Two USCG 110-foot cutters to patrol Black Sea, forever
Major General Zurab Gamezardashvili, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, and U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Sandra Stosz signed certificates for the transfer of two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters to the Georgian Coast Guard at the Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 30, 2016.
The vessels transferred ex-Jefferson Island (WPB-1340) and ex-Staten Island (WPB- 1345) are the first Island-class patrol cutters “transferred to an international partner.”
The Georgian flag was flown for the first time aboard the cutters immediately after transfer, which will be named Ochamchire and Dioskuria respectively.
Jefferson Island and Staten Island were both “C” model 110s, built by Bollinger in 1991, and assigned to South Portland, ME and Atlantic Beach, NC, respectively.
Replaced by more modern Sentinel-class fast-response cutters, the Coast Guard is rapidly letting their relatively new (for them) 110s go, pulling them from service and shipping them for a final ride to the CG Yard for disposal. Its not a bad replacement scheme, trading 49 110-foot patrol boats for 58 more capable 154-footers.
Background on the 110s
Part of a project initiated in 1982 as a DoD Augmentation Appropriation to phase out the pre-Vietnam era 95-foot Cape-class patrol cutters, the Islands were originally designed to carry a Mk 16 20mm manually operated cannon on the foredeck and two M60 7.62mm machine guns on the 01 deck.
First of the class, the “A” variant USCGC Farallon (WPB-1301) was delivered in 1986, followed by 16 sisters. “B” variant leader USCGC Baranof (WPB-1318) was delivered in 1988 followed by 19 sisters before the “C” series started with USCGC Grand Isle (WPB-1338) in 1991 with 11 sisters delivered by 1992.
In all, some 49 cutters to replace the 36 ancient Capes.
In the meantime, the ships have been steadily upgraded with new commo and nav gear, regular engine swaps, and a Mk.38 25mm gun tapping in for the obsolete Mk 16 and M2 .50 cals taking the place of the M60s. Every three years they get a 15-week or so spate in dry dock.
Eight (mostly A series boats) that were stretched to 123-foot vessels in a fiasco that left them riddled with hull cracks have been pulled from service and laid up for disposal (likely via reefing) at the CG Yard since 2006. They are USCGC Matagorda (WPB-1303), USCGC Manitou (WPB-1302), USCGC Monhegan (WPB-1305), USCGC Nunivak (WPB-1306), USCGC Vashon (WPB-1308), USCGC Attu (WPB-1317), USCGC Metompkin (WPB-1325), and USCGC Padre (WPB-1328).
Then there were 41, though the Coast Guard only lists 27 in service, and some of those have been overseas for more than a decade. Seven are cooling their heels in Alaska where they sometimes have to take on ghost ships. Two are in Guam. One in Hawaii.
Since 2002 the Coast Guard has forward deployed six of their 110s to Manama, Bahrain to serve in the Persian Gulf littoral. After all these vessels 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.
Of the other disposals, Costa Rica is supposed to pick up two of the class next year.
Some Island-class cutters are apparently up for sale through private brokers as well.
A recently refitted 1991 vintage C-model vessel (which could be 1338, 1339, 1341, 1342, or 1343) is up for sale– price on request– here with “All gun mounts remain intact and fully operational, can be sold fully armed to qualified buyers that do not have sanctions of UN, USA or other regulatory Government or agencies. Owner has full authority and can provision the ship according to buyer interest.”
Island-class vessels moved on to the civilian market may be rather spartan. According to the USCG, their Cutter Transition Division has removed parts worth approximately $1.2 million per 110-foot patrol boat, and reintroduced them into Coast Guard and Navy supply chains for use on ships that are still operational.
USCGC Block Island (WPB-1344) and the USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), two late model C-variants, now renamed the MY Jules Verne and the MY Farley Mowat, were purchased in Baltimore last year and are used by Sea Shepard, flying a black flag.
You can bet the 40 or so 110s that make it out in to the wild still have a few decades of use left in them.