PCs on the move – to Central Command

USS Tempest (PC 2) in Manama, Bahrain on July 3. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Stephen Murphy)

Three more patrol coastal ships were offloaded in Bahrain July 3, bringing to 8 the number of PCs forward-deployed with the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The little PCs were at first scorned when they entered service in the mid-1990s, rejected by the special operations warfare community they were built for as too big. A new lease on life was found after 9/11, when the Navy needed craft to patrol the U.S. coasts, but even that need mostly fell off. Some were sent to the Gulf in 2003 and 2004 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom – a mission that kept the craft steadily employed – but some of those that remained in the U.S. fell by the wayside, becoming little more than spare parts sources for the vessels that remained running.

But U.S. Central Command’s need for small, fast, handy ships able to operate with smaller navies and easily navigate shallow coastal waters has brought the PCs back into demand. At 334 tons full load, with an overall length of 178 feet and a crew of about 30, the craft are well-suited to operations in the region. Armed with two Mk 38 25mm automatic guns, numerous smaller weapons, and now being outfitted with the Griffin surface-to-surface missile, the craft are better armed than when they entered service two decades ago. 

The ships that were virtually out of service have been refitted and modernized, and further improvements are in the works. The three newly-arrived ships – Tempest (PC 2), Squall (PC 7) and Thunderbolt (PC 12) – were all refitted in the U.S. and are more effective than ever, with new, stabilized gun mounts, better sensors, and rebuilt engines and hulls.

In Bahrain, they join the Typhoon (PC 5), Sirocco (PC 6), Chinook (PC 9), Firebolt (PC 10) and Whirlwind (PC 11). Two more craft, Hurricane (PC 3) and Monsoon (PC 4), will transfer to Bahrain in mid-2014.

The remaining ships in the U.S., Zephyr (PC 8), Shamal (PC 13) and Tornado (PC 14), will eventually shift homeport from Little Creek, Va., to Mayport, Fla. (For those of you keeping score, PC 1, the Cyclone, was decommissioned in 2000 after less than seven years of service, and was transferred to the Philippines in 2004 as the General Mariano Alvarez.)

Watch a time-lapse of the PCs being off-loaded from the Eide Transporter: YouTube Preview Image

The ships were transported from the U.S. to Bahrain aboard the heavy lift ship Eide Transporter. Shipping these small vessels in this manner saves considerable wear and tear on the ships, which arrive in far better condition than if they'd made the trip themselves. Here, the Squall, at left, is being moved out of the flooded-down heavy lift ship. Tempest, in the foreground at right, and Thunderbolt await their turn. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Danielle Brand)

Diesel generators aboard the ships were turned on shortly after they re-entered the water, providing on-board power. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Danielle Brand)

The Squall floats into Manama harbor on the morning of July 3. The ships were offloaded at Khalifa Bin Salman Port, across the harbor from the Mina Salman pier. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Danielle Brand)

Squall floats free after the five-week voyage from Virginia. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Danielle Brand)

Tugs maneuver the Thunderbolt for the short journey across the harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Danielle Brand)

Although the ship's on-board generators were running after being refloated, the main engines weren't yet started, so tugs had to bring them across to the military base at Minah Salman. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Stephen Murphy)

The Squall in Manama harbor. Notice the doors in the ship's stern that open to a stern ramp for rigid-hull inflatable boats. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Stephen Murphy)

Squall and Thunderbolt on July 3 in Manama harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Stephen Murphy)

The Tempest makes its way to Mina Salman. The ships were thoroughly refitted before being shipped from Virginia. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 Stephen Murphy)

Time lapse  video of the ships bring brought alongside the base at Mina Salman YouTube Preview Image

The bridge of a PC is quite cramped when maneuvering in restricted waters. Here, Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Servello, center, scans ahead with binoculars as his ship, USS Squall, gets under way from Little Creek, Va., on March 11, 2013 to carry out post-refit speed trials. (Photo by Chris Cavas)

Servello watches the Squall's operations during trials on lower Chesapeake Bay on March 11. The catwalk allows easier topside access on the crowded ships. (Photo by Chris Cavas)

The Squall's RHIB fits comfortably on the stern ramp - a featured added to most of the PCs after they were completed. (Photo by Chris Cavas)


Christopher P. Cavas
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Christopher P. Cavas

If it's on, over, under or around the water, I write about it. Ships and aircraft, units, tactics, leadership, strategies, acquisition, politics, industry. In the USA and around the world.
Christopher P. Cavas
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