One of our (many, many) guilty pleasures was watching the Australian seagoing soap “Sea Patrol.” The trials and travails of the crew of HMAS Hammersley, a small Australian patrol boat operating in the northern waters of the island continent may not have been terribly factual, but it did feature lots of nice footage of the RAN’s Armidale class patrol boats.
Rather than using traditional naval architecture, the RAN adopted a luxury yacht hull form to speed construction and reign in costs. The result is a very attractive boat. Decent speed, good endurance, good seakeeping and low operating costs argue in favor of that choice.
However, the Armidale class hasn’t been an unalloyed success as a class. Maintenance has proved to be troublesome, and the “austere” overflow compartment to house passengers or extra crew has been plagued with noxious gases.
Meanwhile, the US Coast Guard has searched for a replacement for its 110’ Island class cutters. The Island class was very successful. But a program to refurbish and rebuild them from 110’ to 123’ and add a boat ramp to the rear was a disaster. Poor integration of modern electronics and nearly catastrophic structural flaws led to the termination of the conversions at 8 boats, and those have all been withdrawn from service. With the Island class aging rapidly, the USCG scrambled to find a new design. Unlike the other armed services, the Coasties have rarely shied away from adopting foreign designs. The successful Dutch Damen Stan design was chosen, and only minor changes were made to optimize it for USCG service. And while the USCG might be willing to adopt foreign designs, it is having them built in a US yard.
This Fast Response Cutter class is known in service as the “Sentinel” class. At 154’, and 353 tons, this is a fair sized vessel. Endurance is roughly 2500 nautical miles or about 5 days worth. Its crew of 2 officers and 20 enlisted have some of the nicest quarters of any seagoing service. While the ship isn’t exactly a major combatant, its armament of a 25mm gun on the remote controlled, stabilized Mk38Mod2 mount gives it enough firepower to take on most small craft. Two .50cal machine guns and liberal small arms among the crew add to the punch. A launch and recovery ramp at the stern for small rigid inflatable-hull boats makes dispatching and recovering boarding parties much safer. A robust communications and sensor suite is also included.
Click to embiggen
One other nice “feature” of the Sentinel class- each vessel of the planned class of up to 58 cutters will be named for an enlisted hero of the USCG. The first cutter, USCGS Bernard C. Webber (WPC-1101) was commission on April 14, 2012 and homeported in Miami, FL.