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Loaded for bear, or asymmetric warfare, either way

Nice loadout on this Zulu Cobra for littoral warfare in The Strait: M197 3-barreled 20mm gun (with 750 rounds likely loaded), a four-pack of Hellfire missiles for big boats, a seven-cell LAU-68C/A APKWS rocket pod for small boats, a drop tank for extra loiter, and a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders for the possible random IRIAF F-5 or F-4 that wants to get muscular.

Also, note the Marine LAV-25 on the lookout. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck/Released)

Official caption: “STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 12, 2019) An AH-1Z Viper helicopter attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) takes off during a strait transit aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the Western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.”

 

Splash one drone in the SOH

Back in my slimmer days, I used to crawl around at Ingalls in Pascagoula as part of the long-running effort to put flesh against steel to produce warships. One of the hulls that I worked on during that period was USS Boxer, to include getting underway on her during builder’s trials. With that being said, LHD-4 carved herself an interesting footnote in the annals of modern asymmetric warfare last week.

The Pentagon reported Friday that she splashed an unidentified Iranian drone (labeled by multiple analysts as a Mohajer-4B Sadegh) in the Strait of Hormuz that came inside the ship’s defense bubble while a WSJ writer onboard reported an Iranian helicopter and small craft came almost as close. 

The ship, with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked, has had Marines positioned topside with their light vehicles arrayed on her flight deck so they could bear crew-served weapons on low-key targets if needed. It was apparently one of the lightest of these, a Polaris MRZR 4×4, that was used to pop the drone.

A what?

The little brown thing on Boxer’s deck in the below image.

190718-M-EC058-1558 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (July 18, 2019) A UH-1Y Venom helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a strait transit. The Boxer Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th MEU are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton Swanbeck/Released)

Outfitted with a Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS) system, the go-cart-sized vehicle killed the Iranian UAV via aggressive freq interference.

An LMADIS operated by the 22nd MEU on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in May. The system was developed specifically to combat the weaponized commercial drone development. It is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, optics to track and monitor targets at extensive ranges, and capabilities to physically disable a UAS on approach.

1st Lt. Taylor Barefoot, a low altitude air defense officer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163 (Reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, programs a counter-unmanned aircraft system on a Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System (LMADIS) during a pre-deployment training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 13, 2018. The LMADIS is a maneuverable, ground-based system, mounted to a Polaris MRZR that can detect, identify and defeat drones with an electronic attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

Of course, the Iranians, in their best Baghdad Bob Act, said they recovered their drone safe and sound and they have the video to prove it. 

The same day, CENTCOM announced the start of Operation Sentinel:

U.S. Central Command is developing a multinational maritime effort, Operation Sentinel, to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East to ensure freedom of navigation in light of recent events in the Arabian Gulf region.

The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage, and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman.

This maritime security framework will enable nations to provide escort to their flagged vessels while taking advantage of the cooperation of participating nations for coordination and enhanced maritime domain awareness and surveillance.

Meanwhile, off Venezuela

Maduro can’t afford much, but he can still flex some Flankers from time to time apparently.

U.S. Southern Command released a series of short (20 sec) videos of a Venezuelan SU-30 Flanker as it “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. Navy EP-3 Aries II reportedly at an unsafe distance in international airspace over the Caribbean Sea July 19, jeopardizing the crew and aircraft.

“The EP-3 aircraft, flying a mission in approved international airspace, was approached in an unprofessional manner by the SU-30 that took off from an airfield 200 miles east of Caracas.”

