For well over a decade, the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) has been a ubiquitous element in special operations mission planning for multiple service elements.
With physical characteristics of 15 feet 5 inches in length, 6 feet 3 inches in width, and a draft of two feet, one Naval Special Warfare “fact file” describes the CRRC mission as “clandestine surface insertion and extraction of lightly armed amphibious forces. They are employed to land and recover U.S. Marine Corps reconnaissance squads and SEALs from over-the-horizon. The CRRC is capable of surf passages. It may be launched by air, or by craft. It may also be deck-launched from submarines. It has a low visual electronic signature, and is capable of being cached by its crew once ashore. It uses 35-55 horsepower engines.”
Most recently, the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft was called out as part of the “mission specific equipment” within the USSOCOM “Combatant Craft, Medium (CCM) Mk 1” program.
But while the CRRC mission remains an integral element across multiple services, part of the underlying acronym may soon need to change from “rubber” to reflect a new boat candidate recently developed by Wing Inflatables in Northern California.
Wing has just entered advanced contractor testing on its polyurethane P-47 [4.7 meter = 15.4199′ / 15′ 5.03″] CRRC design, and Defense Media Network was recently invited along for some side-by-side testing between the P-47 and the Zodiac F-470 4.7 meter “Hypalon” (rubber) craft that is currently employed in most CRRC applications.
According to Bill Wing, founder of Wing Inflatables, the P-47 design has actually been drawn up for over 10 years.
“We started testing it early this year and by May the boat had been ‘tuned in,’” he explained. “Of course, we are always making subtle changes, like making it a little stiffer in some places with ‘hogging strips’ and things like that. But now we have a boat that is really performing.”
In terms of physical differences between the P-47 and the F-470 designs, Wing immediately cited the polyurethane material used in the P-47, “which is ‘welded’ together, not glued. As a result, heat won’t attack the glue and make the seams come apart. The greatest stress on the boat is on the air holding tubes. And when those rubber tubes are glued together, and they get hot, the glue will start coming apart. And our boats are welded, with a 1 ½ inch weld plus welded seam tape inside and out. So that really makes a big difference on how well the boat is going to hold up.”
“We have a lot of experience with boats in hard weather and boats that are worked hard,” he noted, adding, “We built the IBS [inflatable boat small] used in BUD/S [SEAL training], the tubes for the 11 meter Naval Special Warfare RIB [rigid inflatable boat], and the bulk of the ‘730s’ [7.3 meter RIBs] on the Navy’s ships. We have also built whitewater rafts in use all over the world. So we have a lot of experience with boats in tough conditions. Today, for most of the boats used in protecting the fleet, we either made the original tubes or we do the replacement tubes. It doesn’t matter who builds them – we can offer a replacement.”
As the F-470 and P-47 were being towed out into the bay for side-by-side testing, Wing highlighted the differences in the stern design, in which the P-47 transom is located further back, providing additional cube space in the boat.
“With our composite transom it’s also stronger,” he said. “And you might notice that the transom has a little more of a rake on it – it’s 18 degrees instead of 15 degrees – which gives you more control over the motor’s angle, so you can adjust for weight by bringing their bow up. And that means a lot if you’ve got a heavy boat and you are plowing into the seas. If you can get that bow up a little bit higher then it’s going to make a big difference in your speeds and your ride.”
He continued, “One of the things we have been told by users is that ‘simple is better.’ I don’t know how many operators have told us, ‘Get rid of the speed tubes’ [used on the F-470 design].’ All they do is fill full of sand. They are a maintenance nightmare. So we have gone back to a basic ‘v-hull,’ which will give it better riding, like a traditional boat, with more shock mitigation. I think the ‘speed tubes’ or the ‘inflation tubes’ were just kind of a ‘marketing farce’ through the years. And you can quote me on that.”
With advanced contractor testing well under way, Wing pointed to the need for government testing by Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as the next logical step for getting P-47 capabilities out to meet the critical needs of users.