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LCS Alternative Weekly

December 16, 2009

The Cyclone-class Coastal patrol craft USS Whirlwind (PC 11).

The PC Answer to Piracy    

The remaining Cyclone class patrol craft of the US Navy have been quietly performing the duties expected of the newer Littoral Combat Ship, without the frills, the advanced hull form, super-high tech engines, cost overruns, mechanical difficulties, funding difficulties, ect…Here is a 2006 article from on the USS Typhoon (PC 5) and her exploits in the Gulf of Aden:    

Typhoon’s role in the mission, like [ U.S. Coast Guard Cutter] Wrangell, was to use its size and speed to do what larger Navy vessels could not.  “[Typhoon’s] job was to get as close to dhows and merchant vessels as possible and to send a boarding crew to gather intelligence about maritime activity in the area,” said Lt. T.J. Mayott, Typhoon’s weapons officer.    

“The mission was also to show our presence to local mariners and let them know coalition forces are here to prevent piracy and terrorism,” said Lt. Cmdr. P.C. Then, Typhoon’s commanding officer. Delta Crew members aboard Typhoon operated the ship while members of Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment 401 performed necessary boardings.    

“This mission revealed how versatile a PC crew is,” said Mayott. “Every Sailor is expected to do the jobs of multiple rates. At any moment, a gunner’s mate can be a culinary specialist, help fix an engine or perform the duties of quartermaster of the watch. A PC Sailor is a well-rounded Sailor.”    

I imagine with 50-100 PC’s the USN could make short work of the pirates in the region, or at least make their illegal profession much less profitable. Along with the aging Perry class frigates, the remaining Cyclones are the Original LCS Alternative, and probably will be for some time in the future.    


Speaking of Cyclones    

From the archives is a link to the old Worldwide War Pigs blog by Eric L Palmer, where he chastises the Navy’s procurement process:    

The LCS will never  be an effective “littoral” combat ship and the Navy knows it. The U.S. Navy needs ships in numbers to do all kinds of worldwide efforts that include showing the flag, police actions and of course sea control of whatever the national command authority deems necessary. Yet we will never get there if we have to pay for dreadnoughts that aren’t needed and projects like the LCS that make the U.S. Navy look like it is catching a bad dose of USAF procurement disease which I will label “AFPD”. The symptoms are where gold plated and faulty defense projects are passed off to the public as solutions and are instead nothing but gold plated lies.    

What the average public doesn’t know is that there is already a littoral combat solution in service. It is called the Cyclone Class Patrol Ship…    

Speaking in retrospect, we should have reopened this line shortly after 9/11, then the numbers in the fleet would have been more than adequate for contending with the threats we have today, such the anti-piracy and anti-narcotics missions. We are using our giant Burke battleships and excellent but aging British Type 23s for this role today, and they are needed elsewhere, especially the destroyers.    

For now, we should actively seek a corvette design, purchased off the shelf, which is more relevant for today’s threat. A 1000 ton+ plus ship would have greater staying power and endurance than a 350 ton PC, without the excessive costs of a frigate. While we still love frigates which can do many wondrous things, with costs and capabilities approaching that of a destroyer, as with the LCS it is no longer feasible to expect them in the numbers we desperately need.    


Defending the Indefensible    

CDR Salamander has an excellent rebuttal of Cmdr. Don Gabrielson’s spirited defense of the LCS that appeared in the Military Times Scoop Deck blog last month. Please read the both posts which are very enlightening. I’ll sum up Salamander’s specific beefs he, hoping I do them justice:    

  1. Size-LCS is too big for a “littoral” ship
  2. Modularity-She isn’t there yet.
  3. Maneuverability and access-See #1.
  4. Speed-Irrelevant.
  5. Crew Size-Too small.
  6. Cost-$700 million. You can’t buy enough of them.

Finally, there is my most favorite quote of all which you likely will hear again “Never before has so much money bought so little capability from so few ships.”    


Spotlight on Cyclone class Patrol Coastal Ships    

Info via the Navy Fact File:    

The primary mission of these ships is coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance, an important aspect of littoral operations outlined in the Navy’s strategy, Forward…From the Sea. The Cyclone-Class PCs are particularly suited for the maritime homeland security mission and have been employed jointly with the U.S. Coast Guard to help protect our nation’s coastline, ports and waterways from terrorist attack; in addition, the ships have been forward deployed to the Gulf Region in support of the war on terrorism.    


