The Iraqi navy accepted Swift-class Patrol boats 304 and 306 from the U.S. Navy during a handover ceremony Aug. 13 at Umm Qasr, Iraq.
Saturday’s ceremony was the culmination of months of effort for both the U.S. and Iraqi Navies.
“I’m extremely happy for the Iraqi navy,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Kelvin Dixon, director of Iraq Training and Advising Mission-Navy and Marines from Rockaway, N.J. “The delivery of the U.S. built Swift Patrol Boats 304 and 306 increases the Iraqi navy’s capability to effectively patrol and defend their territorial waters and critical oil infrastructure.”
“The Iraqis have really done an outstanding job with the limited assets they had,” said Cmdr. Quintin “QB” Bell, commanding officer of the ITAM-N/M at Umm Qasr from Augusta, Ga. “The addition of these two very-capable patrol boats will greatly enhance their ability to carry out their assigned missions.”
Iraqi navy commander, Rear Adm. Ali, said that the delivery was an important day for the Iraqi navy, and he thanked everyone for making the day happen, according to Bell.
Construction began on 304 and 306 in mid-2010 in Morgan City, La. Upon completion, the 35-meter patrol boats began their journey to Iraq in June with a month-long voyage from Houston to Bahrain on the roll-on/roll-off ship MV Cape Trinity. The U.S. Navy offloaded the vessels in Bahrain and sailed them to Umm Qasr under the U.S. flag.
Swift Patrol Boats 304 and 306 arrived in Umm Qasr Aug. 7 and underwent final checks and sea trials facilitated by Naval Sea Systems Command and ITAM-N/M engineers. U.S. engineers and advisors validated the boats were seaworthy and the crews were qualified prior to the handover.
After U.S. and Iraqi navy leadership signed required documents, U.S. and Iraqi sailors lowered the U.S. flag and raised the Iraqi flag on the vessels to complete the handover.
The patrol boats provide capability for a variety of missions including maritime surveillance and reconnaissance as well as vessel boarding and search and seizure. The new vessels raise the Iraqi navy’s patrol boat force to five of 12 ordered. The remaining Swift boats are expected to arrive in Iraq before 2013.
The Iraqi navy is responsible for protecting off-shore oil infrastructure, territorial waters, Umm Qasr, and checkpoints in the surrounding area. Currently, the Iraqi fleet boasts 65 vessels, and more than 3,700 sailors and Marines, conducting more than 50 weekly patrols.
Story by Maj. Brandon Lingle