A Gathering of Storms
The Navy soon will again operate its full fleet
of Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Small Ships, Big Missions
tactical control of the Navy’s PCs in
the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only days before the
attacks, U.S. Special Operations
Command had directed the decommissioning of the PC fleet.
The Navy loaned the Coast
Guard four PCs in September 2004
and the fifth in September 2005.
Two — Tempest and Monsoon —
were returned to Navy control on
Aug. 22, 2008.
“The ships were never decom-
missioned, only transferred for
temporary duty,” said Chris Johnson, a spokesman for
Naval Sea Systems Command. “They will not need to
be recommissioned upon return to the Navy.”
With the Navy currently operating only 10 PCs, it
maintains a force level of 13 crews. This allows for
crews to be rotated to the five PCs stationed in the
Persian Gulf while giving the nondeployed crews time
for stand-down and work-up for subsequent deploy-
ments. The return of the PCs from the Coast Guard
will restore a ship for each of the 13 crews, although as
long as some PCs are deployed to the Persian Gulf,
crews still are likely to rotate between ships.
The three Coast Guard WPCs, based in Pascagoula,
Miss., “perform myriad missions, most notably search and
rescue, counterdrug operations, alien migrant interdiction
operations and fisheries enforcement,” said Lt. Peter
Hahn, platform manager in the U.S. Coast Guard Office of
Cutter Forces. “The combination of speed and size allow
the Cyclone class to excel with specific missions, [espe-
cially] search and rescue and law enforcement.”
From Pascagoula, a typical WPC patrol would last
two months, with breaks for logistics and crew rest,
“Overall, the Cyclone class performed well for the
missions the Coast Guard performs in the Gulf of
Mexico and Caribbean,” he said.
The Cyclone-class coastal patrol ships (PCs) have proven their worth
in the post-9/11 world.
■ The Coast Guard will return the last two of five PCs borrowed
in 2004 from the Navy.
■ Rotational Navy crews man five PCs in the Persian Gulf.
■ A sustainment program will keep the PCs operational until
The Navy’s fleet of coastal patrol ships (PCs) will once again be complete later this year when the Coast Guard returns the last three of
five PCs it borrowed in 2004.
The Cyclone-class PCs — Zephyr, Shamal and
Tornado, known in the Coast Guard as 179-foot cutters
or WPCs — will be transferred to the Navy’s patrol
coastal squadron at Joint Expeditionary Base Little
Creek-Fort Story in Norfolk, Va., by October.
The Navy took delivery of 14 PCs — all named for
storm types and weather phenomena — between 1993
and 2000. The PCs, built by Bollinger Shipyards in
Lockport, La., were designed to perform coastal patrol,
surveillance and interdiction missions and support
Navy special operations forces. The Navy was funded
to operate only 13 PCs, so the same year the 14th hull
— Tornado — was commissioned, in 2000, the first,
USS Cyclone, was decommissioned and transferred to
the Coast Guard.
Because of funding constraints, the Coast Guard
never activated the ship, instead transferring it to the
Philippine Navy in 2003. The service also said it could
not accept six other PCs slated for transfer.
The Coast Guard had borrowed USS Thunderbolt for
a six-month evaluation in 1998, a move that would foreshadow the service’s eventual operation of five PCs and