Builder: Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.
Propulsion: Four Paxman diesels; four shafts; 3,350 shaft horsepower.
Length: 170 feet (51.82 meters).
Beam: 25 feet (7.62 meters).
Displacement: 331 tons (336.31 metric tons) full load.
Speed: 35 knots (40 miles per hour; 65 kilometers/hr).
Crew: Four officers, 24 enlisted personnel.
Armament: One MK 96 and one MK 38 25mm machine guns; Five .50 caliber machine guns; two MK 19 40mm automatic grenade launchers; Two M-60 machine guns.

USS Hurricane (PC 3), USS Typhoon (PC 5), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USS Squall (PC 7), USS Chinook (PC 9), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Whirlwind (PC 11), USS Thunderbolt (PC 12), USS Tempest (PC 2), Little Creek, VA, USS Monsoon (PC 4),  


Frigates Without Helicopters=Corvettes

Now a frigate is OK for fighting pirates in speed boats, only it is a very expensive waste of resources for such duty. Where we think the designers of USS Freedom LCS-1 and her kin went wrong, among other things, is the decision to place a helicopter hangar within the hull, meant to be cheap and light weight.

Hence another cause for the jump in price, from $220 million to half a billion each and climbing. This puts the LCS’ price range within that of an European Aegis missile battleship, yet with the armament of a coastal patrol boat, and is far from the savings needed to build up fleet numbers we were promised. Something is desperately needed to bridge the gap between the Aegis battleship and the Navy’s requirement for a coastal warship, which will also build up fleet numbers.

Currently, the required specifications we place on modern naval surface combatants are making them more costly, harder to build, and fewer in number. While current classes of cruisers, destroyers, and frigates are individually more capable than ever, there are also decreasing in number even though they are no less vulnerable to modern threats (some would say they are more vulnerable today) than their world war era predecessors, and they are no less needed when they were plentiful.

So have the navies been the same in the War on Piracy in the Gulf. We specifically point to the continued failure of the large multi-mission warship to adequately address this problem, and we see with ongoing attacks on shipping and even bold attacks on these same warships. Recently we learned the Somali pirates have made their longest range attack ever, 1000 miles out to sea. You would think then with so many capable warships in the region, all sporting at least one or two helos, plus the occasional light carrier, this problem could be managed.

While we argue the opposite concerning platforms (warships), less would actually be more when it concerns the essential helicopter. These great assets that can fly farther, faster than a ship can sail enhances the possibility and time a target is detected. It should not then become a substitute for ships still required for boarding, presence, fire support, the list goes on.

Basically a large aviation ship, call them carriers or motherships, supported by small corvettes would increase fleet numbers without the prohibitive costs. Numerous examples of corvettes do sport helos and even their hangars, but arguably this is not a very practical situation for launching air at sea (though smaller UAVs would be suitable).

Instead of a fair number of aviation capable surface combatants, there would be many surface combatants supported by a few aviation motherships. Sizes could vary but we see the 10,000 ton+ mothership, built to mercantile specs, as ideal. The argument might go that if you lose the mothership, then all your air support is gone, but we take an even greater risk with giant Nimitz class carriers, and the leaders seemed to have accepted the cost. We can work around any difficulties for the sake of boosting fleet numbers.

The naval helicopter is often pointed to as the reason the Navy doesn’t need small craft, mainly because of the aircraft’s effectiveness against missile boats in previous conflicts. That is fine except despite having adequate numbers of the same weapons in the War on Piracy, the problem is far from solved. Why have the same weapons which mowed down Iranian missile boats failed against poorly armed buccaneers in makeshift corsairs? Because aviation is an asset to a navy not a substitute for one, which is why we often contend the best answer to the small warship is another small warship.


32 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2013 10:53 pm

    Hi there, after reading this amazing piece of writing i am as
    well delighted to share my experience here with colleagues.

  2. CBD permalink
    December 18, 2009 1:28 pm

    Then you know more than I do.

    Interesting note about unmodified rockets and mounts. I was wondering if that was possible. It certainly simplifies your fleet resupply requirements if you can operate guided Hydra

    I found another RFI from May 2008 seeking a “Multi-Purpose Bomb Rack (MPBR)” for the F-18C/D and F-18E/F that would include capabilities for operating both the Zuni and Hydra launchers. The RFI originates from the NAVAIR Precision Strike Weapons Program Office (PMA201).

    I also found some financial records that reflect a purchase of some new LAU-10 launchers from 2001 to 2003. Typo or not, the product category listing is “Launchers, Guided Missile.”

    The RFI I linked above (concerning an insensitive Mk 71 Mod 2 motor) specifically names the Hornet and Cobra platforms. Maybe the Marines just want a cheaper Hellfire alternative?

