Built in the late 1990s, the Navy’s Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships (PC) are almost all gone. Built by Bollinger Shipyards in Louisiana, the same yard that has constructed over 170 similar albeit smaller cutters for the Coast Guard over the years, the 170-foot Cyclones were originally to replace the old 65-foot MKIIIs used by Naval Special Warfare and were equipped with two 25mm chain guns and a stern boat ramp for frogman use.
While 16 were planned, only 14 were slowly completed and the Navy by and large didn’t even really want them, loaning five to the Coast Guard in the early 2000s and giving the class leader to the Philippines when she was just 11 years old.
Then, following a series of naval stand-offs between Iranian Revolutionary Guards speedboats and U.S. Navy warships in the Strait of Hormuz in December 2007 and January 2008, the Pentagon called up the Coast Guard and pulled their boats back and soon stood up Patrol Coastal Squadron 1 in the Persian Gulf with 10 of the PCs.
150317-N-SF508-627 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (March 17, 2014) The Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Hurricane (PC 3) leads other coastal patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron 1 (PCRON 1) in formation during a divisional tactics exercise. PCRON-1 is deployed supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki/Released)
150317-N-SF508-274 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (March 17, 2014) The Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Hurricane (PC 3) and other coastal patrol ships assigned to Patrol Coastal Squadron 1 (PCRON 1) transit in formation during a divisional tactics exercise.PCRON 1 is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki/Released)
They are among the smallest ships in the fleet and get ridden hard.
They were augmented with the MK-60 Patrol Coastal Griffin Missile System to help defend against Iranian swarm attacks if needed. The system uses the AGM-176 Griffin, a 35-pound four-foot-long Frankenstein cobbled together from the Javelin and Sidewinder– but it carries a 13-pound blast fragmentation warhead and has a range of 5 miles, which will scratch the paint job of a Boghammar speedboat pretty good while outraging the RPGs, Dhsk guns and unguided rockets typically carried by those asymmetric crafts by a bit.
ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 05, 2021) The Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Firebolt (PC 10) fires a Griffin missile during a test and proficiency fire in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 5, 2021. Firebolt, assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 55, is supporting maritime security operations and theatre security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aleksander Fomin) 211105-A-PX137-0082
Now, that has almost all come to an end. Only USS Monsoon (PC-4) and USS Chinook (PC-9) remain in Bahrain under Task Force 55, and that will soon change.
PCRON-1 was reflagged Naval Surface Squadron (CNSS) 5 in 2017.
USS Zephyr (PC-8), USS Shamal (PC-13), and USS Tornado (PC-14) were decommissioned in Mayport in 2021 and the first two are set to be scrapped with Tornado slated for transfer to an overseas ally.
NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2021) Sailors conduct a decommissioning ceremony aboard the Cyclone-class patrol ship USS Shamal (PC 13) at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Shamal is one of three Cyclone-class patrol ships being decommissioned at Naval Station Mayport. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Austin G. Collins)
I happen to know the resting place of Tornado’s sideboard from ger USCG days based at NAVSTA Pascagoula!
As well as Shamals
USS Tempest (PC-2), USS Squall (PC-7), USS Firebolt (PC-10), USS Whirlwind (PC-11), and USS Typhoon (PC-5), were decommissioned and transferred to the Royal Bahrain Naval Forces in March 2022.
This week, USS Hurricane (PC-3), USS Sirocco (PC-6), and USS Thunderbolt (PC-12) were transferred to the Egyptian Navy. This came after sailing from Bahrain to Egypt during a month-long journey around the Arabian Peninsula, January through February.
SUEZ CANAL – SUEZ CANAL (Feb. 10, 2023) Patrol coastal ship USS Sirocco (PC 6) transits the Suez Canal, Feb. 10, 2023, en route to Alexandria, Egypt. 230210-N-NO146-1001
As noted by the Navy, “During the 4,000-mile transit to Alexandria, U.S., and Egyptian crewmembers worked side-by-side safely navigating the three ships on a voyage that included port visits to Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates; Duqm, Oman; Djibouti; and Berenice, Egypt.”
The Coast Guard’s very successful Fast Response Cutter (FRC) program, the 154-foot Sentinel-class patrol craft, just keeps ticking along, with lots of important milestones this month. It makes you wish the Navy could get on board with a similar shipbuilding impetus.
Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana– builder of the 110-foot Island-class and 87-foot Maritime Protector class patrol boats for the Coast Guard going back some 35 years– on 4 August delivered their 176th hull to the service, the future USCGC William Chadwick (WPC-1150). Chadwick, as the hull number points to, is the 50th FRC delivered since the first, USCGC Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101), was contracted in September 2008. All in all, not a bad record for just under 14 years.
