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Video: USCG’s Mk 38 Cannon Sinks Japanese Ghost Ship

by John Reed on April 6, 2012

Japanese vessel sinks in Gulf of AK

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video of the Coast Guard yesterday sinking a derelict Japanese fishing trawler that’s been adrift since the tsunami that devastated Japan last year. The 164-foot long Ryou Un Maru was sitting in a Japanese port waiting to be scrapped last year when the tsunami pushed it out to sea. In the months since, the unmanned, unpowered ghost ship drifted to within 180 southwest of the Alaskan town of Sitka. Rather than letting the ship run aground closer to shore or risk a collision with other vessells the Coast Guard decided to sink her with the badass Mk 38 25 MM chain gun of an Island class cutter.

Click through the jump for the video.

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{ 95 comments… read them below or add one }

Noha307 April 6, 2012 at 11:09 am

Here's what I don't understand, if they were trying to sink it (and they were) why were they spraying it with water? It almost seems like they were trying to put out the fire that THEY HAD CAUSED. Were they trying to flood the ship faster so it would sink? Or did they never intend for the fire to happen? (which I find hard to believe that they didn't know it would happen) I can assume that they only intended to hole the ship and that the fire could cause some sort of environmental damage.

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MCQknight April 6, 2012 at 11:33 am

Because they probably need practice. Not everyday they get to put out a fire on an actual ship. Then again not every day they get to blow up said ship with 25mm cannon fire!

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Brad April 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm

One of the key ingredients to sinking a ship is water….

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Alex April 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm

A fuel tank on board the fishing vessel ruptured at some point during the year long drift. Canadian sailors that attempted to claim salvage boarded the vessel and found lower decks awash in fuel. It would seem that fire containment was done to prevent secondaries, and environmental impact.

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Joseph June 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Ok…if they were so worried about the environmental impact of it burning, why the hell would they sink it to release all that oil back into the sea?

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dontalray April 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm

They were training on the ship before sinking it….

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Jay April 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm

They were placing water into the hall to displace the ships buoyancy, thus sinking the ship. Fire, in its self, does not sink a ship (short term). Over time; the heat produced from fire can make the steel expand and contract if exposed, which can damage the joint-welds and reduce the vessels water tight integrity. However, the water placed inside the vessels bulkheads (as see in the video) distorts the watertight integrity, establishing ships buoyancy as ineffective due to displacement and added weight

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Noha307 April 6, 2012 at 11:23 am

By the way, if you're wondering why they didn't try to tow the ship to port instead of sink it – that's because someone already tried. Before the USCG started firing on the ship a Canadian fishing boat arrived and claimed salvage rights, but was unable to tow the derelict ship.

In addition, you know the Coast Guard just wanted some target practice – they're probably becoming jealous of the USN and all its SINKEX's by this point.

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RLTW April 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Is the Mk38 on that ship unstablized? There was a lot of bad shooting in that video.

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Nick April 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Yeah, that looked embarrassingly bad.

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moose April 6, 2012 at 3:21 pm

For bobbing around on a 110-ft cutter off the coast of Alaska, their marksmanship seems pretty good.

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Thunder350 April 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Maybe back in 1945. But with out computers doing most of the targeting these days that wasn't very great. Granted it was a coast guard ship, and we know they always get less of the $$$ pie, even tho they are put to more practical use everyday saving lives and guarding our coast.

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puresalt01 April 9, 2012 at 8:07 am

You are the gyro stabilizer for the M242 25mm…. on a 110 ft vessel shoot 6 feet above the ocean…..

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John Smith April 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Good thing it was sunk on the high seas and not in US waters. Otherwise, between the EPA and the Interior Department, it would've cost 80-millon bucks and taken 5 years to sink.

Just sayin'….

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Stormcharger April 6, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Uh, no… In order for the ship to take on water and sink the holes you put in it have to be below the waterline not above it. Therefore, one would need to place shots at the downward angle seen in the video. Basic naval gunnery, if anyone would like to see this phenomenon, take a Styrofoam cup, put it in water, then punch holes in it above the waterline and wait and see how long it stays afloat.

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Dockem April 7, 2012 at 7:40 am

RLTW – I was thinking the same thing. Notice how many rounds fell short! If I was that captain and or CIC officer I think I would be ashamed! Practice, practice, practice boys.