And the beat goes on…

Limpet mine update: ‘With high confidence’

U.S. Navy CDR Sean Kido, head of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit One One (EODMU 11) explains the attack on the Panama-flagged chemical/oil tanker Kokuka Courageous (19,349t) and the Norwegian-owned (International Tanker Management) Marshal Islands-flagged oil tanker Front Altair, allegedly by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, in the Gulf of Oman on June 13th, 2019:

Mr. Limpet makes his daytime appearance in the Gulf of Oman

Not this guy who everybody loved:

This guy:

(Or approximate)

The attack in International waters hit the Panama-flagged chemical/oil tanker Kokuka Courageous (19,349t), owned by Singapore-based Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) and carrying a load of methanol; along with the Norwegian-owned (International Tanker Management) Marshal Islands-flagged oil tanker Front Altair (62,849t) with a load of crude, early on June 13. Both were carrying what Japan’s Trade Ministry says were “Japan-related” cargo.

The attacks occurred off the Emirati port of Fujairah, also on the Gulf of Oman, approaching the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea passes.

Kokuka Courageous Front Altair

“The timing was considered sensitive as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting Iran on a high-stakes diplomacy mission.”

5th Fleet’s release on the matter through CENTCOM:

TAMPA (NNS) — U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6:12 a.m. local time from the motor tanker (M/T) Altair and a second one at 7a.m. local time from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls. USS Bainbridge was approximately 40 nautical miles away from the M/T Altair at the time of the attack and immediately began closing the distance.

At 8:09 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair.

At 9:12 a.m. local time a U.S. aircraft observes the FAC/FIAC pull a raft from the M/T Altair from the water.

At 9:26 a.m. local time the Iranians requested that the motor vessel Hyundai Dubai, which had rescued the sailors from the M/T Altair, to turn the crew over to the Iranian FIACs. The motor vessel Hyundai Dubai complied with the request and transferred the crew of the M/T Altair to the Iranian FIACs.

At 11:05 a.m. local time USS Bainbridge approaches the Dutch tug Coastal Ace, which had rescued the crew of twenty-one sailors from the M/T Kokuka Courageous who had abandoned their ship after discovering a probable unexploded limpet mine on their hull following an initial explosion.

190613-N-N0101-115 GULF OF OMAN (June 13, 2019) In this Powerpoint slide provided by U.S. Central Command damage from an explosion, left, and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), not pictured, approaches the damaged ship. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

190613-N-N0101-116 GULF OF OMAN (June 13, 2019) In this Powerpoint slide provided by U.S. Central Command damage from an explosion, left, and a likely limpet mine can be seen on the hull of the civilian vessel M/V Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman, June 13, 2019, as the guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), not pictured, approaches the damaged ship. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

While the Hendijan patrol boat appeared to attempt to get to the tug Coastal Ace before USS Bainbridge, the mariners were rescued by USS Bainbridge at the request of the master of the M/T Kokuka Courageous. The rescued sailors are currently aboard USS Bainbridge.

190613-N-SS350-0135 GULF OF OMAN (June 13, 2019) Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) render aid to the crew of the M/V Kokuka Courageous. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Waite/Released)

At 4:10 p.m. local time an IRGC Gashti Class patrol boat approached the M/T Kokuka Courageous and was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.

The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests. Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.

The U.S. and the international community, stand ready to defend our interests, including the freedom of navigation.

The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.

The attack comes a month to the day after what is described as “Coordinated teams of divers using limpet mines incapacitated the vessels in a series of timed detonations” to damage four tankers from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway off the Emirati coast.

The underwater damage to the Saudi Arabian tanker Al Marzoqah May 12

Saudi Arabian tanker Amjad was one of those attacked in the Port of Fujairah May 12

And the beat goes on…

Google Operation Praying Mantis to see how this is going to end up.

Coming at your from 1988:

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 (ish) time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places.- Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs

NHHC KN-2708

Here we see a P-2H Neptune of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 as it flies over the Tang-class submarine USS Trout (SS-566), near Charleston, S.C., May 7, 1961. While Trout‘s lines look fine for her era, don’t let them fool you, as she is not one of Rickover’s sleek nukes but is rather a 1940s-designed smoke boat– and one with an interesting story.

