Mrityunjoy Mazumdar of Jane’s Defence Weekly Reports: Iraq readies coastal patrol craft

For immediate release: Aug 6, 2010

The Iraqi Navy is to induct a 15-strong class of 35 m coastal patrol craft as it prepares to take responsibility for security tasks in local waters from US and other coalition forces.

US-based Swiftships Shipbuilders loaded the first of the new vessels – PB 301 – for transit to Iraq on 30 July, having secured a USD181 million fixed-price contract in September 2009 for the design and build of nine units. An option for six further craft was subsequently exercised.

Some two weeks before the lead craft was despatched, 50 Iraqi sailors completed an intensive 90-day training course at a facility adjacent to the Swiftships yard in Morgan City, Louisiana. They will be followed by four more groups during the coming year in a joint effort involving the US Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and Swiftships.

The company is rapidly executing the order for its 35PB1208 E-1455 craft, which was issued by NAVSEA and the US Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships under the Foreign Military Sales programme. Delivery of the second vessel is expected in September, with subsequent units following at intervals of approximately six weeks.

A modification of an existing Swiftships 35 m design, the aluminium alloy Iraqi craft is powered by three MTU 16V2000 diesels driving three propellers, giving a maximum speed in excess of 34 kt. The range of the vessels is 1,500 n miles at 12 kt and endurance is six days.

Their armament comprises an MSI Seahawk DS30M A2 30 mm remotely operated gun system, a .50 cal Browning H2B machine gun (MG) and two M240 light MGs. A stern ramp is provided for a 7 m rigid-hull inflatable boat.

The new class will be tasked primarily with riverine missions and the provision of security for Iraq’s two offshore oil terminals.

PEO Ships is also managing the procurement of two 60 m offshore support vessels for use with the 35 m vessels and other small Iraqi craft from RiverHawk Fast Sea Frames under a USD70 million design and build contract; construction has been subcontracted to Gulf Island Marine Fabricators of Houma, Louisiana, with design work subcontracted to Canadian firm Genoa Design International.

The design for the OSVs is yet to be finalised and construction has not yet started. The first OSV is scheduled for delivery in September 2011, according to NAVSEA.

In a related development, NAVSEA issued a solicitation in Febuary 2010 seeking vendors to build 15 m riverine warfare boats in anticipation of a potential future procurement programme with the Iraqi government.