Evolution of the ASHEVILLE
class of Patrol Gunboats

an excerpt from U. S. SMALL COMBATANTS
By Norman Friedman
Naval Institute Press
1984

Copy of excerpt contributed by Gene VanOrden EN3 aboard PG-94 6/70-6/72

Note: The PGM section starts on page 263 in the book. In May 1961, the SCB asked for a new round of PGM cost and feasibility studies, citing developments in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, that is, Cuba and Vietnam. This PGM, which might be operated by the U.S. Navy, and which therefore might be fairly sophisticated, was intended primarily for surveillance, blockade, operations against other small craft in coastal waters, and limited support of troops ashore. The SCB distinguished it from the PTF, which it considered too limited in endurance and armament payload and possibly too complex in hull and engineering design to meet all the requirements for a PGM. A new PGM would therefore have to be developed to supplement the fast patrol boat. Thc Coast Guard 95-footer and the export PGMs could be accepted as interim designs.

Tentative characteristics included a length of 95 to 125 feet, a maximum draft for coastal operations of 8 feet, a speed, using a non-gasoline engine, of 30 knots, and an endurance of 1,500 nautical miles at 17 knots. The U.S. Navy had no favored small craft weapons, but the BuWeps had developed a suitable "weapons shopping list," including 3-inch/SO and 40mm guns, nonrecoiling rifles, rocket launchers, mortars, and Redeye hand-held AA missiles. European navies had a variety of attractive weapons. For example, the new Norwegian Storm-class gunboat was armed with a new Bofors low-angle 3-inch/50 controlled by an integrated fire-control system designed in the Netherlands for small craft. In the spring of 1962, a joint CNO/BuWeps/BuShips/BuPers (Bureau of Personnel) group visited the Netherlands to consider the Dutch system for the U.S. PGM then under design.

The U.S. Navy was also interested in a small anti-ship weapon. The only available one was the French 55-Il, whose value was open to question and whose performance hardly equaled that of the Soviet SSN-2 soon to enter service in Cuba.

Tentatively, however, the new PGM would be armed with America’s single slow-firing (Mark 26) 3-inch/ 50, as that weapon was clearly powerful enough to deal with Soviet-bloc MTBs.

BuShips’ immediate reply was limited to modified versions of the existing PGMs. Although they were only modestly armed, they had the weight to take on more weapons. At a cost in speed of 1 knot, PGM 43 could be armed with a single 40mm gun, two 81mm mortars, four 40mm grenade launchers, four 0.50-caliber machine guns, and twelve Redeyes, at a cost of $690,000 (FY 63).

The more powerful Cummins Diesel VT-l2-M Tandem Uprated, of 320 bhp, could be installed in this modified boat to achieve a speed of 22/20 knots and an endurance of 1,250 nautical miles at 12 knots. Putting new engines in the PGM 39 class would increase its speed to 21 knots on trial, 19 sustained, and would give it an endurance of 1,000 miles at 12 knots.

The preferred alternative was a new PGM design, which would meet the SCB requirements for speed, endurance, and firepower. It became SCB 229, the Asheville class. LRO supported the fast PGM as a fl and anti-fl. The group included sixteen craft in the 1961 version of its report, but admitted that this was no more than a vague estimate. Other commands also liked the PGM. For example, in November 1961, the CNO recommended the new PGM as the optimum anti-MTB boat for Korea, which wanted one, and nationalist China, which wanted ten, in preference to the scheme C PTF CinCPacFleet was then suggesting. At this time, two PGMs were included in the tentative FY 63 program.

A representative told the SCB that it was the LRO’s conviction that in the future, there would be "a place for small, relatively inexpensive, lightly manned coastal patrol craft aimed primarily at possible requirements in support of limited wars and primadly used in the western Pacific areas." LRO medium-term plans showed about sixteen such boats.

Vietnam was on the LRO’s mind; the PGM had a definite role. It could patrol off the coasts of countries supporting unfriendly guerrillas or subversives, keeping track of coastal shipping, blockading gun-runners, and if need be, opposing enemy craft smaller than destroyers. It could also support minor amphibious operations ashore. The LRO described the PGM as suitable for destroyer-type missions in waters where destroyers could not go or could not be risked.

