Surface Forces: Hamilton The Diplomat

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June 19, 2017: In May 2017 the United States transferred a recently (a month earlier) decommissioned Hamilton class Coast Guard cutter to the Vietnam Coast Guard. Vietnam, and several other nations, considered this a good deal.

The first of these 3,200 ton, ocean going American patrol ships entered service in 1965 and another eleven entered service by 1972. In the 1980s all of them underwent a refurbishment that upgraded the 76mm gun with a more powerful model and added a 20mm Phalanx anti-missile autocannon system that could also be used at naval targets. Also added was a retractable hanger bay so a helicopter could be carried for extended periods. Electronic and mechanical systems were also upgraded.

The Hamiltons began to retire in 2011 and given that they were good shape they were transferred to allied nations. While four are still in U.S. service, two have gone to Bangladesh, two to Nigeria, three to the Philippines and one to Vietnam. Not all recipients used the Hamiltons are coast guard vessels. The three sent to the Philippines were upgraded and became frigates for the navy. The first one of these became the flagship for the Filipino navy.

In coast guard service the Hamiltons are armed with a 76mm gun, six 12.7mm machine-guns and two Mk30 chaff/decoy systems and the Phalanx for protection against anti-ship missiles. There is also a hanger and flight deck for an UH-60 class helicopter. There are also two high-speed RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boats) for boarding parties. The ship has a top speed of 54 kilometers an hour, endurance of 45 days, and a crew of 167. The Philippines paid $15 million for each cutter to cover the cost of some refurbishment and upgrades performed in the United States before the ship was delivered. Recipients of the Hamiltons are usually nations with very small navies but can still use a ship that can safely patrol far off shore for long periods. This is something the Hamiltons excel at.

Vietnam also recently received six 14 meter (45 foot) Metal Shark coastal patrol boats. These are popular with police and coast guard worldwide and are also used for firefighting or pilot boats. These can be armed with machine-gun but come with surface search radar, searchlights and other optional accessories. The boats have a galley, toilet and shower and can be equipped with four bunks. In addition to a long coastline Vietnam also has lots of internal waterways (major rovers like the Mekong and its delta).

 

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