Tag Archives: USCGC Calhoun (WMSL 759)

Coast Guard Keeps tabs on China in Aleutians, Maldives, and West Pac

The Coast Guard, flush with capable new vessels, has been steadily stretching its legs as of late, taking up the Navy’s slack a bit, and waving the flag increasingly in overseas locations. This new trend makes sense as, besides the formal People’s Liberation Army Navy, the growing (200 white hulled cutters) China Coast Guard and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (4,600 blue hulled trawlers) are everywhere.

Case in point, this week the USCG’s 17th District, which covers Alaska, announced the USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756), while on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea, encountered the 13,000-ton Chinese Type 055 “destroyer” (NATO/OSD Renhai-class cruiser) Renhai (CG 101), sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island. A state-of-the-art vessel comparable to a Ticonderoga-class cruiser but larger, Renhai has a 112-cell VLS system as well as two helicopters and a 130mm naval gun. Compare this to Kimball’s single 57mm MK110 and CIWS, and you see the disparity.

A Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, September 19, 2022. (USCG Photo)

Kimball also noted other ships as well.

Via 17th District:

The Kimball crew later identified two more Chinese naval vessels and four Russian naval vessels, including a Russian Federation Navy destroyer, all in a single formation with the Renhai as a combined surface action group operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

As a result, the Kimball crew is now operating under Operation Frontier Sentinel, a Seventeenth Coast Guard District operation designed to meet presence with presence when strategic competitors operate in and around U.S. waters. The U.S Coast Guard’s presence strengthens the international rules-based order and promotes the conduct of operations in a manner that follows international norms. While the surface action group was temporary in nature, and Kimball observed it disperse, the Kimball will continue to monitor activities in the U.S. EEZ to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew provided support to the Kimball’s Operation Frontier Sentinel activities.

This is not the first time Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese naval vessels inside the U.S. EEZ/MARDEZ. Last August, Kimball and her sister Berthoff kept tabs on a surface action group– a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel– transiting within 46 miles of the Aleutians.

Meanwhile, in the Maldives

Kimball’s sister, the Hawaii-based USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757) and crew, on a Westpac patrol under the tactical control of 7th Fleet, arrived in the Maldives last week, the first Coast Guard ship to visit the 1,200-island Indian Ocean country since USCGC Boutwell in 2009.

The class of large (418-foot/4,500-ton) frigate-sized cutters have done numerous Westpac cruises in the past few years. Since 2019, the cutters Bertholf (WMSL 750), Stratton (WMSL 752), Waesche (WMSL 751), and Munro (WMSL 755) have deployed to the Western Pacific.

Micronesia and the Solomans

Capping off a six-week extended patrol across Oceania, the 154-foot Webber/Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) arrived back at homeport in Guam on 19 September.

The 20-member crew, augmented by two Guam-based shoreside Coasties (a YN2 and an MK2) two Navy rates (an HS2 and HM3), and a Marine Korean linguist, conducted training, fisheries observations, community and key leader engagements, and a multilateral sail.

How about that blended blue and green crew? “The crew of the Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) takes a moment for a photo in Cairns, Australia, Sept. 5, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

They covered more than 8,000 nautical miles from Guam to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and returned with several stops in Papua New Guinea and one in the Federated States of Micronesia. They also operated with HMS Spey, the first Royal Navy warship to be forward deployed to the Pacific since Hong Kong went back to China.

The two ships were also– and this is key– refused a port visit in the Solomans which is now under a treaty with China that allows PLAN ships to refuel in Honiara. The local government there later clarified that not all foreign military ships were off limits to their ports, as Australia and New Zealand will be exempt (both countries have significant economic ties with the island nation) but it is still a bad look. Of irony, Spey and Oliver Henry were conducting an Operation Island Chief mission in the region, policing illegal fishing of the kind China is noted for.

The Coast Guard currently has three new FRCs in Guam including Henry, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139), and Frederick Hatch (1143), giving them options in the Westpac.

Goula Sub Sighting (of Sorts)

Growing up in Pascagoula as a kid, although it wasn’t a traditional “submarine town” such as Pearl, New London, or Bremerton, we had a lot of submarine tie-ins. After all, the USS Drum (SS-228) museum was just a 40-minute drive over to Mobile Bay (and every kid at school had crawled through her a few times), U-166– the only German submarine sunk in the Gulf of Mexico– was lost about 50 miles to the Southwest with a Coast Guard seaplane from Biloxi often credited with taking part in her demise, CSS Hunley was crafted and tested in Mobile and the tale was often retold in every museum on the coast, and Ingalls had “submarine races” that the locals would turn out for in the 1960s and 70s when eight of the 37 Sturgeon-class attack boats were built there and would conduct trials off The Point. It was no surprise that the brand new Virginia-class boat, USS Mississippi (SSN-782), paid a visit to the Pascagoula a few years back for her commissioning ceremony in the Pascagoula River.

My great grandfather, who served in the USCG Beach Patrol in Pascagoula, had often told of finding empty cans and food wrappers with German markings on them in the sand along the Barrier Islands during the war. Probably a dozen logical explanations for that other than U-boat beach parties, but not in the eyes of an amazed little war nerd like myself.

Speaking of odd events that can’t be explained…

About that UFO…

On a more personal note, I’ve always thought the infamous 1973 Pascagoula UFO incident, one of the few that involved a craft rising from the sea, was actually a Soviet mini-sub and crew visiting the harbor to take notes on the construction at Ingalls– where the whole Spruance-class of destroyers and all of the early LHAs was under construction around that time in addition to the Sturgeons.