By late 1945, the U.S. Navy got the bad news that the Germans had been way ahead of them in terms of diesel-electric submarines. The innovations out of Hamburg and Kiel such as in hull/tower design, battery trunks, torpedo propulsion and the use of a snorkel by Hitler’s late-war “Elektroboot” Type XXI-class U-boats directly led to the American Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) that made similar modifications on the USN’s vast flotillas of WWII-produced Gato, Balao, and Tench-class diesel boats. This was in large part due to both captured plans and reverse-engineering a pair of trophy Type XXIs, U-2513, and U-3008, through 1949.

Ex-German submarine U-3008 underway at sea on 15 April 1948 in USN service, note the similarity to the Trout. National Archives 80-G-442933

As a result, the old fleet boats came to an end when the Tench-class submarine USS Grenadier (SS-525) was commissioned in Feb. 1951. A slew of sisters (SS-526 through SS-549) were canceled. Then came several experimental subs to include the smallish three-ship Barracuda-class “hunter-killer” SSKs optimized for ASW, and the one-off research submarines USS Dolphin (AGSS-555), Albacore (AGSS-569) and Mackerel (AGSS-570).

During this period, came the six-ship Tang-class laid down in 1949/50 at Electric Boat and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that were “GUPPY” from the keel up rather than modified. A nominal seventh vessel of the class, USS Darter (SS-576), was built to an improved design and is largely considered a single-ship class.

The six-pack was all named for famous and very successful WWII submarines– Tang, Trigger, Wahoo, Trout, Gudgeon and Harder— and were all completed by November 1952 as the first practical Cold War-era U.S. Navy sub design. Some 292-feet long and 2,700-tons submerged, they were a tad shorter than the big fleet boats that brought Japanese shipping to its end (Tenches went 311-feet) but were much faster (17.4-knots vs 8.75 knots, submerged) and could dive deeper (700 feet test depth rather than 400 feet). In short, they were the equivalent of diesel Fast Attack boats.

Interestingly, the design included both front and rear torpedo tubes, an old-school WWII call-back, although the arrangement was more 1950s. Besides the half-dozen primary 21-inch tubes forward, the class had a pair of 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for the then-planned Mk 37 ASW torpedo as well as the capability to carry eight MK-49/57 mines.

Note the stubby tubes. Designed in 1946, the downright cute 1,400 Mk37 acoustic torpedo entered service in 1955 and became the primary ASW torp of the Navy for a large part of the Cold War. It’s 330-pound warhead and contact exploder was deemed enough to crack a pressure hull.

How about that six berth/two torp storage

Our direct subject, USS Trout was laid down on 1 Dec. 1949 at EB and at her launch she was sponsored by the widow of LCDR Albert H. Clark, the last commanding officer of the first USS Trout (SS-202), who was lost on the boat’s 11th war patrol in 1944 along with 80 other souls.

Commissioned 27 June 1952, the new Trout was assigned to SubRon 10 out of New London for the rest of the decade and was hard at work in ASW exercises and NATO support.

Notably, in March 1959, DANFS says “During submerged exercises in polar waters in company with [sister ship] Harder (SS-568), Trout sailed 268 miles beneath Newfoundland ice floes, setting a distance record for conventionally powered submarines.”

Her skipper in 1960 was LCDR William James Crowe Jr. (USNA 1947). Notably, Crowe went on to become a full admiral, was CINCPAC, CinCAFSOUTH, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was aboard during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Trout was front-and-center.

As noted by a reunion group for her crews, the 1960s saw her deploy to the Med three times and was utilized in a variety of OPFOR events as a simulated enemy sub– the Soviets also used the Type XXI design as a basis for their huge 200-unit Project 613 (NATO Whiskey-class) vessels. Trout’s group’s history says for example:

-She assisted the surface Anti-Submarine Forces by simulating an unfriendly unit penetrating U.S. waters.

-She also assumed the role of enemy while hindering major fleet amphibious exercises.

