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

Navy Ships to Return to the Drug War

USS Freedom (LCS-1)

The US Naval Institute reports, “SECNAV Memo: Navy Won’t Reactivate Perry Frigates for SOUTHCOM Mission; Will Send Ships to Fight Drug War in 2018.”

The Navy has not been providing ships in support of the SouthCom drug interdiction mission since the last USN Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate was decommissioned in 2015, but it looks like the Navy will return to the mission.

SecNav has directed the Navy provide four ship years in the form of either LCS or Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports (T-EPF)(formerly called the Joint High Speed Vessel).. In addition, they will be bringing with them an unmanned air system, probably Scan Eagle.

They will certainly need Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments aboard, but the mention of Scan Eagle makes me wonder about the aviation support planned. No mention of helicopter or the larger MQ-8 UAS. Are they going to want a Coast Guard Airborne Use of Force helicopter detachment?

The Military Sealift Command joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) (Now T-EPF-1)conducted high-speed trials, reaching speeds of approximately 40 knots off the coast of Virginia. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Phil Beaufort/Released) 130820-N-ZO696-135