Navy to Decommission Cyclone Class Patrol Craft

Cyclone-class patrol coastal USS Zephyr (PC 8) crew conducts ship-to-ship firefighting to extinguish a fire aboard a low-profile go-fast vessel suspected of smuggling in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean April 7, 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney

I learned recently that the Navy expects to decommission their 13 Cyclone class patrol craft in FY2021. This is significant for the Coast Guard for a couple of reasons.

The three based in Mayport have consistently been used to augment Coast Guard vessels, hosting Law Enforcement Detachments for drug enforcement (a recent example). .

Second, these vessels frequently partner with Coast Guard patrol boats of PATFORSWA based in Bahrain. Their decommissioning may put a greater load on the Coast Guard unit as it begins to receive Webber class as replacements for the existing six Island class patrol boats.

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 16, 2018) A MK-60 Griffin surface-to-surface missile is launched from coastal patrol ship USS Thunderbolt (PC 12). (Photo by MC2 Kevin Steinberg)

For the Island class cutters in the Persian Gulf, the Cyclone class have served as better armed, big brothers, adding a bit of muscle to escort missions where Iranian Fast Inshore Attack Craft might be encountered. While the Webber class, that will be replacing the Island class, are a bit better armed than the 110s, unless they are extensively modified, they will not come close to replacing the missile armed Cyclone class. LCS are supposed to replace the Cyclone class, but they still have not demonstrated the ability to sustain a reasonable number of vessels in a remote theater. LCS are also too large to go many of the places the Cyclone class were able to.

USS Hurricane (PC-3)

These little ships have seemed to count for very little to the Navy. Regularly we see a count of “Battleforce ships”“Battleforce ships” that includes everything from aircraft carriers down to civilian crewed, unarmed fleet tugs (T-ATF), salvage ships (T-ARS), and high speed intra-theater transports (T-EPF, really aluminum hulled, high speed ferries). The Cyclone class were only included in the count one year (2014), so their loss will be largely invisible. (Significantly, this count of what many must assume is the National Fleet also makes no mention of Coast Guard assets either.)

Until ten of the class found a home in Bahrain, the Navy seemed to have had a hard time figuring out what to do with them. Originally intended to support the special warfare community, they were considered to large for that mission. Of the original fourteen one was transferred to the Philippine Navy. Five had been temporarily commissioned as Coast Guard cutters.

Other than the far larger LCS, the navy has no plans to replace these little ships, that have reportedly been the busiest ships in the Navy.

DAHLGREN, Va. (Nov. 6, 2004) Coast Guard Cutter Shamal (WPC-13) . USCG photo by Joseph P. Cirone, USCG AUX

15 thoughts on “Navy to Decommission Cyclone Class Patrol Craft

  1. (Significantly, this count of what many must assume is the National Fleet also makes no mention of Coast Guard assets either.)

    On a related note to your comment, I came across this in a article yesterday on USNI News “Lack of Future Fleet Plans, Public Strategy Hurting Navy’s Bottom Line in Upcoming Defense Bills” dated June 18, 2020.

    Copied fm the article:

    “Later, Munsch said the service was working with the Marines and Coast Guard to release a new tri-service maritime strategy to the public later this year to update the 2015 document, A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.

    The existence of the new strategy was revealed earlier this year by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday at the WEST 2020 conference in San Diego.

    “Our staffs are working together on a Tri-Service Maritime Strategy that should be presented to us by the summer. So we are trying to bring things together from a top-down perspective in a more integrated way,” he said.

    In a subsequent statement, Munsch said, “the heads of the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, the services are actively developing a Tri-Service Maritime Strategy (TSMS), informed by and consistent with our National Defense Strategy… As an unclassified document, the TSMS will facilitate discussion of the vision it represents with a wide range of stakeholde.

    Chuck, what do you know about this? Im please to hear the that three martime services are working together to creature a new or updated combined National Martime Defense Strategy. one that includes the Coast Guard.

    • I knew the new plan was coming. I thought I had mentioned it here, but it may have been in a comment.

      Would not be surprised if it is delayed to COVID.

      Really an unclassified plan will just be a charter for the real classified planning to begin.

      Any real changes beyond, “Yes the Coast Guard can make available X NSCs and Y FRCs for contingency ops.” or “the Coast Guard will help with capacity building” (not that that is not important), that would actually require the Coast Guard to actually prepare for a near peer conflict will require changes in equipment and training, including particularly new roles for the Reserves.

      We would likely see a revitalization of Maritime Defense Zones.

      The Coast Guard should have a large role in Naval Control of Shipping, largely a forgotten art, although the British probably have some corporate memory. The USN stopped training in the field about 30 years ago.

      We would need to start surveying Q-routes (lanes that we keep free of mines to allow shipping to enter and leave ports) to identify mine like objects and either map or remove them. It is called channel conditioning. Hostile vessels might mine US waters in the run up to a conflict or they might be mined by submarine. I some places mining by aircraft might be a potential threat.

