The U.S. Navy mostly is a big-ship navy, with the largest warships in the world and current- ly without peer. It engages with allied and
partner navies on a regular basis to foster cooperation,
mutual training and defense, and personnel exchanges.
Within the last decade, however, the U.S. Navy forces
at the forefront of international engagement increasingly are the smaller boats of the recently merged
coastal and riverine forces.
After the 2000 terrorist attack on the destroyer USS
Cole in Yemen and the 9/11 attacks, the Navy increased its
maritime security forces — mostly port security boat
squadrons. In 2006, the Navy began the resurrection of its
riverine capability and established riverine squadrons for
river patrols in Iraq.
Since the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the riverine and
maritime security communities have been combined into
coastal riverine squadrons, operating in rivers, estuaries,
ports and coastal areas in the littorals. The Coastal
Riverine Force (CRF) increasingly has been used for
engagement with foreign navies and coast guards from
Central America to Africa to the Persian Gulf and the
Western Pacific. Soon, the CRF will add the MK VI patrol
boat to its force, giving it a self-deploying capability.
“The CRF is the only force that defends designated
high-value assets against the determined enemy,” said
CAPT Erich W. Diehl, commander,
Coastal Riverine Group Two, in the
Tidewater area of Virginia. “When
ordered, we conduct offensive com-
bat operations to dominate the lit-
torals and reinforce the blue water.
The CRFs are capable of conducting
maritime security operations across
the full spectrum of naval, joint and
combined operations, which essen-
tially enable access and freedom of
action throughout the sea, the shore
and inland operating environments.
“We do this by delivering task-
organized forces that are adaptable and responsive to both
fleet and geographic combatant commanders’ require-
ments, and provide core capabilities to meet enduring mis-
sions such as port security, harbor defense, embarked se-
curity, persistent ISR [intelligence, surveillance and recon-
naissance], theater security cooperation, security force as-
sistance and high-value unit protection,” Diehl said. “Fur-
ther, our capabilities can provide maritime infrastructure
protection, VBSS Level II [noncompliant surface-borne
visit, board, search and seizure], counter of fast inshore
attack craft, fire support, insertion and extraction, and also
underwater MCM [mine countermeasures] support.”
The CRF, which consists of a group of three active and
four Reserve squadrons, and a training evaluation unit on
each coast, currently operates six classes of patrol boats.
For harbor patrol and escort of high-value units, the CRF
uses the lightly armed 25-foot Oswald-class Tactical Craft
and 34-foot Force Protection-Large Patrol Boat. The heav-
ily armed riverine boats include the 39-foot Riverine
Patrol Boat, the 33-foot Riverine Assault Boat and the 53-
foot Riverine Command Boat (RCB). The CRF is proving
that riverine boats can be, and are, used for blue-water
operations in the littorals as well as rivers.
The newest addition is the single 65-foot Coastal
Command Boat (CCB), built by SAFE Boats International, which has deployed to the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the
Coastal Riverine Forces are in high demand for foreign engagement
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
The Coastal Riverine Force (CRF) is at the forefront of engagement with allied and partner navies.
■ Combined coastal and riverine forces present a seamless littoral presence.
■ CRF forces train and operate with foreign forces across the globe.
■ The addition of the MK VI patrol boat in 2015 will give the CRF
a self-deploying capability.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 20 SEAPOWER / MARCH 2014