-During the latter part of 1965 TROUT participated in a mine laying exercise with several other submarines that Were Opposed by “enemy” aircraft and surface ships. This was followed by an exercise that required TROUT to make an undetected submerged transit through waters controlled by “enemy” ships, planes and submarines.

USS Trout (SS-566) at Genoa Italy, 31 December 1967. She completed three Med deployments including during the Six Day War.

In July 1970, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam-era, which yielded two Westpac deployments, in 1972 and 1975, “primarily providing submarine services during ASW exercises conducted by warships of the United States, South Korean, or Nationalist Chinese navies.”

West Coast – SubRon 3 (San Diego) from 1970 to 1976. Via Art’s Trout page

A successful boat that earned a number of Battle “E”‘s, by 1978 she was pushing 25-years of age and, like the rest of her class, was eclipsed by the Navy’s obsession with sexy SSNs such as the new Los Angeles-class vessels then on the ways. Sisters USS Trigger (SS-564) and USS Harder (SS-568) had already been removed from the fleet in 1973-74, sent to become the Italian Navy’s Livio Piomarta and Romeo Romei, respectively.

Transferred to Philadelphia, Trout decommissioned and struck from the Navy list on 19 December 1978. Like Trigger and Harder, she was intended for foreign transfer. But first, let’s talk about the Shah.

The Iran connection

With the British Royal Navy withdrawing from the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s, Shah Pahlavi, flush with OPEC cash, decided to step up and build the Great Imperial Iranian Navy.

Within the decade, the IIN acquired two U.S. Sumner-class and one British Battle-class destroyers, four British Vosper-class missile corvettes, 12 French La Combattante-class patrol boats, a dozen cutting-edge British hovercrafts, and a fleet of helicopters, ballooning in strength from 6,000 to 28,000 personnel with the help of American and European companies and experts. Then came the big steps: ordering four Spruance-class destroyers (completed as the Kidd-class DDGs) from Litton-Ingalls, and three surplus Tang-class diesel submarines while negotiating with France and Germany for additional frigates and Type 209 subs, respectively.

As part of this, Tang was to be acquired and renamed IIS Dolfin (SS-100), Trout would be Kousseh “Shark” (SS-101) and Wahoo would become Nahang “Whale” (SS-102). As they could submerge over their masts in anything deeper than 60 feet of seawater, they made sense in the shallow Gulf.

In the summer of 1978, the trio began an extended $75 million Tehran-funded overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard which replaced their engines, batteries, communication gear and firing control systems to essentially roll back the odometer to create “new to you” boats.

Trout/Kousseh was the first sold and turned over to the IIN on 19 December 1978, and the yard was in the process of switching over the data plates and plaques to Farsi when her new Iranian crew, with U.S. ship riders, took her out on the Delaware River for a turnaround. To commemorate the new bubbleheads, the yard even produced a version of the U.S. Navy’s submarine Dolphin badge, modified with a Persian crown, for the Iranians.

Then came the Iranian Revolution and the Shah fled to Egypt on 16 January 1979– less than a month after Trout was turned over. The submarine, at New London with a skeleton crew-in-training who wasn’t feeling it, as a result, became a de facto unit of the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She was subsequently abandoned by her legacy Iranian crew in March 1979 and towed back to PSNY.

Embargoed from final transfer to Tehran by the Carter administration, Trout/Kousseh was put back in the custody of the yard and sealed for the next 13 years as the Iranians fought it out with Washington to get the ship they paid for along with other Shah-era arms such as Hawk missiles, Cobra gunships, and F-14 Tomcats. She was regularly inspected, her interior spaces dehumidified, and her hull electrified to retard rust and crust. Even then, she had something of a museum-like quality to her.

