The first of two Russian-built Project 956A, Sovremennyy-class guided missile destroyers for the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)—shown here in a composite photo—conducted trials in the eastern Baltic in mid-August. Laid down on 4 November 1988 for the Soviet Navy as the Vazhnyy, the 18th Severnaya Werf-built unit of the class, the ship was launched on 23 May 1994 and later renamed the Yekaterinburg before work halted when she was 65% complete. China began negotiating to buy this ship and the 19th unit in mid-1996, but a final contract to purchase the pair for around $667 million was not signed until January 1998. The second PLAN Sovremennyy-class destroyer had been laid down in 22 February 1989 as the Vdumchivyy, was renamed the Alexandr Nevsky before work ceased at 35% completion in the mid-1990s, and finally was launched for China on 16 April. The first ship is due for delivery by the end of 1999 and the second at the end of 2000. The 8,480-ton (full load displacement) pair are typical of the final series of their class in carrying eight increased-range 3M82 versions of the supersonic Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn) sea-skimming antiship missile, two launchers for the Uragan (SA-N-7) medium-range surface-to-air system with the latest 9M38M1 variant of the Smerch surface-to-air missile, and a complete electronic warfare system. The dated Sovremennyy design stems from the Kresta-series of the 1960s and has the same 110,000-horsepower steam turbine propulsion plant. Only 10 of the 17 completed for the Soviet and Russian Navies remain, and one of those is in reserve.
The Military Sealift Command Stalwart (T-AGOS-1)-class ocean surveillance ship Persistent (T-AGOS-6), seen here this May while undergoing reactivation and conversion at Norfolk, Virginia, will act as a mothership for two U.S. Coast Guard 38foot rigid-inflatable "Deployable Pursuit Boats" by Fountain Powerboats. Redelivered on 26 August 1999, the ship is operated in the Caribbean by a civilian contractor crew and carries a 17-person Coast Guard law-enforcement detachment. Sister ship Vindicator (T-AGOS-3) was transferred to the Coast Guard as WMEC-3 on 20 May 1994 and operated briefly on blockade duties off Haiti before being laid up because of her low operating speed; she recently was reactivated at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay, Maryland, to the same configuration as the Persistent. Both ships are hoped to be effective in the counterdrug role, deploying their 50-knot pursuit boats and their Coast Guard crews against "go-fasts."
The 14th and presumably final U.S. Navy Cyclone (PC-1)class coastal patrol boat, the Tornado (PC-14), is seen being rolled out of the building shed at Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, Louisiana, shortly before launch on 10 June 1999 (although not christened until 25 September). Because the Navy had neither requested nor budgeted for the operation of the 360-ton craft, it has had to decommission the six-year old Cyclone to provide a crew for the Tornado, which is to commission next April. PC-14's cost—roughly three times that of her sisters—is at least partially justified by the incorporation of a number of unspecified "stealth" features not discernible in the photograph. To incorporate a sloped boat deployment and recovery ramp at the stern, the Tornado is nine feet longer than the other Cyclones; she also has new design propellers, an increased fuel supply and adjustable stern flaps to improve endurance, and improved sound-reduction measures. As with her sisters, however, PC-14 is very lightly armed in comparison with similar craft in foreign fleets.