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US Coast Guard sends off first two FRCs to permanent Middle East home in Bahrain

Bahrain-based FRC Charles Moulthrope
Illustration: USCG photo of FRC Charles Moulthrope underway in the Atlantic Ocean.

The first two US Coast Guard fast response cutters (FRCs) that will call Manama, Bahrain, home have gotten underway from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to start their homeward journey.

FRCs Charles Moulthrope and Robert Goldman set sail on April 1, as the first two of six FRCs to be assigned to Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA).

They are being accompanied on the historic journey across the Atlantic Ocean by national security cutter (NSC) Hamilton. The three cutters will journey together to Rota, Spain, then Hamilton will depart for a separate patrol alongside NATO allies and partners while the FRCs continue to their homeport.

“The US Coast Guard is a member of the Joint Force, a key and always-ready instrument to further national security objectives globally,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander, Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “It’s been almost two decades since we sent the Island-class patrol boats to Bahrain. As we seek to modernize our asset support to the US Navy in the Arabian Gulf, this is an excellent opportunity to advance partnerships and learn from our allies in the region.”

PATFORSWA is the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside of the United States. Established in 2002 to support operation Iraqi Freedom, PATFORSWA plays a critical role in maritime security and maritime infrastructure protection operations. Its mission is to train, organize, equip, support and deploy combat-ready Coast Guard forces in support of U.S. Central Command and national security objectives.

USCGC Charles Moulthrope and Robert Goldman will be replacing the ageing Island-class patrol boats that have been operating in the US 5th Fleet since 2002.

FRCs Charles Moulthrope and Robert Goldman sail in formation with NSC Hamilton. Photo: US Coast Guard

The Sentinel-class FRCs feature advanced command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) equipment; over-the-horizon cutter boat deployment to reach vessels of interest; and improved habitability and seakeeping. The cutters are designed for multiple missions, including search and rescue; national defense; ports, waterways and coastal security; drug and migrant interdiction; and fisheries patrols.

The Coast Guard has ordered 60 FRCs to date with more than 40 already in service. The ships are built by Louisiana-based Bollinger Shipyards.