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LCS Alternative: Cyclone class Patrol Vessel

July 19, 2009
USS Tempest PC-2

USS Tempest PC-2

Not my idea this time, but from the Death and Taxes blog, an updated version of a proven shallow water patrol ship:

What the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard need is an enlarged and upgunned version of the PC-1 Cyclone class of vessels. The Cyclone class was built using proven technology and was relatively inexpensive to acquire. They have provided solid service to both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard…A slight expansion in the design would allow them to be armed with a 30mm or 35mm version of the Bushmaster (Bushmaster II and Bushmaster III) along with a much more capable anti-aircraft weapon like the Rolling Airframe Missile launcher.

Here is my favorite quote:

The design and the weapons are “off the shelf” technology, so there would be no need for costly and doubtful experimentation that would delay delivery and drive costs through the roof.

Like the failed LCS class. Off the shelf is a mantra we continually preach at New Wars. No need for a revolutionary breakthrough in technology, just give us sound hulls and lots of them, with a mind at how the pirates and terrorists using standard technology are running rings around us most everywhere.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 6, 2010 2:13 pm

    Mike, thanks so much for your comments. I like the class too, for what they are, well worth the money and more relevant for the littorals than just about anything else we have now or planned.

  2. Mike permalink
    August 6, 2010 2:00 pm

    I don’t know if this is still active, but the fact is classification has more to do with the role of the vessle than relative mass. In most fleets a patrol craft doesn’t breach 100 tons but 100 or 1000 a coastal patrol ship is called so due to the intended role. A frigate is called so not out of nostalgia but in relation to the role of an independent blue water hunter killer. Destroyers are always meant to be escourts staying close to larger more important ships. Again carriers are dubbed so wether massive Nimitz class or WW2 CVEs due to the role of carrying aircraft. LPDs LHAs and their like are not carriers they carry amphibious attack forces, hence the L as in landing. Personally i do think though that ships like the cyclone are perfect in the gulf of Ayden where targets are small chances of hostile aircraft are remote and the heavy fire is at best a beat to hell soviet RPG. How blue water do you have to be in a small gulf? More importantly the ability to rapidly deploy RIBs? the only thing i could see adding is a small helipad to accomadate something like an AH6.

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 21, 2009 7:49 am

    Solomon said “Size is irrelevant to classification.”

    That is such a mistake since you must have ships which can sail in the Blue Water and the Green and neither are compatible in the other’s environment. And since size dictates the qualities of the Blue (naturally larger for seakeeping) and the Green (naturally smaller for sailing among sandbars and other underwater obstacles) neither are as effective in the other’s environment.

    In the 1970s the USN reclassified an entire class of its large missile ships, then called frigates into cruisers, partly for nostalgia, partly because these were very large ships compared to DDG’s like the smaller Charles Adams.

    I intend to explore this further next week but the fact is with warships classification size does matter.

  4. July 21, 2009 6:50 am

    {Another point, the 2000 ton destroyers of that era were a far cry from the 10,000 ton Burke battleships of today. Such a craft today would be called a “corvette” in most navies, with a 3000 ton destroyer very large in those days and more akin to the modern LCS.}

    That’s a misnomer Mike. If you compare past naval terminology for ships against terms today you will always come up with that type of mismatch. Carriers pre-WW2 came in at about 11000 tons. By the end of the war they moved up to around 35000tons. By your way of thinking, modern day aircraft carriers should be called something entirely different due to their size. LHA’s today should be labeled as aircraft carriers etc…Language evolves and so does our classification of ships, vehicles planes etc. An F-16 can carry as much as a bomber from WW2 so is that how we classify it? A medium tank in WW2 was around 30 tons….many wheeled vehicles today weigh that much….are they tanks? I think you get my point. Size is irrelevant to classification. And if we were armoring our ships to WW2 standards then you’d have 150,000 ton aircraft carriers….75000 ton LHA’s etc…

  5. navark permalink
    July 20, 2009 5:35 pm

    It seems that the biggest problem is that there’s no-one left with the knowledge of these past programs or the willingness/ability to take on an ‘innovative’ project. AFAIK Navsea is supposed to be writing and overseeing technical projects on the Navy’s behalf, with a RFPs being answered by quasi-commercial yards – it’s very encouraging that someone was willing to take a chance with the alu trimaran but no-one involved in the project (from a technical design POV) really seems to know what they’re doing.

