The 12 Patrol Boats will not prematurely retire for 2021...
USNI stated that “According to a Feb. 5 General Administration message, `the Navy will inactivate the MK VI 78-foot Patrol Boat (MK VI) no later than (NLT) 30 September 2021 in accordance with approved budgetary decisions.’” Furthermore, at the Surface Navy Association (SNA) 2021, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Tracy King said that the twelve MK VIs “were very expensive to maintain.” Lt. Rob Reinheimer, U.S. Navy spokesman, explains for Naval News.
The February 5 GENADMIN message, first reported in The War Zone, has been further clarified by Lt. Rob Reinheimer via email to Naval News in early April, 2021:
“The previously released message (February 5) has since been cancelled, which stops the inactivation of MK VI boats this year . We are not going to speculate on the program’s future. The PB22 budget request is pre-decisional. We will not comment on future budgetary decisions until the budget request is submitted to Congress later this year. The decision [to divest the Mark VI Patrol Boats] is still under review.”
Lt. Reinheimer also said that USMC General King’s statement of MK VI Patrol Boats “Were very expensive to maintain” was related to the overall Mark VI program costs, and when pressed further, the U.S. Navy would not elaborate.
Lt. Reinheimer’s statement follows the Naval News article on the U.S. Navy’s decision not to replace the Patrol Coastal (PC) boats with a similar boat of the same type and size, as said at SNA 2021. Instead, the U.S. Navy will use the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to assume the duties left over by the retirement of the PCs and also have the U.S. Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) supplement the LCSs. We previously reported on this topic.
The U.S. Navy has twelve MK VI Patrol Boats that were built from 2015-2017, costing $15 million each, and all are completed and are in service with the U.S. Navy. The MK VI uses two diesel engines to power waterjets instead of shafts and propellers and has a speed of 45 knots (52 mph; 83 km/h).
The U.S. Coast Guard is also up-arming the six Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) FRCs with the “Mark 52 Chain Gun. All Fast Response Cutters (FRCs) are equipped with the MK 38 MOD 2 weapon system. Currently, only the six FRCs assigned to Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) will be outfitted with the MK 52 Chain Gun,” said a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson from Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington D.C. via email in March 2021. “The six PATFORSWA FRCs will be outfitted with one 40mm MK-19 [automatic grenade launcher] and three [M2HB] .50cal [heavy] machine guns. Coast Guard FRCs will not carry guided missiles.”
Since the Coast Guard FRCs normally have four pedestal mounts for .50cal M2HB heavy machine guns, the addition of one MK-19 40mm automatic grenade launcher will increase the firepower of the U.S. Coast Guard’s six PATFORSWA Fast Response Cutters. The proven MK-19 can accept a variety of 40mm grenade types, depending on the FRC’s purpose and mission.
Adding the Mark 52 Chain Gun to the MK 38 MOD 2 25mm autocannon can upgrade the weapons system to the MK 38 MOD 3 variant, although the Coast Guard would not confirm this. When asked if the Mark 52 will be added for other Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, such as those sailing in the INDO-PACOM region, the spokesperson said that this modification will only be for the six FRCs assigned to Manama, Bahrain—at least for now.
Washington DC-based naval commentator Chris Cavas told Naval News that the boats have not gotten a reprieve – their execution has simply been postponed. “The Navy realized after the fact there were no funds to inactivate the program, hence the cancellation. You are likely to see such funds in the FY22 budget submission”, Cavas explained.
Chris Cavas also highlighted the fact that the money spent on the Mark VI program to date – to purchase 12 boats and create logistics support and training programs — is roughly equal to the projected cost of one LAW. “You might also note the US has approved up to 18 new Mark VIs for Ukraine under a Foreign Military Sales program and the first craft are being funded. At least as of now, the US Navy craft do not fit into this scheme”.
Check out this story by Chris Cavas on the Mark VI and LAW topics: “A Problem of Commitment”