New FRCs are already giving hard service and proving useful

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joesph Tazanos, a fast response cutter, escorts the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) into San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Joesph Tazanos, a fast response cutter, escorts the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) into San Juan, Puerto Rico, Oct. 3, 2017. The ship is providing escort and security for the Comfort’s relief misson post-Hurricane Maria. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning

The big 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, built to replace the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats of the 1980s and 90s, (which in turn replaced the 1950s era 95-foot Cape-class cutters, et.al) are fast becoming a backbone asset for the Coast Guard. Designed for five-day patrols, these 28-knot vessels have a stern boat ramp like the smaller 87-foot WPBs but carry a stabilized 25mm Mk38 and four M2s as well as much more ISR equipment. The first entered service in 2012, just five years ago.

In a hat tip to the fact they are so much more capable, the USCG uses the WPC hull designation, used last by the old “buck and a quarter” 125-foot cutters of the Prohibition-era with these craft, rather than the WPB patrol boat designation of the ships they are replacing.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry staging out of San Diego headed to Oahu, 2,600-nm West on a solo trip. Not bad for a yacht-sized patrol boat

You can bet these cutters are being looked at for littoral work such as in the Persian Gulf where the Navy has a whole squadron of 170-foot Cyclone-class (PCs) that are showing their age. However, they are already proving themselves domestically.

With over 24 of the planned-on 58 of these vessels in service and hulls 25-44 in building stages, they have been very useful in the Coast Guard’s recent response to Hurricane Irma and Maria, with the latter in particular.

The smallest service has deployed 13 vessels in what they term a “Surface Asset Group” (like the Navy’s surface action group concept, only with cutters), and many of those 13 are FRCs.

With a draft of just over 9-feet, they can get to a lot of places that small tin-can style vessels cannot (FFG-7s draw over 22 while the LCS, depending on type and load, run 13-15). This has enabled them to appear in places where the larger craft would be off-limits.

USCGC Joseph Napier (WPC-1115), homeported in San Juan and commissioned last year, has been poking around small harbors in the USVI dropping off water and diesel fuel. Another FRC of 2016-vintage based in San Juan, USCGC Donald Horsley (WPC-1117), brought 750 liters of bottled water and 1,440 meals to Vieques. Yet another year-old San Juan-based 154-footer, USCGC Winslow W. Griesser (WPC-1116), brought Department of Homeland Security special agents and disaster relief supplies to St. Croix as well as critical prescription medication. Meanwhile, USCGC Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118), as shown in the first image in this post, is providing escort and security for the 70,000-ton Mercy-class hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), operating out of San Juan.

In another sign of the type’s flexibility, USCCGC Oliver Berry (WPC-1124) last week completed a 7,300-mile self-deployment from her builder’s in New Orleans to Key West where she did shake up work, to Pearl Harbor where she is the first WPC stationed there. Her last leg, from San Diego to Oahu was over 2,600 miles with no pit stops, a trip that showed the craft is capable of extended missions. Further, the class has deployed to the coast of South America in joint Operations Tradewinds exercises for the past two years.

It should be pointed out that typically patrol craft of that size are transported as deck cargo or on a heavy lift vessel for forward deployments.  This could prove useful in transfers to the Persian Gulf.

Current contracts for FRCs are running at about $48 million per completed vessel, plus Navy-supplied ordnance, and it looks like a good investment.

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About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

2 responses to “New FRCs are already giving hard service and proving useful”

  1. Fergus says :

    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsVery good article. What are the radar and sonar assets like on these vessels? What is the endurance/range on these ships?

    • laststandonzombieisland says :

      Besides MILSATCOM and COMSATCOM data and voice, the C4ISR is listed as ” SeaWatch: Integrated charting, Automatic Identification System, radar, common shared tactical display, and enhanced electro­optical/infrared search system. A Classified local area network with Secret Internet Protocol Routing chat messaging. Integrated external and internal voice communications suite with full 256 kbps underway 24/7 connectivity”

      SeaWatch is built around the AN/SPS-73(V) which is an X-Band 2-D surface search/navigation radar system whose 25kW Funduro 2120 antenna is billed at 120nm range in commercial applications. (More in SPS-73 here http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=2100&tid=1287&ct=2 ) .

      This compares nicely to the 110s which have a standalone surface search radar (AN/SPS-64V, though some have the 73) and FLIR but have “No Secret Internet Protocol Routing Network capability, Limited, short-term 128K bps underway connectivity”

      As far as sonars, Coast Guard has been out of the sonar game since ditching ASW in 1993, with ETs doing maintenance and repairs on the salvage and port security sets they have on larger cutters and buoy tenders.

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