SS-556 at PSNY. Via Art’s USS Trout Page http://www.wadehamptoncamp.org/trout-566-pic.html

Meanwhile, Tang was transferred to Turkey as TCG Pirireis (S 343) and Wahoo was cannibalized for parts and sold for scrap in 1984. The last of the class in U.S. service other than Trout, USS Gudgeon (SS-567), was sold to the Turks as TCG Hızırreis (S 342) in 1987.

Finally, in 1992, the near-pristine although 40-year-old Trout was returned to U.S. Navy custody in 1992 for her value in scrap (reportedly $20,000) and two years later was transferred for use an experimental hull and acoustic target sub at NAWCAD Key West. In short, to give Big Blue’s P-3s and SH-60s something more SSK-like to test against.

Trout in Key West via Subsailorscom

By that time, Trout was at the end of the line when it came to smoke boats for the Pentagon as the country’s last diesel boats to be built, the three subs of the teardrop-hulled Barbel-class, had all been decommissioned by 1990. Even the “improved Tang” ex-USS Darter was sunk as a target in 1992 off Hawaii. Only the unarmed deep-diving USS Dolphin (AGSS-555) research boat was still in the fleet, and in 1993 was in a life extension program to keep her poking around off San Diego for another decade.

Without a crew, Trout was to spend a solid seven years in the Keys, helping test and vet the next generation of sonar and weapons under the final control of NAVAIR, Marine, and Targets Detachment. However, by 2001, it was decided to put the ghost boat out to pasture and she was sent back to Philadelphia mothballs. A last-ditch effort to save her for a museum was undertaken.

In mothballs– still looking pretty good for a 50-year-old smoker. Via Art’s USS Trout Page http://www.wadehamptoncamp.org/trout-566-pic.html

Subvet Michael Wheeler made an appeal in 2003 to take advantage of the opportunity to save Trout, which was apparently still in excellent material shape at the end of her career, no doubt due to the fact she had been reconditioned for the Iranians but never sailed a mile under her own power since then:

I ask that all submariners that can help save this boat from becoming razor blades or the next SINKEX, please step up to the plate. This boat is a virtual time capsule, with the majority of her systems not only intact but operational. Even her batteries are brand-new (without electrolyte)! Imagine what a magnificent display she’d make for some lucky foundation! I’ve been fortunate to have worked aboard several different memorial submarines and visited several others, but I have not as yet seen or worked aboard a memorial boat that approaches the current condition of the Trout. Hell, if they’d let me, I’d take her out and bottom her in 300 feet of water and I assure you that she’d pop right back to the surface when the MBT’s were blown.

Sadly, it was not to be. The Navy eventually tired of Trout altogether and in May 2008 she was towed to ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas, where she was cut up for scrap over the course of the next 10 months.

Recycling of Trout (SS-566) at ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas. Scrapping was completed 27 February 2009. Via Navsource

As a legacy, she is remembered in several pages and groups and will live on in a certain sense with fans of King of the Hill for eternity. Korean War-era Navy vet Gary Kasner, Hank Hill’s father-in-law, is shown in Season 2, Episode 11 (The Unbearable Blindness of Laying) with a USS Trout II tattoo.

Of her sisters, the two boats sent to the Turks, TCG Pirireis (ex-Tang) and TCG Hizirreis (ex-Gudgeon), are preserved as museum ships in that country. Harder and Trigger, sent to Italy, were scrapped in 1988. Notably, several racked up battlestars for Vietnam service.

Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, a frustrated Iran went on to buy three Kilo-class submarines from cash-strapped Russia in the early 1990s: IRIS Tareq (S103), IRIS Nooh (S104), and IRIS Yunes (S105). If you notice, they still recognized the hull/pennant numbers of the three Tangs (S100 – 102) which never made it to the Gulf.

In addition to the Kilos, Iran has purchased an unknown quantity of NorK-made MS-29 Yono-class midget submarines then proceeded to put a Persian Gulf midget into serial production locally as the IS-120 Ghadir-class (with at least 23 in service) and the country is rolling their own indigenous Fateh-class submarines, which aim to be a full-sized boat, though still smaller than their aging Russian Kilos.