Given adequate endurance and sea-keeping, the PGM would be useful outside limited-war areas (that is, outside Southeast Asia), for example, in "a blockade of shipping some Latin American area."

The United States could set an important example with the new PGM. Many local navies did not care for the small gunboats; they wanted something much more impressive, something the U.S. Navy would operate itself, however impractical. Including the new PGM—the existing one—in the U.S. Navy would enhance its prestige and thus help encourage local navies to buy it. That put a premium on high performance, even though it might make maintenance more difficult.

DoD initially rejected the navy’s proposal to buy two PGMs in FY 63. However, in March 1962, Secretary of Defense McNamara specifically called for a navy program of small combatants to deal with Cuban-based covert aggression in South America. A navy reclama to the initial DoD action was received with interest by Congress. The PGM might also be needed for Vietnam. The LRO argued that if the DoD awoke to the problem of sublimited war, a crash program of existing designs would be needed. The PGM would be cheap enough to make such a program palatable. It urgently asked the fleets for their own PGM force goals so that a revised program could be submitted to DoD not later than April 1962.

For contingency readiness and cold war in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and Indian oceans, CinCLant wanted PGMs: four for the South Atlantic. and four for the Caribbean, including two for Panama, before the end of 1965. These eight ships were to be presented in the FY 64 budget as additional. forces for limited or unconventional warfare, not as competitive candidates for general-purpose forces.

For the longer term, CinCLantFleet wanted two PGMs per year, from 1965 to 1971, assuming that suitable lightweight weapons could be found. MAP requirements would depend on whether an ASW version could be developed.

The Pacific Fleet badly wanted a fast shallow-draft boat, particularly for Southeast Asia. MAP requirements projected through 1971 called for ten for South Vietnam, four for Cambodia, ten for nationalist China, and three for South Korea. CinCPacFleet considered the PGM less useful.

Visiting the Washington Navy Yard in the 1970s, the Asheville-class gunboat Green Bay displays a World War II weapon system in a hydrodynamically advanced gas turbine hull. Her enclosed RF 3-inch/50 gun was controlled by a Mark 63 director in the shroud atop her bridge. The radar dish on the gun mount was part of the unstabilized system. (A. D. Baker III)

for the U.S. Navy and felt that a total of sixteen-eight in the Pacific-would suffice, bought at the rate of one per year in FY 63-70. As of August 1962, the tentative FY 64-66 program showed twenty-two follow-on PGMs for a planned total of twenty-four ships, in addition to fourteen PTFs and twenty-two PGHs. In fact, only seventeen were built, two each in FY 63 and FY 64 (POM 84-85, 86-87), three in FY 65 (PGM 88-90), and ten in FY 66 (PGM 90-101). That did not end official interest in PGMs. The Five-Year Defense Program for FY 70-75, approved in July 1967, showed eight PGMs in FY 69. The navy program objectives at that time showed eight more in FY 70 and in FY 71. The proposed FY 69 budget later showed two PGMs, which would probably have been smaller than the Ashevilles.

The big Ashevilles were so clearly more capable than the PGMs of the Mutual Defense Assistance Program that they were redesignated gunboats (PG) on 1 April 1967, less than a year after completion of the name ship. They retained their old hull numbers and thus duplicated some of the gunboat numbers assigned in World War II to reverse lend-lease "Flower"-class corvettes.

Design work on the Asheville began in June 1961. Within the stated limits (a hull not too much larger than that of the export PGM), BuShips could achieve the desired speed but not the desired range. For example, sufficiently powerful diesels weighed so much that the hull could not store sufficient fuel. BuShips submitted three alternatives ranging in length from 95 to 115 feet overall.

On the existing 95-foot hull it could install a reasonable armament, including a 40mm gun; Mercedes diesels could drive the boat at 30 knots at a cost of $1 million each. At this time, BuShips considered the Mercedes 3,000 bhp unit the only satisfactory foreign engine; it is surprising in retrospect that the Deltic was not taken into account. In any case, the 40mm was unimpressive as an MTB-killer, so in scheme 2 Preliminary Design tried to mount a 3-inch/50 gun on a slightly beamier 95-foot hull. It could get the speed but not the required long, low-speed endurance. Scheme 3, lengthened to 115 feet to restore good hull proportions, had a third shaft. It was rated at 27 knots but did not quite meet the required range. The SCB wanted both the 3-inch/50 and high speed, an unworkable arrangement in a small boat. Nor could the usual PGM goals of simplicity, ease of maintenance, and low cost be achieved. Moreover, it was by no means clear that the estimates reflected in scheme 3 were realistic; the PGM might turn out to be much larger.

