New boat unveiled by Navy Patrol craft commissioned at Naval Academy

August 09, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

It is the Navy's newest weapon for wars of the future.

The USS Cyclone, a 170-foot coastal patrol boat, is one of 13 built for the Navy that will conduct patrols, surveillance and carry special warfare forces close to shore.

Naval officials doubt that the future will see great naval battles like those of the past, with aircraft carriers and battleships slugging it out in the open seas.

What they expect to need are vessels like the Cyclone, as sleek as a seal.

The boat, whose Saturday commissioning was the first ever at the academy, is designed for smaller wars and skirmishes.

"That's what warfare is becoming, low-intensity conflict," said Lt. Cmdr. Randall Lee Johnson, the Cyclone's skipper. "This is a new concept."

The boat, with its powerful radar and 35-knot speed, also may be used for drug interdiction, said Commander Johnson.

The Cyclone is equipped with a grenade launcher, a .50-caliber machine gun, two 25 mm rapid-fire guns and shoulder-fired Stinger missiles.

The Cyclone and six other patrol boats will be stationed at Little Creek, Va. The remaining six boats will be at San Diego.

All of the ships, which cost $16 million each, will be commissioned by June 1995.

They are designed to replace the aging 65-foot MK III Vietnam-vintage patrol boats.

The Cyclone's maneuverability makes it stand out, said Commander Johnson, a Minnesota native who graduated from Georgia Southern University.

Most Navy ships are unable to operate in waters less than 50 feet deep. The Cyclone will be able to sail into 20-foot waters.

Included on the boat is a swimmer platform and a special crane to launch two combat rubber raiding craft for SEALs, the Navy's sea-air-land special forces unit.

And, unlike on larger ships, the Cyclone's crew of 25 enlisted men will have multiple duties, called "cross training." For example, William Sprague, a radioman from Virginia Beach, will double as a weapons operator.

The boat also has four officers.

Below deck in the combat information center, Commander Johnson points out the latest in push-button technology, including a radar system that can track 20 contacts up to 30 miles away.

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