Specs:


Displacement, surfaced: 2,100 t., Submerged: 2,700 t.
Length 292′-8 1/4″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 18′, snort depth 50ft.
Height: Top of snorkel/antennas (lowered) from the bottom of the keel, 44 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric, Fairbanks-Morse Type 3 diesel engines, HP 4500, two electric motors, HP 5600, 2 shafts/propellers
Speed surfaced 20 kts, Submerged 18 kts
Complement 8 Officers 75 Enlisted (Accommodations as designed 10 officers, 8 CPO, 70 crew = 88men)
Sonar (as designed): AN/BQG-4 PUFFS system (3 “sharkfin” domes topside, 18 arrays), BHQ-2E, BQA-8A
Armament:
Six 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
Two 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for Mk 37 torpedoes
Eight MK-49/57 mines

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Warship Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017: The Queen of the Little White Fleet

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017: The Queen of the Little White Fleet

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97629

Here we see the Barnegat-class seaplane tender, converted to a floating command ship, USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38), illuminated at night during a two-day visit to Basra, Iraq, as Middle East Force flagship in December 1960. You start life wanting to refuel PBYs and end up bobbing around the Persian Gulf for years…

The 41 Barnegats were 2,500-ton, 311-foot long armed auxiliaries capable of floating in 12 feet of water. They had room for not only seaplane stores but also 150 aviators and aircrew. Their diesel suite wasn’t fast, but they could travel 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots. Originally designed for two 5-inch/38-caliber guns, this could be doubled if needed (and often was) which complemented a decent AAA armament helped by radar and even depth charges and sonar for busting subs.

All pretty sweet for an auxiliary.

The subject of our story, USS Duxbury Bay, is named for a popular 3-mile long bay on the coast of Massachusetts between Duxbury Beach on the east, Saquish Neck on the southeast, and the mainland on the west. The bay is also home to a maritime school that currently cycles through some 2,000 young mariners per year, so there’s that.

Laid down at the Lake Washington Shipyards, in Houghton, Washington, she was a fine craft easily mistaken for a destroyer escort or patrol frigate, as exhibited by these pre-commissioning builder’s photos:

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) Photographed off the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, on 28 December 1944. Her camouflage is Measure 33 Design 1F. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-82815

19-N-82816

19-N-82817

Commissioned on New Year’s Eve, 1944, she sailed for the war in the Pacific, arriving to support the 3rd Fleet at Kerama Retto off Okinawa, 26 April 1945 and fought in the campaign for that island through June, tending both seaplanes and small craft/PT-boats when needed while dodging kamikazes.

In July, Duxbury Bay shifted to Japanese home waters before ending the war off China. She served on occupation duty in the Far East through 13 July 1948, with two short breaks stateside, supporting patrol squadrons at Okinawa and Yokosuka, Japan; Jinsen, Korea; Shanghai and Tsingtao, China; before the victory of the Communists under Mao brought a general evacuation from the latter area.

In all, Duxbury earned two battle stars for World War II service and suffered no damage, the latter an accomplishment for any ship.

Starting 17 March 1949, she left Long Beach, California on a five-month circumnavigation sailing through the Pacific and Med to Norfolk, where she arrived in time for the Independence Day holiday.

While on this trip, she tagged in as the flagship of Task Force 126, the small body of U.S. warships and auxiliaries in the Middle East, primarily in the Persian Gulf.

During WWII, the so-called “Persian Corridor” was a vital route through Iran into Soviet Azerbaijan that the Allies used to pump over 4 million tons of Lend-Lease supplies through to the East Front– and turn Tehran away from Axis influence. While the Persian Gulf Command sunsetted in late 1945, TF 126 kept the lights on for the Navy in the increasingly important part of the globe.