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Guest April 7, 2012 at 10:39 am

452 rounds expended, Captain !

Target, sort of destroyed, Sir.

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Sean April 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm

The reason the rounds fell short is because the person shooting the gun is controling the gun. It has ONE pivit point and therefor isnt very stable.

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dontalray April 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm

probably ricochets from ship

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Bm1Popeye April 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm

The 25mm was deployed on Coast Guard cutters with the intentions of disabling other craft, not sink them. This 110' cutter was probably given the opportunity to get gunnery practice. If they succeeded in their mission, they probably saved thousands of tax payers dollars. Sure, the Navy could have sunk it with a expensive torpedo, and made a big boom. But why use a big stick, if a little stick will get the job done.

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Twidget at Large July 13, 2012 at 11:58 am

For the Boom! of course.

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Nicky April 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm

See, I do know, why would you want to use a 25MM bushmaster cannon to sink a ship. They could have simply used either a bunch of well placed C4 or just have the US navy send a Mk48 ACAP torpedo and send it to Davy Jones locker.

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D'Orville April 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Cause 25mm bushmaster rounds are cheaper by the gross then a single ADCAP torpedo.

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Nicky April 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm

How much would it be to place a couple of C-4 in places where you can sink it real fast

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blight_ April 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Presumably not much, but do you think every Coastie needs training in taking down ships with emplaced C4 explosives?

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Thunder350 April 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm

They do have their own SEAL based program now.

Barry Hope April 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Nicky, Do you know how much a MK48 torp costs? Several million dollars. I think in this time where Congress is trying to find reasons to cut funds to the military, wasting a few million on a rust bucket that was heading for the breaking yards anyway is not good use of tax dollars. In fact, using anything bigger than cannon rounds would be a waste of money.

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Dockem April 7, 2012 at 7:36 am

Nicky – Do you have any idea what a torpedo costs?

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Dave April 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm

How bout placing gear adrift or some loose lips aboard, could have definitely made sure it went down.

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tiger April 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

The Coasties need a real deck gun. Might be nice on some fiberglass sailboat, but that 25mm was not very badass. Go back to the 40mm bofors for a cutter like that.

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Alex April 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

The reason the Coast Guard is not using the Bofors is the same reason Bofors was removed from AC-130 gunships. It boils down to spare parts availability. Boors is an incredibly old design, and spares are no longer in production. The weapons bolt as an example requires weeks of lead time before it is in the hands of service personnel. The current armament on Coast Guard vessels do not suffer that problem.

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William C. April 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm

The AC-130s still have the 40mm L60 Bofors last I read. I think plans to replace those guns fell through.

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blight_ April 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Bofors has a 57mm now. The 40's are a little old…

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Stormcharger April 6, 2012 at 6:02 pm

lol. What constitutes 'badass'? I'm sure if you ask any insurgent that has taken fire from a Bradly or LAV, they will tell a very different story.

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Eric April 7, 2012 at 1:55 am

how many insurgents live through a Bradley or LAV?

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Shail April 7, 2012 at 9:49 am

An insurgent isn't the same size, or as ruggedly built, as a maritime vessel.

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majrod April 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Those insurgents fight from buildings with walls 1 – 2' thick.

John Jameson Smith April 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I'm glad that was the Coast Guard and not the Navy. Thankfully Coast Gaurd duties are centered around retriving people from the sea and not sinking/ defending our country from foriegn invading ships, because that was embarrassing.

They definitely need more target practice.

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Ret. Coastie Frank April 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Ah but grasshopper, the Coast Guards duties under the Dept. of Home Land Securities does include sinking and defending our country from foreign invading ships! I do agree that they need some practice but with the CG budget already so low, and the Prez and congress trying to cut the armed forces bugets even more there is very little money in the CG coffers for target practice!

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guess April 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

The initial news reports I saw where talking bout 25mm fire followed by “rounds twice that size”
So just stupid reporters talking bout something they know nothing about I assume

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blight_ April 6, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Press reports are as dumb as the press release released by the press officer talking down to the press in the first place. The assumption is generally that civilian press rarely know anything about the subject matter they are reporting on.

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mpower6428 April 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm

i wonder if the CG captains were arguing over who got to sink it. hell, i would. id pull in all my favors.

