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No Headlines for this Drug Buster

October 3, 2009

The guided missile frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41).

The guided missile frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41).

Scoop Deck points out the silent exploits of another anti-narcotics warship quietly plying her necessary mission. Here is the story of “Mighty Mac”, the frigate USS McClusky:

The “Mighty Mac” has collected its share of drug busts when it heads to sea on such deployments to support U.S. SouthCom’s Joint Interagency Task Force-South, the Key West, Fla.-based command that heads the military’s drug-busting arm for the past 20  years. During last year’s deployment, McClusky helped nab more than eight tons of cocaine headed to the United States. Just during a three-month deployment in 2007, the ship’s crew helped seized about 12 tons of cocaine, worth a reportedly $306 million.

In October 2005, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate hauled in about 5,800 pounds of cocaine aboard the fishing vessel Jose Antonio and helped, along with an embarked team of gun-toting Coast Guardsmen, to detain 16 suspected drug traffickers.  Just weeks earlier, McClusky interdicted a high-speed boat and found it carried three and a half tons of cocaine, worth almost $100 million.

Since 2000, according to Navy officials, McClusky has made more than 20 drug seizures during deployments to the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific…

This is great stuff. Such unheralded but still vital functions of a Navy may not get the headlines (or funding) of supercarriers, missile destroyers, or nuclear submarines. Still, no real navy would be complete and no country safe without these little cruisers standing between the ocean’s lawless and civilization.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott B. permalink
    October 5, 2009 8:39 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Just not excessive or unreasonable qualties, as in 10,000 ton-100 missile battleships!”

    Am I supposed to believe that expecting a warship to be capable of continuous efficient operations (other than replenishment) in SS5 is* unreasonable or excessive* ?

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 5, 2009 7:04 pm

    “some say good seakeeping qualities are not needed in the littorals”

    Scott- no one is saying that here. Just not excessive or unreasonable qualties, as in 10,000 ton-100 missile battleships!

  3. Scott B. permalink
    October 5, 2009 6:59 pm

    Chuck Hill said : “For smaller ships performance deteriorates rapidly with sea state, its just physics. That’s not to say they won’t survive.”

    And sometimes, they don’t survive : e.g. HMS Branlebas (895 tons fully loaded), lost during a storm 25NM off Eddystone Light on December 14, 1940.

    But some say good seakeeping qualities are not needed in the littorals…

  4. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 5, 2009 12:56 am

    The river class OPVs,

    are 1677 tons, considerably bigger than your 1000 corvettes. The final development of the Hunt Class was 1700 tons full load. And yes you can make a ship that size sea worthy, but when it gets rough they won’t be going even 20 knots. If you want to maintain higher speeds in rough seas you have to go bigger. (Again it is the ability to maintain speed in a sea state I’m talking about.)

    Remember seeing a study a long time ago that said that to operate comfortably in the North Atlantic a ship needed to be at least 270 feet long. It was related to the swell length. That was approximately the length of the Hunt Class and the length of the River class OPV. In the Pacific the length would be longer, because of the longer swells. (Of course that only works if you can match your heading to the swell direction. That is a survival technique. It does not necessarily mean you have an ability to accomplish your mission in the face of adverse conditions. )

    As I’ve said before, when you get up to about 2,000 tons you can get a useful compromise with a conventional hull. Performance will still suffer as the sea state goes up, but not nearly as fast as a smaller ship. The Gleeves/Benson/Mayo class destroyers which are smaller than the Fletchers were well respected for their sea keeping. They were about 2,400 tons full load. The Fletchers were 2,924 tons full load and the Gearings 3,460 tons full load.

    For smaller ships performance deteriorates rapidly with sea state, its just physics. That’s not to say they won’t survive.

  5. Tarl permalink
    October 4, 2009 5:41 pm

    I would have no problem at all with building more OHPs instead of the LCS.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 4, 2009 3:39 pm

    Chuck the old four stacker DDs were build for speed, not endurance. Long and slim, they were meant to chase down fast torpedo boats more than Blue Water operations.

    An OPV like the Island class of the British Navy, 1000 tons light was built with the lessons of the Cod Wars in mind. Small but able to take rough weather on the Blue Water. This is my ideal patrol vessel. I also see such craft operating more in the littorals, and don’t see them as ocean escorts. Also consider some of the later war-era Hunt class for a successful design in this tonnage.

    Small doesn’t necessarily mean poor sea-keeping, just as large size isn’t a guarantee of invincibility.

  7. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 3, 2009 10:07 pm

    I should have said that Corbett’s cruisers would also normally need to be faster than the battle line so that they could scout and screen for it. In Corbett’s time, destroyers did not meet these conditions, since until late in WWI they had neither the endurance or the sea worthiness. Assuming conventional hull forms, it’s the combination of speed, endurance, and sea keeping that is the problem for small ships. You can make any size fast, and you can give virtually any size the ability to survive high seas and go Trans Atlantic, but maintaining high speed in a sea way for long distances is a problem for smaller ships. When they encounter rough seas two things happen, the crew gets beaten up and fatigued and the ship has to slow down to avoid being damaged.

    Sea story–I was XO on a Coast Guard 327 ft cutter that had served as an escort operating out of Greenland during WWII. I had access to her war diaries. She operated as the flag ship of a group along with two WWI vintage four stack destroyers. She was 2350 tons full load and capable of only 20 knots. The destroyers were about 1300 tons full load and capable of 35 knots, but when it got rough the cutter would have to slow down so that the destroyers could keep up.

  8. Hudson permalink
    October 3, 2009 10:01 pm

    I wonder when the photo was taken. I thought all remaining Perry class frigates had lost their missile launch arm on the foredeck by ’05-’07, not that that matters for chasing down dope.

  9. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 3, 2009 8:51 pm

    In Julian Corbett’s time, a cruiser was any warship smaller than a battleship that could reliably cross an ocean operating independently. I think this is the basic criteria Mike would use. He believes this applies to 1,000 ton corvettes, I don’t think they can have an adequate combination of speed, sea keeping, and range at that displacement, and would opt for something larger.

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 3, 2009 8:49 pm

    Not at all Solomon. I am still committed to a back to basics design which will be adequate for chasing smugglers and pirates. These old frigates are just the bridge between the old and the new ( a little large and costly for this type of work, but what else is there?), and I bemoan that the need for such low end craft is so often ignored by the Big Ship obsessed Navy.

    We need new cruisers, not ships from the Cold War which we can no longer afford in any numbers. Such craft cost the same, are armed the same and geared for the same carrier escort role, then used to chase pirates in speed boats. There is a better, more cost effective way. As we see with the old but still essential frigates, they need replacement bad and a billion dollar warship isn’t needed to do its function. An OPV or something a little better would be just fine.

  11. October 3, 2009 8:03 pm

    Someone else highlighted my confusion on the type ship you want. Is it the same size as the Perry class or smaller. Is their an example of the ship that you would see as being the ideal fit for your concept?


  12. Mike Burleson permalink*
    October 3, 2009 7:41 pm

    Good point Chuck. Thanks!

  13. Chuck Hill permalink
    October 3, 2009 6:40 pm

    Might be worth pointing out that FFGs are about the same size as WWI light cruisers (substantially larger than the raider Emden, but smaller than the HMAS Sydney that sank her) (and a little smaller than the new Coast Guard cutter ).

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