The Pacific Patrol Boat Program

The Central Pacific has some of the greatest swaths of empty ocean in the world. But in the Western Pacific, there are a great number of islands and archipelagoes, many of them independent nation states. Each of these nations has an EEZ, or Exclusive Economic Zone. While their territorial sovereignty only extends 12 nautical miles from the shore, the EEZ extends 200 nautical miles. Within that zone, these nation states have rights to fishing, drilling and virtually all other economically productive activities. If Tuvula doesn’t want you fishing in their waters, that is their right to deny you. Conversely, Tuvula can, if it wishes, grant you a license to fish in their EEZ, and charge you a tidy fee, adding nicely to their national coffers. The problem is, Tuvula, with an area of about 10 square miles, has an EEZ of about 126,000 square miles to patrol. And with a population of about 10,000, it doesn’t really have the tax base and industry to buy much of a coast guard.

Enter Australia. The concept of the EEZ is a relatively new one, first codified by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea in 1982. Australia has long operated its own fleet of small patrol boats to enforce its EEZ and perform other similar maritime security and presence missions.  Australia also quickly realized that helping the large number of small nations to their north perform similar missions would help Australia perform its own. That is, time not spend dealing with problems to the north could be spent on dealing with local issues.

And so in the late 1980s through most of the 1990s, Australia built a fleet of 22 patrol boats, each just over 100’ in length, and get this… they gave them away, free of charge. Even better, they operate a schoolhouse in Australia to train the sailors from the countries that received these gifts. Australia also set aside money for overhauling and upgrading the boats over time.

The Pacific class patrol boat has been quite a successful design.

File:RAN-IFR 2013 D3 71.JPG

Photographs taken during day 3 of the Royal Australian Navy International Fleet Review 2013. Papua New Guinean patrol boat Dreger underway on Sydney Harbour.

At about 103’, and displacing 162 tons, they have a top speed of about 20 knots, and a steaming range of about 2500 nautical miles at an efficient cruising speed of 12 knots.  They have an endurance of about 10 days.  Not all are armed (many are operated by police forces, as opposed to a navy or coast guard) but they can be fitted for machine guns and even 20mm cannon.

The Pacifics were built to commercial standards, both to keep construction and maintenance costs down, and for ease of maintenance by the relatively poor nations that operate them.

The Pacifics are beginning to reach the end of their expected service lives. And Australia has a bit of a slump in its current shipbuilding plans. And so:

MARCH 6, 2015 — Australia’s Minister of Defence, Kevin Andrews, today, issued a statement announcing the Request for Tender (RFT) for up to 21 replacement – Australian-made – Pacific Patrol Boats under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, Project SEA3036 Phase 1.
Under that program, Australia provides patrol boats to Pacific island countries to enable them take an active part in securing their own extensive Exclusive Economic Zones

The project announced today is seen as a lifeline for Australian shipbuilding. According to the minister, it represents “a significant investment in Australian defense industry,” with the Australian-made patrol boats worth Australian $594 million (about US$ 462 million) with through life sustainment and personnel costs adding an estimated at A$1.38 billion (about US$ 1.07 billion over 30 years.

It would probably be fair to say this is more corporate welfare for Australia than it is self interested charity to its neighbors. Australia’s neighbors will benefit, of course. But in the interim, Australia will also be able to keep its shipbuilding capacity ticking over pending some future major programs for domestic consumption.

The new patrol boats are expected to be somewhat larger than the Pacific class, at about 40 meters (roughly 125 feet) and a bit faster, with a top speed of 25 knots. Endurance should be similar. Again, the ships will be built to commercial standards. They won’t be fitted with armament, but will be fitted for it if the receiving nation wishes to add it.

The Last "Thousand Tonner"

USS Allen

Some of the most interesting curiosities in the history of naval warfare surround older warships remaining in service long after similar vessels have been retired.  Sometimes, the story of such ships is one of tragedy, like the three elderly Royal Navy cruisers sunk in the Channel by a German U-Boat in 1914, or the nearly-helpless Spanish wooden-hulled Castilla, quickly sunk at Manila Bay.  Other times, like with Oldendorf’s “Old Ladies” at Surigao Straits or the Iowas in Desert Storm, the veteran ships were found to still be plenty lethal.  One such curiosity is the unlikely tale of USS Allen, DD-66.