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Sgt_Buffy April 10, 2012 at 7:50 am

lol +1

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Lance April 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Should of let the Navy shoot a few Harpoon ASMs at it and blown it into a billion small pieces.

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blight_ April 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

What training opportunity do you get firing missiles?

Versus putting lead on target.

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Thunder350 April 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm

The same amount, you press a button on a computer. Sit back and watch.

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brian April 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

would only need one harpoon to sink a ship that size more like obilterate a ship that size

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PolicyWonk April 7, 2012 at 11:09 am

That would be overkill. Harpoons aren't cheap – and simple ammunition rounds/shells are.

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Ret Coastie Frank April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm

You do realize how many millions each Harpoon ASM cost don't you!? If they had fired 100 25 mm rounds at it, it still would have been small pocket change.

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UAVgeek April 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Good use of the taxpayer dollar, no training opportunity wasted.

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Noha307 April 6, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Anybody know what the name of the intercepting Coast Guard vessel was?

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Noha307 April 6, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Never mind, just answered my own question. It is the USCGC Anacapa, an Island class patrol boat.

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Doreen April 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Anacapa, out of Petersburg AK

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George April 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Hurrah for the first Jap ship the US sinks in 67 years!

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Jacob April 6, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Well if you count the USS Greeneville incident, it's only been 11 years >_>

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Valenburg April 6, 2012 at 7:01 pm

It was the Anacapa.

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sean April 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm

probably shooting tpt at it instead of shooting the good stuff hei-t.

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Shail April 7, 2012 at 9:56 am

Actually, you see all those little holes with the gray marks around them?
Those are the impacts of 25mm HE rounds: they do detonate, but against a vessel that size (made out of that level of sheet steel construction),
they don't create large-enough holes, especially below the water line…at least, not until flooding it with fire hoses lowered the hull low enough for all those dozens (hundreds?) of holes to contribute together in flooding it enough more to finally sink.

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Luis V Bello April 7, 2012 at 2:50 am

I don't agree with this operation at all! This ship should be towed, out of the ocean, no matter what. We, humans, can't pretend to use all the oceans as trash collectors.
!Lets keep all the oceans clean and safe!

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Jacob April 7, 2012 at 5:52 am

I heard that some salvaging company tried to tow it at first, but for some reason that didn't work out and they ended up sinking it.

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Shail April 7, 2012 at 9:53 am

Luis,
are you forgetting all the other trash that the tsunami swept out to sea,
that even now there are still concerns over?
Who's supposed to foot the bill for your suggested mass clean up of all the "human trash" from the oceans, trash that technically Mother Nature saw fit to scour off the Japanese coastal areas?

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ziv April 8, 2012 at 8:18 am

Some of the best reefs in the ocean are sunken ships. But I think this wreck sunk so deep there won't be much life anywhere near it to use it for shelter. Some, but not much.

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majrod April 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Luis, I had the same attitude in reverse with the OWS demonstrators. Did you see the mess they left for people with jobs to pick up?

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bds April 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

So we should put it in a landfill instead???

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Bm1Popeye April 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm

The Coast Guard is also responsible for the environmental safety of our water ways. I'm sure they took this into account.

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Kid April 7, 2012 at 7:24 am

Sunken ships make great artificial reefs.

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Guest April 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

This video is a preview of what LCS engagements will be in the future decades.

Don't forget, the Main Battery of an LCS is 57mm, but the only gun firecontrol system requires a manual operator to manually keep the video camera constantly centered on the target. Forget radar based GFCS, which is so Last-Century.

Optical-only GFCS ! LCS must have designed in the 1950's. Early 1950's.

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PolicyWonk April 7, 2012 at 11:11 am

If this is a preview of future LCS engagements, the US Navy is in SERIOUS trouble. Un unarmed, unarmored boat should be fast work – even for the USCG.

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Tigger April 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Wow, how bad was the movie? It looked like a Hollywood film of bad guys shooting and missing the good guys with every shot! So must for the Billions spent on Homeland Security EH?

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Bm1Popeye April 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Go get two trampolines, two paint ball guns, and a buddy. Set up the trampolines approx 50M a part. Have you and your buddy start jumping up and down on the trampolines at different times, and shot at each other. Come back and tell us what your hit to miss ratio was.

