Pentagon strengthens naval forces in Gulf

The US Navy has deployed three additional coastal patrol ships to its Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, bolstering America’s presence in the strategic Gulf, officials said Wednesday.

The USS Tempest, the USS Squall and the USS Thunderbolt arrived Wednesday at the port of Manama, bringing the total number of patrol craft to eight, the Navy said.

The small, speedy 52 meter-long (79-foot) ships, which can be armed with 25 mm cannons and .50 caliber machine guns, are seen as a counterweight to Iran’s fast boats that operate in shallow waters around the Strait of Hormuz.

US military planners and analysts say Iran has developed swarming tactics to try to outrun and encircle America’s larger warships transiting the Gulf, along with plans to plant mines to disrupt commercial shipping.

By the spring of 2014, the Navy expects to have a fleet of 10 coastal patrol ships in Bahrain.

The United States also has a “floating base” at its disposal in the region, the USS Ponce, which has been retrofitted to serve as a platform for helicopters and ships designed to detect mines.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, accompanied by a group of warships, is also currently deployed in the Gulf.

Full article: Pentagon strengthens naval forces in Gulf (Middle East Online)

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