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U.S. Navy Trading Destroyers for PCs in 5th Fleet

Three Cyclone-class patrol ships arrive in Bahrain July 3, 2013. US Navy Photo

Three Cyclone-class patrol ships arrive in Bahrain July 3, 2013. US Navy Photo

The Navy is trading high-dollar warships for smaller Cyclone-class patrol craft (PC) to keep the peace in the Arabian Gulf, service officials told USNI News Wednesday in a conference call with reporters.

In an era of tightening budgets and with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the need for as many large ships, like Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers (DDG-51), in the Navy’s 5th Fleet is less, said Destroyer Squadron 50 and Combined Task Force 55 (DESRON50/CTF-55) commander Capt. Joseph Naman.

“Our numbers of DDGs we have out here have declined over the past year. [PCs] are picking up a lot of the missions they were doing, ” Naman said.
“It doesn’t mean we are going to do away with the DDG. They still have a mission here.”

By 2014, the Navy will have ten Cyclones home-ported in Bahrain to operate in the Arabian Gulf and as far afield as the Gulf of Oman, Naman said.

The ships have a range of missions including providing security for infrastructure, like off-shore oil platforms, as well as providing close-in protection for larger ships like DDGs that provide a ballistic missile defense shield for the region.

Three PCs — USS Tempest (PC-2), USS Squall (PC-7) and USS Thunderbolt (PC-12) — arrived in Bahrain on Wednesday to increase the total number of ships to eight. Two more ships — USS Hurricane (PC-3) and USS Monsoon (PC-4) — will arrive by mid-2014.

USS Tempest (PC-2) is moved pier-side on July 3, 2013 in Bahrain. US Navy Photo

USS Tempest (PC-2) is moved pier-side on July 3, 2013 in Bahrain. US Navy Photo

“They are perfectly suited for what we do in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility,” Naman said.
“It’s more cost effective and we can go more places with the PC based on the draft alone.”

The PCs are small — about 385 tons — but are heavily armed and armored for their size. Each ship is fitted with twin 25mm stabilized guns and several machine gun and grenade launcher mounts.

Additionally, the Navy plans to expand the capability of the ships by including Raytheon’s Griffin missile, currently in use by U.S. Special Operations Command and in testing for use aboard the planned Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

In December, the Navy conducted a series of tests of the 33-pound missile, with a range of about 3.5 miles, onboard Monsoon.

Three PCs will also be moved to Naval Station Mayport, Fla. for operations in the Navy’s 4th Fleet, around Central and South America, Naman said.

When contacted, a 4th Fleet spokesman said the command hasn’t not received official notification the ships would move to Mayport.

If PCs are assigned to Mayport, they will likely embark Coast Guard law enforcement teams to fill in the U.S. drug enforcement mission left vacant when the Navy pulled surface ship support for trafficking interdiction.

  • This is why the US Navy needs multi Role frigates. It may cost the US navy a lot of money to send a DDG overseas, but a Multi Role Frigate with ASW, ASUW, AAW and limited Land attack capability is a cheaper option.

  • Peter

    The PC-class finally got their 25mm MOD 2s with stabilized FLIR ball. The MOD 1s were a weakness for the PCs because it is hard to hit anything from a hand-fired unstabilized chaingun moving at speed. Only the forward MOD 1 mount was stabilized with a 25mm and 40mm grenade launcher, but what sailor would want to sit in the tub to fire that gun? Now the MOD 2s are remote-fired.

    I noticed that the Griffin missile didn’t sink the small boat…interesting. I think that should be the goal of the missile instead of wiping the deck of structure, but nonetheless, the destruction is evident. The missiles are a welcome addition to a Patrol Coastal ship that before just has Stingers in its missile complement.

    I believe the USN finally has learned to appreciate these small ships. The ironic thing is that there are quite a few PC designs made in the US. I mean the USN could buy more PCs off-the-shelf if it wanted to as there are companies in the USA that make these small ships.

    • Gunz4fun

      I sat in a “Gun Tub” with twin .50’s for long periods of time (4 hour standard Navy watch) with the rain and wind (Republic of Viet Nam) without complaint ( well maybe some whining every now and then).

  • Marc Apter

    And how many PC’s can you buy for the cost of one LCS? How do they compare in capabilities?

    • TheTruth

      Their are two types of LCS’s, both of which have slightly different capabilities. I can’t locate the cost of the PC’s but the LCS’s run around $430M. I don’t believe your comparing apples to oranges though, especially once the LCS’s get their mission modules 100%. The PC’s I believe would have better very shallow coastal and smaller boat attack capability while the LCS’s would fit in the “brown water” of the gulf where the CG’s and DDG’s can’t go because of their increased draft.
      The LCS’s were not meant as a combatant per se, but more of a support role. That may change once the mission module systems are fully operational.

  • There are still six multi-crewed Coast Guard 110 foot patrol boats there as well, doing essentially the same job, but not as well equipped.

    If the Cyclone class are “armored” I am surprised.

  • When I read the headline I totally thought you meant they were trading in ships for computers.

  • Secundius

    May the US Navy should consider replacing the 25mm Bushmaster Auto-Cannon with the Bofor 57mm/70-caliber Auto-Cannon. Giving it bigger teeth.

    • NofDen

      yes, more firepower would be better. 25mm is pretty light.

  • Gunz4fun

    Was the “Target Boat” fitted with a Radar Reflector? If so, then this was not a true test of the anti-shipping weapons system. Try it without the reflector enhancement on the hull.

    • Mm

      The griffin uses laser targeting- hence radar reflectors wouldn’t help

  • Abdullah The Sheik of Tikrit

    Ha…that crummy missile couldn’t even sink the target boat. Just wait until us Muslims develop our mighty “Sea Camel” anti-ship missile. The rusty U.S. Navy will be doomed!