The Coast Guard has long been given huge tasks without getting a lot of the manpower, hulls, or aviation assets needed to complete them. Considering how much ground they need to cover with what little they have, it’s safe to they they’re the experts at working with what they have.
That said, it’s pretty obvious the Coast Guard could use a few more tools for the job. In the past, the Navy has been happy to pass pieces of gear along — here are a few ships and planes the Coast Guard could use today.
At least 20 Perry-class hulls are awaiting sale or the scrapyard. Perhaps the Coast Guard could claim a few…
Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates
In 2004, the Navy removed Mk 13 launchers from Perry-class frigates, greatly diminishing their firepower in the process. Even still, a 76mm gun and helicopter hangar makes them excellent complements to the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutters. At least twenty of these ships are awaiting sale or scrapping, but they could see decades more of service with the Coast Guard.
A Cyclone-class patrol craft has a top speed of 35 knots, something very useful for chasing down drug smugglers.
(Customs and Border Patrol)
Cyclone-class patrol craft
Although they’re back with the Navy now, the Coast Guard once operated five of these vessels. Their high speed and respectable firepower give them excellent drug-interdiction capabilities. These 13 vessels would complement the planned 58 Sentinel-class patrol cutters extremely well.
The Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships may be old, but they could help the Coast Guard around Alaska.
Avenger-class mine countermeasures ships
These 13 vessels may be slow, but they’re built tough. Some of the Coast Guard’s missions, especially around Alaska, place a premium on ships that can take some punishment. Ships intended to hunt mines can do just that. Adding these ships to the fleet frees up other cutters for missions elsewhere.
SPY-1 radars and Aegis make the early Ticonderoga-class cruisers, like USS Yorktown (CG 48), potential assets for the Coast Guard.
Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers
The former USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) and USS Yorktown (CG 48) are berthed in Philadelphia, awaiting the scrapyard. However, the SPY-1 radars and Aegis systems aboard these vessels would greatly aid the Coast Guard’s maritime security mission.
The E-2C Hawkeye could give the Coast Guard an eye in the sky.
The Navy is getting newer E-2D Hawkeyes, but the older E-2Cs would still be very useful for the Coast Guard in helping maintain situational awareness. The Coast Guard once operated Hawkeyes — doing so again would take a burden off of the Navy.
P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft could help the Coast Guard track ships for long periods of time.
Often, cartels will use makeshift subs to try and get drugs into the United States. The P-3s that the Navy is planning on retiring could be extremely useful assets for the Coast Guard in finding these undersea mules. Additionally, these planes could supplement the HC-130 Hercules aircraft in service, often by handling surveillance missions. With loads of sensors aboard the P-3, there’s nowhere for the bad guys to hide.
The fact is, the Coast Guard has always been able to give old gear new life. With a couple of hand-me-downs, the Coast Guard just might find itself with new ability — without busting the budget.