When you mention the U.S. Coast Guard to someone, usually patrolling near America’s territorial waters, drug interdiction, and rescuing boaters come to mind, but the reality is that the Coastie’s mission ranges far from home and into some pretty nasty neighborhoods. At one time, this reality, combined with a very serious foe, resulted in some of the service’s most capable cutters being outfitted with RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles. Fast forward to today, and we may be on the precipice of another similar sea-change for the service in terms of how heavily armed some of its ships become.
Coast Guard ships are deployed around the globe, from the volatile Persian Gulf to the disputed waters of the South China Sea to the very tense Taiwan Strait, to execute higher-end missions sometimes alongside their more heavily armed U.S. Navy counterparts. As so-called “great power competition” among peer state adversaries heats up, the Coast Guard is getting called on to fill more of these types of missions traditionally executed by Navy surface combatants.