Below is a D14 news release. Congratulations to the crew of the Oliver Henry. 10,620 nautical miles, a drug seizure, and a SAR case enroute. Sounds like quite an adventure. I’m sure CWO Henry would be proud.
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.
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.
“We need to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms—with their built-in capabilities—toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection. “
I am not sure what precautions the Navy has made to protect the ships of the MSC’s PrePositioned Afloat Fleet, but if I were an enemy there are might be strong incentive to destroy these ships that transport the most ready reinforcements of heavy equipment.
Webber class PCs might have a role in protecting these.
Visit, Search, Board, and Seizure:
This is the mission these little ships are built for and, consequently, no change may be necessary. The mission might be stopping and boarding hundreds of small craft as was done off Vietnam as part of Operation Market Time, or it might be enforcing a blockade against Chinese shipping at the Straits providing access to the South China Sea. If resistance is expected there are a number of ways the vessels’ armament could be augmented, including missiles or torpedoes, but in most cases its likely air or backup could be called in. The real advantage is that the Navy would not need to tie down DDGs doing this work, and potentially risk it being damaged by improvised weapons on a vessel being boarded. For more challenging assignments two or three could be teamed with one or two providing boats and boarding teams and the other as a weapons carrier.
DefenseNews reports that the 30 January attack on the Saudi frigate, previously reported as a suicide attack, was actually done using unmanned, remote-controlled boat filled with explosives.
The story makes it sound like this is hard to do, but in fact it has become very simple just as has the use of hobby drones.
“Donegin is concerned “first that it is in the hands of someone like the Houthis. That’s not an easy thing to develop. There have been many terrorist groups that have tried to develop that, it’s not something that was just invented by the Houthis. There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic.”
What does it require? I presume this boat had no real autonomy, that it was simply radio controlled (RC). Presumably it was supported and controlled by the boat from which the Houthi rebels filmed the attack.
Steering a collision course may be difficult from a half mile to a mile away, but it can be simplified by mounting a camera on the RC boat and broadcasting the picture back to the controlling boat. Then all you need to do is keep the target in your camera’s field of view and close the range to zero.
Theoretically it is relatively easy to disrupt the radio control and television links, but unless you anticipate the need it won’t happen.
If you are a terrorist, you can also make the boats very hard to sink by putting the explosives and critical components low in the boat and covering them with a steel plate. Laid near horizontal the steel plate would deflect small arms and resist fragment. Follow that up with liberal use of expanding foam filler to maintain flotation.
Unfortunately, it is just not that hard.