USCG Cutter Deploys for Rare European Tour With NATO Allies

USCGC Hamilton with the FRCs Charles Moulthrope and Robert Goldman (USCG)

Published Apr 4, 2021 5:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a rare transatlantic deployment, the U.S. Coast Guard has dispatched the cutter USCGC Hamilton to Europe for joint operations with NATO allies. 

“U.S. Coast Guard cutters have a long history of protecting America’s interests at home and abroad. This historic deployment demonstrates how we can strengthen our national security by extending the Coast Guard’s global reach and firming our commitments to Allies and partners in the region,” said Capt. Timothy Cronin, commanding officer of the USCGC Hamilton.

Hamilton and her entourage departed Puerto Rico on April 1. The Legend-class cutter is escorting the fast response cutters USCGC Charles Moulthrope and USCGC Robert Goldman across the Atlantic before conducting a patrol in the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet area of responsibility, where Hamilton will help "maintain maritime security alongside NATO allies and partners." Moulthrope and Goldman will continue on to their new homeport in Bahrain, where they will replace the two older Island-class cutters currently attached to U.S. Fifth Fleet. 

“We expect to showcase the capabilities of the fast response cutter and the U.S. Coast Guard to advance the shared maritime strategy for security with the U.S. Navy and naval partners in the region,” said Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Blase, commanding officer of USCGC Robert Goldman.

The Coast Guard has upped the tempo of its overseas deployments, using its Legend-class cutters to conduct the kind of presence and partnership missions that have traditionally been reserved for U.S. Navy assets. In March 2019, the Coast Guard deployed the cutter Bertholf to the East China Sea for a freedom of navigation patrol (FONOP) through the Strait of Taiwan. The U.S. Navy's transits through the Strait are perceived as a signal of American support for Taiwan, countering China's demands for Taipei to reunify with the mainland. “[Bertholf's patrol] signals a willingness to send a cutter for sensitive national security missions. It doesn’t get much more sensitive than the Taiwan Strait," said Rand Corp. senior policy analyst Lyle Morris at the time. 

In 2020, the Legend-class cutter Bertholf conducted a fisheries enforcement patrol with the Ecuadorian Navy in the Galapagos, providing presence and deterrence during a large-scale massing of the Chinese distant-water squid fleet.  This year, the first mission for the Legend-class cutter USCGC Stone - even before her commissioning ceremony - was a rare deployment to the eastern seaboard of South America, all the way down to Uruguay. It was the first of its kind in recent memory.

These overseas deployments and increased national security role are an explicit part of the new Navy/Coast Guard joint maritime strategy. The new joint framework incorporates USCG capabilities for presence and law enforcement operations, and it identifies China as the United States' "most pressing, long-term strategic threat" in the maritime domain, with Russia in second place.