      Every Chinese or Russian ship or fishing vessel is potentially an agent of their respective navy potentially providing intelligence or targeting, laying mines, dropping off agents or just intentionally ramming critical US assets. The Coast Guard will have a role in controlling them.

      There should be a great deal more coordination with the Navy reserve. We could plan for three Coast Guard Escort groups of three NSCs each, augmented by Navy Reserves to man ASW modules and MH-60Rs, and provide a Escort Group commander and staff.

      Lots of things might come out of this but it would all require new training and exercises to test it.

    • the Navy has been trying to come up with a “holistic” Force Structure for a couple of years now. Hence the indecision. The latest plan the Navy sent to SECDEF, did NOT satisfy him. He has taken over naval force planning.
      The Congress doesn’t like any of the above, and said NO new ships UNTIL you show us “de plan”. Which seems reasonable to me as a taxpayer.

      • I agree with you Leesea. Esper is on the right tract. Congress for once has a point.

  2. The plan not to replace the Cyclones is surprising, considering that the USA makes boats of that size and characteristics. Usually the Navy decommissions when something new is on the horizon to replace these boats. There is no shortage of choices that the U.S. Navy can choose to replace these boats, such as the 75m Swiftships since the Cyclones are 55m long.

    The Cyclones are heavily armed for their size and I’m sure there will be a huge gap when they are gone. The Mark VI Patrol Boats can’t replace the Cyclones due to the lack of extended endurance and berthing. The Swiftships 75m corvette has an endurance of 25 days and a max speed of 30 KTS, a bit slower (than 35KTS), but much better armed.

    Nonetheless, the Cyclones lack certain features such as ASW, AAW, and SSM. That wasn’t their intended role as SEAL delivery boats, but missile corvettes under 100m now offer ASW, AAW, and SSM deterrence that the Cyclones lack for relatively cheap.

      • One has to consider this missions the Cyclones are tasked with. They are not used as FACs. Long range, heavy ASMs with relatively complicated launch sequenced may not be what you want when screening larger vessels against speed boat swarm attacks or inspecting suspect shipping in congested waters.

  3. I misunderstood my source. the Cyclone class PCs in Bahrain will be decommissioined at a rate of about three per year. I am trying to find out more specifics.

  4. Again reemplace them with Hamina class + at 500/600 tons, 1x RAM, 8x NSM, 57 mm, 2x 25/30/40 mm, torpedo launcher, towed sonar, air radar, 2500/3000 nmi and 35 knots

  5. The Swiftboat 75 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xilYlZgqZl4) would be more capable then the Cyclone class but even at 75m they more of a covette than FPB, they even look like a smaller version of the Freedom Class LCS. The Navy does need to replace the Cyclones….but with a more modern FPB. Something like the Hamina class but with helipad for UAV operations.

    • The Hamina sounds like an excellent candidate as it is an improvement over the Cyclones.

      As helpful as the Cyclones are, they are aging out and their performance and offensive/defensive characteristics are getting outdated. Something better, new and improved is needed to replace them.

      The Swiftboat 75 could work, but bear in mind that it has more capital expenses and worth with the helicopter deck and embarked MH-60. More personnel and equipment might mean that the US Navy might not risk sending the Swiftboat 75 off venturing on its own against Fast Attack Crafts compared to the Hamina…Hamina = good choice!

  6. Additional Info on Cyclone class decommissioning from SeaPower Magizine

    Will Inactivate 9 Ships in 2021
    Posted on July 6, 2020 by Richard R. Burgess, Senior Editor

    An MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter (right) conducts operations with an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter and the USS Coronado, which is one of nine ships the Navy will inactivate next fiscal year. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob I. Allison
    ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Navy plans to inactivate nine ships in fiscal 2021, the service said in a message to the fleet.

    According to a June 30 message from the chief of naval operations, four littoral combat ships (LCS), three coastal patrol ships (PC) and one dock landing ship (LSD) are to be decommissioned. The Military Sealift Command will remove from service one fleet ocean tug (T-ATF).

    As planned in the Navy’s 2021 budget proposal, the service plans to decommission the first two Freedom-class LCSs — USS Freedom and USS Fort Worth — and first two Independence-class LCSs — USS Independence and USS Coronado. Three of these ships have made major deployments to the western Pacific and all have been used as development platforms to mature the type’s concept of operations. The four LCSs, all based in San Diego, will be placed in reserve status.

    The three Cyclone-class PCs to be decommissioned are all based in Mayport, Florida, and used to train crews for the 10 PCs based in the Persian Gulf with the U.S. 5th Fleet. The three PCs being decommissioned — USS Zephyr, USS Shamal and USS Tornado — will be scrapped.

    The Whidbey Island-class LSD being decommissioned is USS Fort McHenry, which will be placed in reserve. The move will leave seven ships of the class still in service.

    The Powhatan-class T-ATF being removed from service is USS Sioux, which will be scrapped. Its removal will leave two T-ATFs in service. The class is being replaced by the Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ships.

    All eight commissioned ships listed above are to be decommissioned by March 31, 2021. The Sioux is to be removed from service by Sept. 30, 2021.

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