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

Are PATFORSWA WPBs Being Equipped With a Target Designation System?

Crewmembers aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Adak (WPB-1333) raise the American flag. Adak is assigned to CTF 55, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Frank Iannazzo-Simmons

NavyRecognition has some more details about the multi-unit exercise that prompted recent Iranian harassment of Navy and Coast Guard vessels, “U.S. Navy Surface Forces and Army Helicopters Conduct Live Fire Exercise in North Arabian Gulf.”

The ships involved in the event included Navy Expeditionary Landing Base ship USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3), coastal patrol ships USS Sirocco (PC 6), USS Whirlwind (PC 11), USS Firebolt (PC 10 ), USS Tempest (PC 2), Coast Guard patrol boats USCGC Adak (WPB 1333), USCGC Maui (WPB 1304), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332), and guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60).

In addition, there were Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters operating from USS Lewis B. Puller. What I found particularly interesting was:

On the ships involved without organic aircraft control capabilities, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) was embarked to communicate directly with the aircraft and provide targeting information.

Does this mean that the Island class WPBs are getting a form of data link to allow them to pass targeting information to the Army attack helicopters? Other DOD aircraft?

Will the Webber class WPCs expected to go to PATFORSWA going to get these?

“GeoSpectrum Launches Low Frequency Active VDS Deployable by USVs”

Geospectrum’s new, compact version of the Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar (TRAPS) suitable for Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs)

NavyNews reports that Canadian Company GeoSpectrum has developed a version of their “Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar” (TRAPS) that is scaled to fit vessels as small as 12 meter Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV).

We talked earlier about an earlier version of this system. If it fits on a 12 meter (39’4″) USV, then it should certainly be able to fit on anything WPB or larger. If we should ever have to go to war, this might be a capability we would want to protect our harbor approaches from submarines. We would probably also want to add an ASW torpedo launching capability.

It might be worth doing some experimentation to see how it works, and if desirable, draw up plans for adding this or a similar system for mobilization. First of course we should take a look at the results of Canada’s tests.

Might also be desirable to have something like this for the Webber class cutters going to PATFORSWA, since the Iranians have a large number of small conventionally powered submarines.

Maybe it could help us find semi-submersibles smuggling drugs as well. 

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.

Webber Class for the Navy?

The US Naval Institute News Service has a short post that discusses LCS funding, but there is also something there about the possibility of the Navy buying Webber class Fast Response Cutters as well.

“Meanwhile, the HASC approved a requirement for the Navy to study the prospect of buying a version of the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutter, submitted by Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.). chair of the tactical air and land forces subcommittee.

“The idea is for the Navy to consider basing these smaller patrol vessels in Bahrain where they would operate in the littoral waters of the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Coast Guard is already planning to base four fast response cutters in Bahrain, to replace the aging Island-class patrol boats the service currently has patrolling the Persian Gulf.”

Maritime Domain Awareness–Indian Style

Display of maritime traffic provided by AIS. Only vessels equipped with AIS are displayed, which excludes most fishing boats, pleasure craft, inland navigation and vessels less than 300 tons. Location: Dover Straits/English Channel. Author: fr:User:Pline

NavyRecognition provides some information on what India is doing to maintain Maritime Domain Awareness.

Since the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, they have made a strong effort to monitor marine traffic. An earlier discussion and links to related topics here.

“World’s Fastest OPV”

Ares 150, 48 meter OPV built for Qatar Coast Guard

Its fast, its composite construction, and its slightly longer, but lighter, than our Webber class.

MarineLink reports a cooperation between International design and engineering company BMT and the Turkish Ares shipyard (see link for more detail) resulted in an unusual vessel for the Qatar Coast Guard. (Sorry I am a little late in publishing this.)

“These boats break two important records – firstly, they have become the largest composite hull military ship to have ever been built in Turkey and secondly, with its speed of 37 nautical miles an hour (emphasis applied–Chuck), it is the world’s fastest offshore patrol vessel (OPV). It is exciting to also report that the outstanding performance of the first ARES 150 HERCULES has also led to an immediate order for a further three vessels.”

I don’t see either weapons or a boat.

Ares shipyard photo