We needed a fresh face here in the office and asked our Collateral Duty Public Affairs Officer (CDPAO) from the USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) to write on something in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility. Lt. j. g. Marycate Walsh witnessed the arrival of two more PCs here in Bahrain and I tasked her to write on it. So needless to say, with my leadership and guidance, this is a great blog.
This week two Cyclone- class patrol ships, the USS Monsoon (PC 4) and USS Hurricane (PC 3), arrived pier side in Bahrain, completing the Naval Station’s 10-ship fleet. The vessels traveled from Little Creek, VA, on a heavy lift vessel.
In recent years the number of Arleigh-Burke class guided missile Destroyers (DDG) deploying to the Arabian Gulf has decreased, making way for their compact, 179ft brothers. PCs are highly maneuverable and can reach speeds of over 35 knots. In the tight, densely trafficked waters of the Arabian Gulf, they simply make more sense than a DDG. Now, with the addition of Monsoon and Hurricane, 10 of 13 PCs are home ported in Bahrain. The remaining three are in Mayport, FL, where they are used primarily for drug interdiction operations in the 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
A Brief History–
PCs were originally designed for Naval Special Warfare Command in the late 80’s. They are fast, reliable, and excel in low intensity environments. They were intended for use as SEAL insertion platforms, but it was soon realized that they were slightly too large to serve that purpose.
For several years the Navy loaned PCs to the Coast Guard, who used them to conduct search and rescue and maritime security operations. In 2011 the Coast Guard returned its on-loan PCs, and today the small fighting ships have emerged as the smartest platform that the Navy has in commission to operate in the Arabian Gulf
Mission and Capabilities-
PCs conduct maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf, and may travel as far as the Gulf of Oman. Their shallow draft allows them to venture further into littorals. They ensure the flow of commerce on international trade routes remain uninterrupted, and conduct search and rescue and drug interdiction operations.
One of the missions of PCs is to enhance international cooperation and strengthen relationships with our foreign partners. DDGs are hulking, massive vessels compared to the ships operated by our partners in the Arabian Gulf. Their size can, at times, be intimidating. PCs, a quarter the size of a DDG, are comparable in stature and capability to those of our partners in theater. This makes them the ideal platform for multi-national exercises critical to the United State’s friendships in the region.
PC’s are more than capable of defending themselves and the ships they escort. In the words of William Shakespeare “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” They are outfitted with 25mm auto cannons, grenade launchers, and .50 caliber machine guns. Most recently, Raytheon’s AGM-176 Griffin missile system has been added to the Cyclone-class patrol ship, extending it’s reach to more than three nautical miles.
(Below is a link to Griffin Missile Demonstration Video)
Officers and Sailors with orders to a PC can expect that their time aboard will be unlike any of their other sea tours. With a crew of only 24 enlisted and four officers, all hands wear multiple hats. PC Sailors are billeted to the ship to fulfill a specific position, but will undoubtedly be involved in all aspects of shipboard life. The Operations Officer, for instance, is also the Navigator, and Culinary Specialists work hand in hand with Boatswain Mates, painting and tending to the ship’s anchor.
PCs now have permanent crews, whereas in the past crews rotated every six months. The permanent status allows those sailors stationed on a platform in Bahrain to be accompanied by their families. Because of the many ways the Navy utilizes PCs, the operational tempo is very high. PCs do not deploy for six to nine months like other naval ships, but they are underway for short stints an estimated 60 percent of the time.
Aboard a PC there is a great opportunity for Sailors to attain qualifications that would be nearly impossible on another platform. It is not uncommon for a Second or Third Class Petty Officer to conn the ship, and a First Class could have the chance to qualify as Officer of the Deck, a position of high trust and respect normally reserved for junior officers.
Patrol Craft are the perfect platform for the Arabian Gulf, assimilating seamlessly in theater thanks to their small size, high speed and maneuverability, and fire power. They are the new and exciting direction for naval forward presence.