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voodkokk April 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

The 164-foot long Ryou Un Maru was sitting in a Japanese port waiting to be scrapped last year when the tsunami…

Survived a tsunami and one year unmanned at sea. Nice shipbuilding, talk about sea-worthy.

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Tom April 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm

As an old destroyer firecontrol tech, I would have hung my head in shame at that level of “marksmanship,” On our WWII long-hull Gearing class (DD 841), we claimed that if you told us where the mayor’s house was we could put the second 5″/38 round right down his chimney at 10,000 yards — the initial round always being a little off because of ‘cold gun error.’ Our mount 52 had “16 Tons” inscribed on its flank after the Tennessee Ernie Ford song. The point being, “If the right one don’t get you, the left one will!!”

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Shail April 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Something to bear in mind is,
the sad state that live gunnery training has fallen into, both in the USCG AND the USN. We can only simulate so much stuff and maintain even a minimal effectiveness. After that, we simply just have to throw suitable shell and shot downrange at suitable targets (moreso than just giant inflatable dayglo orange "tomatoes") that both gauge how effectively destructive our naval ammunition is, and just how accurate the gun crews' training have made them.
If this scenario has shown us anything, it's that 25mm gunfire is not the ideal choice for trawler-sized targets that may be an ideal size for modern-day pirates and fast surface combatants. It may be fine against those 20-40foot surface craft we see down at the local marina, but against maneuvering armed combatants,
built out of seaworthy steel alloys instead of fiberglass,
are we really going to sit there for minutes at a time and paste them with hundreds of minimally-effective small-caliber cannon rounds?
And were those hundreds of 25mm shells really any cheaper than perhaps half a dozen 76mm that a WHEC like Mellon (717) or Midgett (726) mounts.
Unfortunately, they're based around Washington state, not Alaska.

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Twidget at large April 9, 2012 at 9:09 am

Shail, The Midgett and the Mellon are high endurence cutters and both oporate up in Alaskan waters when needed (usualy winter poor bastards), Seattle is where they're based out of for reasons of size (not alot of good places to support a cutters of that size in Alaska), they patrol the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, as well as the Eastern Pacific down to South America.

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Shail April 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Yes, I know, but obviously the USCG decision makers felt that hundreds of 25mm rounds expended was a better choice than sailing the WHECs up there to do it with their 76mm's.

Better yet, they coulda done a maritime equivalent of
a "Knob Creek shoot out" or a "mad minute",
where every available armed vessel within that area of responsibility shows up and lets lose with everything it has until the last piece of 'Maru went under.
Gotta let all the gun crews get a taste of the action, no?
(let it start with a few USCG HITRON helo sniper teams taking pot shots at the trawler's bridge…)

(wiping a tear..), now THAT woulda been newsworthy video footage!

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Bill Gallagher April 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Keep in mind that cost is a major issue. Bullets are cheap compared to a harpoon missle. Cheaper to send a small CG ship than a navy one. Good use of taxpayers money.
Fire control is the fault of the manufacture, It;s all computer control, not the user. Is this the issue of poor defence contracts???? Or a firmware upgraded needed but in a budget cut environment?????
Feel like the Jap company should be held to foot the cost????, but do not personally know if international law will addrees this issue permitting others people trash( in this case Japan) wash up close or near America Shores, causing a navigation hazard to others……possiable more loss of live and property.
Unknow to the CG what is onboat the drifting ship. Well, sent a team to find out. Who reads to turn a control value or push a button in Japinese.? We Americans do not like to speak a second language. Drop your mother tongue and speak English….
No option left but to FIRE THE GUNS…..Yes, more trash on the ocean floor and do not forget all the outerspace ships going around the world, ready to cash to earth some day soon…..

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Shail April 9, 2012 at 8:29 pm

It isn't ALL the fault of the contractors (but to a large part is: defective and/or improperly functioning equipment needs to be addressed, reviewed, and improved upon).
But if crews themselves don't get sufficient live fire gunnery training, no amount of designing the best weapon systems in the world will guarantee victory.

As they say about aircraft: a good/great pilot in a mediocre aircraft will most always do better than a poor pilot in a great aircraft.
Same goes for ship gunners: practice hones perfection.
But yes, if the builders failed at designing a suitable weapon system, they are a major part of the problem.

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guest April 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I hope they managed to take most the contaminants like oil out first.