The firepower represented by the 3-inch/50 was important. Manual control was not acceptable because it would limit effective range to that of a 40mm gun; hence the complexity of a computing radar fire-control system, the World War II Mark 63. The 3-inch/50 was also attractive on account of its proximity-fused ammunition, which might do damage through an air burst even if it passed over a target. As in the PGH, the main alternative was a recoilless rifle. BuWeps rejected it because it trained and elevated too slowly and its back blast was powerful enough to blow the pilothouse off the boat. The danger area would extend as much as 200 feet back. Nor did the rifle have a high sustained rate of fire.

Now that the SCB’s wishes were clear, Preliminary Design developed a much more thorough 30-knot scheme 4. For the first time in this project, it considered gas turbines. The combination of high maximum speed and long endurance made a CODAG power plant attractive; in this case, it would consist of two Proteus gas turbines on outboard shafts and two 900-bhp Curtis-Wright 3-D diesels geared to the centerline shaft. All would have controllable-pitch propellers for efficient functioning at both cruising and high speeds, which meant the gas turbines had to be set fairly far forward in the hull.

The study of alternative hull forms showed that greater length could improve sea-keeping and speed performance. On a waterline length of 150 feet (161 feet LOA, 225 tons), it was easy to maintain 28 knots and reach a burst speed of 30. The designers tried to keep the 3-inch/50 forward, but that, it was decided, would throw the balance off. They considered moving the gun aft to balance the gas turbines forward. Arrangement turned out to be the major flaw in the design.

Scheme 4 showed a total armament and ammunition load of about 20 tons: one 3-inch/50, one twin 0.50-caliber machine gun, and a Mark 63 fire-control system.

As for cost, the BuShips studies showed that it would not be too expensive to achieve 22 knots and a bit more range in a conventional PGM, with 40mm and single 0.50-caliber guns, 81mm mortars and Redeye missiles. Cost rose sharply with either gas turbines or lightweight diesels: $12 million for scheme 2, $1.5 million for scheme 3 or 4.

The next step was to rearrange the in that the single 3-inch gun could be moved forward again. In scheme 5, each of two shafts could be driven by either a diesel or diesel plus gas turbine, with controllable pitch propellers for efficiency at either power level. The Proteus gas turbines would be located aft to exhaust through the transom. This arrangement was hydro-dynamically superior, since in scheme 4 the center (gas turbine) shaft would windmill cruising speed.

The PGM could be driven at 30 knots on half fuelor at 28.5 knots fully loaded (continuous endurance at 16 knots would be 1,700 nautical miles (400 at 28). The armament weight of 20 tons for one 3-inch/50, one twin and two single 0.50 caliber machine guns, two 81mm mortars, twelve Redeyes, and four 40mm grenade launchers. However, some versions of the design showed only one 3inch/50 with one SS-11 or -12 launcher or a twin40mm gun.

The estimated cost was $2 million ($2.1 million for the lead ship, in FY 63) compared with $1.7 million for scheme 4.

The bureau noted that scheme 5 was extremely complex, that "the design as dictated by performance considerations does not fulfill the requirements for simplicity, low cost, ease of maintenance and operation by indigenous personnel of Southeast Asian countries. The cost and complexity of Scheme 5 is justified only if the stated performance satisfies a firm requirement of the U.S. Navy."

The various schemes developed up to this point are listed in table 10-9.

