Ever wonder why… the Coast Guard has guns on their ships?

Ryou-Un Maru (l.) engaged by 25mm fire from USCGC Anacapa (r.). Image: Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard doesn’t fire a lot of shots in anger these days, although there are times in its history that it has done so. (Coasties served in Vietnam on riverine and littoral craft, and crewed many of the landing craft that landed troops on D-day, but nowadays they mostly deal with maritime safety and navigation). Thing is, sometimes you need that gun even for the maritime-safety mission, and when you need it, you better have it.

From the AP story at Yahoo.com:

A U.S. Coast Guard cutter unleashed cannon fire on the abandoned 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru on Thursday, ending a journey that began when last year’s tsunami dislodged it and set it adrift across the Pacific Ocean.

It sank into waters more than 6,000 feet deep in the Gulf of Alaska, about 180 miles west of the southeast Alaska coast, the Coast Guard said.

The crew pummeled the ghost ship with high explosive ammunition, and the Ryou-Un Maru soon burst into flames, took on water and began listing, officials said.

via Coast Guard cannon fire sinks Japanese ghost ship – Yahoo! News.

More at the link, of course. The New York Post has its own story, as does the Christian Science Monitor, the Guardian (UK), and many other media sites. Most of them don’t name the weapons the USCG used to sink the derelict, which had been awaiting scrapping in Hokkaido, Japan when it was set adrift by the tsunami that struck norther Japan in March, 2011. Like the Flying Dutchman of legend, the Ryou-Un Maru crossed the Pacific under the observation of mariners and coast guardsmen, until it was clear it was drifting, at about one nautical mile an hour, into heavily trafficked sea lanes.

In fact, most of the news stories didn’t identify the Coast Guard units participating, but Weaponsman.com went direct to the Coast Guard on the matter, so we can tell you there was an (unarmed) HC-130 from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, and the USCGC Anacapa, WPB-1335, homeported in Petersburg, Alaska.

Mk38 Maritime Machine Cannon on a US Navy vessel.Same mount is used by the Coast Guard. Image: US Navy.

Anacapa is one of a class of 110-foot cutters, patrol boats really, named after coastal islands. It’s armed with a Mk38 25mm chain gun — the same “Bushmaster” chain gun that’s used in the Bradley IFV and the LAV-25, but in a maritime mounting — a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher, and a number of M2HB .50 caliber machine guns and other small arms.

The captain made a training exercise out of the need to destroy the derelict Ryou-Un Maru, and the crew enthusiastically fired up the target… literally, as the API-T ammunition for the Chain Gun (so called because the bolt is driven by a chain) set fuel in the derelict’s bunkers afire. But the ship did not sink. The 25mm can be devastating against small, close-in threats, but it may not have been the right thing to sink an unmanned, unpowered, steel fishing boat.

Finally the 40mm was called on, and after a number of hits punctured its tired old hull, the long career of the Ryou-Un Maru came to an end and it slipped beneath the waves to rest eternally in 1000 feet of water.

One thought on “Ever wonder why… the Coast Guard has guns on their ships?

  1. Pingback: Automatic cannon in the news | Forgotten Weapons

Comments are closed.