Duxbury Bay would see much more of the region.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed during the decade following World War II in haze gray. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 97626

Beginning in 1950, the Navy disestablished TF 126 and replaced it with the Middle East Force, which would be made up of two rotating destroyers and a dedicated flagship, which would also rotate. The three command ships for the MEF were all converted Barnegat-class ships: USS Valcour (AVP-55), USS Greenwich Bay (AVP-41) and our very own Duxbury— the oldest of the lot and the only one of the trio that had seen overseas WWII service.

Among the conversions done to the vessels were the installation of air conditioning and extensive canvas awnings over the decks, a white paint job to help reflect heat and show their status as “peace boats” (which earned them the title of the “Little White Fleet” a play on Teddy Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet”), more commo gear, and a reduction in armament.

In general, the three flagships would swap out every four months and conduct leisurely cruises back and forth through the Med, waving the flag everywhere they went. As time went by, they became very active in President Eisenhower’s People-to-People program, delivering humanitarian aid ranging from food to coloring books and sewing machines in small backwater ports throughout the region– remember, as long as the harbor was at least 12 feet deep, they were good-to-go, and they went!

They served not only as a task group commander, interacting with Western allies (they were familiar sights at HMS Jufair, the Royal Navy base in Bahrain and its counterpart, HMS Sheba in Aden) but as a growing diplomatic tool for the State Department and U.S. companies (think=oil) looking to do business in the region, hosting state visits from local leaders and royalty (Duxford herself carried Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie to Somaliland in 1953).

The ships performed search-and-rescue missions for lost aviators and overdue boats, helped evac Western civilians in times of tension, served on the periphery of the 1956 Suez Crisis (which sent rotating MEF ships around the Cape of Good Hope rather than through the Med), and just generally served as modern station ships, a throw back to the old 19th century practise of gun boat diplomacy.

Now gleaming white, photographed in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 3 October 1957. Note her lack of 5-inch mounts. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) Photographed during the late 1950s. Note the extensive awnings fitted. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 95370

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed in the Shatt-al-Arab off Basra, Iraq, during her visit there on 12-14 December 1961 as Middle East Force flagship. Note she has the old-school Navy seaplane tender marking complete with pre-WWII “meatball” by her hull number. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 102678

In all, Duxbury Bay served 15 tours of duty in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean as flagship for ComMidEastFor between 1950 and 1966, plus her original stint with TF 126.

While on stateside “down time” at Norfolk, she participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis, refueed the occasional seaplane, helped run UDTs and amphibious training out of Little Creek, and was on the USS Kearsarge battle group that plucked Maj. Gordon Cooper’s “Faith 7,” the last Mercury space mission, out of the Atlantic on 16 May 1963 after 22 orbits.

Navy frogmen deploy from a hovering helicopter to begin the recovery process of the Mercury-Atlas 9 “Faith 7” Capsule, with astronaut Gordon Cooper on board. Accession #: UA 343.01 Catalog #: UA 343.01.02

After 15 rotations, it was decided to move to a more permanent forward-deployed flag and two of the three members of the LWF was pulled from service.

USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) photographed ca. 1965 as Middle East Force flagship in her final configuration. She received a new mast and air search radar and a deck house extension during her last shipyard overhaul in the summer of 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 69826

Duxbury Bay was decommissioned on 30 April 1966, and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the next day. Both Duxberry and Greenwich Bay were sold for scrapping in July 1967, with just over 20~ years of service on their hulls.

Of their sisters, many endured for a good while longer than Duxbury.

These hardy seaplane tenders gave yeoman service to the Coast Guard and Navy through the Vietnam conflict. The last member of the LWF, Valcour, remained as the standalone forward deployed flag for the Middle East Force, dubbed AGF-1, until she was relieved by USS La Salle (AGF-3) in 1972. Valcour went to the scrappers herself in 1977.

The last of the Barnegat afloat was the USS Chincoteague/Ly Thuong Kiet/Andres Bonifacto, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, South Vietnamese, and Philippine navies that was finally withdrawn from frontline service with the later in 1993. She endured another decade as a pierside hulk used for the occasional training until she was sent to the breakers in 2003.

