Tag Archives: USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750)

Hamilton to Bertholf

Check out this great view of Coast Guard Island in Alameda, taken 30 years ago this month, showing five immaculate USCG high endurance cutters:

USCGC Boutwell (WPG-719; WHEC-719) in the foreground; then directly starboard of Boutwell is the USCGC Jarvis (WHEC-725) which is moored ahead of the USCGC Munro (WHEC-724). Munro is astern of Jarvis and inboard of the Morgenthau (WHEC-722)–note the Harpoon launchers on Morgenthau directly behind her main battery; and finally, the USCGC Sherman (WPG-720; WHEC-720) is directly astern of the Munro; USCG PACAREA photo; photo no. #PA 051892(01)-34A; May, 1992; photo by PAC R. L. Woods.

The top of the line in 1960s warship technology, the dozen New Orleans-built Hamilton-class of High Endurance Coast Guard Cutters or “378s” as they are referred to by the branch, were the go-to workhorses of USCG for five decades. They replaced a host of WWII (and earlier) cutters and stood on the line against the Soviets, ready to escort convoys to Europe if the balloon ever went up. They saw a real-live shooting war in Vietnam, providing naval gunfire support to the troops ashore. Mostly based on the west coast, today the class spends most of its time in Alaskan and Hawaiian waters.

Above you see five in 1992 in San Diego (Alameda). This is just after they were FRAM’d with Harpoon missiles (only Morgenthau so equipped) 76mm guns, CIWS, and modern torpedo tubes using Mk50s.

Of these five today, all are still in hard use around the Pacific rim and the Indian Ocean. Sherman transferred to the Sri Lanka Navy in 2018 as SLNS Gajabahu (P626). Munro decommissioned last April and is slated to transfer to the Vietnam Coast Guard where Morgenthau has been serving as CSB 8020 since 2017. Boutwell transferred to the Philippine Navy in 2016 as BRP Andres Bonifacio. Meanwhile, Jarvis has served the Bangladesh Navy since 2012 as BNS Somudro Joy (F-28).

The Hamiltons have all since been replaced by the new Bertholf-class National Security Cutters and four– USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750), Waesche (WMSL-751), Stratton (WMSL-752), and Munro (WMSL-755)– are all stationed there. 

National Security Cutters Get Chance to Flex National Security Muscle

Via the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska (emphasis mine):

During a routine maritime patrol in the Bering Sea and Arctic region, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750), spotted and established radio contact with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) task force in international waters within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, Aug. 30, 2021. All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international laws and norms. At no point did the PLAN task force enter U.S. territorial waters. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Bridget Boyle.

The U.S. Coast Guard demonstrated its commitment to the Bering Sea and Arctic region with deployments of national security cutters Bertholf (WMSL-750), and Kimball (WMSL-756), and a U.S. Arctic patrol by icebreaker Healy.

“Security in the Bering Sea and the Arctic is homeland security,” said Vice Adm. Michael McAllister, commander Coast Guard Pacific Area. “The U.S. Coast Guard is continuously present in this important region to uphold American interests and protect U.S. economic prosperity.”

Crews interacted with local, national and international vessels throughout the Arctic. During the deployment, Bertholf and Kimball observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast. While the ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters.

The PLAN task force included a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel. The Chinese vessels conducted military and surveillance operations during their deployment to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean.

All interactions between the U.S. Coast Guard and PLAN were in accordance with international standards set forth in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium’s Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

While the PLAN doesn’t “officially” have any cruisers, the brand new Type 55 DDGs (NATO designation Renhai-class) are big ships, running to 13,000-tons, and having a 112-vell VLS launcher installed with missiles cued by a phased array radar. In other words, a bigger, newer version of a Tico. They are the largest and most advanced Chinese surface combatant. 

PLAN’s Nanchang (DDG-101) Type 55, from a Japanese MOD intel picture/press release earlier this year. Look at all those VLS cells…

Bertholf. At 4,500-tons and armed with a 57 mm gun, a 20mm Close-In Weapons System, four .50-caliber machine guns, two M240B 7.62mm GPMGs, and space for two helicopters, along with passive EW and SRBOC systems, it is about as heavily armed as current US Coast Guard cutters get. Of course, I’d like to see a few Harpoons/NSSMs, Mk 32 Torpedo tubes, and maybe a RAM missile system on her, but that’s just me.

Facing off against this, the pair of 4,500-ton Legend-class National Security cutters combined had two 57mm Bofors, two CIWS, and some mounted machine guns.

In all seriousness, such interactions, coupled with the use by the Navy of the same class of white hulls to cruise through the contested South China Sea on Freedom of Navigation Patrols, point to the USCG’s larger cutters at a minimum getting an armament upgrade to swap out CIWS for C-RAM and pick up a few Naval Strike Missiles to at least put them on-par with the admittedly under-armed littoral combat ships. 

If you act like a frigate, no matter the color of your hull, you better be able to back it up. 

September 2021, Royal Australian Navy fleet oiler HMAS Sirius (AO-266) conducts a dual replenishment at sea with the amphibious assault dock HMAS Canberra (LHD-2) and USCGC Munro (WMSL-755), during Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021. (RAN Photo by LSIS Leo Baumgartner)