    There were also some comments about the ban on carrier-based Zuni operations being lifted in support of some special operations helicopters.

    These other RFIs seem to indicate preparations to continue to use the LAU-10 on the Super Hornets and the latest Harriers…maybe the Marines aren’t confident about the F-35 IOC and are making preparations to integrate more PGMs into the legacy systems?

    Could the new (AH-1Z) Cobras use the guided Zuni? Their recent ancestor (AH-1W) was apparently capable, but given the incorporation of the Hellfires and the Zunis, there wasn’t much benefit to having an unguided, but large, rocket like the Zuni. Does precision guidance significantly alter that evaluation?

    The 2007 Marine Aviation Plan stated the following:”Laser Guided Zuni (LGZ): The Laser Guided Zuni is a proposed weapons program that will enhance the current inventory of 5.0” Zuni rockets with a Laser capability. Much like the APKWS this will involve placing a laser-guided seeker onto existing Zuni rocket motors and warheads providing an excellent low cost, mid-range weapon well suited for the MOUT environment. By utilizing the existing stock pile of Zuni motors, warheads and the LAU-10 launcher, the F/W and R/W warfighter will be able to capitalize on a low cost, increased Ph, low collateral damage weapon system. This will allow increase kills per stow, and provide a better weapons to target match against soft/moving target sets, preserving the high cost F/W and R/W PGMs for hard target sets. If appropriate funding is secured this weapon system could be fielded by FY 09.

  3. Bill permalink
    December 18, 2009 9:06 am

    I should have also commented that the tests we conducted on the SES-200 utilized all standard production launchers (rockets) and mounts for every weapon tested…so the ship weapon station would be drawing from exactly the same ‘weapons stores’ as were aircraft.

  4. Bill permalink
    December 18, 2009 9:03 am

    @ CBD: Thanks. I have been closely following the development of a guidance package for the 2.75 ..since I started laying the groundwork for that development back when I was the lead engineer for the office that ‘owned’ the rocket back in the mid 80s. USMC loved the Zunis for air-to-ground fire support role..but they were practically the only/lonely ones that did toward the ‘end’ and Zunis and rotary never played together well, so when the USMC fixed-wing assets that routinley carried the Zuni went did the rocket production. Glad to see that round might be back on line ..and of course introducing the ‘same’ active guidance add-on as for the 2.75 only makes sense. However, that still leaves the question open as to what current airframe could carry and fire them..if any. The launcher detent forces from firing those big rockets are quite high..

  5. CBD permalink
    December 17, 2009 9:36 pm

    Bill (if you’re still reading this thread),
    Sorry. Don’t know how I missed this comment earlier.

    Interesting comment/observation..since that is exactly what was demonstrated ‘way back’ on the SES-200 as what was supposed to be an early step in the development of a lightweight stabilized remote weapons station for smaller vessels. LTV was the integrator..the mount was an adaptation of an existing mount system that they had developed for wheeled and light tracked vehicles. A little different combo was actually tested on the SES-200 (Hellfire and Zunis) and the mount also supported Stingers and two differnt guns..a .50 or something else that I’ve forgotten.

    Well, good ideas seem to die hard.

    Kongsberg has had versions of its M151 protector and derivative Sea Protector modified to fire the CRV7-PG (70mm LGR) and 2 Hellfires (From the CB90), respectively. There’s no reason why the standard helicopter interface couldn’t be dropped into that or a similar remote weapons turret (now in many wonderful varieties). Mount a single-level M299 launcher for the Hellfires or LM’s DAGR (4rd box, 1 fits in spot of 1 Hellfire). For area fire support missions, a single modified 19rd launcher (for other brand LGRs) could take the place of the M299.

    I threw in the Zunis because I figured the Marines might want to use the system.

    5″ Zunis are still around?..I thought that production of those was stopped quite a while ago.
    Yep, so did I. But they went ahead and designed and tested a laser-guidance package for it. MBDA and Elbit put their heads together and quietly made it work. If it goes into production, I get the feeling that the Marines will be keeping it.

    If all goes as planned, the USMC (and USN) will have low-end guided weapons with whatever comes out of the APKWS II program (or the many competitors), a medium-level 5″ rocket and the high end Hellfire.

    As for production, I found a solicitation from 2005 for IM/HERO-compliant 5″ rocket motors. There’s also a GD product page where they note their role in producing the nozzle and fin system for the Hydra and Zuni.

    I also found a navy PPT presentation on efficiency that seems to indicate in-house production of the Zuni rockets as of mid-2008. (Link).