The rapid advances in Naval technology that spanned the last decade of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th included generational leaps in warship design, hastened further by the outbreak of war in 1914.  Nowhere was this more manifest than in the smallest of the combatant ships of the world’s navies, the destroyer.  Originally the “torpedo boat destroyer” built to protect larger ships of the battle line from the speedy small craft and their ship-killing weapons, powered torpedoes, soon these “torpedo boat destroyers” became the carriers of torpedoes themselves, then called simply, “destroyers”.

US destroyer construction in the early part of the century followed apace with designs elsewhere.  Small, largely coastal craft evolved into the 700-ton “flivvers” and later, the “thousand-tonners” of the O’Brien, Tucker, and Sampson classes.   Despite being almost new, these 26 ships of the latter three classes had proven barely suitable for the requirements of destroyer service in a modern war at sea.  Among the first US ships to attach to the Royal Navy in 1917, by the end of the war they were hopelessly outdated, as the British W and V classes, and the latest German destroyers, were significantly larger, much faster,  far more capable warships.

Following the Armistice, almost all the “thousand tonners” were quickly decommissioned, as they were replaced in service with the “flush-decker” Wickes and Clemson classes, of which an astounding 267 were built (though few were completed in time for war service).   A number of the obsolescent “thousand tonners” were given to the US Coast Guard, where they served into the 1930s.  Most, however, were scrapped or sunk as targets.  Most, but not all.

One unit of the Sampsons, USS Allen, DD-66, was placed back in commission,  to serve as a training ship for US Navy Reserve personnel.  She would serve in this role between 1925 and 1928, after which she returned to the Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia.   Allen was retained even while a number of her younger and far more capable “flush-decker” sisters were scrapped.  As war clouds loomed, Allen was selected to be recommissioned, in the summer of 1940.  She must have been an exceptionally well-maintained vessel.  Even with that, the choice to recommission Allen was a curious one.  She and her sisters were designed before the First World War, and still reflected the “torpedo boat destroyer” mission in her layout and systems.

USSAllenDD66

USS Allen 9

After some time in the Atlantic, Allen was assigned to the Pacific Fleet, which had recently moved to Pearl Harbor.  She was present and fired her only shots of the war during the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.  Lacking adequate endurance and weapons, Allen spent the war escorting vessels between the Hawaiian Islands, helping to train submarine crews by acting as a mock sub chaser, and she made the occasional voyage back to the US West Coast.  In the course of the war, Allen had her antiaircraft armament considerably augmented, with six 20mm cannon, and she lost at least one set of torpedo tubes.  She gained depth charge throwers, and even a modest air search radar.   I could find no reference to her being fitted with sonar of any kind, however.  (And if Norman Friedman didn’t say it happened, it didn’t happen!)

USS Allen 10

Immediately following the war, of course, the worn-out and thoroughly obsolete Allen was quickly decommissioned, in the fall of 1945, and just as quickly sold for scrap.   She is shown above, disarmed and awaiting disposal.  At the time of her decommissioning, she was the oldest US destroyer in commission, and the last survivor of her class and type.   Built to specifications which dated to before US entry into the First World War, USS Allen would serve through the Second, a throwback of four generations of destroyer design.  A remarkable record of service indeed.

North Korea Fires Russian SS-N-25 Switchblade ASCMs

ss-n-25-switchblade

Yesterday, the Korean People’s Navy (KPN) successfully fired three supposedly indigenously-developed anti-ship cruise missiles into the East Sea out to a range of approximately 200 km.  While the DPRK may claim the missiles are a home-made design, analysts say they are in actuality Russian export-variety Kh-35E Uran ASCMs (NATO codename SS-N-25 Switchblade).  The Kh-35 series is a close equivalent to the US AGM-84 Harpoon missile, being slightly smaller and with a lighter warhead (360 lbs) than the Harpoon (488  lbs).

It is possible that the newly-cultivated relationship between Putin’s Russia and the DPRK is bearing fruit for both entities.  This weapon system, if successfully integrated into the DPRK arsenal, represents a significant and problematic upgrade to North Korea’s offensive and defensive capabilities.  The SS-N-25 Switchblade has a seeker head very comparable to the deadly 3M-54 Klub (NATO codename SS-N-27 Sizzler), with both a radar homing and anti-radiation ability which can acquire out to 50km.

The fielding of significant numbers of SS-N-25s represents a multi-generational upgrade for the DPRK, the majority of whose ASCM inventories consist of obsolete SS-N-2 Styx and smaller (and shorter-ranged) C 801 and C 802 systems.  It is likely that the new capabilities will be employed in shore-based systems, greatly expanding both range and lethality of DPRK coastal defenses.  In addition, the plentiful but obsolescent smaller ships and craft of the Korean People’s Navy (corvettes, PTG/PG and Fast Attack Craft) configured to carry the SS-N-25 suddenly multiply exponentially their combat potential in a surface fight.  Ditto the obsolete IL-28s and other older aircraft of the Air Force, should they be configured to carry the Switchblade.

