Let me first lead off saying, no disrespect is intended towards my Coastie cousins, but this is a topic I do think needs to be addressed and discussed.
Coast Guard, the title is seems very clear as to what they do. They guard our coasts obviously, but how do they do so? They maintain navigation aids, the perform SAR missions, and hunt down drug runners. There is another facet of the Coast Guard that is often forgotten about. In a time of conventional war against another naval power the Coast Guard comes under the command of the Navy, to support the navy. Currently as I can see it from the vessels available the USCG cannot effectively support any of the USN’s missions aside from maritime interdiction operations, and port/oil platform security (which they already do.)
The Legend/National Security class cutter is the closest thing the Coast Guard has to a warship, in fact it’s design is actually the same as one of the frigate options we have previously discussed. This is where I have a problem, it’s armed with a MK110 57mm gun like the LCS class of ships are, as well as a Phalanx CIWS. Both of those systems are overkill for the law enforcement role that is the primary role the armed portions of the Coast Guard’s typical duties, but they are woefully under powered for any serious use in a real naval war.
They will be horribly exposed to air attack from missiles and jets, and are almost guaranteed to be out ranged in a gun duel. In the past the Coast Guard often had ships that either were previously in service with the USN to allow them to fulfill their role as an auxiliary to the Navy, or the vessels were outfitted with the sensors and weapon systems to aid in certain aspects of naval warfare.
As it stands today, attempting to integrate the USCG into modern naval warfare would merely be a liability, but here is my proposition on how to provide the capabilities necessary without going overboard.
I propose a method of filling this gap, while not being an overly militarized vessel for routine operations.
A FAC, armed with a 57mm deck gun, Phalanx CIWS, flight deck, and boat ramp below the flight deck is how it would be set up for typical operations. Design it with enough space to put Harpoon launchers or SVTT on it, and ensure it has data link capabilities with the Navy’s vessels to piggy back off of their sensors. MK41 Mod5 VLS can be loaded with ESSMs for air defense and escort duties during wartime, and would be kept empty during peacetime.
I acknowledge this vessel may border between the FAC and Corvette classification at that point, but Navy classification is largely irrelevant since it will classified as a Cutter regardless.
The USCG does wonderful and necessary work, but the DHS and DoD need to decide what the Coast Guard really is, and what their future will be. If they decide they will operate as an auxiliary to the Navy during wartime, then our government and the Coast Guard needs to commit to that role. If they’re going to revert to law enforcement role in their armed duties, then the various 20mm-40mm gun mounts available are more than capable of outgunning and out ranging anything the drug cartels have or can bring to bear against them to resist, and they need to commit to that role.