Coast Guard cutter Munro arrives for patrol with 7th Fleet in Western Pacific
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Munro arrived in the Western Pacific on Sunday to take its turn on patrol where three other cutters have come and gone since 2018.
Homeported at Alameda, Calif., the Munro will operate in the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet area of operations over the next several months, according to a Saturday news release from the 7th Fleet. It's the most recent cutter to take part in an ongoing, rotational deployment to the region.
“Forward-deployed naval forces routinely and seamlessly integrate as one maritime force with a proud heritage of serving and fighting together,” said Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, 7th Fleet commander, in the news release.
Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Western Pacific previously have operated alongside their Navy counterparts and taken part in maritime exercises with U.S. allies, including the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The Munro follows in the wake of sister ships, the cutters Bertholf, Stratton and Waesche. The most recent was the Waesche, which began and concluded its patrol in 2020.
The Coast Guard vessels sometimes turn up in maritime areas fraught with international tension. Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, at the time commander of the Coast Guard Pacific Area, in June 2019 described the cutters’ presence as a “force multiplier” for the Defense Department.
The cutter Bertholf made history when it became the first U.S. cutter to steam through the Taiwan Strait in March 2019. It drew China’s attention by practicing search-and-seizure operations near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, a maritime region China claims for itself.
The Bertholf’s relief, the cutter Stratton, in fall 2019 took part in training with the Navy near Palawan, the Philippine island closest to the Spratly chain, a group of islands claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.
The Bertholf also made an April 2019 port visit to Hong Kong, the Coast Guard’s first to the Chinese territory in 17 years.
“The U.S. Coast Guard’s deployment of resources to the region directly supports U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security objectives in the region as outlined in the Interim National Security Strategy,” said Lt. Mark Langford, spokesman for 7th Fleet, in an email to Stars and Stripes on Monday. “The U.S. Coast Guard’s unique capabilities, mission sets and longstanding partnerships in the region allow us to be exceptionally valuable in enhancing maritime governance, safety, and security in the Western Pacific.”
In 2020 the Munro patrolled the North Pacific Ocean for two months in support of Operation North Pacific Guard, a joint fisheries enforcement program by Pacific Rim Nations, including Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States, according to a Coast Guard news release.
Like its predecessors on the rotational deployment, the Munro is a Legend-class cutter, the largest vessels in the Coast Guard fleet. Also known as national security cutters, they feature a top speed of 28 knots and can steam up to 12,000 nautical miles over 90 days. At 418-feet long and with a 4,600 long-ton displacement, the ship can carry a crew of up to 170.
The cutters feature command and control capabilities, aviation support facilities and a stern boat launch system.
The Munro arrives just after the Coast Guard redesignated its base at Guam and welcomed its third new cutter there, the Frederick Hatch. In July, the newly dubbed Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam commissioned three new fast-response cutters, the Hatch, Myrtle Hazard and Oliver Henry.
Announcing their deployment in October 2019, Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz described their placement as a response to “coercive and antagonistic behavior from China.”