The 1973 Pascagoula “alien” and a Soviet-era IDA 59 rebreather, about the closest the Russkis had to Draeger gear.

Pascagoula’s “swimming” UFO, left, compared to a Soviet Project 907 Triton 1M Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV). Some 30 of these were operational in the Soviet Red Banner fleet in the 1970s. The two Pascagoula fishermen encountered the craft while it was directly across from the shipyard. They said after they encountered the “aliens” they were injected and temporarily paralyzed. 

Meet Pharos and Proteus

And after a long break, a submarine of sorts has recently returned to the Pascagoula River, prowling just off Ingalls off The Point in the same waters that Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker claimed they were abducted during the “submarine races” era.

HII’s Pharos prototype platform being towed behind a small craft in the Pascagoula River while recovering HII’s Proteus LDUUV during a demonstration June 8, 2022.

Ballasted down in front of Ingalls’s West Bank, and the UUV deploying

Proteus LDUUV PCU USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125) is in the background as is the outfitting Legend-class National Security Cutter USCGC Calhoun (WMSL-759)

Via Ingalls:

PASCAGOULA, Miss., June 13, 2022 — All-domain defense and technologies partner HII (NYSE:HII) announced today the successful demonstration of capabilities enabling HII-built amphibious warships to launch, operate with and recover HII-built large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (LDUUV).

The research and development initiative between HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and Mission Technologies divisions is among a portfolio of corporate-led and funded internal research and development efforts aimed at advancing mission-critical technology solutions in support of HII’s national security customers.

“HII is committed to advancing the future of distributed maritime operations and demonstrating our capability to support unmanned vehicles on amphibious ships,” said Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, which hosted and partnered in the demonstration. “I am very proud of our team’s initiative to strengthen the flexibility of the ships we build by anticipating the challenges and opportunities that exist for our customers.”

“This is a great example of how HII can leverage expertise across divisions to develop unique solutions for customers,” said Andy Green, president of Mission Technologies. “HII is focused on growing critical enabling technologies, like unmanned systems and AI/ML data analytics, to help further enhance the capabilities of our national security platforms.”

HII-built San Antonio-class amphibious warships have unique well decks that can be flooded to launch and recover various maritime platforms. The U.S. Navy has previously demonstrated the ability to recover spacecraft from the amphibious warship well deck.

HII’s Advanced Technology Group, comprised of employees from across the company, performed the launch and recovery demonstration with a prototype platform called Pharos and HII’s LDUUV Proteus. The demonstration took place in the Pascagoula River.

The demonstration involved having the LDUUV approach and be captured by the Pharos cradle, while Pharos was being towed behind a small craft that simulated an amphibious ship at low speed. Pharos was put in a tow position, then using a remote control, it was ballasted down in the trailing position allowing the LDUUV to navigate into Pharos. Once the unmanned vehicle was captured, Pharos was deballasted back up into a recovery and transport position. The demonstration also included ballasting down to launch the LDUUV after the capture.

Pharos is outfitted with heavy-duty wheels to allow its transport maneuverability within the well deck of an amphibious ship for stowage on the vehicle decks. Pharos can be rolled off the back of an amphibious ship while using the ship’s existing winch capabilities to extend and retract the platform from the well deck. The Pharos design is scalable and reconfigurable to fit various unmanned underwater or unmanned surface vehicles.

The Pharos design was conducted by HII, and three main partners supported the development. The University of New Orleans, in conjunction with the Navy, performed the initial model testing, and the prototype device was fabricated by Metal Shark in Louisiana.

HII is currently exploring modifications for other UUVs and participating in live demonstrations with the fleet within the next year. HII will use results from the Pharos demonstration to further mature concepts and continue to develop innovative national security solutions.

Getting your lean on

Born in Pascagoula, the class leader of the 418-foot Legend-class National Security Cutters, USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750), joined the fleet in 2008 and since then, nine of the ships have replaced the circa 1960s 378-foot Hamilton-class high endurance cutters in the Coast Guard’s inventory. The service uses these light frigate-sized vessels in overseas deployments to the Med and West Pac, as well as in patrols of the North Pac– monitoring 900,000 square miles of the U.S. exclusive economic zone off the Alaskan coast– which can be demanding.

Thus from Betholf’s social media page:

Bertholf made it safely to Kodiak, AK last week. During our transit, we encountered 15ft seas, 50kt winds, and 35-degree rolls.

Last September, Berthof and her sistership and Kimball (WMSL-756) kept tabs on a four-ship task force from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast.

In other National Security Cutter news, shipbuilders at Ingalls just completed the longest translation on record for the shipyard with future USCGC Calhoun (WMSL 759) before officially launching the ship into the water in Pascagoula.

In November of 2020, the ninth NSC, Stone (WMSL 758)— named after the service’s famed first aviator— was delivered to the Coast Guard and proceeded to conduct an unprecedented 68-day shakedown patrol, which resulted in a drug bust within two weeks of sail away and an extensive illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing enforcement patrol off the coast of South America.

Calhoun, the 10th NSC, is scheduled to be christened at Ingalls Shipbuilding in June 2022 and is expected to be delivered in early 2023.

The 11th, and planned final (unless the USCG gets more money), NSC, USCGC Friedman (WMSL-760), will be delivered around 2024.