The Navy began the latest round of decommissionings of its Cyclone-class patrol craft this week, with the service retiring three PCs in ceremonies at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
USS Zephyr (PC-8), USS Shamal (PC-13) and USS Tornado (PC-14) were all ceremonially taken out of service before being officially placed into a new status in March. Zephyr and Shamal are set to be scrapped, while Tornado will be marked for potential foreign military sale.
The three PCs were used to train crews for the forward-deployed Cyclones that are based in U.S. 5th Fleet. Originally designed as transports for special operations forces, the 400-ton PCs were mostly used as counters against Iranian small fast attack craft in and around the Persian Gulf, as well-armed escorts for U.S. ships transiting the Strait of Hormuz.
In 2013, the Navy announced it was relocating 10 Cyclones to U.S. 5th Fleet to pick up missions from guided-missile destroyers that were flowing out of the region for other missions after the height of the naval buildup for the Iraq invasion.
As the remaining Cyclones are set to decommission over the next several years, U.S. 5th Fleet will fill in the gap with forward-deployed Littoral Combat Ships armed with a suite of surface warfare weapons designed to combat swarming boat threats and Coast Guard patrol boats, Navy surface warfare director Rear Adm. Paul Schlise said last month at the Surface Navy Symposium 2021, according to Naval News.
The Cyclone decommissionings come as the Navy is seeking to shed its 12 Mark VI patrol boats that were supposed to pick up from the PCs.
With limited operational time, the Navy wants to get rid of the Mark VI patrol boats as a cost saving measure, USNI News has learned.
According to a Feb. 5 General Administration message, “the Navy will inactivate the MK VI 78-foot Patrol Boat (MK VI) no later than (NLT) 30 September 2021 in accordance with approved budgetary decisions.”
The GENADMIN message was first reported by The War Zone.
A Navy spokesman told USNI News this week that the service would not address the disposition of the Mark VI boats as it was “pre-decisional” and contingent on the release of the Fiscal Year 2022 Navy budget.
Bristling with guns, the $15 million, 74-ton Mark VI arrived in 5th Fleet in 2016 but were not extensively used in the region. Sources familiar with the platform said the boats had suffered problems in their engineering plants and required extensive maintenance to keep them operational.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Tracy King, the director of expeditionary warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said at SNA 2021 that the 12 MK VIs, “were very expensive to maintain.”