posted on May 20, 2013 20:31
The Mark VI Patrol Boat is the newest addition to the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), designed to replace and augment previous patrol craft beginning in Fiscal Year 2014. The first mission specific patrol boat designed for the United States Navy since the 1980’s the 85ft Mark VI will replace the 68ft Mark V, currently employed by Navy Special Warfare (NSW), and the 34ft Sea Ark formerly used by Naval Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces (MESF) to protect Naval interests in green-water. Other shallow patrol craft had been designed and used by the Navy’s Riverine Squadrons (RIVRONS) which operated solely in the brown-water, i.e. rivers and lakes. Although the Navy has a rich heritage of brown-water and green-water operations, most notably in Vietnam, such capabilities were abandoned in the late 1970’s. However, the need for shallow-draught boats became apparent during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), when the United States Marine Corps (USMC) began patrolling the inland waterways of Iraq and in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), as well as the Philippines, where NSW operators utilized the newly developed Mark V.
The Mark VI is the result of the Navy’s realization following OIF and OEF that a force capable of operating in any body of water (brown, green, or blue, if necessary) was needed. The development of the Mark VI Patrol Boat reflects the Navy’s increasing emphasis on littoral operations illustrated by the NECC consolidation of the Navy’s Coastal Riverine Squadrons and Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces (MESF) into the new Coastal Riverine Force (CRF) Command. The development of squadrons tasked with operations both inland and in the littoral created the need for a patrol boat that could operate in both, while the Mark VI can also carry the mission into the open-ocean, if needed.
The production of the Mark VI aligns with the Navy’s recent focus on close inshore operations, evidenced by the development of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) classes. While the Navy still maintains a fleet of small boats such as the Mark V, the Riverine Command Boat, and the Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC), the Mark VI offers a platform that can achieve the same mission as all three. The Mark VI will be capable of reaching speeds beyond 35 knots and will have a range of 600 nautical miles. Given the shallow draught and short beam, the Mark VI can be carried and deployed on any amphibious assault ship built with a well deck. The mission-oriented armament of the Mark VI allows the boat to be specialized for specific operations including the use of MK-38 25mm guns for missions where significant firepower is needed (for example, inserting NSW operators).
The Mark VI Patrol Boat offers a platform with tremendous flexibility in both mission planning and execution. With its capability to insert, protect, and, if needed, provide a medical evacuation the Mark VI increases the capabilities of the NECC and introduces a boat optimized for coordinated efforts with Naval Special Warfare and Naval Special Operations operators such as Navy SEALs and Explosive Ordinance Disposal. In addition, the Mark VI has been identified as vital for the CRF, particularly for Navy Reserve CRF purposes, for Maritime Infrastructure Protection, and High Value Asset (HVA) escort in green water. In the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report (NGRER), the Navy Reserve has identified $184.5 million for shortfalls in procuring the Mark VI Patrol Boat and Communications Upgrades for Riverine missions.
At this time, the Navy has entered into a $36.5 million contract for the first block buy, consisting of six new patrol boats. Ultimately, the Navy intends to buy a total of 48 Mark VI Patrol Boats.The Navy Reserve has also identified the need for, via the FY14 NGRER, 2 additional Mark VI Patrol Boats. The unit cost per boat is $15 million.
The Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) recommends Congress fund the Mark VI Patrol Boat to continue with the procurement plan of the United States Navy, as well as that of the Navy Reserve, as identified in the NGRER.