Home Americas US Navy retires Cyclone patrol ships, looking to ax Mark VI boats

US Navy retires Cyclone patrol ships, looking to ax Mark VI boats

USS Shamal decommissioning
USS Shamal decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Mayport. Photo: US Navy

The US Navy has decommissioned three Cyclone-class ships in three separate ceremonies in Florida over the last three days.

USS Shamal (PC 13), USS Zephyr (PC 8), and USS Tornado (PC 14) held decommissioning ceremonies at Naval Station Mayport, Feb. 16, 17 and 18. All three vessels entered service between 1994 and 2000.

Following their retirement, they will be placed in the Out of Commission in Reserve (OCIR) status and will sail to the Navy’s Inactive Ship’s facility in Philadelphia where they will await their official decommissioning designation, which will take place in March 2021. It is worth noting that USS Tornado, the youngest of the three is available for sale through the foreign military sales program.

Patrol coastal ships (PCs) were designed to provide littoral operations such as patrolling coastlines and interdiction surveillance. They are suited for maritime homeland security missions and are capable of responding to emergent requirements in a shallow water environment. PCs also work together with the US Coast Guard, with some of them even transferring to the service for extended periods of time.

Patrol coastal ships were originally built with a 15-year design life service, but with incremental modernization and maintenance periods, this class of ship has reached an average age of 26 years. The eldest ship in this decommissioning class, Zephyr has more than doubled her designed life service and would have turned 27 this October, while the youngest of the three, Tornado, would have been 21 this June.

The decision to decommission these three ships stems from the fact that they have all exceeded their designed service life. Based on the rising cost of modernization efforts, the Navy will receive a better return by decommissioning and freeing up funds to invest in other platforms.

With the Shamal, Tornado, and Zephyr decommissioning there are now a total of 10 patrol coastal ships remaining in service, all of which are homeported in Manama, Bahrain.

During their time in service these three ships have been vital in the counter-narcotic patrols and illegal migration patrols in the coastal waters of the United States, Central America and Caribbean Islands.

“These three warships have served our navy and our country well,” said Capt. Mike Meyer, commander, Naval Surface Squadron Fourteen. “Each of them has operated well past their designed service life, with their crews contributing demonstrably to meeting our national objectives.”

The retirement of the Cyclone-class ships coincided with first reports on the navy’s plans to retire its almost brand new MK VI 78-foot patrol boats (MK VI) by September this year. This was reported by The War Zone who cited an unclassified General Administration (GENADMIN) message regarding the plans.

The 12 MK VIs are very young boats, ordered from SAFE Boats International between 2012 and 2015. The youngest of the boats was delivered in 2017, just four years ago.

Navy officials have previously said that the boats were not really suited for conflicts with near peer nations like China or Russia. Additionally, US Marine Corps Major General Tracy King recently said the boats were “very expensive to maintain.”

Despite plans to purchase as many as 48 boats in the class, these plans never materialized. Interestingly, the US recently approved the sale of MK VIs to Ukraine and awarded Safe Boats $20 million to build the first two boats. Ukraine could purchase up to 16 units.