SLN to take delivery of Vietnam era US warship

USD 18 mn deal on two Japanese patrol boats



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


Sri Lanka Navy will take delivery of a 378-foot High Endurance Cutter Sherman from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in August this year.


A section of the crew assigned to the vessel is receiving training on board the vessel at USCG base Honolulu. The USCG decommissioned the 50-year-old ship in March this year.


A senior naval official told The Island that larger vessels were required for post-war responsibilities. "We need bigger platforms to patrol the 200 mile exclusive economic zone. The acquisition of USCG Cutter is in line with the overall strategy," the official said.In accordance with the agreement between the US and Sri Lanka, the latter had to pay for repairs, spare parts et al though the vessel was gifted.


The transfer of the vessel to Sri Lanka is scheduled to take place on the helipad of the vessel at USCG base


Honolulu on Aug 22 though it is expected to remain there until early Feb 2019.


According to Hawaii-based Sri Lanka’s Honorary Consul Bede Dhammika Cooray, in addition to the contingent assigned to the vessel, there were about two dozen SLN officers and men at the ongoing large scale naval exercise RIMPAC 2018.


USCG Sherman is one of only two of its class vessels to receive the Vietnam Service Award and the only Coast Guard Cutter to acquire the Combat Action Ribbon for action in the Vietnam War. Sherman is the last decommissioned warship in the Coast Guard to have sunk an enemy vessel in combat.


The number of SLN contingent was expected to reach about 80 before the Aug 22 ceremony though at present there were 30 personnel at Honolulu base. The ship crew is expected to reach 130 by the time it depart Honolulu.


During the conflict, Sri Lanka’s offshore patrolling capacity received a significant boost when the US handed over USCG Courageous in the run-up to the eelam war IV. USCG Courageous was commissioned SLNS Samudura and took part in some operations directed at the LTTE floating arsenal on the high seas.


USCG Courageous/SLNS Samudura, the only US vessel to serve the SLN during the war, in addition to half a dozen US built Fast Attack Craft (FACs) has been launched in 1967. USCG Sherman has been launched in the following year.


Authoritative sources told The Island that Sri Lanka would also receive an old Chinese frigate mounted with 100 mm weapon. Sources said that Chinese frigate was a grant and in line with decades long bilateral defence cooperation.


Sources said that almost a decade after the conclusion of the war; Sri Lanka was engaged expanding its capacity to efficiently patrol its exclusive economic zone. Sri Lanka took delivery of state-of-the art two Indian built Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessels (AOPVs) after the last presidential poll in January 2015. In addition to the two APOVs-SLNS Sayurala and SLNS Sindurala, the SLN fleet includes five Offshore Patrol Vessels, one Landing Ship Tank, four Fast Gun Boats, two auxiliary ships (both gifted by Australia) et al.


A senior official said that during the conflict the SLN had to depend on Fast Attack Craft (FAC) fleet to counter the then threat posed by Sea Tigers. At the height of the war, there were almost 60 operational FACs though all weren’t suited to face the challenge posed by Sea Tigers’ ‘suicide packs’. In the absence of war, ongoing efforts were aimed at discouraging Indian fishing fleet regularly crossing the international maritime boundary and effective policing of high seas.


Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Coast Guard recently took delivery of two brand new 30 m Japanese-built patrol boats which were expected to be commissioned by President Maithripala Sirisena.


Japanese provided Sri Lanka with a grant of up to 1.83 billion yen (approx. US$18M) for the SLCG to obtain two new patrol boats.


The delivery of brand new patrol boats coincided with the recently concluded third Japan-Sri Lanka dialogue on maritime security, safety and oceanic issues held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Colombo.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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