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Navy Mk VI Patrol Boats Protect Ports, High-value Assets

 

(Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org).)

The Coastal Riverine Force conducts high value asset protection, escorting ships in and out of port facilities, keeping them safe at anchor, and providing security in remote or austere locations. The force also provides security to naval logistics ships – such as oilers or contract ammunition carriers – with teams on board them to protect those vessels from terrorism type threats. The new Mk VI patrol boats, manufactured by SAFE Boats International of Port Orchard, Wash., are critical to mission success for the force, according to Cmdr. Raul Gandara, branch head, Coastal Riverine and NECC Warfare Requirements, at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC).

“We took delivery of the Mk VI patrol boats last year. The program of record is for 12 boats. The Fleet Introduction Team worked very closely with SAFE Boats in the initial training for those crews,” Gandara said.

Gandara said the Mk VI is a “great platform. It’s 85 feet long, with a crew of 10 plus a couple officers on board, and it can do an awful lot. It takes five guys to run the boat up front in the pilothouse, and the other five guys are back aft where they can be manning weapons or running remotely operated vehicles.”

“The crews are very well-versed in the craft; they understand it very well.”

The Mk VI is made from all aluminum construction, powered by diesel engines with waterjets, and can reach speeds up to 35 knots.

mk vi 5th fleet

Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4 get underway on a Mk VI Patrol Boat during a weapons exercise while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.7. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins

The Coastal Riverine Training Evaluation Unit took over the tactical training of the crews last October, and the first Mk VIs deployed overseas this past January. “Right now, Coastal Riverine Squadron 2 is operating them in the Arabian Gulf,” he said.

Gandara said the Navy has two 85-foot Mk VI boats deployed to the gulf along with the 72-foot Coast Command Boat (CCB), a one-off boat produced by Safe Boats prior to bringing the Mk VI boats online.

Gandara said the Mk VI is a “great platform. It’s 85 feet long, with a crew of 10 plus a couple officers on board, and it can do an awful lot. It takes five guys to run the boat up front in the pilothouse, and the other five guys are back aft where they can be manning weapons or running remotely operated vehicles.”

“By having the craft overseas, we’re finding the demand for them has increased. We’ve been able to load and unload the boats in well decks on our amphibious ships, as well as conducting some exercises and weapons testing. We’ve got a number of exercises planned coming up in the fall. We’re really just starting to figure out all the different things it can do in that theater. We pushed another couple of boats out to the Western Pacific this summer, manned by a rotating series of crews from the states,” said Gandara.

mk vi bridge

Petty Officer 3rd Class Stevi Brandis, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron Two (CRS-2), coxswains a Mk VI Patrol Boat during a live-fire weapons exercise in Santa Rita, Guam, Sept. 30, 2016. CRS-2 is assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 75, the primary expeditionary task force responsible for the planning and execution of coastal riverine operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving engineering and construction, and underwater construction in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez

While the people are capable of long transits, the more preferable means of getting the crafts to an overseas theater is inside an amphibious ship. “We can stick ‘em in a well deck and take them to wherever they need to go,” he said. “We’re operating out of Bahrain right now; we’ve got two of them out there. They can reach everywhere in the Gulf. We took the Coastal Command Boat outside the Gulf down to Oman last year, shortly after it arrived, as a proof of concept that they could go that far, and refuel along the way.”

The Mk VI can carry two Mark 38 25-millimeter remotely operated guns, as well as two Mk 50 50-caliber remote-operated weapons systems so that the crews can target and engage up to four different targets simultaneously from inside the cabin.

Well deck testing was conducted aboard USS Bataan (LHD 5), demonstrating the feasibility of carrying the boats overseas. “This is a great capability to get it forward to where it can operate.”

Gandara said the Mk VI has a 600-mile range. “We’ve got 5,000 gallons of fuel and can stay out for 24 to 72 hours at a time.”

There are racks on board for longer missions. “Long, complex mission will require our crews to sleep aboard the craft, and manage their watches, sleep, and meals.

 

Mid-East mission

“We’re not escorting vessels in and out of port. That’s the job of small boats. The Mk VI has an anti-terrorist mission, performing maritime infrastructure protection and escorting vessels in high threat areas, such as straits,” he said. “They’re able to provide that presence out there for long-term security.”

The Mk VI can carry two Mark 38 25-millimeter remotely operated guns, as well as two Mk 50 50-caliber remote-operated weapons systems so that the crews can target and engage up to four different targets simultaneously from inside the cabin. “We’ve got a number of manned small arms mounts that the off-watch crew can roll up and man, as well. We have found the combination of our unmanned remote-operated weapons systems and manned weapons systems to be very effective.”

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...