CHINA GRAY ZONE – As tensions escalate daily with China in the South and East China Sea, as well as Taiwan, the U.S. is increasing its Coast Guard presence in the Pacific, adding a third of its newest fast-response cutters to the two already deployed to Guam. The 154-foot Sentinel-class cutter Frederick Hatch is expected to arrive at the U.S. island territory in early July, after a 70-day voyage from Key West, Florida.
The sophisticated new ‘warship’ (or more accurately- law enforcement vessel) will join two similar cutters — Myrtle Hazard and Oliver Henry — that arrived there in the latter half of 2020.
According to Stars and Stripes, the Frederick Hatch will make port calls along the way for maintenance, refueling and resupplying. It added that the trio of fast-response cutters replaces the service’s 110-foot patrol boats previously stationed on Guam. The Coast Guard has stated that the boats possess advanced technology in communications and surveillance systems.
Stars and Stripes explained:
The fast-response cutters are designed for missions beyond the traditional search-and-rescue work for which the Coast Guard is best known. They can reach speeds up to 28 knots, remain at sea for five days and cover over 2,500 nautical miles during that time, according to the Coast Guard.
Armed with four .50-caliber machine guns and a remote-controlled 25-mm cannon, the cutters can be used for drug interdiction, defense operations, maritime law enforcement, search and rescue and environmental protection.
The Coast Guard’s beefed-up fleet in the Pacific is aimed in part at countering China’s growing sea power.
This past December, the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard issued a rare tri-service naval strategy – “Advantage at Sea” – that responds to China’s “revisionist approach that aims at the heart of the United States’ maritime power.”
That report notes that China’s maritime strategy hinges on the use of a multipronged deployment of ships from its navy, coast guard and maritime militia “to subvert other nations’ sovereignty and enforce unlawful claims.”
Based on these observations, the Pentagon is providing a more robust Coast Guard presence in the Western Pacific to enable joint force commanders greater flexibility in responding to China’s preferred daily “gray zone” confrontations that continue just below the threshold of actual armed conflict. ADN