Should it come to pass that the SS-N-25 eventually comprises a major part of the DPRK ASCM inventory (courtesy of the Russians), a hard problem just got harder.   Just in time to shrink our Navy below 250 ships.

Our Jihadist President

prayer curtain

The Daily Caller outlines a very disturbing notion emanating from the White House regarding our Constitutional liberties and Barack Obama’s predilection to render them void any time he sees fit.

“The president … will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform” whenever journalists’ work may provoke jihadist attacks, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House’s daily briefing.

“Steps necessary” up to and including disemboweling our First Amendment rights, apparently, for some notion of “protecting” our armed forces.  You know, the ones who risk and give their lives to uphold that First Amendment?  Yeah, them.   One should not be shocked at the criticism of free speech by this Administration, nor the rationalization of the violence perpetrated by the militant Islamists.  Despite the usual platitudes about how such violence is never justified, Obama and his minions have consistently provided just such justification by siding with the Jihadis in their public condemnation of criticism of Islam.

Obama’s willingness to pressure media outlets, to quit defending First Amendment rights and also to mollify jihadis, reflects Obama’s overall policy of minimizing conflict with militant Islam.

He also repeatedly praised Islam and Muslims, and criticized criticism of Islam. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” he told a worldwide TV audience during a September 2012 speech at the United Nations.

This President wishes to disarm law-abiding Americans and abrogate our Second Amendment rights, ostensibly so we can all be “safer”, leaving the government with a monopoly on violence and a citizenry without a last redress against tyranny from that government.  Now, Obama wants to stifle the Press, and one presumes, other manners of free expression that criticize Islam, once again for the “safety” of our men and women in the armed forces.   The intellectual fascism of the Leftist Establishment will be codified as a legitimate power of government.

The chilling effect* on free speech by the actions and threat of actions by government at any level, long identified as unconstitutional, will be a cornerstone of Barack Obama’s erosion of our liberties.  It will be a favored tool used for the stifling of political and social dissent not just by leftist social organizations and academic institutions, (and Hollywood), but also by a government already practiced in these six years in using regulatory and statutory powers as extralegal coercion to suppress political dissent.   Hillary Clinton’s remarks in the wake of the Benghazi terrorist attack smack of such suppression.  Martin Dempsey disgraced his uniform and forfeited his credibility by doing the same.

Of course, Barack Obama could protect our armed forces by halting the willful destruction of the moral fiber of those who serve our country with social experimentation, and ceasing the blunting of the readiness of our operating forces in order to feed yet more tens of billions into a $1.7 trillion dollar welfare furnace.  But he will not.  In fact, he will not even name America’s enemy, militant Islam.  Instead, the only term his Administration will use to describe those who actively seek our destruction, “violent extremists”, is applied as liberally to the Left’s political opposition as it is to those Islamic extremists who would perpetrate another 9/11.

Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech was exactly what it sounded like.  It was a klaxon to our Islamist enemies that one of their own was now in charge.  He will not criticize them because he is philosophically one of them.  The frequent visits by members of the Muslim Brotherhood to the White House, a foreign policy more accommodating to Iran and Cuba than Israel and Britain, and an undeviating record of foreign affairs decisions resulting in maximum damage to US power and prestige have long since passed the point of being viewed as coincidental blunders.   How do we know?  Because Barack Obama claims the power to keep American citizens from saying so.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(*The chilling effect occurs when any Constitutionally-protected activity is unduly discouraged by actions or threats of action by the government against those individuals and groups as a consequence of exercising that activity.)

Coast Guard SAR in action

Here’s a textbook example of the Coast Guard executing a long range Search and Rescue mission to save the life of an aviator in distress.

Yesterday, a Cirrus SR-22 with an auxiliary fuel tank installed was being ferried from California to Hawaii. This is a fairly routine procedure. In this case, however, it appears that a fuel transfer valve malfunctioned, and the pilot quickly realized he would be unable to reach his destination with the remaining available fuel. A quick calculation showed he would run out of fuel about 230 miles short of land.

A Mayday call to the Coast Guard led to the dispatch of a Coastie HC-130 Search and Rescue plane. The Herc served as the on scene coordinator. It located a cruise ship in the vicinity of the anticipated splashdown point, and provided* navigational assistance to both parties.

