The coastal patrol craft Firebolt is already underway in the Persian Gulf. Five more PCs are heading to Bahrain between this year and next. (Navy)
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Five more coastal patrol ships are moving to Bahrain starting this summer.
The Tempest, Squall and Thunderbolt are scheduled to move from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va., and begin operations in the Persian Gulf this year, Navy officials announced Friday.
Two more, the Hurricane and Monsoon, are slated to move to the gulf in 2014.
Once completed, this move will put a total of 10 of the Navy’s 13 coastal patrol ships operating forward.
The five PCs currently stationed in Bahrain have been manned with unaccompanied, rotational crews who train up in the U.S. and then deploy to Bahrain, where they take charge of one of the ships. But that’s changing, too, and PCs will receive permanent full-time crews.
Each ship has a crew of about 30. The shift will allow sailors to take their families with them to the Persian Gulf if they choose, an option that “alleviates the significant strain placed on the crews and their families while ensuring capacity and capability,” a Navy release said.
As a result, the Navy will also relocate Coastal Patrol Squadron 1 headquarters along with a PC maintenance support team to Bahrain; those commands are currently at Little Creek. A small detachment will stay behind to supervise maintenance on the remaining five ships. Once complete, that detachment will accompany the next wave of ships to Bahrain.
The move has been in the works for more than a year.
How long the ships will stay in Bahrain isn’t clear, although the plans have said they will be replaced in the future with littoral combat ships.
The three remaining PCs — Zephyr, Shamal and Tornado — have recently been returned to the Navy from the Coast Guard. They are set to shift to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., next year to help with counterdrug operations off Central and South America.
A breakdown of every ship and its status:
Already in Bahrain
Heading to Bahrain in 2013
Heading to Bahrain in 2014
Heading to Mayport in 2014