    Therefore, that leaves: a) sticking with traditional ship designs, or b) buying foreign design experience, which is what the Austal trimaran was anyway!

    I vote for Bill’s suggestion – use American NA and ME engineering for American ships.

  6. Hudson permalink
    July 20, 2009 1:55 pm

    OK, so Higgins didn’t listen to my instructions to build PT boats in addition to landing craft. Must have been a bureaucratic foul-up. Still, you can add Higgins boats to the long list of small craft, including the notorious German E-boats, that admirably served the Allied and Axis navies in WWII.

  7. Bill permalink
    July 20, 2009 12:55 pm

    “,,an experienced group of US SES technologists”

    Correction: That should have read: …”US and UK SES technologists….” Never know who reads this blog..and wouldn’t want to step on old friend’s toes. ;-)

  8. Bill permalink
    July 20, 2009 11:04 am

    We needn’t just wonder extensive design effort was completed in the late 80s for a 700-ton (nominal) 50kt SES naval vessel. Two tow tank models and a manned model were built and tested.

    It was a joint US-German effort and had the benefit of an experienced group of US SES technologists that were still on board at the time. The program to build the prototype was cancelled due to German funding constraints that emerged suddenly, late in the effort…’unification’ was expected to be real expensive..and it turned out to be even more so. ;-)

    The FRG SES-700 was actually a very conservative design in all respects. I do not recall the unrefueled range numbers of the deadweight payload capacities, but both were ‘decent’ numbers.

  9. Heretic permalink
    July 20, 2009 10:35 am

    I’m with Bill. I keep wondering what a 500-600 ton Skjold, optimized for deployment range (to give it “sea legs” for transit and time on station) would do for the design.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 20, 2009 9:20 am

    Hudson I have to agree with Solomon that Ike was talking about the Higgins landing craft specifically. I don’t agree that the PT Boats failed in the South Pacific, but certainly played their part in the interdiction of the Japanese, alongside the destroyers and naval aircraft. They often helped by sailing where the Big Ships couldn’t sail in shallow seas.

    Another point, the 2000 ton destroyers of that era were a far cry from the 10,000 ton Burke battleships of today. Such a craft today would be called a “corvette” in most navies, with a 3000 ton destroyer very large in those days and more akin to the modern LCS.

    Given the miniaturization of warfare, we could go back to this, build up the fleet and save tons of dough! So when I hear some say “small ships are useless in warfare” I point to these little DDs and DE vessels to remind them when our fleet possessed adequate numbers, dominated the vastness of the Pacific, and controlled the cruel North Atlantic.

  11. Bill permalink
    July 20, 2009 8:45 am

    “There are better FAC or OPV designs as Bill has indicated. And plent of those have guns larger than 57mm (not that is a bad gun~)”

    The 260-ton Skjold FAC has a 76mm rapid-fire deck gun..and 8 anti-ship cruise missiles with a range and capability virtually unmatched (180 nm?). Although it has not yet, to my knowledge, been completed yet, the Skjolds are due to receive an air-defense missile package too.

    All that on 260 tons that can travel over 60 knots and cruises at 40+…comfortably. A scaled version (600-700 tons, 65m) would/could have long legs, even more room for armament, a couple of RHIBs, and at least a landing pad for helos..if not a hangar bay.