The SR-22 has an installed parachute recovery system that allows it to deploy its parachute in the event of engine failure or other emergency.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBCUQlF3MMU]

 

 

*That’s actually supposition on my part. Call it informed speculation.

Coast Guard MH-65 Makes Precautionary Landing in Target Parking Lot, Kemah, TX

I don’t have any details on it, just came across the video on youtube. Looks like it happened last night.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rfv-KVUKyNo]

Update: ’twas a bird strike. And my Coastie helo friend tells me that suspected/possible rotor damage calls for landing as soon as possible.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that struck a bird Thursday night made an emergency landing in the parking lot of a Target in Kemah.

The pilots landed around 8pm in the parking lot of a Target in the 200 block of Marina Bay Drive.

I’m glad the crew is safe.

Coastie

Matt Udkow- Someone You Should Know

Weird thing about internet friends. You think you know someone… and then you learn something new about them. In this case, it was nice to learn that Matt was not just the kind of man I thought he was, but very much the kind of man one can admire.

Matt is currently an MH-65C helicopter pilot for the United States Coast Guard. But he started his aviation career with the US Navy, flying the big old H-3 Sea King. And so it came to pass that when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005, Matt, then stationed at Pensacola, Florida, was flying a logistical support mission from P’cola to Louisiana.

You may recall the scenes of helicopters of all sorts hoisting stranded New Orleans residents from rooftops to safety. Guess what? Matt was one of those aviators engaged in rescuing our fellow Americans.

In Matt’s own words:

I was blessed to serve as the SAR officer and pilot with the NAS Pensacola SAR Unit (renamed Helicopter Support Unit) from 2003 ?to 2005. During this period, my crew and I had the opportunity to assist with the SAR efforts in the New Orleans area following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. Out first SAR mission was on 30 August (27 persons hoisted), and the second one was conducted on 2 September 2005 (20 persons hoisted). In my opinion, these two missions were the pinnacle of my naval flight career.

Here’s the caption to this picture from Naval Aviation News:

Twenty survivors were happy to be off the flooded ground. The seated man on the right wearing a white t-shirt had a heart-attack on the way to Louis Armstrong Airport. I informed the tower, and we received permission to land in front of a huge line of helos and fly right over the terminal to drop him off first to waiting paramedics. AO3 Danny Smith, the crewman at the door, did a great job hoisting and managing the passengers, plus the three crew members and one photographer in the back. (Photo by Gary Nichols)

Now, being the military is a team sport. We love the image of the gallant individual, but no one man does great things. They all work together. So it is right and proper to share the credit with his crew:

My crew: (left to right): Myself (pilot), AW2 Jake Mclaughlin (rescue swimmer), AW2 Justin Crane (rescue swimmer), AW1 Kevin Maul (crew chief), Lt. Bryce Kammeyer (co-pilot). This was taken after landing after the first day, with two SAR sorties complete and 27 survivors hoisted. All of our crew and the civilian maintainers were very excited and proud of the work we had done.

Matt’s efforts were not without some controversy, however.

PENSACOLA, Fla. — Two Navy helicopter pilots were “counseled” about the importance of supply missions after they rescued 110 New Orleans hurricane victims before returning to base from a cargo delivery, the military said Wednesday.

One pilot was temporarily assigned to a kennel, but that was not punishment, said Patrick Nichols, a civilian public affairs officer at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

“They were not reprimanded,” Nichols said. “They were counseled.”

The pilots, Lt. Matt Udkow and Lt. David Shand, met with Cmdr. Michael Holdener, who praised their Aug. 30 actions but reminded them their orders had been to return to Pensacola after flying water and other supplies to three destinations in Mississippi — the Stennis Space Center, Pascagoula and Gulfport.

Matt made a decision. In this case, the right one. As I mentioned in an earlier post, that’s a skill that junior officers need to learn. Make. A. Decision. Yes, every decision has consequences. But so does failing to make a decision.

47 American citizens today were spared from possible death or injury by Matt’s actions. That’s something a man can hang his hat on.

Coast Guard Sinks Fishing Vessel

Actually, it’s old. Heck, I’ve probably posted some video of this before, just not this one.