The closest thing to a monument for these vessels is the USS/USCGC Unimak (AVP-31/WAVP/WHEC/WTR-379), the last of the class in U.S. service, which was sunk in 1988 as an artificial reef off the Virginia coast in 150 feet of water after three years with the Navy and 40 with the Coaties. .

For their part, veterans from our ship visit Duxbury Bay in Mass often and hold ceremonies to remember their vessel.

As for the Middle East Force, it grew into CENTCOM in 1983, with the Navy contingent labeled United States Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) of course, and it is quite a bit larger than three little white seaplane tenders.

Also, if you are in Texas, Faith 7 is currently displayed at Space Center Houston.

Specs:

Barnegat type AVPs, WWII configuration, via Shipbucket

Displacement 1,766 t.(lt) 2,800 t.(fl)
Length 311′ 6″
Beam 41′ 1″
Draft 12′ 5″
Speed 18.2 knots (trial)
Fuel Capacities
Diesel 2,055 Bbls
Gasoline 84,340 Gals
Propulsion
Fairbanks-Morse, 38D8 1/2 Diesel engines
single Fairbanks-Morse Main Reduction Gears
Ship’s Service Generators
two Diesel-drive 100Kw 450V A.C.
two Diesel-drive 200Kw 450V A.C.
two propellers, 6,400shp
8,000 miles at 15.6 knots
Complement (as designed)
USN
Officers 14
Enlisted 201
USN Aviation Squadrons
Officers 59
Enlisted 93
Armament:
(1945)
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
four twin 20mm AA gun mounts
depth charge racks
(1950)
one single 5″/38 cal. Mk 12, Mod 1 dual purpose gun mount
one quad 40mm AA gun mount
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
one Mk 52 Mod 3 director
one Mk 26 fire control radar
(1957)
one quad 40mm AA gun mount (deleted 1962)
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts (deleted 1962)
Assorted .50 cal M2 machine guns, small arms

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Getting some live-fire Griffin time in

Five TF55-based Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships —USS Tempest (PC 2), USS Squall (PC 7), USS Chinook (PC 9), USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Thunderbolt (PC 12)— recently had the chance to sling Griffin SSMs at moving target sleds to demonstrate their ability to hit surface targets, like small boats.

170718-N-VG873-0159 ARABIAN GULF (July 18, 2017) A griffin missile is launched from the coastal patrol ship USS Chinook (PC 9) during a test and proficiency fire. USS Chinook is one of 10 coastal patrol ships assigned to Coastal Patrol Squadron (PCRON) 1, which is forward deployed in Manama, Bahrain, in support of maritime security operations and theatre security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Austin L. Simmons/Released)

The tests came late last month, around the time of increased Iranian challenges in international waters from Revolutionary Guard small craft in the PG.

The MK 60 Griffin Missile System uses a four-cell box launcher about the size of a Barcalounger, with one each mounted port and starboard on the 179-foot PC, giving them 8 modified Hellfire missiles at hand to regulate small craft–and I would bet low/slow-flying aircraft as well.

The system began fielding in 2015 and uses a Battle Management System (BMS) based on a ruggedized “Toughbook” laptop is operated from the bridge drawing from target imagery from the ship’s mast-mounted Bright Star EO/IR camera. Range is listed at 3nm, but is likely a good bit longer.

While the 13-pound warhead isn’t likely to sink a frigate, it and the kinetic energy of the missile itself is probably good enough to scratch anything less than 100-footer while a salvo of four (as they can be ripple fired to the same illuminated target) could ruin the day of a corvette-sized warship if needed. Good news is they can’t be chaffed or EW’d away due to the IR nature of their warhead seeker. Bad news is the target has to be lit up the whole time by Bright Star which limits a shoot-and-scoot engagement.

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