Table 10-9. Fast PGM Designs ,October 1961

PGM39 Scheme 1 Scheme 2 Scheme 3 Scheme 4 Scheme 5
LOA (ft) 101.25 95.0 95.0 115.0 161.0 361.0
Beam (ft) 21.1 19.8 22.0 24.2 25.0 24.0
Draft (ft) 6.9 6.3 6.5 8.1 7.0 7.0
Full Load (tons) 117.7 107.3 124.1 209.9 225.0 225.0
Max Speed (kts) 17 30 28 27 30 30
Endurance (Nm/Kts) 1,000/12 1,150/12 600/12 1,300/17 1,700/16 1,700/16
     
Armament Forward Single .50 Cal
  Aft Twin .50 Cal
  Amidship Two Single .50 Cal Port and Starboard
3"/.50 Cal Forward
Two 81mm mortars Centerline

Note: PGM 39 data are included for comparison. Maximum speed is with half fuel on board. Scheme 1 has approximately the same dimensions as PGM 43 with about 5 tons more of displacement.

At an SCB meeting in February, the BuShW representatives explained their design as the optimum version possible with the performance OpNav wanted. The controlling requirements were seaworthiness and high maximum speed, long endurance at moderate speed, and the 3-inch/50 gun. Given these factors, the long hull and the sophisticated propulsion plant were inevitable. The board reacted by eliminating the requirement that the ship be operable by non-U.S. personnel. Maximum draft was increased from 7 to 8 feet, and required endurance at 28 knots was reduced from 400 to 325 nautical miles.

Scheme 5 was reflected in characteristics approved on 5 March 1962. The stated mission was very much like that later listed for the PTF: attacks on enemy coastal shipping and perimeter defense of amphibious shipping. Blockade/surveillance and support of paramilitary and guerrilla operations were added in May 1962. The new PGM would be 165 feet with limited to 8 feet, a displacement of 230 tons, a maximum speed of 30.5 knots, a cruising speed of at 16 knots, and an endurance of 1,700 nautical miles at 16 knots.

Estimated cost was $1.9 million ($2 million for lead ship). Gibbs & Cox was the design agent.

BuShips considered this PGM too slow and continued to develop alternative machinery arrangements. The key was a more powerful gas turbine. Soon it became clear that two U.S. aircraft engines, GE and Pratt & Whitney 13,000-bhp units, would be available for FY63. They promised spectacular performance, up to 39 knots. A slightly longer hull of 166 feet, displacing 251 tons, would improve sea-keeping. Very high speed would make the PGM a plausible counter to communist-bloc torpedo boats in, for example, Cuba, Korea, China, the Baltic, and the Adriatic, and the PGM would also face escorts and destroyers with a reasonable chance of success. It would carry a much heavier armament—beside single slow-firing 3-inch/50, two single 40mm guns, two 81mm mortars, two 0.50-caliber machine guns, two 40mm grenade launchers, and twelve Redeye missiles for self-defense.

BuShips could also make the case that its proposed PGM followed the general trend in European navies typified by the new Swedish Spica gun/torpedo boat.

In late May 1962, the first version of the high-speed plant showed three shafts, the centerline one driven by a GE MS420 or a Pratt & Whitney FT4A with a supercavitating propeller. Cruise diesels would drive the two wing shafts, which had controllable-pitch propellers. A full preliminary design was due in July. There was not nearly enough time to carry through more than one design. Early in June, BuShips decided that ,rather than pursue the lower-speed alternative, sceme 4b, it would order Gibbs & Cox to center the preliminary design around the high-powered plant (scheme 7b).

At this stage, the bureau revealed its decision to the SCB. Scheme 7b was exciting, but it was also about $300,000 more expensive than 4b ($1 million more for the lead ship). The officer at SCB in charge of the design felt sure that the increased cost would eliminate it. On 13 June, a presentation to the SCB received a "courteous but cold" reception. The BuShips machinery team began to seek some less expensive though still powerful alternative.

One possibility, scheme 7c, was to have only two shafts, with the gas turbine driving both shafts through gears. It would be superior hydro-dynamically, since there would be no trailing shaft at cruising power. However, the gearing would be expensive. Other alternatives seemed equally bleak, and a BuShips meeting broke up on 15 June with only two weeks before the preliminary design was to be completed.

Under pressure, BuShips chose 7b for the preliminary design so long as it could be held within the total FY 63 allocation of $4.1 million, which was to have bought two ships. Failing that, a low-powered, three-shaft alternative, with a Proteus on each of two outboard shafts and a 3,000-bhp diesel on the centerline, would be developed. The SCB reluctantly accepted these rules. However, it was clear that the radical departure BuShips advocated would have to be submitted to the CNO.

