SPECIAL REPORT / LITTORAL & BROWN-WATER OPS
ater security cooperation and high-value unit protection.
There are improvements coming
to Coastal Riverine forces. For one
thing, they will be getting the new
Mark VI Patrol Boat, which
Berning discussed at the Navy
League’s Sea-Air-Space symposium
in National Harbor, Md., in April.
The patrol boat is scheduled for
fleet delivery this summer, and
NECC will buy 10 of them from
SAFE Boats International.
The patrol boat will be focused
on littoral areas for the purpose of
force protection, as well as to protect critical infrastructure. Its main
roles will be security forces assistance, theater security cooperation
and high-value-unit shipping
escort. It will have a fair amount of
firepower, allowing it to provide
some close escort for high-value
ships, including merchant vessels
JACKSONVILLE PORT AUTHORITY
The Mark VI Patrol Boat will be among the improvements coming to Coastal
Riverine forces. Two of the boats are shown here being offloaded at Blount Island
Marine Terminal, Fla., on Feb. 27. The boats were placed in the St. Johns River
before sailing to Naval Station Mayport. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command
is buying 10 of the patrol boats from SAFE Boats International.
The patrol boat will be 85 feet
long and be able to traverse 600
nautical miles carrying a full load,
with a crew of two and a total capacity of 18 people. It
will carry 25mm Mk38 Mod 2 weapons and machine-gun mounts. SAFE Boats was awarded a $34.5 million
contract for four patrol boats last summer.
The Mark VI will be a coast patrol boat, so it is not
envisioned to be a riverine craft. It has a draft of close to
5 feet, so although it could operate in shallower waters,
rivers would be pushing it. The boat is better suited for
larger harbors or bays, if not the coastal areas.
waterborne improvised explosive devices or even rock-et-propelled grenades (RPGs). Perhaps, in the early
days, an RPG could penetrate the hull with ease, but
developments in Kevlar have allowed them to create
better shielding to protect the vessels, Clark said.
The technology used by riverine forces has
improved since their role increased, said Bryan Clark,
a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and
“Sensors have really come a long way,” Clark said.
“EO/IR [electro-optical/infrared] has improved a lot
over the years. Before, all they had was night vision
and some IR, but not good IR.”
There are some lessons learned for riverine forces
out of Iraq when it comes to thinking about developing
future riverine equipment. For one thing, NECC takes
a hard look at environmental conditions, and certainly
the Asia-Pacific region will be very different than the
inland rivers of Iraq. However, in both cases the boats
must be built to operate in a high-temperature, high-humidity environment, which factors into the requirements for future boats.
Today, however, riverine forces can see through all
weather conditions and detect threats long before they
encounter them. In addition, the growing use of
unmanned air systems (UASs) have been a boon to the
riverines by giving them access to a sensor that can
peer over the horizon and still be man-transportable.
In addition, “we’re always looking at transportability as an expeditionary force,” Berning said. Whether
it’s over sea, over land or through the air, these boats
must be designed with transportability in mind as they
cannot traverse the extreme distances of the Asia-Pacific without help.
“UASs have really stretched their horizon,” Clark said.
The protection of these vessels has greatly improved,
too, which is important as the boats are vulnerable to
And then there’s cyber security, a growing concern
today that was not really an issue for riverines back in
the early days of the Iraq war. These days, the boats
must be designed to be safe from cyber-attack
attempts, Berning said.
“That’s a new requirement,” he said. ;
15 SEAPOWER / JUNE 2015