Heritage’s Mackenzie Eaglen and Eric Sayers recently wrote,

…the Coast Guard must procure a much larger and modern fleet of national security cutters (NSC) and move ahead with the development of the offshore patrol cutter (OPC). This would then allow one national security cutter to deploy with each carrier strike group and expeditionary strike group. This increase would satisfy the growing demand of Combatant Commanders for more Coast Guard assets in theater following recent deployments by the USCGC Dallas last year in support of Africa Partnership Station and relief efforts in Georgia.

I totally agree. What do you think? Going back to my days as a congressional defense staffer, I have long felt the Coast Guard’s modernization program reflects a pre-911 world. Moreover, increasing the number of cutter days in the various combatant commands would allow the Coast Guard to win more hearts and minds around the world.

In this era of bailouts and stimulus packages, spare me that our nation can’t afford to have one cutter with each and every carrier and expeditionary strike group. And yes, I know this would require an increase in Coast Guard end-strength.

To read the entire report, click here.

photo credit (me)

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Coast Guard, Homeland Security

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  • I’ll leave a comment. Folks at blog InformationDissemination have seen me make comments about using airships for Navy. Same capabilities of airships would serve well in the Coast Guard.

    (Modern,rigid shelled, amphibious airships….NOT BLIMPS)

    Past studies for airship use by CG focused on surveillance, primarily because only blimps were considered. Better designs can create fast, robust airships that can be used for surveillance, and carry boarding parties/inflatable craft for launching after the airship has landed on water surface.

    Airships, simply because of their construction (even though of rigid panel shell hull) are less expensive to build than surface ships; not having to withstand same forces as a surface ship in the water. Despite commonly percieved fragility of blimps, modern strongly constructed airships can fly in virtualy any weather.

    Because of the airships’ size, it can use solar power. This has enormous impact, creating unlimited range/linger ability.

    Blue ocean, Littorals, overland, shoreline/rivers/lakes. All reachable with this new type of “cutter”. Several times faster than surface vessels as well.

    Less cost, more versatile.

  • We may *have* to have a cutter with each Strike Group. With no prospect of having a low-cost replacement for the FFG-7 class (i.e. a convoy escort), we would be loath to send T-AOs away without a small, (relatively) cheap combatant with a gun if we actually got into a shooting war. Keep the Aegis bubbas with the flattop.

    Having a LE capability would definitely be useful in these times where “maritime security” means many different things.

    What if the Navy became willing to buy into the NSC program? Build more, paint ’em grey. Then a proposed CSG OOB could be:

    1xNSC (USCG)
    1xNSC (USN)

  • leesea

    I totally disagree! The USCG does NOT need bigger cutters to help out the Navy’s already too big & expensive warships. Further I think the USCG does NOT need an expanded role in expeditionary warfare. Live it where is stands today, LEDETs deployed on USN ships. Bring home the cutters because that is where they are needed at home! The Coast Guard’s platforms are needed to protect our coasts and our merchant ships in a manner the USN has forfeited.

    The whole National Fleet concept needs re-thinking. The USN needs to step and buy ships to meet todays threats.

  • Jim–Do we have enough NSC cutters on order to take on such a role?

  • Springboard, the USCG plans on procuring only 8 NSCs. Leesea, unfortunately, we will have to agree to disagree on this issue.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Hey, how about we take the basic design for the NSC, increase the engineering plant to allow 30+ knots, paint the damn things gray, and call them “destroyers”?

    We’re looking for an affordable hull design that will support adequate weapons systems, and be survivable in a fight. Why look overseas when we may have a 75% “off the shelf” solution floating around with an orange stripe on it? Calling a $3.5 billion, 14,000-ton monstrosity a “destroyer” is a bit absurd.

    And NO, I am not advocating having the USCG man them.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Burma Shave–

    Sorry, Buffalo. Didn’t see that you had the same idea.

  • leesea

    What folks seem to miss is that the way a cutter is designe and the missions it is intended for are NOT the same as a warship (frigate or corvette) is designed. Its sort of like mixing oranges and grapefruits. It called picking the right ship type for mission. (just as the T-AH for USCG was not a good idea).

    But as importantly the Coast Guard needs all its current and upcoming cutters for its existing missions. Well maybe I might give on the later if USCG cutters and crews were to be train the Paki and Indian coast guards?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “What folks seem to miss is that the way a cutter is designe and the missions it is intended for are NOT the same as a warship (frigate or corvette) is designed.”

    Substitute “LCS” for “cutter” and you get our points. The NSC may not be perfect for USN operations as designed, but it may hold a lot more potential, and affordable potential at that, than any other design that seems to be in the mix.

  • Drew

    An NSC with every CSG: No, no, no, no, no.

    Don’t get me wrong — the NSC looks like a great ship. I, too, think it could have a future as a fine FFG-7 replacement.

    But the USCG is the one service that has its mission painted right there on the side of the hull: “COAST GUARD”. When a cutter deploys to the other side of the world, it is not guarding the coast, and thus not fulfilling its mission. Whether it adds significant value to the strike group commander I can’t say, but I have my doubts.

    The kicker for me was the photo Proceedings ran last year of a WHEC delivering humanitarian supplies to the Republic of Georgia. The photo showed a massive floating crane offloading a single pallet of goods from the cutter. Dollars per ton, that must have been the most expensive cargo ever delivered. We should have chartered a commercial ro/ro.