The resulting preliminary design was completed in July 1962. Overall length was 166.2 feet (154 LWL), beam 23.8, and draft amidships 5 (maximum 8); fully loaded, the PGM would displace 251 tons (1903 light). Unlike a PTF, this was an all-weather boat. It therefore had a round bottom, although a sharp chine and hollow buttocks had been worked in aft to achieve enough dynamic lift to keep it from squatting at high speed.

The fast PGM, scheme 5, 19 October 1961. The big gun forward is a 3-inch/50, with 81mm mortars fore and aft of it on the centerline, a 0.50-caliber gun on the centerline forward, and a 0.50 on either beam forward of the bridge. The mount aft is also a 0.50. (Norman Friedman)

In August, then, Preliminary Design prepared a comparative presentation for the CNO. The three shafts of the original design were abandoned in favor of the somewhat more complex scheme lc, so that both "low"- and "high"-power schemes had two shafts. The low-power plant consisted of two Bristol-Siddely Proteus engines, 3,400 bhp each, and two Curtiss-Wright CWI2VI42A cruise diesels, 750 bhp each, for a maximum speed of 31 knots and a continuous speed of 28. Cost was estimated at $2.3 million ($3.4 million for the lead ship at FY 63 costs). The alternative high-power plant used a single GE MS240 or Pratt & Whitney FT3C gas turbine (13,000 bhp) geared to both shafts with the same two cruise diesels to achieve an estimated 40 knots of continuous speed. It would also achieve greater cruising range, 1,900 rather than 1,700 nautical miles at 16 knots. The cost would rise to $2.7 million ($3.9 million for the lead ship).

BuShips argued that the low-power alternative should be discarded because it used foreign engines, whose purchase would upset the U.S. balance of payments, and because the larger, faster, more seaworthy alternative would be more responsive to real needs, even though it exceeded the characteristics. It was technically outstanding. It used American engines. It would be a prestige ship.

It was true that buying two such ships would violate the cost ceiling established by OpNav, but a single, extremely capable ship could be bought within that limit.

On 17 August 1962, the chief of BuShips presented both alternatives to the CNO, Admiral George W. Anderson, who chose the faster alternative for the entire class. The characteristics were revised to call for a maximum speed of 40 knots carrying half the fuel load. Later, when less optimistic tank test results came in, this figure was cut to 37 knots.

The first approved characteristics showed a single slow-firing (Mark 26) 3-inch/50 , a single 40 mm gun, two single 050-caliber machine guns, two 81mm mortars, two 40mm grenade launchers, and twelve Redeye, the latter subject to successful test and evaluation within a total of 20 tons, four times that allowed in the PGH. Armament weight became more critical as the design evolved towards very high speed, the elimination of various weapons was suggested. The 81mm mortar was initially saved because its illumination capability was too important in counterinsurgency warfare. BuWeps proposed eliminating the single 40mm gun in December 1961.

For the FY 64 boats, the SCB wanted to consider alternative weapons. In August 1962, it asked BuShips and BuWeps to consider both domestic and available foreign weapons that might provide effective surface fire out to 6,000 yards; effective AA or antimissile fire to at least 3,000 yards, which meant a light weight missile; a lightweight surface homing torpedo; and a new gun. The U.S. RF 3-inch/50 was relatively heavy and cumbersome; its Mark 63 fire control system would be ineffective at high speed. BuWeps suggested the new Bofors 3-inch/50 controlled by a Dutch M20-series integrated radar/fire control system.8 The Swedish gun fired faster and required fewer personnel, but BuWeps noted that it could elevate only to 30 degrees, as opposed for the U.S. gun, and therefore would provide no AA fire. That would have been acceptable if there had been an effective lightweight AA missile to take its place. An October SCB meeting rejected the gun but found the M22 itself attractive. With its AA potential, it could restore the single 40mm gun that had previously been eliminated from the characteristics.

The newly completed Defiance at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, 21 August 1969.

