Posted by: arbeam | February 7, 2018

Maritime Force Protection Units

U.S. Coast Guard Units Shield Strategic Assets to Guarantee Global Security

After the terrorist attacks on the USS COLE, and those on September 11, 2001, the United States responded by increasing security measures. It was determined that the United States Coast Guard is an indispensable, and uniquely qualified, military service and law enforcement organization capable of performing the security activities required for escorting nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) in and out of port. In keeping with our service’s motto “Semper Paratus”, the Coast Guard, in collaboration with the U.S. Navy, swiftly created two focused-mission units, known as Coast Guard Maritime Force Protection Units (MFPUs). Both units provide enhanced security measures for in-transit escorts for the only US underwater nuclear deterrent; that is, the SSBN fleet. The two MFPUs are co-located at the SSBN homeports at Navy Base Kitsap-Bangor, WA, and Navy Base Kings Bay, GA.

A common misconception is that the MFPUs are part of the Navy. The fact is the Coast Guard MFPUs are Coast Guard units exercising Coast Guard authority while conducting a Coast Guard mission under the tactical and operational control of the Coast Guard and within Coast Guard policy including the use of force continuum. MFPUs are each commanded by a commissioned Coast Guard officer (O-5), and the boats, cutters, and weapons are fully manned by Coast Guard personnel exercising Coast Guard tactics, techniques, and procedures. Assignment to the MFPUs is part of the standard Coast Guard Assignment Year (AY) process with assignment officers selecting only those members with strong matches to the required skill sets necessary to complete this critical mission.

The MFPUs work closely with the Navy every day and the overall success of the in-transit protection of SSBNs is the result of a close relationship developed across service lines with the common goal to execute a “no fail” mission critical to global peace and security. The development of the MFPUs is the product of an extensive and dynamic partnership between the Navy and the Coast Guard codified by a joint-service memorandum signed by the Vice Commandant and the Vice Chief of Naval Operations in 2006. A memorandum of agreement for Department of Defense Support to the Coast Guard for Maritime Homeland Security, signed by both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security, further emphasizes the significance of the Coast Guard’s role in national defense. The joint-service program initiated to meet the USN requirement for Nuclear Weapons Security (NWS) in the transit environment is called the Transit Protection System (TPS). The CG MFPU is part of the TPS. As such, the TPS Flag Board consists of both Navy and Coast Guard flag officers. TPS Escort Steering Group (ESG) consists of Navy and Coast Guard O6 and GS15 leadership. The TPS Flag Board and ESG are joint forums to consider strategic and operational issues related to the TPS and the MFPUs.

The Coast Guard’s enforcement authority, unique to our military service, is the cornerstone for this effective and highly capable escort package. The Coast Guard exercises authorities granted by Congress on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and on, under, and over the high seas, and is charged with providing an armed deterrent and response to acts of terrorism in the maritime environment. Typically, the CG deploys armed escort vessels to provide security during transits in and out of ports. However, subject to USN reimbursement, the MFPUs deploy a much more robust escort package to assist the USN in meeting its NWS requirements. MFPUs consist of men and women organized, trained, and equipped to operate Navy owned CG cutters and CG boats along with the associated weapons systems under the on-scene tactical control of a Patrol Commander (PATCOM) while executing the mission. The PATCOM, in turn, is under the tactical control of the respective Captain of the Port.

The MFPUs surface assets include 33ft and 64ft boats, and 87ft cutters. These escorts form outer defensive layers. The PATCOM and gun crews serve onboard large blocking vessels that are stationed on either side of the SSBN. Crews assigned to the MFPUs receive extensive tactical operations training and are experts at determining the temper and intent of potential threats. Upon making a determination, they respond in accordance with Coast Guard tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to mitigate any threat or attack on a transiting SSBN.

33’ Special Purpose Craft –Law Enforcement (SPC-LE)

The 33ft Special Purpose Craft – Law Enforcement (SPC-LE) and 87ft Marine Protector Class of Coastal Patrol Boats are standard platforms used throughout the Coast Guard.

64′ SPC Screening Vessel

 

The 64ft Special Purpose Craft – Screening Vessel (SPC-SV) was designed and built for use by the MFPU crews.

 

The 87’ Patrol Boats were altered for the MFPUs with the addition of the MK49. Interestingly, the Patrol Boats assigned to the MFPUs are named for decommissioned Navy submarines: SEA FOX, SEA DOG, SEA DRAGON, and SEA DEVIL, which also coincidentally relate to the traditional 87ft Marine Protector Class naming scheme. In fact, USCGC SEA FOX’s bell is that of the USS SEA FOX that was in active service during World War II.

As part of a comprehensive training program, the crews undergo realistic and challenging scenarios in a state of the art simulator known as the Transit Protection Training System (TPTS). The TPTS allows the PATCOMs, weapons operators, cutter and boat crews to develop and refine the requisite communication skills, their ability to rapidly assess targets, and appropriate use of force decision making while creating cohesive team building experiences.

The MFPUs employ weapon systems that until recently were unique within the Coast Guard: the MK38 Mod 2 and MK49 guns and mounts are stabilized, remotely operated systems controlled by gunners under the supervision of the PATCOM. MFPU cutters and SPC-SVs are also outfitted with the MK49 Remotely Operated Small Arms Mount (ROSAM).

While the Coast Guard Office of Maritime Security Reponses Policy manages the MFPU program, the Navy provides the full funding for the MFPUs through the authority of the Economy Act. The CG receives funding for personnel, operations and maintenance in order to field the assets, personnel, and all CG capabilities required to execute the mission. The Navy provides for the maintenance and configuration of all the MFPU assigned boats while a Coast Guard Maintenance Augmentation Team, in conjunction with the Patrol Boat Product Line, provides maintenance and logistical support to the cutters. The maintenance and logistics of the MFPU assets is managed through the cooperation of the Naval Warfare Centers and Navy’s TPS project managers at Kings Bay, GA and Bangor, WA.

 

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