Coasties give the Iranians something to ponder

It was reported earlier this week that a small boat crew from the 110-foot Island class patrol boat USCGC Monomoy (WPB-1326) gave the Iranian Navy/Revolutionary Guard a proverbial bloody nose.

It seems while attempting to perform a boarding, the crew of an Iranian dhow trained a .50 caliber (likely .51-caliber combloc Dshk or similar) heavy machine gun on said small boat and charged the weapon. This led to the crew firing a warning shot in the general direction of the dhow, who broke contact.

No casualties are known on the Iranian side while the cutter recovered their away boat without further incident.

Persian Gulf (April 27, 2005) – Coast Guardsmen aboard U.S Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy (WPB 1326) wave good-bye to the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 74) after the first underway fuel replenishment (UNREP) between a U.S. Navy cruiser and a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. Antietam completed fuel replenishment with the Monomoy in about two hours and saved the 110-foot patrol boat a four-hour trip to the nearest refueling station. Antietam and Monomoy are conducting maritime security operations (MSO) in the Persian Gulf as part of Commander, Task Force Five Eight CTF-58). U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Joseph Ebalo (RELEASED)
Why is the Coast Guard in the Gulf?

The Navy likes to use the Coast Guard’s small patrol boats (110s/87s) in confined littoral areas as the coasties have them while the Navy simply doesn’t.

After all, why risk a $1 billion destroyer with a 300-man crew when the USCG has a $8 million patrol boat with a 22-man crew that can get in closer and already has hundreds of (often high-risk) boardings under their belt before they rotate into the Gulf.

Plus (and this is just my humble opinion) it would look worse if the Iranians shoot up a white hulled coastie than a haze gray warship. I mean these are lifesavers here.

They did the same thing in Vietnam when some 26 82-foot Point class cutters served as an assembled Patrol Squadron off the South Vietnamese coast from 1965 to 1970.

Since 2002 the Coast Guard has forward deployed six of their 110-foot Island Class patrol boats (WPB) to Manama, Bahrain to serve in the Persian Gulf littoral. After all these boast can stay at sea for a week at a time, have a cutter boat, a decent surface search radar, can make 29-knots, and float in just 7 feet of seawater– which the Big Blue has a hard time pulling off. This force formalized in 2004 as Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) and is very active, typically having 3-4 patrol boats underway in the Gulf at any given time looking for pirates, smugglers, terrorists out to pull off another USS Cole-style attack, and, well, the Iranians.

Whereas normally Island class cutters deploy stateside with a 16 man (2 officer/14 enlisted) crew, those that are part of PATFORSWA typically run with a 22 person complement (3 officers/19 enlisted) as they conduct more high-risk boardings and have an increased ship’s battery. The stateside armament suite of a 110 is a 25mm Mk38 chain-gun (which is usually covered) and two single M2 .50-cal BMGs (which often are locked up below in the armory) plus a thin smattering of small arms.

110-WPB
USCGC Knight Island (WPB-1348), a stateside based 110 operating out of Key West. Note the wrapped 25mm, no visible machine guns, showroom spotless.

Those cutters in the Gulf still use the 25mm (very much uncovered and loaded, ready to go) and up to five mounts for Mk19 Grenade launchers and *twin* M2’s for quite a bit more punch against boghammars and armed dhows if needed. Likewise there are more M16s, Remmy 870s, hard plate body armor and Sig P229Rs on these forward deployed ships that one that is poking around the Outer Banks.

Monomoy in the PG, looking a bit more, hard-ridden and heavily armed.

Monomoy in the PG, looking a bit more hard-ridden and heavily armed.

Nevertheless, they still keep the same traditional white hull and red racing stripe, but with the welcome addition of a deck canopy to keep that Persian Gulf sun at bay and the non-skid from heating up to waffle-iron temperatures.

In an odd twist of fate, it was the Monomoy who rescued six Iranian sailors in the Gulf in 2012 when their dhow sank at sea.

You just can’t win.

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