Asheville-class gunboat

The Asheville-class gunboats were a class of small warships built for the United States Navy in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The class is named for a city in western North Carolina and the seat of Buncombe County. Most Asheville-class gunboats have since been donated to museums, scheduled for scrapping, or transferred to the Greek, Turkish, Colombian and South Korean Navies. The exceptions are USS Chehalis and USS Grand Rapids, which are operated by the Naval Surface Warfare Center.[1]

USS Gallup (PG-85) in June 1967
Class overview
Name: Asheville class
Preceded by: PGM-39 class
Succeeded by: PSMM Mk5 multi-purpose patrol boat (PSMM)
Built: 1966–1971
Completed: 17
Lost: 1
General characteristics
Type: PGM motor gunboat
Displacement: 240 long tons (244 t)
Length: 164 ft 6 in (50.1 m)
Beam: 24 ft (7.3 m)
Draft: 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m)
Propulsion:
Speed:
  • 16 kn (30 km/h) max on diesels
  • 42 kn (78 km/h) max on turbine
Range: 1,700 nmi (3,100 km)
Complement: 24 crew (4 officers)
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • Weapons control: Mk 63 GFCS
  • Radar: Sperry AN/SPS-53; I/J-band
  • Fire control: Western Electric AN/SPG-50; I/J-band
Armament:
  • Guns: 1 × USN 3 in (76 mm) /50 Mk 34; 50 rounds/min to 7 nmi (13 km); weight of shell 6 kg.
  • 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns (2 × 2)
  • 1 × Bofors 40 mm/70 Mk 10.
  • Missiles: Some units had the 40 mm replaced with various missile configurations

Origination

The Asheville-class gunboats were originally designated PGM motor gunboats, but were reclassified in 1967 as PG patrol combatant ships.[2]

The Asheville class employed a combined diesel or gas turbine (CODOG) propulsion system; twin Cummins diesel engines for endurance, and a GE LM1500 gas turbine for high-speed dash. Engine controls were operated by pneumatics. The controllable reversible pitch propeller allowed them to stop in less than two ship lengths from full speed. They were the first gas turbine ships in the US Navy, as well as the first with aluminum hulls and fiberglass superstructures.

History

Originally designed for the Caribbean patrols, the Asheville class were deployed into Southeast Asia. They proved successful in coastal work, intercepting small boats attempting to transport arms along the Vietnam coast. Attempts to use them on the inland rivers proved disastrous to the small lightly armored ships, USS Canon was severely damaged by over eight rocket strikes, resulting in half of the crew being wounded.[3]

USS Surprise and USS Beacon were deployed in the Mediterranean to counter the Soviet gunboats.

Five of the gunboats were fitted with various missile systems replacing the 40 mm guns. Benicia conducted test firings in the spring of 1971 of a modified AGM-12 Bullpup surface-to-surface missile system and Antelope and Ready were fitted with two launch cells aft plus reload boxes on deck. Grand Rapids and Douglas were fitted with an improved Standard ARM missile.[4]

Ships

A total of 17 Asheville-class gunboats were built between 1966 and 1971.

During the Third Cod War between Iceland and Great Britain in 1975–1976 the Icelandic Coast Guard, through the Minister of Justice Ólafur Jóhannesson (the political leader of the Coast Guard), requested the loan of one or more Asheville boats from the United States Navy. With their high speed they were considered ideal for the Icelanders to counter the British frigates protecting fishing trawlers on the Icelandic fishing banks. The U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger categorically turned down the Icelandic request.[5] This hardly came as a great surprise to the Icelanders, as the request for the Asheville boats was probably a political ploy, intended to show how serious Iceland was in overcoming the Royal Navy in the struggle for the fishing banks.[6] The seaworthiness of the Ashevilles in the rough seas of the North Atlantic around Iceland has to be considered doubtful, at best.

Original commission

The following Asheville-class gunboats were commissioned for the U.S. Navy.[7][8]

(PG-93, PG-95, PG-97, PG-99 & PG-101 were built by Peterson Builders, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; most of the remaining PG-84 class were built by Tacoma Shipyard)

Hellenic Navy

Two of the ships were transferred to the navy of Greece; both ships were in reserve from April 1977 before being refitted and transferred. The gas-turbine propulsion engines were removed prior to transfer and the ships were reclassified as coastal patrol craft.

  • Tolmi (ΤΟΛΜΗ) (ex-Green Bay) transferred 30 October 1989[9] recommissioned on 18 June 1991.[10]
  • Ormi (ΟΡΜΗ) (ex-Beacon) transferred 30 October 1989[11] recommissioned on 18 June 1991.

Colombian National Armada

Turkish Navy

Republic of Korea Navy

Notes

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