3 more US Patrol Coastal ships for regional security
The war in Afghanistan is nearing its end and Operation Enduring Freedom may be over next year when US troops complete a scheduled pullout, but the US Navy appears to be increasing its firepower in the strategic Arabian Gulf with the addition of three smaller and swifter Patrol Coastal ships to be permanently based in the region.
On Wednesday, three vessels, the USS Tempest, USS Squall and USS Thunderbolt arrived in Bahrain, taking the number of Patrol Coastal ships to eight. Two more vessels, the USS Hurricane and USS Monsoon, are expected to join the 5th Fleet in 2014.
''Bringing PCs out to the US 5th Fleet area of responsibility has nothing to do with Afghanistan but rather it's due to a strong demand signal for the capability they bring to maritime security operations in this region,'' said 5th Fleet spokesperson Lt Marissa Myatt from Bahrain.
''These boats help us conduct operations here in the Arabian Gulf with our partners more effectively and the increase in fleet strength is not targeted at any country. It's also cost effective,'' she said. ''What their smaller size brings is the ability to work side by side, literally, with our coalition partners.'
The new patrol coastal boats are not expected to increase tensions with Teheran and is ''rather a testament to the US Navy standing by its coalition partners to help in maritime security operations, maritime infrastructure protection (of oil platforms and distilleries), or patrolling sea lines of communication''.
Gulf waters are shallow and smaller vessels are a faster alternative to emerging situations.
Meanwhile, the US Navy's interaction with the Iranian navy has been and continues to be professional and courteous, the navy official said. Patrol coastal ships have a displacement of 380 tonnes, are 179 feet long, 25 feet wide, with a top speed of 35 knots. They can stay at sea for 10 days without replenishing and have a crew of 25-28 sailors.
"Having additional PCs here in Bahrain will give us incredible flexibility in the 5th Fleet area of operations since they are uniquely capable of operating in this dynamic environment," said Vice-Admiral John W. Miller, commander, US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces in a statement.
The patrol boats will have permanent crews deployed for a year or two, and families will be allowed to join them.
Commander, Patrol Coastal Squadron ONE and a maintenance and logistics support detachment will also permanently move from Virginia in the US to Bahrain to provide support to the ships.
When asked whether the navy would stick with a lone carrier in the region, Lt Myatt said the deployment of patrol ships has no direct correlation to the deployment of carriers.
She said larger carriers and small vessels have their own region-specific roles to play to maintain security in regional waters.
Nuclear powered carrier, the USS Nimitz currently operates in the 5th Fleet's area of responsibility.
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