On 31 March the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), the last active Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship, was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy. Built by Ingalls Shipbuilding at Pascagoula, Mississippi, the Peleliu was launched in 1978 and entered service in May 1980. Displacing more than 39,000 tons fully loaded, the Peleliu and her four retired sisters, the Tarawa (LHA-1), Saipan (LHA-2), Belleau Wood (LHA-3), and Nassau (LHA-4), could each carry a crew of 1,000 sailors plus 2,000 Marines and their equipment. A floodable well deck permitted the use of LCU and LCAC landing craft while a large flight deck and hangar facilities enabled operation of an air group that typically included CH-46, CH-53, UH-1, and AH-1 helicopters, plus AV-8B Harrier strike jets and, later, MV-22 Ospreys. In addition to their combat capabilities, the Peleliu and her sisters were also impressive platforms for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with hospital facilities that were expandable to more than 300 beds and four operating rooms. The five-ship Tarawa class has been replaced by the Wasp- and America-class amphibious assault ships currently in U.S. service.
The Mauritius National Coast Guard received its first-ever custom-built cutter in March. The Barracuda was constructed by India’s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers and serves as a replacement for the 18-year-old patrol ship Vigilant, which was retired in November 2014. Measuring 241 feet long, the Barracuda displaces 1,350 tons with a beam of 37.4 feet and a draft of 11.5 feet. Fitted with two MTU 16V 4000 M53 diesels, the Barracuda has a top speed of 22.5 knots and a maximum range of more than 5,000 nautical miles. Although not fitted with a hangar, she is able to operate a small helicopter from her landing deck. Intended primarily for surveillance, patrol, counter-piracy operations, disaster relief, outer-island support, and other coast guard–type missions, the Barracuda is armed with 30- and 12.7-mm machine guns and also carries a small personnel-landing craft that can be deployed from a 10-ton deck crane.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force recently took delivery of its fourth and final 140.4-foot Damen Stan Patrol 4207 patrol boat from the Netherlands. The Rolly Gray entered service in April, joining sisters Arthur Dion Hanna, Durward Knowles (pictured here), and Leon Livingstone Smith, which were delivered in 2014. In Bahamian service these vessels have a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles, a complement of 24 sailors, and two rigid-hull inflatable boats for boarding and interception duties. Damen is supplying five more vessels to the Bahamas by late 2016, including four Sea Axe 3007 patrol vessels and one Stan Lander 5612 roll-on/roll-off landing craft being built in Ha Lonh, Vietnam. In addition to these new vessel acquisitions, the Bahamas is also working to expand its maritime facilities, including significant enhancements to the Coral Harbor naval base and construction of two new facilities elsewhere on the islands.