National Defense Magazine has published an article about the Navy’s Coastal Patrol Craft, primarily focusing on those based in Bahrain, but also discussing how those in the US might be used. The Coast Guard’s Patrol Boats in the Gulf are also mentioned.
Perhaps the most interesting item in the article was that two of the PCs are now equipped with unmanned aerial systems (UAS). If it fits on the Cyclone class it will almost certainly fit on the Webber class WPCs.
Because the Navy no longer rotates crews between the US and the Persian Gulf the three Navy PCs still based in the US have been moved to Jacksonville and may be made available to support CG drug enforcement missions.
They talk about the addition of Griffin missile system to the Cyclone class which we have discussed previously.
For me the topic inevitably raises some questions. Both the Navy’s Cyclone class and the CG 110s at Bahrain will need to be replaced at some point.
The Navy has done extensive service life extensions on the Cyclone class in hopes of giving them a 30 year service life. All of these boats except one entered service between 1993 and January 1996. Meaning they have to start funding their replacements in approximately FY2019. The LCS were officially their replacements, but reading the article, it is apparent the LCS can’t do many of the things the Cyclone class are currently doing simply because they are too big. Might the Navy be interested in their own version of the Webber class?
All the 110s will be 30 years old by 2022. The earliest the 58 planned Webber class could be finished would be 2022 assuming building six per year, but it is much more likely to be 2026 or later.
It would probably be in the Coast Guard’s interest for the Navy to also build Webber class PBs. Probably the only way that could happen is if they saw it in operation in the Persian Gulf. Replacing the six WPBs in Bahrain with Webber class by the end 2017 would give the ships a chance to demonstrate their capabilities.
Webber class WPCs assigned to the 5th Fleet should be upgraded in ways similar to the changes made to the Cyclone class, including the addition of Griffin missiles. It would be an opportunity to see if the Webbers could fulfill the missions of the Cyclone class. It would also be an opportunity to see how the other Webbers might be upgraded.
We have had some discussion recently about how lessons of expeditionary deployment of patrol craft are lost and must be relearned. I’m opening this post in hopes it will be a temporary repository for discussion of what went well and what needed improvement. There are a number of possible topics that come to mind.
Rules of Engagement
For starters I will quote Craig Allen Jr.’s comments on an earlier post:
“…the Coast Guard not capturing it’s lessons-learned from Vietnam–I agree! There is very little to document that extraordinary expeditionary USCG operation. I fear the same hard-won knowledge from 12+ years of USCG OCO mission in the AG will also fade into obscurity unless there is an effort made to preserve it. The skillsets for MIP/MIO/SFA and operating in semi-permissive environments should not have to be reinvented every time they’re required.
“There are some organizational obstacles to internalizing the PATFORSWA lessons-learned though. One is that the mission is tied to OCO funding, which the USCG does not know whether it will get or not. (Every year the rumor is that the new P4 crew will be the ones to turn out the lights and lock up when the mission stands down.) Investing the effort/$ into making long-term organizational improvements in training, equipment, tactics, etc. when the future of the mission is so uncertain can be a tough sell. Second obstacle is the one-year tour length. Makes it difficult to gain the experience/knowledge required to internalize lessons-learned. By the time a P4 team adjusts to the battle rhythm and can start to see where improvements can be made, its already time to start preparing for handoff to their reliefs. Does the CG have 12 years of recent OCO experience or 1 year of experience repeated 12 times?
“Right now there are a few hundred PATFORSWA vets with recent first-hand knowledge of an important niche mission for the CG (and some at LANTAREA who have managed the program and know how its evolved over time.) So… are there lessons worth capturing to better prepare the CG to fulfill similar missions in the future? Have they been adequately discussed and recorded? If not, how do we ensure that they are?
“One hopes that, ten years from now, we’re not trying to figure out how to do these kinds of missions all over again. My suggestion that the USCG and USN establish an expeditionary PC training facility was one idea for how we might keep the skills sharp in anticipation of their likely demand in the future.”