Naval News has reported on the Northrop Grumman Mark 44 30mm chaingun autocannon and the MSI mount for Sea Air Space 2022. In that story, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has mentioned that the Mark 38 Mod 4 will be installed on some Cutters. Naval News sent an inquiry to the USCG in April 2022 and received a reply from a Coast Guard spokesperson via email.
“The Mark 38 Mod 4 will be installed on some new cutters. The Coast Guard currently has no plan to replace existing Mark 38 Mod 3 systems with the Mark 38 Mod 4.”
U.S. Coast Guard Spokesperson, April 2022
The Mark 38 MOD 3 has a 25mm Bushmaster autocannon and a 7.62mm coaxial chaingun. The 7.62mm coaxial chaingun distinguishes the MOD 3 from the Mark 38 MOD 1 and 2 which do not have a coaxial gun.
Besides being 30mm in caliber, the MOD 4 variant differs in having a .50cal (12.7mm) M2HB heavy machine gun with 200 ready-to-fire rounds as a coaxial weapon and an EOS sighting system. Thus, the MOD 4 can select-fire from dual-feed 30mm ammunition bins (200 rounds each, 400 30mm rounds total) and also use 200 .50cal rounds for more added firepower than the previous MOD 1, 2, and 3 Mark 38 25mm autocannon mounts.
The ability of the Mark 44 to also use the variety of NATO 30mm rounds, including airbursting rounds, gives the MOD 4 the capability to engage a wider range of small, mobile, numerous, and fast-moving targets such as drone swarms, small boats, certain incoming projectiles, and select aerial targets.
The U.S. Coast Guard acquires its Cutters’ weapons from the U.S. Navy’s budget as the U.S. Navy allocates a certain number of weapons to the Coast Guard.
“The Coast Guard and Navy intend to install the Mark 38 Mod 4 on Polar Security Cutters. The Polar Security Cutter program is still in the design phase and contracts are not in place for all planned ancillary systems. The Coast Guard does not have additional information to provide at this time regarding the Service’s plans to employ the Mark 38 Mod 4.”
Naval News Comments
Since the USCG spokesperson said that the Mark 38 MOD 4 will not replace the current in-service and mounted Mark 38 25mm MOD 1, 2 and MOD 3s, readers should note that the 25mm mounts on many of the current Cutters will not be up-gunned to 30mm. These in-service Cutters range from the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRC, designation WPC), the Reliance-class Medium Endurance Cutters (WMEC) and the Island-class Patrol Boats (WPB), all which have 25mm autocannons.
It is currently not known if the upcoming Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs, designation WMSM) will mount the Mark 38 MOD 4s over their helicopter hangars as that is the other large future USCG Cutter shipbuilding project besides the Polar Security Cutters.
For years, there have been public comments about the possibility of mounting heavier armament on the Polar Security Cutters to deter Russia’s use of ISO missile launchers in a shipping container.
The U.S. Coast Guard has been reluctant to up-arm its Cutters, noting that the USCG is not a combat navy and thus its lesser-armed white-hull Cutters are granted access to ports and countries that might shy away from heavier armed gray-hull Navy warships.
Naval News has reached out to MSI again with an inquiry on if guided missiles and rockets can be attached to the MSI mount for increased firepower. MSI replied in mid-April showcasing their MSI SEAHAWK Sigma mount that incorporates four to seven Thales guided missiles in place of the .50cal M2HB coaxial weapon.
While the U.S. Navy has not purchased the MSI SEAHAWK Sigma mount, 300 SEAHAWK Sigmas are in service among 18 navies and the SEAHAWK Sigma mount may be an option for longer-range guided firepower and still maintain a relatively low to moderate armament profile.
The MSI SEAKHAWK Sigma mount brochure states, “SEAHAWK SIGMA integrates the Thales Lightweight Multi-role Missile (LMM) onto the mount, providing capability to defeat air and surface targets up to approximately 6km. SEAHAWK SIGMA gives the user an enhanced ability to defeat incoming swarm attack and difficult target sets, at range, with precision and limited collateral damage. We are able to offer a range of integration options which includes full fire control and C2 options to reflect differing operational requirements.
The LMM is the latest lightweight missile from the world-renowned Thales Belfast facility, offering a mix of high precision guidance, multi-role engagement capability and low cost of ownership. The unique laser beam riding guidance delivers pinpoint accuracy, with the ability to engage low IR signature targets with no laser safety hazard at sea.”