The Dutch fire-control system was ruled out for FY63 PGMs because it would take too long to adapt. In July 1963, the SCB approved it for thc FY 64 ships. By September, however, it was clear that the change would delay the FY 64 ships a year, and the change was shifted to the FY 65 series. In fact, only the two FY64 boats, the Antelope (PGM 86) and the Ready (PGM 87), had the Mark 87 track-while-scan radar fire-control system developed from the Dutch system. The Mark 87 could compensate for ship motion much better than the World War II Mark 63 of the other units, and it was credited with increasing effective gun range from 2,000 to 3,500 yards out to 5,000 to 6,000. The approved characteristics were modified in April 1963. The gun would be an RF (Mark 34) 3-inch/50 rather than the slow-firing Mark 26. Fiscal compensation would include elimination of the two 81mm mortars originally planned. Trial speed was reduced from 40 to 37 knots, but endurance speed rose from the 28 knots of the original slow PGM to 35-knots sustained speed of the fast one. All boats were completed with an enclosed Mark 34 gun forward, a single 40mm aft, and two twin 0.50-caliber machine guns.

Since Soviet-supplied missile boats were, in theory, the PGM’s main prey, their Styx (SS-N-2) missiles were the major threat it faced. Existing 3-inch/50 and 40mm guns were clearly inadequate, and shipboard Redeye did not materialize. In 1967-68, the Sidewinder was proposed as a point-defense system, but it was rejected in favor of an offensive surface-to-surface weapon, which materialized later as the Standard ARM.

The Ashevilles were powered by one GE LM1500 gas turbine of 13,300 shp for a maximum speed of 37 to 40 knots; they achieved about 38 in service. However, most were limited to about 32 knots because their stainless steel propellers suffered from the cavitation pitting common among very fast ships. The cruise engines were two 725-bhp Cummins diesels, good for 16 knots. Rated endurance was 3,000 nautical miles at 12 knots and 490 at 37.5. The FY 66 series (PG 92-101) had more fuel and an improved turbine gear box and machinery arrangement. They were therefore sometimes considered a separate class.

Because the PGs were by far the smallest U.S. oceangoing surface warships, they had a rougher ride than the destroyers and frigates with which most surface officers were familiar. They developed a reputation as poor sea-keepers, one reason being that few officers were familiar with the much rougher rides of other small combatant warships.

The Ready was equipped with a gun weapon system better adapted to the kind of rough motion characteristic of a fast gunboat, the Dutch Signaal radar "egg" (Mark 87 fire-control system). Mark 87 was a more austere form of the Mark 92 used in the Pegasus-class missile hydrofoil (PHM) and the Perry-class patrol frigate. No gun mount radar dish was needed. The rest of the battery was standard: a single 40mm gun right aft and two single 0.50cal machine gun mounts (Ready and some of her sister ships were later converted to carry missles)..

They were little affected by waves up to 8 feet, but over that they rolled and pitched heavily, and crews riding out 10-foot waves for over seventy-two hours could become badly fatigued. Speed would generally be cut from 37 to about 20 knots. In sea state 5, a PG could roll 65 degrees each way. There was no question, though, of its seaworthiness: it could transit open oceans under its own power and ride out major storms without severe damage. In many places, moreover, waves were not so very high. In the Mediterranean, for example, waves were less than 5 feet 70 percent of the time, and in only 8 percent did they rise higher than 8 feet. Several of the later Ashevilles were used to test stabilization systems, including fins, for example, in the Chehalis, and a box keel. All were restricted from cold-weather operations, as topside ice would have made them unstable.

In Vietnam, the big PGs found little use for their high speed, but they were valued for their sea-keeping and heavy gun. In the Market Time coastal blockade, they could remain on station longer than small craft and were less expensive to run than destroyers. The usual duty cycle was seven or fourteen days on, three off. Their shallow draft made them useful river gunboats, in which role they were used extensively, but being lightly built, they were subject to damage. The Antelope (Historian's note: The CANON was the PG badly mauled) was badly mauled in Vietnam riverine operations. The modern Pegasus-class missile hydrofoils described in chapter 15 are their direct successors.

The PGs were considered as alternatives to the PTFs for UDT and SEAL support, as they were roomier and more comfortable.