USCGC Chadwick will be the first of six FRCs to be homeported in Sector Boston, which is known as “The Birthplace of the Coast Guard.” Photo via Bollinger.
Based on the Dutch Damen Stan 4708 patrol vessel, the Coast Guard expects to order 64 of the increasingly useful vessels.
At a cost of about $65 million for each hull, the entire program of record is set to come in at under $4 billion which sounds like a lot but keep in mind the Navy has sunk nine times that much, over $36 billion, into the Littoral Combat Ship program already (even with the “cost savings” of decommissioning ships only a few years old, hyping that each LCS hull costs $70 million per year to keep in the water).
Besides a 25mm MK 38 Mod 2 forward, the FRCs have at least four mounts for M2 .50 cals, a decent C4ISR suite for their size, a 28-knot flank speed, and the capability to sortie over 2,000 nm on a two-week patrol without refueling or re-provisioning. They also have a stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.
Douglas Denman arrives in Alaska after a 7,000-mile cruise
Set to be commissioned at her new home port at Ketchikan in September, the future USCGC Douglas Denman (WPC-1149), the Coast Guard’s 49th Fast Response Cutter, traveled nearly 7,000 miles from the most southeastern city in the U.S. to the most southeastern city in Alaska, transiting through the Caribbean Sea, the Panama Canal, and up the west coast of Central America and the U.S. in a 36-day voyage.
USCGC Douglas Denman (WPC-1149) via Bollinger
After delivery from Bollinger, FRCs and their plankowner crews spend almost two months at Key West where there is no shortage of missions in the Florida Straits on which to sharpen up.
From the 17th Coast Guard district on that process:
Following production of the ship in 2020, the first crewmember arrived in Ketchikan summer of 2021. Since then, the crew has undergone a year of administration and training in preparation to take ownership of the cutter. The engineering department alone attended a total of three months of school in addition to the crew’s seven weeks of familiarity training in Lockport, La., and seven weeks of Post Delivery Availability phase in Key West, Fla.
Full FRC six-pack in the Middle East
On 23 August, USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147), joined four other examples of the newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters as part of the Coast Guard’s long-standing Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), stationed in Bahrain where U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered.
The two FRCs completed a 10,000-nautical-mile transit to Bahrain, escorted by 270-foot medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913), which acted as a mothership, rather than having to be loaded as float-on cargo.
Scheuerman and Sutphin were met by two other FRCs of the Coast Guard’s Persian Gulf squadron– USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144) and USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145)— flying their characteristic oversized U.S. ensigns, for a great photo op through the Straits.
220822-A-KS490-1182 STRAIT OF HORMUZ (Aug. 22, 2022) From the left, U.S. Coast Guard fast response cutters USCGC Glen Harris (WPC 1144), USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145) and USCGC Clarence Sutphin Jr. (WPC 1147) transit the Strait of Hormuz, Aug. 22. The cutters are forward-deployed to U.S. 5th Fleet to help ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Noah Martin)
Harris and Tunnell only recently arrived in Bahrain themselves, joining USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142) and USCGC Charles Moulthrope (WPC 1141), to retire the six aging Reagan-era Island-class cutters that had been there since 2002 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Legacy 110 foot Island class cutters compared to the new 154-foot Sentinel (Webber) class FRCs
Besides their stabilized MK 38 25mm gun and half-dozen (up from four as seen on stateside FRCs) M2 mounts, the Sentinels in Bahrain are equipped with the CG-HALLTS system, a hailer that has laser and LRAD capabilities, as well as a special S-band Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 pulse doppler with full-time 360-degree coverage, and other goodies to include four dedicated Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on the O-1 deck. Additionally, the already experienced cutter and boarding crews of PATFORSWA have to go through 5-6 weeks of Pre Deployment Training (PDT) with the service’s Special Mission Training Center at Camp Lejune and undergo more training once they reach Bahrain.
Hosting RIMPAC Marines ISR team
Finally, it should be pointed out that the FRC USCGC Cutter William Hart (WPC 1134)— who has been working with embarked teams of Hawaii-based Marines for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tests in the littoral since 2021– apparently did more of the same in the recently-concluded RIMPAC exercises.
Hart has been very active in presence missions in Oceania, recently completing a 10-day voyage to Samoa last winter in Operation Kurukuru and then operating alongside ships from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and France to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (often from Chinese trawlers) in the region while on a 39-day patrol— which is a long time to spend on a 154-foot ship.
Still, they are getting it done and on the cheap at that.
It hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but CENTCOM has seen some interesting visitors and additions in recent days.
First up, the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), commissioned on 17 November 2018, arrived at Manama, Bahrain on 25 June, marking the completion of a “historic” 10,000-mile journey from her homeport in Mayport, Florida, becoming the first LCS of either class to operate in the Middle East.
Littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), arrives at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, on June 25. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Terry Vongsouthi)
Of course, the Navy wants to decommission all nine Freedom-class ships currently in service, Sioux City included, but at least it shows they can reach overseas if needed. Maybe.
The day after Sioux City arrived, she operated with unmanned surface vessels and crewed ships in the Arabian Gulf, on June 26. The vessels included a 23-foot Saildrone Explorer, a 38-foot MARTAC Devil Ray T-38, the Island-class patrol cutter USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318), the new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142), and the aging (27 years young on a hull built for 15) Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12).
Of note, the Coast Guard is rapidly replacing the Islands with the Sentinels, as we have covered several times before, while the Navy is ridding itself of the Cyclones, leaving the 5th Fleet to be staffed largely just with six forward deployed Sentinels of Coast Guard PATFORSWA, and visiting Navy units.
Speaking of which, two of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinels: USCGC Clarence Sutphin(WPC 1147) and USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), departed CONUS last week en route to their new homeport in Bahrain alongside their trans-Atlantic escort, the 270-foot medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913).
Of course, the Navy could always just forward deploy half of the Freedom-class LCSs there to take up the slack caused by the departure of the Cyclones and leave the other half stateside as training platforms, allowing crews to fly out and rotate.
Handoff? USS Sioux City Blue Crew (LCS 11) and Cyclone-class USS Thunderbolt PC-12 transit the Strait of Hormuz, June 24. For years the Navy wanted to get rid of the Cyclones and even loaned a couple to the Coast Guard. Then, after 2001, they saw the utility in forward deploying most of them to Bahrain as a standing FU force to the Iranian IRGCN.
The hulls could do good work in minesweeping and as drone mother ships, a job in which their iffy combining gear wouldn’t be a deal-breaker as they would serve largely as depot/station ships. I mean, they are littoral combat ships, right?
Maybe Sioux City could be a harbinger of a Plan B for her class.
In PATFORSWA, the Coast Guard’s now 20-year-long mission in the Persian Gulf/Straits of Hormuz/Gulf of Oman, a trio of its longest-serving patrol boats– 110-foot Island-class WPBs– have been quietly put to pasture.
Via USCG PAO:
Yesterday three Island-class patrol boats were decommissioned in a ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain.
Rear Adm. Keith Smith, deputy commander of U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area, attended the ceremony and commemorated 102 years of combined active service by USCGC Maui, Monomoy, and Wrangell.
“For nearly two decades, these cutters and the Coast Guardsmen that crewed them have worked closely with our U.S. Naval Forces Central Command partners and served as the heart of Coast Guard operations in the Middle East,” said Smith.
Maui was originally homeported in Miami and conducted counter-narcotics and other law enforcement activities near the United States for 18 years.
Monomoy was previously homeported in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The ship helped secure New York City’s harbor immediately following the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
In 2004, Maui and Monomoy arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet region where they have remained for the next 18 years in support of U.S. 5th Fleet maritime security operations.
Previously homeported in Portland, Maine, Wrangell conducted counter-narcotics and maritime patrol operations along the East Coast of the United States before deploying to the Middle East in 2003.
With the retirement of these three patrol boats, and the looming retirement next month of stateside sisters such as USCGC Cuttyhunk (WPB-1322), few of the 110s remain in inventory as the new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (designated WPCs) are slated to replace the Island-class.
110 foot Island class cutters compared to the new 154-foot Sentinel (Webber) class FRCs
But that doesn’t mean PATFORSWA is going away. Six of the new Sentinel-class FRCs are headed there to replace the retired Islands on a hull-for-hull basis, with three already in theatre.
Coast Guard fast response cutters Glen Harris (WPC 1144), Wrangel (WPB 1332), Emlen Tunnel (WPC 1145), Maui (WPB 1304), transiting the Gulf of Oman Feb. 26
Coast Guard fast response cutters Glen Harris (WPC 1144), Wrangel (WPB 1332), Emlen Tunnel (WPC 1145), Maui (WPB 1304), transiting Gulf of Oman Feb. 26
Besides their stabilized MK 38 25mm gun and half-dozen M2 mounts, the FRCs headed to Bahrain are equipped with the CG-HALLTS system, a hailer that has laser and LRAD capabilities, as well as a special S-band Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 pulse doppler with full-time 360-degree coverage, and other goodies to include four Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on the O-1 deck. Additionally, the already experienced cutter and boarding crews of PATFORSWA have to go through 5-6 weeks of Pre Deployment Training (PDT) with the service’s Special Mission Training Center at Camp Lejune.