  6. leesea permalink
    December 17, 2009 6:26 pm

    Petty, it is NOT for a lack of available assets that the USN is NOT going into Somali. Yes double negatives mean they could IF and WHEN ordered, but that has not happened according to Adm Mullen.

    MSC charters several ship for NSW support from the Chouest Bros and the C-Courageous was one of them for similar goto:

    NSW got the Mk V SOCs because to supplement the PCs’ role

  7. D. E. Reddick permalink
    December 17, 2009 11:03 am


    Yeah, those Spruance-based aviation ship designs were hybrid vessels meant to carry either helos and/or a small number of Harriers. One of those was described as a small version of the RN’s Invincible class. That design by Commander Ronald J. Ghiradella was claimed to have been capable of deploying with twelve medium helos and four Harriers.

  8. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 17, 2009 8:44 am

    “Will that US Navy start & buy another small combatant (under 3000 tons like LCS), I highly doubt it?!”

    Currently it does seem unlikely, but if you follow the numbers, with shrinking fleets and declining budgets, we are very confident. Here is a need that desperately needs filling. Historically, fleets have always returned back to basics for new threats at sea. I see littoral ships are the future, but not the one we have today, which is just another gold-plated frigate.

    The high end ships are needed elsewhere, but the low tech threats are persistent, even growing. The only reason piracy stays in the headlines is because we haven’t gotten serious about it yet. This is an historic problem, easily dealt with if you have the right tools. We don’t have the tools which means more hulls in the water. The budgets aren’t’ getting bigger but even if it did you couldn’t build enough large destroyers and 3000 ton frigates to matter.

    So here is the future we see with corvettes, patrol ships, ect. These are ready now. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. They cost from $10s of millions to the lower $100 millions each. Less a couple Aegis ships, you could build quite a few, not stretch your resources or waste your high end ships fighting pirates in speed boats.

    Steve, I like your Fire Scout carrier. Been thinking along that line myself. Anyone recall the plans to place Harriers on the Spruance class in the 1980s? Not very practical perhaps, but how about UAVs?

  9. Steve Petty permalink
    December 17, 2009 2:49 am

    My comment on the 5 Battleships that the MK-5 INTERCEPTOR build by U.S. Marine Inc. could provide useful littorial capibilties at low cost [$6.2m each to Kuwait] and armed with the 25mm Typhoon SSM mount with 25mm auto-cannon and 4 HELLFIRE missiles, 2×12.7mg, and a twin STINGER mount aft there firepower would rival the CYCLONE class but at 90’L, 54tons and 45+ knots they have 24hr endurance and are in service with the USN SOC and in production for Kuwait. For support the Navy could either buy or charter a marine suppoert vessels like the MV C-COURAGEOUS used by the Riverine Sqns.[less than $8m per year to charter] and a PERRY class frigate tasked as a FIRESCOUT carrier with 4-6 FIRESCOUTS embarked for air support. With no R&D required on any element of this force [all are already in USN service.] you could stand-up a Sqn. off Somali within a year and cheaply.

  10. CBD permalink
    December 16, 2009 11:34 pm

    You’re right. It’s just too rational. Silly me.

    And, unfortunately, I think that the big boy proponents will take the LCS as a lesson that a small, cheap but effective ship just can’t be made.

  11. leesea permalink
    December 16, 2009 8:39 pm

    As you noted the Sentinel FRC is actually a Damen design since the USCG rather smartly required an existing ship design as part of the acquisition.

    The comparison between what LM & GD did with HSV designs and the results as to what Austal did with the JHSV design is also notable both is producaiton timeline and delivered cost. JHSV is in fact an adaption on the Austal 101 meter HSV as used successfully for the HSV WestPac Express.

    Do you suppose NAVSEA might learn something from the above two procurements?? Nahh. There are too many success models for them to figure it out – dahh!

    Will that US Navy start & buy another small combatant (under 3000 tons like LCS), I highly doubt it?!

  12. CBD permalink
    December 16, 2009 7:49 pm

    Absolutely true. The design proposal I placed above was more about a follow-on to the PC class while the Corvettes are developed. The PC could be expanded that much, but beyond that you’re better off designing a new hull. It’s a 75% solution for the next 5 years.

    I think that Bollinger has seriously triumphed with the PC and Sentinel because of smart design decisions. They figured out how to place a rear boat ramp onto the PC-14 and now have it in almost every other military or LE ship they produce. They figured out (with PC-1) that it was best to buy the rights to a successful, right-sized hull that was successful elsewhere (repeated in the Sentinel design), changing the guts but saving the large costs in basic design. I believe in the possibility of repeating this with a corvette-sized vessel. The entire PC-1 development period was under 3 years from contract to finished product.

