Straits of Hormuz/Gulf of Oman, a trio of its longest-serving patrol boats– 110-foot Island-class WPBs– have been quietly put to pasture.

Via USCG PAO:

Yesterday three Island-class patrol boats were decommissioned in a ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

Rear Adm. Keith Smith, deputy commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, attended the ceremony and commemorated 102 years of combined active service by USCGC Maui, Monomoy, and Wrangell.

“For nearly two decades, these cutters and the Coast Guardsmen that crewed them have worked closely with our U.S. Naval Forces Central Command partners and served as the heart of Coast Guard operations in the Middle East,” said Smith.

Maui was originally homeported in Miami and conducted counter-narcotics and other law enforcement activities near the United States for 18 years.

Monomoy was previously homeported in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The ship helped secure New York City’s harbor immediately following the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2004, Maui and Monomoy arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet region where they have remained for the next 18 years in support of U.S. 5th Fleet maritime security operations.

Previously homeported in Portland, Maine, Wrangell conducted counter-narcotics and maritime patrol operations along the East Coast of the United States before deploying to the Middle East in 2003.

With the retirement of these three patrol boats, and the looming retirement next month of stateside sisters such as USCGC Cuttyhunk (WPB-1322), few of the 110s remain in inventory as the new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (designated WPCs) are slated to replace the Island-class.

110 foot Island class cutters compared to the new 154-foot Sentinel (Webber) class FRCs

But that doesn’t mean PATFORSWA is going away. Six of the new Sentinel-class FRCs are headed there to replace the retired Islands on a hull-for-hull basis, with three already in theatre.

Coast Guard fast response cutters Glen Harris (WPC 1144), Wrangel (WPB 1332), Emlen Tunnel (WPC 1145), Maui (WPB 1304), transiting the Gulf of Oman Feb. 26

Coast Guard fast response cutters Glen Harris (WPC 1144), Wrangel (WPB 1332), Emlen Tunnel (WPC 1145), Maui (WPB 1304), transiting Gulf of Oman Feb. 26

Besides their stabilized MK 38 25mm gun and half-dozen M2 mounts, the 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.

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.  

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