Sentinel (Webber)-class 154-foot Fast Response Cutter USCGC Clarence Sutphin (WPC-1147) in Key West, Florida, shortly after delivery. Note that she doesn’t seem to have her PATFORSWA gear installed/mounted yet, and may pick it up at the USCGY in Maryland. Photo: Bollinger Shipyards.
LOCKPORT, La., — January 6, 2021 – Bollinger Shipyards LLC (“Bollinger”) has delivered the USCGC CLARENCE SUTPHIN to the U.S. Coast Guard in Key West, Florida. This is the 170th vessel Bollinger has delivered to the U.S. Coast Guard over a 35-year period and the 47th Fast Response Cutter (“FRC”) delivered under the current program.
The USCGC CLARENCE SUTPHIN is the final of six FRCs to be home-ported in Manama, Bahrain, which will replace the aging 110’ Island Class Patrol Boats, built by Bollinger Shipyards 30 years ago, supporting the Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest overseas presence outside the United States.
“Ensuring that the brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard have the most state-of-the-art, advanced vessels as they work to build and maintain the necessary regional alliances to ensure maritime security in the region is a top priority,” said Bollinger President & C.E.O. Ben Bordelon. “Bollinger is proud to continue enhancing and supporting the U.S. Coast Guard’s operational presence in the Middle East and ensuring it remains the preferred partner around the world.”
Earlier this year at the commissioning ceremony of the USCGC CHARLES MOULTHROPE, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz lauded the “enhanced seakeeping” capabilities of the PATFORSWA-bound FRCs, saying “these ships are truly going to be game-changing in their new theater of operations” and “offer increased opportunities for integrated joint operations with our Navy and Marine Corps colleagues” as the Coast Guard seeks to be part of the whole-of-government solution set in the region.
PATFORSWA is composed of six cutters, shoreside support personnel, and the Maritime Engagement Team. The unit’s mission is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard Forces in support of U.S. Central Command and national security objectives. PATFORSWA works with Naval Forces Central Command in furthering their goals to conduct persistent maritime operations to forward U.S. interests, deter and counter disruptive countries, defeat violent extremism and strengthen partner nations’ maritime capabilities in order to promote a secure maritime environment.
Each FRC is named for an enlisted Coast Guard hero who distinguished themselves in the line of duty. Clarence Sutphin, Boatswain Mate First Class, USCG, was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his courageous actions during the invasion of Saipan Island in 1944. His citation reads: “For heroic achievement in action against enemy Japanese forces during the invasion of Saipan, Marianas Islands, on June 15 and 16, 1944. Swimming with a line through heavy surf to a tank lighter stranded on a reef, SUTPHIN remained aboard under mortar and artillery fire until the boat was salvaged. Returning to the beach, he aided in salvaging another tank lighter under enemy fire and, when a mortar shell struck a group of eight Marines, promptly treated the wounded and moved them to a first aid station. His courage and grave concern for the safety of others reflects the highest credit upon SUTPHIN and the United States Naval Service.”
About the Fast Response Cutter Platform
The FRC is an operational “game-changer,” according to senior Coast Guard officials. FRCs are consistently being deployed in support of the full range of missions within the United States Coast Guard and other branches of our armed services. This is due to its exceptional performance, expanded operational reach and capabilities, and ability to transform and adapt to the mission. FRCs have conducted operations as far as the Marshall Islands—a 4,400 nautical mile trip from their homeport. Measuring in at 154-feet, FRCs have a flank speed of 28 knots, a state of the art C4ISR suite (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), and stern launch and recovery ramp for a 26-foot, over-the-horizon interceptor cutter boat.
As we have covered in previous months, the FRCs are a very interesting class of patrol boats, with one recently returning from a 7,000-mile extended patrol in remote island chains.
Besides their stabilized MK 38 25mm gun and half-dozen M2 mounts, the six-pack of FRCs headed to Bahrain are equipped with the CG-HALLTS system, a hailer that has laser and LRAD capabilities, as well as a special S-band Sierra Nevada Modi RPS-42 pulse doppler with full-time 360-degree coverage, and other goodies to include four Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) on the O-1 deck. Additionally, the already experienced cutter and boarding crews of PATFORSWA have to go through 5-6 weeks of Pre Deployment Training (PDT) with the service’s Special Mission Training Center at Camp Lejune.