    While LM and GD both paid lip service to this idea, the practical difficulties of what each tried to do (develop a revolutionary change in military vessels) meant that the final hulls were only minimally benefited by the common heritage.

    LM and GD admirably tried to apply various existing civilian and test platform ship technologies to a new military application, but no ship had been built to test the forms. Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, which tried to use the Skjold and Visby designs as a pre-existing baseline, were effectively punished. The design and competition program began in 2002 seeking small, stealthy littoral ships, the build contracts were awarded in 2004 for two, fairly large ships, and in 2010 we’ll be lucky to see the first testbeds operate with all basic systems.

    Ideally, I’d see a revitilization in the under-6,000t category:
    – A frigate for the purely cruiser missions (as the Burkes take over the roles of the aging Tico’s in fleet defense and BMD), along the lines of the F100 or Formidable.
    – A patrol corvette between 800 and 1,600t. I think that one could do well with based on the Qahir-class corvette hull, thus employing another highly successful VT hullform..
    – If needed, a small group of lower-end PC follow-ons in the under 600t range available in the near-term while production is prepared for the patrol corvette.

  13. leesea permalink
    December 16, 2009 7:08 pm

    DERiddick yes another fine example of an expeditionary frigate or corvette desinged over there so not to be built here?!!

    CBD there are so many more good modern designs to use rather than baseline one on the old PCs.

    I think the Sentinels will be fine cutters. I see the Navy needing some more capabilies than the Coast Guard wants? I think more (2 boat) handling, plus boat teams and UAV platform and det as important factors driving the size up towards 1000 tons.

    I proposed using a Dockwise Dock Exptess 10 class ship as a mothership for these types of small combatants some time ago. A force enabler with off crew, M&R, spares, provisions and POL capacity to allow more little boys to stay on-station longer.

  14. CBD permalink
    December 16, 2009 5:36 pm

    Poorly phrased on my part. Better would have been: “Smaller in displacement and, overall, quite a bit reduced in capabilities.”

    There isn’t designed space for added weapons on the Sentinel-class.

    But they’re also designed to operate at a much lower tempo (2,500 hours per year) vs an active USN vessel (rates usually twice that).

  15. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 16, 2009 5:06 pm

    CBD, “The Sentinel FRC is actually quite a bit smaller”

    I don’t think 19 tons is quite a bit smaller, and in fact they are larger than the original PCs which were 336 tons.

    Weapons are a matter of choice, and subject to change. Even the 25 mm is adequate for dealing with pirates.

    Seakeeping is better, largely because it has a fuller hull form. Range is the same. Speed is less but still adequate.

    And I suspect they are cheaper to run.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 16, 2009 4:54 pm

    Way back we posted on the Sentinel:

  17. CBD permalink
    December 16, 2009 4:45 pm

    The Sentinel FRC is actually quite a bit smaller and reduced in capabilities vs. the Cyclone class (as updated with the PC-14). Both are from the same shipyard. Sentinel is a USCG-oriented take on the patrol boat by basically the same development team. The only significant improvement from PC-14 to the Sentinel class is its rough weather handling capabilities, which may be the result of further development of the fin stabilization, hull design, boat retrieval system and weapons mounts.

    PC-14 vs. Sentinel
    179′ —— 140-153′ Length
    25′ ——– 25′ Beam
    372 —– 353 Full Load Displacement (long tons)
    32-35 ——– >28 Top sustainable speed (knots)
    SS3 ——– SS4 Max Sea State (Operations)
    SS5 ——– SS6 Max Sea State (Survival)
    28 + 9 ——- 22 + 0 Compliment

    Armament (PC-14)
    – 2, 25mm guns (Mk 38, Mk 96, or Mk 38 Mod 2 station)
    – 6 Stinger MANPADS missiles
    – 4, pintle mounts (40mm GMG, 12.7mm MG or 7.62mm MG)
    – Decoy (passive defense) launcher system

    Armament (Sentinel)
    – 1, 25mm gun (Mk 38 Mod 2 station)
    – 4, 12.7mm machine guns (Pintle)

    Boat Handling (PC-14)
    1, 36′ NSW RIB
    2, CRRC, large

    Boat Handling (Sentinel)
    1, 23′ RIB

  18. Bill permalink
    December 16, 2009 4:15 pm

    The FRCs also have an advanced fin stabilization that can be upgraded with zero-speed stabilizing capabilites.

