17 September 2010

USN Coastal Patrol Boats Sidelined By Structural Damage

Cyclone-class coastal patrol vessels operating out of Bahrain have been taken out of service since an inspection discovered hull damage and corrosion.
The Navy has sidelined its fleet of coastal patrol boats operating out of Bahrain after inspections revealed “significant structural damage,” and it has limited the operations of five other patrol boats based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek.

Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, said Wednesday that the Navy has ceased operating five Cyclone-class patrol vessels in Bahrain. They will be out of service until they can be permanently repaired and restored, a process that might take months.

While maintenance problems have affected individual ships or a few in a class, the Navy hasn’t had a widespread recall like this in recent history, Johnson said. “It is unusual,” he said. “I do stress that it’s entirely because these ships have reached the end of the life they were designed for.”

The lightweight, steel-hulled boats were built by Bollinger Shipyards in the 1990s and expected to serve 15 years. With one exception, all have hit or exceeded that milestone.

Problems discovered in the boats’ hulls – warping and buckling of the steel frame, as well as corrosion in various tanks aboard – are a cumulative result of hard use and severe operating conditions, Johnson said.

The vessels specialize in coastal patrol, interdiction and surveillance. They were initially used by Navy special warfare units but were transferred to the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet in 2002. Two boats – the Firebolt and Chinook – have been stationed in Bahrain since 2003; Sirocco and Typhoon arrived there in 2004. The Whirlwind has been based there since 2006, according to Paul Taylor, a spokesman for the Navy’s Surface Fleet, Atlantic.

Smaller than most Navy vessels at 179 feet, the boats, known as PCs, pack a lot of punch. They can travel 35 knots and feature two 25mm chain guns capable of pumping out 175 rounds per minute.

Locally, inspectors are still analyzing conditions on the five Cyclones based at Little Creek. They should know within the next week whether those boats will be sidelined, too. In the meantime, crews will operate them under restricted speed and only in certain sea conditions, Johnson said.
By: Shelldrake

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