  12. solomon permalink
    July 20, 2009 8:43 am


    The PT Boats failed in the mission to stop the “express” of supplies headed to the Japanese and destroyers were called in to finish the job. Higgins boats are in a different class. Single purpose landing craft to transport men from sea to shore. The Germans had a PT boat that was twice the size of the allies ships and it was a terror in the Atlantic until air power nullified the threat. Smaller even back to WW2 was not always better. PT Boats used by the allies were a strictly hit and run, harassment type weapon. The men were brave, the ships were lacking and did not match their skills. Additionally if we’re talking about control of the seas and littoral warfare then more attention should be paid to submarines. They were responsible for sinking more Japanese shipping than any other platform. The focus is on the Surface Navy but the real question should be…does the surface navy still control the waves or is it more of a land influence force. Subs and aircraft control seas now. One last question is the issue to fight in the littorals or to control the littorals? If its to control the littoral zone then Firescout, SH-60’s and P-8 are the answer. If its to fight IN the littorals than we need to maybe consider and OPV or smaller ship. I contend that you don’t want to put ships in close to the shore …too damn dangerous.

  13. Hudson permalink
    July 20, 2009 1:18 am

    One of the great small boats of all time were the PT boats of WWII. When the Navy learned it could purchase nine boats for one destroyer, they ordered up. Even with their limited range and firepower, the PTs performed essential services in the Pacific and the Atlantic. They were instrumental in sinking Japanese transports trying to supply Guadalcanal, helping to force the Japanese garrison from the island. Speaking of the Normandy landing, Gen. Eisenhower said, “The Higgins boats saved it for us.” Those were his words, or very close to it.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 19, 2009 8:11 pm

    Solomon, I would just love to see enough ships built that we aren’t stretched thin everywhere, that our sailors aren’t over-worked or new-build vessels run down before their time. The first seven Ticonderoga’s were discarded way too early IMHO.

    If we don’t get a grasp on what type of vessels are appropriate for fighting low tech enemies, we will soon be like the British Navy which are themselves discarding still useful destroyers, frigates and submarines to purchase only 2 giant aircraft carriers, which won’t even have their aircraft ready when there are commission whenever.

    Clearly the all-battleship navy designed in the Cold War isn’t doing the deterrence or the containment it once performed, with pirates everywhere and China not buying it. A sea-change in seapower is in order and ignoring these new asymmetrical threats or trusting that we never will have to fight these ships won’t do it.

  15. leesea permalink
    July 19, 2009 7:59 pm

    I think what Bill told us is to use an existing design – period, none of this “change it for the better” stuff?
    From what I’ve been told the Cyclone PC is NOT the design to start from.
    There are better FAC or OPV designs as Bill has indicated. And plent of those have guns larger than 57mm (not that is a bad gun~)

    “We” just have to keep our desires in check and not add expensive features like NAVAIR certified flight decks! (been there done that = $$$) . A simple UAV platform is good enough for a smaller warship. Put the helos, hangers, fuel and crews on a larger mothership.

    One new feature (for the USN) that I do think needs to be included is a boat launch either a stern ramp or overhead gantry or simply a SLAD. I just think smaller ships need to be capable of supporting boat ops in this day of VBSS ops.

  16. Defiant permalink
    July 19, 2009 7:52 pm

    There ships of that class are not limited to 25mm, german albatros class had 2 x 76mm guns at 400t.
    And i think michael is right, nobody here stated that you should make all of the navy small, but small vessels have their place as well and piracy won’t calm down, there are enough hungry fishers along the global trade routes hoping for better life. If these nations can’t afford a coast guard or tolerate piracy someone has to do it and burkes are simply overkill for those missions.
    something like this:

    should be the minimum for such a job, visbys would probably be the optimum

  17. michael Mac permalink
    July 19, 2009 6:36 pm

    solomon- I would mount a 57 mm gun on anything in the range of the ships discussed. A corvette 0f 500-600 tons should have a 57 mm gun as well as 1-2 stabilized gun mounts of at least 50 cal. I am not a huge fan of corvettes, but believe a few would have their uses. The funding should not come out of other ships currently being built (LCS DDG whatever). The money should come from the ridiculous stimulus package passed earlier- that should be cut in half & some of the funds used to maintain the armed forces. Swarm tactics would best be handled by having multiple platforms firing since this increases firing rate & disperses targets- complicating the suicide boats targeting. In restricted waters a think there is a role for smaller ships- a niche as I said- we do not need 30+ of these. I also think the LCS is unfairly criticized at this point- we do not know if it will be successful. Remember in the early eighties the so called “reformers” (Gary Hart etc) said the Bradley & M! were death traps, turkeys etc. They turned out to be outstanding weapon systems. Heck- early reviewers of the Spruance classes screamed the were too large & lightly armed- but that design also lead to the Ticons.

