NAVY LEANS MORE HEAVILY ON GREEN, BROWN WATER ASSETS
BY DANIEL P. TAYLOR, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Green and brown water assets across the
Navy’s fleet are getting bigger and faster,
and the service is placing an ever-growing
burden on them as activity in the Asia-Pacific intensifies. It’s a burden that is only
likely to increase in the coming years.
The Navy’s move toward the littoral combat ship
(LCS) certainly is the biggest clue, but the service has
pursued improvements in many other green and brown
water tactical craft. In addition to purchasing LCSs, the
Navy is introducing a much bigger patrol boat in the
Mark VI that is capable of expanding beyond brown
water and into the green littoral areas.
The Navy will be spending billions of dollars in
the coming years to replace its aging fleet of Landing
Craft, Air Cushion vessels with dozens of more robust
Ship-to-Shore Connectors. And the heavy-lifting
Landing Craft Utility, which also is showing its age,
has a replacement on the way in 2022.
As the service focuses more on the Asia-Pacific, an
area dominated by rivers and shallow areas — compared
with the Persian Gulf and other areas in which the Navy
has operated in the last few decades — there is a very
clear push to make brown and green water assets a bigger part of the fleet, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at
the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of effort to bring
green and brown water forces into being able to oper-
ate more in the green and the blue water,” Clark said.
“You can put a small number of weapons on each plat-
form, and have each platform be a sensor, and kind of
In the broadest terms, the brown water environment
is considered to stretch from shore to the end of the
continental shelf, with the green water starting from
there out to a few hundred miles from shore. Blue water
takes it from there and extends to the world’s oceans.
Brown and green water assets are central to the
Navy shifting its focus from large, capital ships to
“distributed lethality,” as Clark called it. The changing landscape of tactical craft at Navy Expeditionary
Combat Command (NECC) is a good example of that
trend. The Coastal Riverine Force (CRF), part of NECC,
is buying 78-foot Mark VI patrol boats, which are the
biggest boats of that type the Navy has ever had.
The CRF currently operates 25-foot Force Protection-Small patrol boats, along with 34-foot Force Protection-Large patrol boats and a 65-foot Coastal Command Boat.
It also operates the Puma All Environment unmanned air
systems, and a variety of tactical vehicles, like Humvees
and Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacements. The Mark
VI patrol boat also has the ability to launch and recover
unmanned underwater vehicles on behalf of explosive
ordnance disposal units.
Cmdr. Raul Gandara, branch head of N83 at NECC/
NECC Pacific, said in an e-mail response to questions
from Seapower that the CRF currently is developing a
replacement craft for the Force Protection-Large vessel
under the moniker PB-X, which “is under development
and is currently in source selection,” he said.
But today, it’s the Mark VI patrol boat that is earning most of the attention for riverine forces.
“We have seen advances in communications,
unmanned sensors, remote weapons systems and con-
trol systems,” he said. “The largest difference in our
operations is due to the incorporation of the Mark VI
patrol boat into the force, enabling longer-range patrol
and security operations in the littorals.”
Gandara said the operational deployment of the
Mark VI at forward locations in support of Central
Command and Pacific Command operations has been
one of the big highlights of the past year. And he
expects the boat will have a significant impact in the
“We look forward to continuing to demonstrate
and develop the capabilities of the Mark VI craft and
crews,” he said.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 28 SEAPOWER JUNE 2017
SPECIAL REPORT: LITTORAL & BROWN WATER OPS