  • Rogue

    Jim, I guess I’m left wondering what capabilities the NSCs would bring to the strike group that the Navy can’t. If it comes down to “building and fostering the constabulary capabilities of other nations” like the article mentions, then targeting NSCs for specific missions, like Africa and Southern Partnership Station, and not all carrier and expeditionary strike group deployments, would appear more appropriate.

    Considering the potential trade-offs for paying the higher personnel end strength bill, would this plan risk eliminating
    LEDETs from USN ships? If so, it would be a net loss of law enforcement capability. Seems to make more sense to keep the LEDETs, allowing the gray hulls to fly the law enforcement flag whenever needed.

  • Leesea, agreed that the USCG needs all of its current cutters for its existing missions that why I support expanding the size of the CG’s fleet. And hospital ships for the CG is a good idea too!

  • WTH

    Drew, there are a lot of USCG Folks in 5th fleet who would disagree with your description of their job, unless of course you modify it to the Iraq coast.

    With 8 planned and arbitrarily increasing the size of the USCG to support SG ops, we’re talking about a non-starter here.

    What is a possibility is using the NSC design for USN operations. There has been much talk about partnering with other navies and peacekeeping/making vice shooting war options. NSC in USN colors is a viable option for the low end operations and in a SG context as the platform to serve as point of contact when you’re talking people in the littorals. The ability to stern launch 2 OTH capable RHIBS is HUGE for USCG missions and by extension the low end expeditionary USN missions. It has ample helo/UAV capability and is equally as armed as LCS. It may not have the speed, modularity, cool factor of LCS but as a low cost/high density option as a FF(G)-7 near term replacement it has potential.

  • Jim Dolbow


    The Dallas offloaded 80 pallets with more than 76,000 lbs. of humanitarian assistance supplies. The same argument could be said about the National Guard. The CG is multi-mission so if adequately resourced it could guard our coasts and perform overseas missions.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Enlighten us, the NSC has the capability for a 5″-54 mount, does it not?

    You engineers out there. What is the ability to pack more SHP into the engineering spaces of a NSC hull? 30+ knots is probably a good idea (RE: Knox-class frigates), but even 40 knots will likely not outrun a 23mm round or a Silkworm.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “The CG is multi-mission so if adequately resourced it could guard our coasts and perform overseas missions.”

    I was under the impression that we were supposed to equip and train the US Navy for overseas missions.

  • Jim Dolbow


    Thanks for reading and commenting. Having additional NSCs would enable the CG to perform year around targeted missions like Africa and Southern Partnership stations, among others…

    Keep the Ledets onboard USN ships – one team, one fight

  • Rogue

    Jim, my pleasure. I support NSCs involvement in APS and SPS, but like I mentioned previously, I’m still wondering what additional capabilities the NSCs would bring to the strike groups. Can you explain that part?

  • Rogue,

    The NSCs would bring the capability to perform APS and SPS missions to the strike groups since most of the world navies are more like coast guards than power projection like our US Navy. How can Ghana’s navy relate to an Aegis cruiser or destroyer, nuke submarine, a CVN, etc?

  • Drew

    WTH, I’m cool with coasties providing WPB’s for 5th Fleet ops if the navy has no equivalent capability. But I think their big ships are best used closer to home. I like your idea for a navalized NSC better.

    Jim, you could likely fit that cargo into two 40-ft shipping containers. The Dallas was a very expensive way to deliver the load. Not the right tool for the job. Thanks for starting the conversation, btw.

  • Chuck Hill

    Expeditionary Strike Groups, yes, Carrier Battle Groups no.

    I will add that the much larger class of Offshore Patrol cutters while slightly slower, has much the same capabilities and will still be fast enough to work within the ESG.

    What does the Coast Guard get out of it? The Coast Guard has a requirement to train for it’s war time mission, and working with an ESG improves interopability.

    What does the Navy get in peacetime: Law Enforcement and SAR expertise. A good platform to counter piracy and arms smuggling. An extra helo deck.

    What could the Navy get from these ships in war time: A platform that can be used for deception operations with out weakening the main thrust. Protection for the flanks of an AOA. Support for special operations.

    The NSC is a development of a European frigate design so it obviously has potential for the frigate mission. Personally I have always felt they should be equipped with a gun appropriate for shore bombardment, which would be an appropriate match for the ESG role. Equipped with say a 5″/54, they could be used close in shore where you might not want to send the Navy AAW and ASW ships that are equipped with these weapons. In it’s Coast Guard role these weapons would also make the ships more capable of stopping a ship that might be bent on a suicide mission.

  • Chuck. Thanks for the great comments and analysis! All, enjoyed your comments! Lots of food for thought!

  • Chuck Hill

    For information on the 25 proposed Offshore Patrol Cutters you can check here.


    Not quite as large as the NSC, they are well equipped and will displace more than most WWII destroyers.

  • URR, expanding the propulsion plant for 40 kts would be difficult, and I don’t know how much benefit it would bring. 30 is pretty much a requirement for a meaningful intercept capability, although 2 oth rhibs mitigates that significantly.

    Jim, the benefits of integrating these cutters are legion. I know that there are concerns about having enough for domestic or “traditional” CG missions, which is why having a common Navy/CG class makes so much sense. Depending on changing requirements, an NSC of any color can plug and play in a CSG/ESG. Seeing as the CG becomes a DoD entity during war, it makes sense to train together. This is one instance where “jointnesd” makes so much sense.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I was kidding about the 40 knots. But 30+ would be a good idea.

  • URR,

    Yikes! Apologies…

    I guess that warrants a Burma Shave.