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

 

The Mk VI can also mount the M240 7.62mm machine gun, Mk 44 mini guns, and carry Mk 19 grenade launchers.

Engaging a swarm of small hostile boats is a realistic challenge. “The key to killing the swarm is engaging it as far away as possible, and attriting those boats before they get to you. Because of the speed of the Mk VI, Gandara said the idea is to “run away and fight as you go.”

“We have joint tactical air controllers that are attached to the Mk VIs, so we can call in air support. It’s important to have guys up on top that may be looking at a whole bunch of boats forming around each other, be able to differentiate friend from foe, and bring in air strikes on the bad guys,” said Gandara.

“It can do an awful lot. It’s a fantastic platform, and it’s very flexible, it has a lot of capability, so a lot of people are thinking about various things you can do with it.”

Gandara is aware of various suggestions to “upgun” the boat with additional weapons or systems, although there are no current requirements to do so. “It can do an awful lot. It’s a fantastic platform, and it’s very flexible, it has a lot of capability, so a lot of people are thinking about various things you can do with it.”

mk vi well-deck approach

A Mk VI patrol boat attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron 4 (CRS4) approaches the well deck of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) during wet well operations. The Mk VI patrol boat is an 85-foot craft arranged with an ergonomically designed pilothouse, covered flying bridge, re-configurable main deck cabin and below-deck accommodations. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Frank Cottone

The capabilities of the craft are incredible. It can really take a pounding: the crews, not so much. “The seats of the Mk VI are really great shock-mounted seats,” said Gandara. “And as long as you’re in your shock-mounted seats, you’re fine. If you’re not in your shock-mounted seat, you’re going to be picking yourself up off the deck eventually.”

 

Platform for unmanned systems

The Mark VI can operate unmanned systems. Gandara said the Navy has conducted testing with the Mk VI and the Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

“The EOD teams can launch Kingfish off the back of the Mk VI to go and run its patterns. We can go away and come back later to pick it up or swap it out, or put it back under the water. We don’t have to provide security for another craft that does this mission because the Mk VI brings its own security.”

“We’ve also operated Puma AE unmanned air systems that are part of the Coastal Riverine Force,” he said. “We’ve operated those off the Mark VI in training.”

“It’s not just the platforms that we can launch off of the Mark VI itself,” he added. “We’ve been able to control Predators and get the feed down to our Rover VI, which is a system that is installed on the Mk VI that can get video feed from aircraft and UAVs overhead.”

Puma AE is also deployed from patrol coastal boats. “We’ve had it in the Coastal Riverine Force even longer than the PCs. We carry our own UAS operators.”

Offboard systems like UAS can be ISR force multipliers. “We can push that PUMA AE out and get a different angle on the vessels we’re looking at. We can see the deck space, we provide over-watch for our VBSS teams during a boarding. We can give the team feedback on exactly what’s happening on deck. So if we have people throwing things over the side like crazy, we can get it on video, record it, and then we can pick it up later to collect the evidence,” he said.

mk vi well-deck

Sailors moor a Mk VI patrol boat attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron 4 (CRS4) during wet well operations onboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). Bataan was underway conducting routine qualifications in preparation for her deployment. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Frank Cottone

“It’s not just the platforms that we can launch off of the Mark VI itself,” he added. “We’ve been able to control Predators and get the feed down to our Rover VI, which is a system that is installed on the Mk VI that can get video feed from aircraft and UAVs overhead.”

Gandara said the Mk VI is a platform to host VBSS teams, but doesn’t have its own organic team. “There is space for a VBSS team onboard. We don’t have the ability to put a full-blown RHIB on, but we can certainly put them over on a Zodiac-type inflatable craft. The ramp on the Mk VI can take two Zodiacs. And we can serve as ‘overwatch.’”

SAFE Boats International worked very closely with the Navy in the introduction of the boat to the fleet. “We’ve sent our crews to SAFE Boat for manufacturers’ training for those initial crews, along with our fleet introduction team. As we start getting our Sailors who are coming back from deployments we can transition to more of a journeyman-type self-training organization at our own schools.”

Gandara said the Mk VI is a size that navies all over the world could use. “Many international navies have a requirement for small patrol boats to protect their own coastal waters.”

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