The Peruvian Navy retired the world’s last operational gun cruiser, its historic flagship the Almirante Grau, in the fall of 2017. The 12,000-ton Almirante Grau was an ex-Dutch De Ruyter-class light cruiser fitted with four twin six-inch guns and an armor belt of up to four inches thick. Construction began on the vessel in the Netherlands less than a week after the start of World War II. She was launched in December 1944, while the Dutch remained under German occupation. The light cruiser remained unfinished for nearly a decade, finally entering service in November of 1953. After serving the Netherlands for nearly 20 years, the warship was purchased by Peru in 1973 and recommissioned as the Almirante Grau. The warship received numerous upgrades and modifications during her long career. She has been replaced by the Lupo-class frigate Montero, which has been renamed Almirante Grau and designated as the new Peruvian flagship.
The British Royal Navy retired its smallest commissioned vessel, Her Majesty’s Survey Motor Launch Gleaner, in February of this year. The 20-ton craft was built in the early 1980s and designed for survey work along the Solent, Channel Islands, and Plymouth areas. The Gleaner’s fiberglass hull was not fitted with any armament, but instead carried advanced mapping sonars. The 49-foot vessel had a 15-foot beam and a draft of less than five feet. She was powered by diesel engines providing a range of 450 nautical miles at 10 knots. In the early 2000s, the Gleaner helped survey the site of Henry VIII’s lost warship the Mary Rose. In 2016, the navy’s smallest vessel surveyed a path for the Royal Navy’s largest, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, ensuring her smooth arrival at Portsmouth Naval Base. The Gleaner will be replaced by a new catamaran vessel to be named the Magpie.
In October 2017, the retired U.S. Coast Guard 110-foot Island-class cutters ex-Long Island (WPB-1342) and ex-Roanoke Island (WPB-1346, pictured here while still in U.S. service) were transferred to the Costa Rican Coast Guard under the Excess Defense Articles program. The vessels have been renamed the Libertador Juan Rafael Mora Porras and the General Jose M. Canas Escamilla, respectively. Since the transfer ceremony, both cutters have undergone a refit while their crews underwent training in advance of a planned April 2018 departure for home waters. The 150-ton cutters were built in Lockport, Louisiana, and originally entered service in 1991. While in U.S. service, the vessels were armed with a 25-mm gun and were typically operated by a crew of roughly 16 personnel. Fitted with twin diesel engines, the 110-footers have a top speed of nearly 30 knots and a range of more than 3,000 nautical miles while cruising at 8 knots.
Mr. Wertheim, a defense consultant in the Washington, D.C. area, is the author of the 16th edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, available from the Naval Institute Press (see www.usni.org).