After the big tsunami in Japan, an old fishing vessel slated for scrapping broke free of her moorings and spent the next year drifting across the Pacific. Eventually, in April 2012 the USCGC Anacapa was dispatched to sink the derelict hulk. A 110’ Island class cutter, her main battery is a Mk38Mod1 M242 25mm chain gun.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRmOYWG0vgA]

The gun has an effective range of about 3000 meters when mounted on a Bradley. But a Bradley is a fairly stable firing platform when stationary. A bobbing cutter shooting a manually pointed gun has, as you can see, a somewhat shorter effective range.  That’s one reason why the Island class replacement, the 154’ Fast Response Cutter, has the gyro-stabilized, remotely operated Mk38Mod2 mount for the gun.

Chicago Maritime Museum

DSCN09271 You could be forgiven for not associating anything maritime with the largest city in the Midwest. Granted we sit on the southwestern shoreline of that Great Lake carved out by glaciers in the last ice age but it’s just that the Chicago’s maritime history isn’t as well known.

That maritime history history is kept alive by the Chicago Maritime Museum. Located in the Bridgeport Art Center (in the Bridgeport nieghborhood) the Museum’s mission is to “become recognized as the leading authority on our waterways and their significance to Chicago and the world in the past, present and future.”

This past weekend I visited the Chicago Maritime Museum for their annual Christmas party and took a look around. The Museum features a number of interesting model and photographic exhibits of significant Chicago maritime historical events and ships. Here’s some of what I saw:

2
1:72 model of the USS Wolverine on display at the Chicago Maritime Museum. Aircraft on deck are the Grumman Wildcat, an SNJ trainer, SBD dive bomber, Grumman Hellcat and Vought Corsair. A Grumman Avenger appears to the left and another SNJ is show trapping aboard aft.
8
Another view of the USS Wovlerine and the flight deck forward.

 

image3
An SNJ caught trapping aboard the USS Wolverine.

 

4
This is an ELCO PT boat.

image4

 

image9
A taffrail log was an inturment used to measure a vessel’s speed.
image10
A model commemorating the SS Eastland diaster on the Chicago River. The ship rolled over pierside on the southern branch of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle streets on 24 July 1915. 844 passengers and crew were killed.
image11
A ships wooden screw. I’m not sure what the measurements denote.

 

photo7
Some of the warships that had visited Chicago over the years. There are some legandary names here.

There’s a lot more here to see and there are plenty of models being worked on by staff that you can view in various stages of completion in the storage area. The Chicago Maritime also put on a brief program about the Christmas Ships that brought trees from Wisconsin to Chicago. The most notable of these Christmas Tree ships being the Rouse Simmons. The legacy of which is now carred on every year about the United States Coast Guard Ship, Mackinaw.

USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30). Carries on the Christmas Tree legacy of the Rouse Simmons.
USCGC Mackinaw (WLBB-30). Carries on the Christmas Tree legacy of the Rouse Simmons.

The Chicago Maritime Museum is one of the city’s interesting most interesting place to learn about some little known Chicago History. The Museum does have plans for expansion but in the meantime it’s worth the visit if you have an interest in either maritime history or Chicago’s history.

 

National Security Cutter

So, back on December 10, the Coast Guard commissioned the fourth of a planned eight of the “Legends” class National Security Cutters. The NSCs are the replacement for the long serving Hamilton class high endurance cutters.

The CGC Hamilton, the newest national security cutter, joined the Coast Guard fleet at a commissioning ceremony held Dec. 6, 2014, in Charleston, South Carolina. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Stephen Lehmann

The development of the NSC was part of the troubled “Deepwater” Coast Guard/industry partnership to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s inventory of ships and aircraft with modern, integrated systems. If the development was sometimes troubled, it was in the end successful in fielding the NSC, the Fast Response Cutter (as a replacement for the 110’ cutters) and the HC-144A patrol plane, as well as new classes of small craft.

At 418’ long, and displacing about 4500 tons, the NSCs have enough endurance to patrol for 60 to 90 days at a time. They have a combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion system, with a pair of diesel engines providing economical cruise power, and a dash capability from the LM2500 turbine for a top speed of about 28 knots.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0f/USCG_National_Security_Cutter_BERTHOLF_(WMSL-750).jpeg

They’re large enough to carry and support an aviation detachment with up to two helicopters. They have a very respectable sensor suite, and are able to datalink with other Coast Guard assets, Navy networks, and allied forces.

The NSCs were built with a great deal of attention paid to crew comfort. The largest berthing compartments have only six racks. Furthermore, they were designed with excess capacity. The crew consists of 113 officers and men, but the ship has accommodations for up to 148.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUs1GeBty6E]

The Coast Guard’s virtual tour gives an excellent look inside, and I highly recommend it.