The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Stratton (WMSL 752) returned to Alameda Saturday after completing a 97-day Operation Blue Pacific Patrol in the South Pacific.
While underway on the 20,348-mile patrol, Stratton’s crew worked with Pacific nations, including Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Australia “on an array of missions and prioritized combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing on the high seas or in partner nations’ exclusive economic zones,” including boarding 11 vessels and issuing 21 violations to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing– often with bilateral shipriders aboard from small Pacific island nations, a strong warning to China’s little blue men fleet of far-reaching trawlers that haunt such areas.
Among interesting facets of the patrol was the fact that Stratton’s crew used small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (contract Scan Eagle) to increase the ship’s capabilities and further extend the cutter’s patrol area.
“Stratton’s capacity for employing cutting edge technology like sUAS, gives the Coast Guard the upper hand in the fight against IUU fishing,” said CDR Charter Tschirgi, Stratton’s executive officer. “The vast area covered during patrols like these displays the reach the Coast Guard has and the length we will go to assist our partners in the Pacific.”
In another interesting evolution, while on patrol, Stratton’s crew participated in multiple joint exercises with the British River-class OPV HMS Spey (P234), the Aegis-class destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102), fueling-at-sea with New Zealand’s replenishment vessel HMNZS Aotearoa, and joint steaming with the French Naval vessel Arago and Fijian patrol vessel Savenaca.
This included Stratton and Spey steaming in formation for ten days from Hawaii to Tahiti, something you don’t see every day.
Of note, HMS Tamar (P233) and sistership Spey, outfitted with their new/old North Atlantic Dazzle camo look, are the first “permanent” Royal Navy deployment to the Indo-Pacific region in a generation, operating out of Singapore. The last Pacific Station operated by the RN was the old Commodore-in-Charge, Hong Kong, which had three Peacock-class patrol corvettes assigned, and was shuttered in 1997.