While the PGMs were being built, the Soviet naval posture changed radically. In the Mediterranean, the USSR used fast surface ships, "tattletales," to trail U.S. carrier task forces; in wartime, they would call in missile strikes by more distant ships. In 1971, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt began his tour as CNO with Project Sixty, a quick look at new ways of using U.S. warships. One of its conclusions was that the United States should begin to trail Soviet naval formations in the Mediterranean. The Ashevilles were ideal- small enough to be expendable, fast enough to keep up in most Mediterranean seas, and, as radar targets, very small. The Surprise and Beacon (Historian's note: Should be Defiance, Beacon was never in the Med) were used for this mission. Their main defect was that, by modem standards, they were barely armed.

The Douglas was fitted to fire the standard Arm anti-ship missile (the interim surface-to-surface missile) as an emergency measure until the Harpoon was ready. Each box aft consisted of two sections: a launcher holding one missile and a reload forward of it. Ranges up to 40 nautical miles could be achieved, actual performance depending on the extent to which the target used its radar. An active-seeker version of standard was also developed but never deployed.

The next step, then, was to provide them with a surface-to-surface missile, a version of the standard AA weapon (the ISSM, or interim surface-to-surface missile) adapted from the General Dynamics Tartar-Bullpup originally developed for the West German navy. The Benicia conducted test firings in the spring of 1971. The two Mark 87 ships, the Antelope and Ready, were each fitted with two launch cells aft plus reloads in boxes on deck. Their 40mm guns were removed, and they lost 3 to 4 knots in speed. The Grand Rapids and Douglas, which lacked the Mark 87, were able to take an improved Standard ARM missile, which did not require such an elaborate fire-control system.

As of 1973, three had been transferred, three (Historian's note: four) operated as Mediterranean tattletales, and three more were based at Little Creek with other U.S. amphibious and coastal force craft. The other seven, ironically, performed classic gunboat duty, patrolling the Marianas trust territory from Guam. Their high speed must have been an asset over so vast an area.

Like their PGM predecessors, they were most useful to U.S. allies in direct confrontation with enemy fast patrol boat fleets. South Korea received the Benicia in 1971, Turkey, the Defiance and Surprise in 1973. The Tacoma and Welch, the last active U.S. units, were used to train Saudi personnel to operate the PGGs before being transferred to Colombia in 1983. The Asheville was transferred to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1976, followed by the Ready and Marathon in 1977 and 1978. The Antelope and Crockett were stricken in 1977 and transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency. Two ships, the Chehalis and Grand Rapids, were disarmed and converted for the Mine Defense Laboratory at Panama City into high-speed tugs for helicopter-towed-mine-countermeasures gear. They became the Athena I and Athena II. The Douglas was to have become the Athena III (Historian's note: the Douglas became the Lauren) in FY 83, but funds were not available and she was discarded instead in December 1984 (Historian's note: not true). Of the remaining units, the Beacon, Canon, Gallup and Green Bay were stricken on 31 January 1977; the Canon and Gallup were restored to the navy list on 17 July 1981, then stricken again at the end of 1984. As of this writing, all are in storage, two at Bremerton two at Little Creek; the Beacon and Green Bay had been scheduled for transfer to Colombia, the Gallup to Taiwan in 1981, but none of these transfers occurred.

Disposition of the PG's based on the Historian's note, as of October 2002:

  • Asheville has been scrapped.
  • Gallup is in storage at Panama City FL
  • Antelope is the OSV PETER W. ANDERSON with the EPA
  • Ready has been scrapped
  • Crockett has been scrapped
  • Marathon has been scrapped
  • Canon is in storage at Panama City FL
  • Tacoma is owned by Columbia
  • Welch is owned by Columbia
  • Chehalis is US Navy RV Atnena I at Panama City FL
  • Defiance was owned by Turkey when it was destroyed by fire in 1985
  • Benicia is owned by Korea and has been stricken from their active ship list and scrapped
  • Surprise is owned by Turkey
  • Grand Rapids is US Navy RV Atnena II at Panama City FL
  • Beacon is owned by Greece
  • Douglas is US Navy RV Lauren at Panama City FL
  • Green Bay is owned by Greece; There is a movement in Green Bay WI to buy the ship and return it to Green Bay

Last updated on 24 July, 2006 by Terry W. McManuels

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