  19. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 16, 2009 3:29 pm

    Incidentally the Sentinel class cutters are only a little smaller than HMS Grimsby (M108) Mike highlighted last week and are a whole lot faster.

  20. Chuck Hill permalink
    December 16, 2009 3:08 pm

    There is actually an ongoing contract for PCs from Bollinger. The new Sentinal Class “Fast Response Cutters” at 353 tons are actually a little larger than they Cyclone class PCs. They trade a bit of speed (28 knots vice 32) for better boat handling facilities (at least compared to the originals), accommodations. and sea keeping.

    Combine a navalized version with the new Joint Logistics Vessel (JLV):

    and we might have a way to establish a mobile coastal sea control capability.

    Over the next six years they expect to make 34 cutters, so peak production rate should be at least 6/year. Ultimately 58 are planned, but if all options for the first 34 vessels are exercised the unit price will be about 44 million, or about 12 for the cost of a LCS.

    The cutters already have a stabilized 25 mm mount and link capability. Up-gun to 30-40 mm and add a container of 15 Netfires NLOS and they will have a good capability against targets both at sea and ashore.

    Cutter info is here:

  21. B.Smitty permalink
    December 16, 2009 3:02 pm

    What does an upgraded Cyclone give us that the USCG Sentinel class can’t? Do we really need heavier armament for the tasks envisioned? Is 28kts good enough?

  22. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 16, 2009 2:14 pm

    Lee, I do agree with you that the PC’s are too small for what we need. The 1000 ton corvette would be a better patrol boat with greater staying power, plus significantly large enough to handle enemy missile boats.

    I am not necessarily calling for more PC’s. This post was more about “what might have been”.

    As under-performing as they are, for the primary role of operating in the littorals, the PC’s are better, significantly better than the 3000 ton LCS. When you look at it from this perspective, what a horrible waste of time and funds has been the LCS program. An entire decade wasted for nothing, and we are still shrinking!

  23. Bill permalink
    December 16, 2009 1:58 pm

    CBD said: “Place a remote weapons station on either side of the vessel with 2 Hellfires (-114M) or 6 laser guided Zunis or 19 laser guided Hydra rockets apiece and you have a greatly enhanced fire support capability (out to 8-12km) with minimal increase in displacement.”

    Interesting comment/observation..since that is exactly what was demonstrated ‘way back’ on the SES-200 as what was supposed to be an early step in the development of a lightweight stabilized remote weapons station for smaller vessels. LTV was the integrator..the mount was an adaptation of an existing mount system that they had developed for wheeled and light tracked vehicles. A little different combo was actually tested on the SES-200 (Hellfire and Zunis) and the mount also supported Stingers and two differnt guns..a .50 or something else that I’ve forgotten.

    5″ Zunis are still around?..I thought that production of those was stopped quite a while ago.

  24. CBD permalink
    December 16, 2009 1:40 pm

    Whatever its origins (an effort to replace the old Mk III and IV patrol boats for NSW that was joined with a general fleet requirement for a basic patrol boat), the PCs are still a good basis (as a proven patrol boat) for future coastal patrol craft.

    Given that their patrol range is 2,000nm with an transit fuel reserve (at least for the PC-14 variant) for an extra 500-900nm, it’s many times ‘leggier’ than anything else available to NSW or conventional fleet boats. For vessels of their size, they have exceptional operational capability through SS3 (with the old, manned gun systems) and survivability through SS5.

    One of the ‘confining’ features was the CNO’s decision to give the PCs names, thus providing the USN with more officer positions and increasing the regulations attached to the use of the PCs. Quite confining. The other capacity issues were partially dealt with in the PC-14, as you said.

    I see no reason why an evolutionary design based on the PC class shouldn’t be used.

    I think that a corvette in the range of 1,000t could also do a lot more, but I think that you could have a significantly enhanced PC-15 at under 600t and under $60-70m.

    Buy 20 for the price of LCS-5 & 6 and you have a small fleet ready to be forward deployed around the world. Maintenance requirements for a pair are handled by 2 standard shipping containers and a handful of maintenance techs. You could forward base 4 in Japan/Korea/Guam, 4 in the UAE/Eilat/Diego Garcia, 4 in Italy/Spain and 4 more in Florida/Panama/Columbia. The other 4 would stay in Virginia for training and as reserves. Put one LCS and a small tender at each of those fleet stations and you have a small flotilla ready to respond to to any LIC scenario at high speed.

