Surface Forces: Fast Patrol Boats Evolve


August 11, 2020: The Greek (Hellenic) Navy has put into service the last of seven 660-ton Fast Patrol Boats armed with missiles. Each of these ships cost about $160 million. Roussen class ships are heavily armed for a 62-meter (198 foot) ship with a crew of 45. Top speed is 65 kilometers an hour and armament consist of a 76mm cannon, eight MM40 anti-ship missiles (range 72 kilometers), a 21 cell RAM anti-aircraft/missile launcher and two 30mm autocannon. There is an extensive number of radars and fire-control systems to operate all these weapons as well as navigation along with an electro-optical sensor for closer targets. The Roussens are a British design based on the smaller Vita-class 52-meter patrol boats designed by BAE Systems for Qatar, Oman and other customers. The Vitas were built in the 1990s with similar armament. The first Roussen entered service in 2005 and all were built in Greece with technical assistance from BAE.

The Greek Navy began a modernization of its navy in the 1990s which turned out to be prescient because by 2020 the century old tensions with neighbor Turkey are headed towards open warfare over maritime disputes. Both nations are NATO members but many NATO members and several major non-NATO Mediterranean nations (Egypt and Israel) side with Greece. While Turkey has larger armed forces than Greece, the Greeks have powerful allies and the Greek navy has recently acquired submarines and surface warships like the Roussen.

Fast Patrol Boats, with or without missiles, have been around for decades but lighter, more capable missiles and more compact and capable electronics have made these ships more powerful and popular. Although the United States does not use them, American builders, like Swiftship, design and manufacture Fast Patrol Boats For example, in 2009 2009 Iraq ordered nine 35-meter (115 foot) patrol boats from Swiftship. Each of these ships cost about $20 million. They are armed with a 30mm autocannon forward and a 12.7mm machine-gun aft (in the rear) and two 7.62mm machine-guns, one on each side of the bridge. The Iraqis had most of the superstructure made bulletproof. These ships have a crew of 25 (including four officers) and endurance of about six days. Top speed is about 55 kilometers an hour. Egypt already operates smaller (25 meter) versions of this design, and is pleased with the performance of these ships.

Italy, along with Britain, Sweden and France design and build a lot of these Fast Patrol Boats. For example, the Italian built Saettia Mk. 4 missile patrol boats carry a crew of 38 (including a dozen marines for boarding ships). Top speed is about 70 kilometers an hour, and they can stay at sea for about a week. Armament varies but usually consists of a 30mm automatic cannon and two machine-guns.

Swedish builders adapted their CB90 fast patrol boat to a design better adapted for use in tropical waters. The first design was the X15 which was very similar to the 20-ton CB90. A smaller version of the X15, the 10-ton X12 has proved very popular in Indonesia and now Bangladesh, where a local firm is building 18 under license from PT Ludin. The X12 has a top speed of 63 kilometers an hour and is 11.7 meters (38 feet) long and 11.4 feet wide. They can operate in shallow (one meter/three feet deep) water and are usually armed with two machine-guns and small arms. The coast guard versions have a radar and a crew of six or more sailors. These boats cost less than $100,000 each.


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