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

“IRGCN Vessels Conduct Unsafe, Unprofessional Interaction with U.S. Naval Forces in Arabian Gulf” –US CENTCOM

NORTH ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. Military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf. U.S. forces are conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo)

The following is a news release from US Fifth Fleet Public Affairs: (I bet one of those long range acoustic projectors could be really unpleasant if someone shouted over one of them at you at close range. Maybe every cutter should have them.)

On April 15, eleven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches of the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304) while the U.S. vessels were conducting joint integration operations with U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters in the international waters of the North Arabian Gulf.

The IRGCN vessels repeatedly crossed the bows and sterns of the U.S. vessels at extremely close range and high speeds, including multiple crossings of the Puller with a 50 yard closest point of approach (CPA) and within 10 yards of Maui’s bow.

The U.S. crews issued multiple warnings via bridge-to-bridge radio, five short blasts from the ships’ horns and long range acoustic noise maker devices, but received no response from the IRGCN.

After approximately one hour, the IRGCN vessels responded to the bridge-to-bridge radio queries, then maneuvered away from the U.S. ships and opened distance between them.

The IRGCN’s dangerous and provocative actions increased the risk of miscalculation and collision, were not in accordance with the internationally recognized Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) “rules of the road” or internationally recognized maritime customs, and were not in accordance with the obligation under international law to act with due regard for the safety of other vessels in the area.

The U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Army have been conducting joint interoperability operations in the North Arabian Gulf since late March.

U.S. naval forces continue to remain vigilant and are trained to act in a professional manner, while our commanding officers retain the inherent right to act in self-defense.

NORTH ARABIAN GULF (April 15, 2020) Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels conducted unsafe and unprofessional actions against U.S. Military ships by crossing the ships’ bows and sterns at close range while operating in international waters of the North Arabian Gulf. The expeditionary mobile sea base USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3) is conducting joint interoperability operations in support of maritime security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo)

Britain Seizes Iranian Tanker Suspected of Breaking Syrian Embargo, Iran Threatens Retaliation

MSN reports, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian owned oil tanker near Gibraltar. They landed on the ship by helicopter during the night and customs authorities are detaining the mostly Indian crew as witnesses.

Meanwhile Iranian official are saying they will be obligated to retaliate against a British tanker.

Note this action was taken because the cargo was believed to have been destined for Syria, in violation of a EU imposed embargo.

Attack on Tankers in Gulf of Oman

Image reportedly showing smoke coming from one of the tankers said to have been attacked, May 13, 2019 © AFP PHOTO / HO / IRIB

You have probably heard about the recent attack on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The State Department has concluded that Iran is responsible.

We are not privy to all their sources, but the US has been fooled before. Military Times discusses why responsibility may not be clear. Just the fact that the price of oil went up 4% would mean that fore knowledge of the attack could have been worth a fortune in the futures market. Any number of people could be beneficiaries. Lots of folks would like to see the US take Iran down a notch or two. Even if Iranians did it, they might not have been acting on behalf of the central government. The cargoes were destined for Taiwan, could that mean the Chinese did it?

The Middle East is never short of intrigue. It is a place made for conspiracy theories.

Eaglespeak, who does think the Iranians are behind the attack, has a good summary of the situation including information on a recent fire that destroyed or damaged several ships in an Iranian port that I had not heard about before.

I would not be surprised to see units for the Coast Guard’s PATFORSWA keeping an eye on this area.