    Want to enhance handling, capacity and range? Extend the length from 55m to 60m, extend the beam from 7.6m to ~9m, growing the fuel tanks accordingly. Give it an enclosed mast. Enclose the large open spaces in the aft section and thus further reduce the RCS and IR signatures. These modifications also give you the space needed for your extra men (from 9 with 2 spare spots to 18 with 2 spare spots), reduce the ship’s signature and enhance its resistance to rough sea states.

    Want to enhance weapons and ISRT? Slap on an additional Mk38 Mod2 turret or a Millennium CIWS in place of the aft Mk96 mount. Place a simple air defense system like the Sea Scorpion 2 (navalized Stinger RWS, or even a marinized Laser Avenger turret) in the position of the Stinger station. Place a remote weapons station on either side of the vessel with 2 Hellfires (-114M) or 6 laser guided Zunis or 19 laser guided Hydra rockets apiece and you have a greatly enhanced fire support capability (out to 8-12km) with minimal increase in displacement. The extra length should give ample space for a launch and recovery unit for something like the ScanEagle UAV to provide local ISRT.

  25. D. E. Reddick permalink
    December 16, 2009 12:30 pm


    You mean something like the U.A.E. Baynunah class corvette; only enlarged for better helo & UAV accommodation, improved endurance, UNREP capability, and a stern ramp for RHIB deployment.

    Characteristics of the Byanunah class corvette:
    length – 70 m,
    beam – 11 m,
    draught – 2.8 m,
    weight – 660 ton,
    cruise speed – 15 kt,
    maximum speed – over 32 kt,
    range – 2,400 nm,
    endurance – 14 days.

    Weapons of the Baynunah class corvette:
    One Oto Melara 76/62mm Super Rapid gun;
    Two Rheinmetall MLG 27 mm guns;
    Eight MBDA MM40 block 3 Exocet missiles;
    Four Raytheon Mk 56 eight-cell vertical launchers for the RIM-162 ESSM (NOTE – these are likely four two-missile cells for a total of eight ESSM);
    One Mk 49 mod3 21-cell RAM launcher for the RAM block 1A missile system.

    The class also has a stern helicopter deck with a single landing spot for a medium-sized helicopter such as the AS 565 or the SH-2G and a fully equipped hangar.

    Galrahn likes them as a schema for building USN corvettes:

  26. Distiller permalink
    December 16, 2009 11:40 am

    @ Bill

    I know. The “trunk” is pretty large. Enough for two small UAV and a troop of commandos. In addition a patrol version could do with a 40mm or 57mm instead of the 76.2mm autocannon. Just wish I’d find that range/speed diagramme again!!

  27. leesea permalink
    December 16, 2009 11:39 am

    you might have gotten your PC background mixed up. I had the project officer working for me in the reserves. He said the PCs came about as an abortive combination of a NSW rqmt for a SEAL transport ship and an regular navy rqmt to replace the PB patrol gunboats with something larger. Obviously the mismatch led to a poor basic ship concept (does that sound familiar?).

    So the NSW types did not like the early Cyclones as being too confining and hence PC-14 mods. BUT they are still TOO SMALL a patrol or support ship! Not only does the hull not carry sufficient payload and space for larger NSW needs and a UAV pad, but also they roll like pigs, and they don’t have the endurance.

    I think all those comparos using Cyclone PCs a baseline are off on the wrong foot.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love the Skjold for littoral attack role, its a great modern FAC, but a coastal patrol ship it is NOT. Give me a 1000 ton small corvette with weapons, sesnors, boats, UAV (along with M&R spaces), and POL capacity

  28. Bill permalink
    December 16, 2009 11:06 am

    Distiller: and the Skjold has a very large internal volume currently dedicated in the RNoN version to the NSM missile system…with no missiles there is plenty of room for alternative uses like handling RHIB or UAV, etc. or additional personnel accomodations.

  29. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 16, 2009 10:56 am

    CBD, thanks for the update on the PC’s!

    Distiller, yeah, apparently designers of Streetfighter had the Cyclones in mind as well when making their original plans. Streetfighter is LCS Freedom but without the helicopter hanger, and about 1/3 smaller.

    I have always maintained here the LCS was not new thought in warship design but just another frigate of a type we think obsolete because of their costs and vulnerability in shallow seas, and their lack of abilities in the same. As you say, not “littoral” at all. They do not understand the concept or choose not to.

    European frigates have heavy missile armament, which is fine but we have plenty of missile ships in the Burke and Ticos. What we need is a general purpose warship to build fleet numbers and fight pirates. To interact with the population of the sea. Numbers and “gold-plate” just don’t go together so we lean toward corvettes and PCs.

