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US 5th Fleet swapping patrol boats for unmanned vessels

USS Firebolt 's crew salute during the ship's decommissioning ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain on 23 February. Firebolt was assigned to the US 5th Fleet in 2003. (US Naval Forces Central Command / US 5th Fleet)

The US Navy's (USN's) Bahrain-based 5th Fleet held a decommissioning ceremony on 23 February for USS Firebolt , the first of five Cyclone-class patrol vessels it is retiring this year. The ceremony came two days after its commander announced the roll out of a fleet of unmanned surface vessels (USVs).

Of the 14 Cyclones that were built between 1993–96, 10 have been based in Bahrain since 2013, playing a prominent role in US naval operations in the Gulf. The other four have already been decommissioned, with the commander of Naval Surface Squadron 14 describing them as “well past their designed service life” when three were retired in February 2021.

When the USN's Office of the Chief of Operations released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 decommissioning plan in July 2021, it said Firebolt , Typhoon , and Tempest would go in March, followed by Squall and Whirlwind in April, leaving the 5th Fleet with the remaining five Cyclones into Fiscal Year 2023. All five of the retired vessels will be offered to foreign navies.

Open-source satellite imagery shows the three smaller MK VI patrol boats and the pontoon where they docked at the base in Manama were removed in late 2021, suggesting the 5th Fleet's patrol capabilities have been further decreased.

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