  18. July 19, 2009 5:58 pm

    Michael Mac…the only reason why swarm tactics have been effective in the past is because of restrictive rules of engagement. Have the same restrictions on whatever force you dream of and the problem persists. Once the senior leadership gets a handle on that issue then swarm attacks become the charge of the light brigade…dashing and heroic but doomed to failure–especially against a Burke class ship. I notice that the largest gun possible on these mythical patrol ships is a 25mm. That alone makes this a bad idea. That places the bad guys inside not only your engagement envelope but probably you inside theirs. So even if the rules of engagement have been “loosened’ you still have the problem of heavily armed speed boats being able to effectively engage your small combatants.

  19. michael Mac permalink
    July 19, 2009 4:43 pm

    I could see a use for a limited number (6-12) corvette type craft for use in the Gulf- or pirate patrols. They would also be used to handle swarming tactics. They should be based on the Al Sidiq class or the Ambassador III class- both built in US shipyards. Updated to reflect current weapons- 57 mm main gun (better anti-air/missile & good for swarms of small boats,) RAM, penguin (or its update)- since this is the littoral missile. Would redesign/slightly enlarge to hold a spartan like craft & 1-2 typhoon gun mounts ( min 50 cal up to 25 mm) & 1-2 netfires boxes, scan eagle system. All told the ship would probably gain no more than about 10% in displacement. Adding a vls system would seem to be overkill & begin to greatly increase cost/gold plate the ship. Do not see a need for a large number of these, but a niche seems to be there- with the added benefit of ready use ina confrontation with someone like Iran trying swarming tactics early in a conflict.

  20. solomon permalink
    July 19, 2009 3:03 pm

    I hope you’re convincing your other readers because I am so far from being sold its not even funny. This idea is a naval statement of the Wheeler principal for airpower. And just like Wheeler, you’re ignoring the technological advancements that have spread world wide that make cheaper, simpler and more- a fools errand. It really is the naval equivalent. He wants the air force in F-5 type fighters with no radar and just guns doing dog fights of the past and you’re aiming for us to have a PT Boat type fleet designed to die in place to give us our “speed bump” in case we’re surprised. Want to know how survivable your modern torpedo boat would be??? Think about this…its about the same size as a WW2 German Torpedo Boat …932 tons, or just a little under the 1000 ton figure you’ve come up with. Its weapons fit would be pathetic, its survivability suspect and its utility in wartime measured in seconds. Seriously Mike, its time to put this away.

  21. Scott B. permalink
    July 19, 2009 1:32 pm

    Once you have a fleet comprising hordes of PC boat, how do they deploy from CONUS ? How do you support them once they’re deployed ?

  22. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 19, 2009 1:27 pm

    Actually my way will save they navy. By keeping small ships forward deployed, they act as a “speed bump” for any attack on our naval forces. As it is now, with our shrinking numbers of big ships forward deployed, what will be left if they are surprised by the thousand of land based weapons now aimed against them, plus suicide boats and stealthy subs? You can’t say we haven’t been surprised before, as the US has a track record of this, from Pearl Harbor, 1941, the Bulge 1944, Yalu River 1950, up to today with 9/11.

    I am calling for a balance of forces, in which something will survive the initial exchange. Plus in peacetime it would greatly ease the strain for our sailors who are forced to endure Cold War era deployments with a fleet smaller than before World War 1. Battleships alone can’t can’t control the waves.

    Defiant, talking about modularity, now you are getting into the big price range plus complicated construction. We are then back where we started.

  23. Scott B. permalink
    July 19, 2009 1:25 pm

    Bill said : “There is not a thing magic about about the Cyclone hull lines or existing structure; quite the opposite in fact.”