  30. CBD permalink
    December 16, 2009 9:19 am

    Some quick updates on PC-1 class:
    – PC-14 Tornado was built after the rest of the class, with improved signature controls (IR/visual/radar). Over 90 improvements (including lots of improvements in systems) were made to the baseline PC-1 design, including extending the length to 179′. This extra length was used to include a boat ramp that allowed the PC-14 to rapidly launch and recover RHIBs while underway (the baseline PC-1 launched its RHIB with a crane). 3 other PCs were simultaneously modified to include the extension (PC-13 Shamal, PC-8 Zephyr and PC-3 Hurricane).

    – In addition to a crew of 28, the Cyclone class has the capacity to carry and support 9 to 11 additional personnel (SEAL, USCG LEDET, etc.)

    – This year and next, the PCs are set to receive the Mk 38 Mod 2 remote weapons station to replace the forward gun mount (Mk 38 stabilized gun which is otherwise can be inaccessible in rough seas), as well as various modifications to control systems (as mentioned in Mike’s last Sea Links post). This upgrade process started with PC-6 Sirocco sometime earlier this year.

    – As small as they are the PCs have a retractable hull-mounted sonar.

    – The last ship (PC-14) total cost (including redesign) was $23 million (FY97) with options that would bring the total price to $30 million. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $30.5-39.8 million in today’s dollars (for a vessel with reduced radar and thermal signatures). The first batches cost $9-12m (FY1992, or ~$18m FY2009), although some navy sources now state the cost of the last ship (PC-14) as the general cost for the entire series.

    – Each ship costs ~$5.5m per year in ownership costs (FFGs cost about $71m/year).

    Reports (linked) for those interested:
    PC-1 Cyclone Class” Forecast International report, archived 2003.
    Patrol Coastal Ship: Then, Now and in the Future.” LCDR Peterson, 1998.
    The Use of Patrol Craft in Low Intensity Conflict Operations: An Alternative Model for the Employment of the Cyclone-Class (PC-1).” Polidoro, 1995.
    Does the Fast Patrol Boat have a future in the Navy?” LCDR Uhls, 2002.

  31. Distiller permalink
    December 16, 2009 9:01 am

    Mike, are you familiar with the Raytheon LCS proposal? That was basically a Skjold enlarged to 100 meter length. And Umoe Mandal is now employing the same SES technology for their interpretation of T-Craft.

    It’s frustrating that NOTHING moves, even though the requirement is quite obvious. Hell! Even if the Navy doesn’t want to go for Skjolds, they could easily and quite fast do a straight drop-in replacement of the Cyclone with Standard Flex 300 vessels (aka Flyvefisken class). Don’t have to be 50-100, but 20 would be nice.

    Ah! Did someone say Skjold? Comparo:
    Cyclone … Skjold
    displ … 330ts … 275ts (reduced signature, NBC proteced)
    length … 55m … 48m
    draft … 2.5m … 2.3 – 1.0m
    crew … 28+9 … 15 + more than 100
    speed … 35/25kts @ SS1/3 (min speed 3kts) … 55/45/25kts @ SS1/3/5 (no min speed)
    range … 600/2500nm @ 35/12kts … 800nm @ 40kts (see below)
    endurance … 10d … 20d
    Sea States … 3 full ops, 5 survivable … operational till up to 6
    Sensors … surf radar, FLIR … surf+3D radar, FLIR, CCTV, Laser, ESM, RWR, MASS
    weapons … RWS 25mm … 76mm plus a modular weapons bay (also for fuel or pax)

    A word on the Skjold’s range: In the current config Skjold holds about 35 metric tonnes of fuel, which is roughly the same as the Cyclons (12800 Due to increased drag in the low diplacement position and lower propulsion efficiency the range does not increase when going slow, in fact once up on the air cushion the range tends to increase with higher speed until aerodynamic drag becomes a factor. With an increased fuel fraction (to 15%, which should be do-able without putting fuel in the “trunk”) Skjold could probably do around 1100nm. I mean she still goes farther faster than the Cyclones, but she will never be very good at just bobbing around. Which could of course be offset by the use of a light recon UAV – have the UAV look for potential targets and use the dash speed to get there, instead of steaming around hectically.

    Back on topic: When you add all up that goes on in the blue water fleet, it’s quite easy to see that the LCS will not be used “littoral”, but rather as the future standard USN frigate. Maybe, just maybe LCS-2 would even be able to do that. But not LCS-1. And it will not fit the PCB role.

    Btw, for the 700 million USD for one LCS the Navy could get two of these:
    *Very* nice ships, and can sure also carry all the UxV toys the LCS is destined to sport.


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