Article Published in the Sea Power
In 1969, the Coast Guard high endurance cutter Dallas sailed the waters of South Vietnam, executing seven combat patrols. She provided naval gunfire support more than 150 times, firing over 7,500 rounds of five-inch ammunition. She destroyed 58 sampans and attacked 29 enemy supply routes, base camps or rest areas.
On June 22, 1999, the same 378-foot long ship – – which was commissioned in 1967 – – left her Charleston, South Carolina homeport for yet another overseas patrol. Dallas will sail with the Navy’s Sixth Fleet for three months, helping to patrol the Adriatic Sea after NATO ‘ssuccessful air campaign against Yugoslavia.
The durable cutter’s three decades of service proves the Coast Guard’s ability to wrest much service from its aging ships, it also underscores something less praiseworthy. That is, the Coast Guard has been forced, primarily for budget reasons, to execute its military, maritime-safety and law-enforcement and other missions with outdated resources in need of replacement and repair.
It is not just ships, though. The Coast Guard’s 190 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters need replacement, and often need repairs to sustain acceptable readiness and safety levels. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that these air and surface platforms were purchased piecemeal over decades, so they were never being properly integrated with the right communication and data links or fitted with proper sensors. (One problem afflicting today’s fleet is that the Coast Guard’s HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters are too large to land on any but the largest of the service’s cutters.)
CASUALTIES UP, AVAILABILITY DOWN
The overall situation has caused numerous problems for the Coast Guard, and also has degraded the service’s “ability to manage the tactical picture,” said Rear Adm. Ernest Riutta,assistant commandant for operations.
The end result is a steady decline in readiness and in the availability of Coast Guard ships and aircraft to perform their missions. Machinery and electronics casualties have increased 45 percent in 10 years, for example, and the nonavailability rate for HU-25 Falcon medium-range search aircraft has doubled since 1996. To remedy these problems the Coast Guard has developed a plan to replace and modernize its current ships, aircraft and command, control and communications (C3) network.
The plan is called “Deepwater.” One of its main aims is to ensure the new ships, aircraft and C3 equipment the Coast Guard will be buying in the future are fully interoperable from the start, instead of knitted together haphazardly as has been the case in the past.
To ensure that the recapitalization of the Coast Guard is well-planned, the service has issued contracts to three industry teams:
* Avondale Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding – Boeing -Raytheon.
* Science Applications International – Bath Iron Works – Marinette Marine – Sikorsky.
* Lockheed Martin- Ingalls Shipbuilding – Litton – Bollinger Shipyards – Bell Helicopter Textron.Each team member is expert within areas the Coast Guard requires assistance. Lockheed Martin’s Government and Electronic Systems division, in Moorestown, New Jersey, for example, has long supplied the Navy with important systems, like the successful Aegis radar, the Mark-92 fire control radar used on Perry-class frigates and the Mark 41-vertical launch system. It also has a strong reputation for successfully integrating varied naval communications and combat systems.
SHORTFALLS AND STATISTICS
To fully understand Deepwater, one must first examine the shortfalls affecting the Coast Guard. Seven of the Coast Guard’s nine classes of ships and planes will reach the end of theirservice lives by 2015.
The Coast Guard relies upon three cutter classes for its long and medium-range surface missions: There is the 378-foot Hamilton-class, the 270-foot Famous-class and the 210-foot Reliance-class.
All of these ships are aging – – some were built as long ago as the late 1960s – – and are becoming difficult to maintain. They also are technologically obsolescent. The diesel engines of the Reliance-class are so old that elsewhere they are used only by the South African railroad.
These ships also impose a heavy personnel burden on the Coast Guard. The Dallas, for example, normally carries a crew of 19 officers and 152 enlisted personnel, more than twice the number carried by modern, highly automated cutters of similar size. The Danish Thetis-class offshore patrol vessel is 369-feet long, displaces 3,500 tons, has a 90-day endurance but operates with a crew of only 90. A large crew size means a higher payroll, of
course. What this means is that the Coast Guard has been forced, in essence, to pay a sizable surcharge simply because it has not been provided the funds needed to buy new advanced-technologyships.
There are several operational factors to consider, moreover. The Reliance-class 210-foot cutters are equipped with surface-search radars, for example, but have no sonars and no electronic countermeasures against attack. They are capable of landing helicopters, but have nofacility to hangar them.
Even the somewhat less antiquated Famous-class WMECs, built in the 1980s, lack the ability to maintain real-time voice, video or data links between Coast Guard assets. They also have no Link-11 or Link-16 capability, essential for the exchange of tactical data with other U.S.military forces.
There are also shortfalls in speed. None of the cutters can match the so-called “go-fast” boats, drug smuggling craft that can achieve high rates of speed. Smugglers are also often armed with night vision goggles, satellite phones and digital precision location equipment, widely available commercial gear that Coast Guard vessels do not have.
The Coast Guard’s aviation assets suffer from similar limitations.
The HH-65A Dolphin helicopters are compatible with the Reliance, Hamilton and Famous cutters, but the Dolphin’s sensor payload is less than it could be because of weight-handling limitations on the cutters.
The service’s HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters are capable of long-range operations and do have significant endurance, but these helicopters are compatible only with the Famous-class WMECs – – which can give them only limited on-board maintenance and logistics support, unfortunately.
Among the Coast Guard’s fixed-wing aviation assets are 20 HU-25 Falcon medium-range search jets, all over 14 years old and suffering from engine supportability problems. Their on-board APG-66 radar provides a good intercept capability, but only eight HU-25s are so equipped. The remaining 12 Falcons simply lack modern sensor packages they need to carry out their missions. One indication of the Falcon fleet’s limited utility is the fact that 17 other Coast Guard Falcons were sent into storage in 1998.
DEEP, DARK DEFICIENCES
The deficiency in sensors puts Coast Guard ships and aircraft at a severe disadvantage against maritime law breakers, according to Capt. Craig Schnappinger, the Deepwater programmanager. “They can see us before we can see them.”
The Coast Guard’s 23 HC-130 fixed-wing aircraft, which are used for long-range aerial search missions, are being fitted with new FLIR and electro
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