  24. July 19, 2009 9:50 am

    Do you want a Navy that projects force or a Soviet style sea denial force? If we follow your lead on ship building then that’s exactly what we’ll have…a small ship, sea denial force that will be employed piecemeal and destroyed piecemeal. PT boats, Off Shore Patrol Vessels, etc…all are good for small Navies that fight under an umbrella of some kind. In the Soviet example, protected (theoretically) by Naval Air and Subs….in the example of our allies by the US Navy. If we are to take your example to its logical end then what will protect these lightly equipped vessels from the myriad threats allied against them. HELL MAN! Even shore missile batteries become a serious threat not to mention even primitive aircraft (well I’m call a Mig-19 type primitive..but deadly against these ships). No sir, this just won’t do. Time to put this theory to sleep Mike!

  25. Defiant permalink
    July 19, 2009 9:45 am

    I’d say a helideck is essential, and integration of at least 20 tons extra (heli+deck rough estimate) is not that easy if the ship wasn’t build to have such a thing. With a ship of this size the helideck should also be placed rather low (the cyclone design looks like you’d only have to drop one gun and make a deck on top of the stuff in the middle, but i do not think it’s that easy) in order to give it more stability.
    I doubt anything beyond 4-500t can be used as an opv, you need a helideck, at least one rhib, boarding crew+ normal crew, main gun(35+mm), about 2 more gpmgs, a ram (with some effort you could probably use a 35mm millennium gun as main weapon and ciws, but ram is probably better choice). Remove the helideck and you can use such a ship as MIW vessel. (Modularity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Anybody got any idea of ships this size? gepard class with removed exocets is the closest i can think of but i doubt it’d be usable for marine helicopters.

  26. Mike Burleson permalink
    July 19, 2009 8:33 am

    “The biggest problem would probably be the missing helideck and crew comfort”

    C’mon guys, these ships are working, in service for decades now, not some pipe dream down the road. Such problems as crew comfort and helicopters can be fixed, but not ships which are harder to build because we place every capability on single giant warships which are impossible to construct in adequate numbers.

    Such capabilities can be shared if you have numbers, also ensuring you will have something than can survive the tens of thousands of missiles and other precision weapons now aimed at our shrinking and spread thin navy. As for crew comfort, this is the purpose of mothership/tenders which have historically served this role quite well for small craft navies, whether PT boats or submarines. They will enhance the abilities of the new corvettes as well.

    Trying to place Blue Water abilities on shallow water warships is a mistake, which has given us the $3/4 billion LCS which we can’t afford in the numbers we need, and aren’t building any way fast enough.

  27. Bill permalink
    July 19, 2009 8:16 am enlarged and upgunned ‘version’ of the Cyclone. ?? I continually find it quite odd when anyone proposes that kind of nonsense, as if there were some kind of ‘good karma’ or ‘PFM’ attached to an existing hull in the water, no matter how mediocre, that makes it a ‘good starting point’ for a completely differnt ship that is much larger and has different/more requirements laid on it. It would be a new ship. Period. As such, it would require a significant design effort and the end result would bear little resemblance to a Cyclone. There is not a thing magic about about the Cyclone hull lines or existing structure; quite the opposite in fact.

    Look at the EN FMC. Another design ‘based’ on yet another of the naval hulls from the once-prolific Vosper Thornycroft. But…the actual detail design for the specific vessel for the EN took just as long and cost just as much as if starting with a clean sheet of paper. And so what?…that’s how you get the vessel you want/need.

    And now that Vosper is no more…what now? Use Damen designs (good stuff there), Blohm & Voss?… or actually bring some US ME and NA skill to bear and design our own?

  28. Defiant permalink
    July 19, 2009 7:20 am

    The biggest problem would probably be the missing helideck and crew comfort.
    Endurance is 10 days, range 2000nm and mission performance til ss3
    Are those enough for military use (on a foreign coast)?
    The question is weather you can put that stuff on this hull without creating a new ship.

    OTS is enough for pirate hunting , but to make real progress you sometimes have to take risks and create something new.

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