Coastal Patrol Boats Boost Naval Presence–NDIA

WPC Kathleen_Moore

National Defense Magazine has published an article about the Navy’s Coastal Patrol Craft, primarily focusing on those based in Bahrain, but also discussing how those in the US might be used. The Coast Guard’s Patrol Boats in the Gulf are also mentioned.

Perhaps the most interesting item in the article was that two of the PCs are now equipped with unmanned aerial systems (UAS). If it fits on the Cyclone class it will almost certainly fit on the Webber class WPCs.

Because the Navy no longer rotates crews between the US and the Persian Gulf the three Navy PCs still based in the US have been moved to Jacksonville and may be made available to support CG drug enforcement missions.

They talk about the addition of Griffin missile system to the Cyclone class which we have discussed previously.

For me the topic inevitably raises some questions. Both the Navy’s Cyclone class and the CG 110s at Bahrain will need to be replaced at some point.

The Navy has done extensive service life extensions on the Cyclone class in hopes of giving them a 30 year service life. All of these boats except one entered service between 1993 and January 1996. Meaning they have to start funding their replacements in approximately FY2019. The LCS were officially their replacements, but reading the article, it is apparent the LCS can’t do many of the things the Cyclone class are currently doing simply because they are too big. Might the Navy be interested in their own version of the Webber class?

All the 110s will be 30 years old by 2022. The earliest the 58 planned Webber class could be finished would be 2022 assuming building six per year, but it is much more likely to be 2026 or later.

It would probably be in the Coast Guard’s interest for the Navy to also build Webber class PBs. Probably the only way that could happen is if they saw it in operation in the Persian Gulf. Replacing the six WPBs in Bahrain with Webber class by the end 2017 would give the ships a chance to demonstrate their capabilities.

Webber class WPCs assigned to the 5th Fleet should be upgraded in ways similar to the changes made to the Cyclone class, including the addition of Griffin missiles. It would be an opportunity to see if the Webbers could fulfill the missions of the Cyclone class. It would also be an opportunity to see how the other Webbers might be upgraded.

13 thoughts on “Coastal Patrol Boats Boost Naval Presence–NDIA

  1. While I do believe in a dual-service procurement to replace the PCs and WPBs, I don’t think the Webber hull has enough space and payload to fulflill the Navy’s needs. Perhaps another Damen design? I am pretty sure the USN may require more weapons, sensors AND a UAV pad. That gets one into the NAVAIR specs which drive up the hull size.
    Of course the USN needs to replace the Cyclones and the LCS are not IT, but I see NO one in senior naval crowd is talking about that just touting the improvements made or to be made to current PCs in the PG. Another example of the devil is in the details.

    • I agree, I haven’t seen one Navy person talking about replacing the Cyclones.

      But the need is obvious, and when you look at the 30 year shipbuilding plan, I don’t see how Austal or Marinette would stay in business after the LCS is done. It’s like 5 years before the next Small Surface Combantant. I don’t think the Navy will let those yards go out of business, unless the economy and budgets are just awful. So my guess is that a Cyclone replacement program is done to tide one of them over until a new SSC is procured, and they’ll figure out something else for the other one

      Who knows, maybe a FMS sale will render the point moot, or a lot of other things could happen. But it would be kind of similar to the AFSB with NASSCO that you have talked about in the sense that it would fill the order book and keep the yard in business until the next big contract.

      • I don’t expect we will actually see a break between construction of the LCS and the SSC (frigate) since it is just an LCS with more equipment permanently installed. And apparently they intend to continue to build ships in both yards.

  2. The US Navy is going to want more than 28 knots. Wonder how hard it would be to make the FRC’s faster.

    They’re going to have to do something to replace the Cyclones and Islands in the Persian Gulf, and they need something like them in the Caribbean too.

    Not going to be enough LCS or FRC’s to do it as currently planned.

    I still think the Navy is going to want Austal to build any future patrol boats. Partly for industrial base reasons.

    • Although I doubt the Navy needs more than 28 knots, you are probably right about the desire for more. Really these vessels are not intended to fight warships, their proper use is to prevent nefarious use of apparently innocent vessels for unconventional attacks.

      The design could probably be stretched and a second engine room added but it gets complicated when you have to get that additional power to the stern. Can you route the shafts to the second set of engines? Wouldn’t you need bigger props? Could you add a third centerline shaft or perhaps a waterjet?

      Don’t think there is a simple answer.

      Navy’s knee jerk reaction is that they want more. More of everything. But these are the characteristics that have made the Cyclones (and the 110s) a success.

      Ability to get into small shallow harbors.
      Direct informal interaction with local mariners/Right height of eye.
      Similarity to the assets of other Navies and Coast Guards in the Area
      Being at more places at the same time, made possible by economy of operation
      Minimal crewing requirements.

      They really should be trying to keep the replacement small and economical.

  3. The USN has its high speed vessel,its called LCS. The navy staffers are quire content to try and keep the Cyclones going with the mods that are being done now.
    they do NOT understand that will not extend their hull life only utility. Didn’t the USCG try that unsuccessfully also?
    There is really no argument AGAINST a PC and/or WPB replacement, but no thought or funding FOR them either~

  4. If I was czar of the Navy I’d just buy a half dozen or dozen FRC’s, put a CIWs on it, another 25mm, a couple boxes of griffins, and maybe a modest sensor upgrade. The maintenance infrastructure for the ship is already in place with the Coast Guard. It’s risk free, and the beauty of it would be that they could file an urgent operational requirement, skip the whole procurement process, and then they could buy 1 ship a year and still get an economy of scale price (because of the Webbers) at somewhere around a hundred million out of the door.

    But they won’t. They’ll wait till the Cyclones are completely used up, then do a program and competition, and it will wind up costing twice as much and take twice as long for an end product that isn’t much different. It will be faster than 28 knots, the USN always wants faster, even at the expense of longer logistical tails. I’m not an expert and don’t know if the USN is right to always prioritize speed, but except for the amphibs, they always do.

    • And the most irritating thing is the competition will be decided because of industrial base concerns anyway. Rendering it pointless.

      • either industrial base or which congressional critter has a backyard shipyard~

    • I think we could put a SeaRAM forward of the bridge and they could function as escorts for unarmed tankers, protecting them from Anti-Ship Cruise Missile. The missiles are also usable against surface targets.

    • agreed, the USN is very much myopic about the small ships which CAN be built in US yard, and very bureaucratic as to HOW to procure a new class.

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