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Hickelbilly April 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm

THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE EVERYWHERE.

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Thomas L. Nielsen April 11, 2012 at 5:31 am

They sure are! I can see five of them just from where I'm sitting.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg

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Les Hall April 8, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Come on guys and gals, how did you give your young crew dogs experience? Totally ideal and something they will remember for years. Like all stories, the target gets larger and the misses get closser…

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Mike April 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Finally! The Voice of Reason!

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puresalt01 April 9, 2012 at 8:18 am

Its the mk 242, and i bet they were training people.. For a large part, it is completely manual… Im sure most of you could not handle moving a case of ammo that weighs 120 lbs on a narrow, shifting deck to begin with….

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Bm1Popeye April 11, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Awesome reply shipmate! :-)

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Twidget at large April 9, 2012 at 9:13 am

In answer to previous posts, there is NOT a computer involved in firing the MK 38 on a USCG 110, its ALL manual.

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Boone April 9, 2012 at 9:34 am

i would agree that you need to shoot below the water line to sink a ship, however one note is picking at my brain. Wouldn't the 25mm disintegrate once it hits the water due to its speed? It might stay together long enough if they hit RIGHT next to the boat. But in the video it looked like they were shooting a good 20-40ft away from the boat.

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src April 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm

its called walking your rounds in.

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d. kellogg April 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Please,
that trawler was literally the "broad side of a barn",
out there in open water,
water that appeared to be minimally rough (low sea state).

Is it that hard to hit the broadside of a barn?

As far as distance, until they used the hose on it,
they had to keep a safe distance measured in dozens of yards, because of the shell fragments and possibly a bad ricochet that could risk hitting the USCG vessel and its crew.
Even a highly-successful Bushmaster Chain Gun can send a defective round
in god-only-knows-what direction.

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Tom April 9, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Note to Twidget: when shooting manually, you “fire on the uproll!!”

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john April 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm

There is no fire control system on that class of cutter. Its manually operated and targeted via a small optical scope from the forward deck of a 110' cutter that is only as stable as the sea state allows.

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mikey April 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm

This was NOT the firsy US sinking of a Japanese vessel since WWII – CGC Jarvis sank a Japanese fishing boat in the '70's down by Kwajalein. The vessel had burned and the crew had abandoned it. we rescued 1 crewmember – the navagator – who had been clinging to a wooden hatch cover for several days. Then as the ship was also a derelict, we used 50 cal and a 5''/54 to sink it. – the gun fire also lit the fish hold on fire befor it sank.The one survivor watched from the Jarvis's bridgewing as we fired upon his home. Only the aft section of the ship had burned – the crews quarters/bridge/and engine spaces – if the crew had stayed with the ship and stayed on the bow, the other dozen or so men might have survived. But the fire happened at night and as any sailor who has experienced a fire onboard a small vessel knows is confusion is the first thing that happens.

Also, manual shooting from a small vessel – less than 200 ft – in any seaway is a real guess and by golly exercise. and anyone who says the second round from a 5/38 will be down the stack is of full of it. unless he was very VERY lucky or hand carried the round to the target.

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Jerry Corbett April 11, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I did notice a lot of negative comments from what I assume were and are navy personnel, just for the record boys, we are all in this together, USCG does not normally use a lot of fire power, we rescue people and save lives, just ask someone who our pilots and sailors risk their butt for, and let us not forget, we are ONE NATION UNDER GOD, we are brothers and sisters fighting for the same things….GOD BLESS YOU ALL, AND LET US ALL STAY ONE NATION UNDER GOD!!

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Mack April 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm

My theory is that that they had the wrong ship and in reality it was an active ship, and after recognizing that fact they went alongside and in the finest tradition of the Coast Guard they put out the fire and rescued the crew.

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jason fleming April 17, 2012 at 9:41 am

everybody on here that says that is poor marksmanship please SHUT UP! You have no idea how the CG trains or the policies they have to follow. Did you ever think thats how they were trained to shoot. I watch the video an clearly i see what they were doing. you people are retarted

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d. kellogg April 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm

And Bradleys have supporting infantry to clear out those buildings,
or use a TOW.

USCG cutters don't launch boarding parties to circle around and outflank ocean threats while coming under fire.

There's no cover and concealment to utilize on the open ocean, unless you're a submarine.

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