“We planned and executed the first maritime close air support exercises with the U.S. Air Force and proved the effectiveness of the [U.S. Air Force’s] A-10 Warthog against the dangerous fast attack and fast inshore attack craft threat,” Crabbs said.
The ship’s second milestone for an NSC was the first use of its high-tech fire control system and the Mk. 110 57 mm Bofors deck gun to provide naval surface gunfire support, stretching the capability of its main weapons system in support of troops ashore.
The Bertholf was the leading U.S. vessel to be designed and built with the Mk. 110 installed, and in 2008, it was the first U.S. vessel to fire this type of gun. The 57 mm has since been installed on the U.S. Navy’s two types of littoral combat ships and is planned for the new Zumwalt class of destroyers.
Though the ship doesn’t have a missile system installed, its presence during live missile exercises proved in a real-world exercise the NSC’s capability to detect and track missile threats.
“In every regard, the national security cutter delivered on the promise of interoperability, cohesive command and control, swift mobility, and the ability to detect, track, and accurately bear ordnance on dynamic target sets,” Crabbs said of the NSC’s first major naval exercise.
These exercises also recognized more traditional Coast Guard missions and skill sets.
“We also embarked deployable specialized forces from Maritime Safety and Security Team Los Angeles and Long Beach,” Crabbs said. This team was able to exercise a difficult Coast Guard maritime capability by conducting airborne delivery of a boarding team to force a noncompliant shipboard boarding at sea.
“Throughout the exercise the crew performed in tremendous fashion, gaining maturity in our employment of the new and unique capabilities the national security cutter brings to the table,” he said.
After that successful monthlong multinational exercise, working daily as part of a task force, the Bertholf was off to the frigid waters off Alaska – a state that’s larger than most other nations in the world – to participate in Arctic Shield.
That multiagency operation allowed the Coast Guard to work in all its layered security areas of deep water, coastal, and inland areas.
Though the NSC is designed to excel in multi-ship operations in the national defense role, that’s not the Coast Guard’s normal “bread and butter” way of operating.
Coast Guard vessels and crews for decades have sailed independently and sometimes in the most remote areas to do search and rescue and law enforcement missions. And though the NSC displayed superlative command and control capabilities during RIMPAC, they sparkled even more while the ship operated above the Arctic Circle as part of the Arctic Shield 2012 operation.