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Water lane insertion: for marine and riverine operations, special operations forces typically have several types of insertion craft at their disposal to get commandoes and their equipment from a mother ship, or from over-the-horizon, to their objective. Principally, they make use of surface craft such as rigid or non-rigid inflatable boats, assault craft, canoes and sub-surface vessels such as swimmer delivery vehicles.

Rigid inflatable boats, assault boats and canoes have obvious attractions to commandoes. The first two are fast and can carry a number of troops and their equipment. The craft also maintain a relatively low profile, making them hard to spot from land or from a distance, even more so when the craft are operating at night. The small size of these vessels also makes them easy and unobtrusive to carry in a cargo aircraft, below a helicopter or on a ship. Canoes cannot carry quite the volume of the assault craft or boat, but as they are powered by the commandoes themselves paddling with oars, they are extremely quiet and can approach the target in almost complete silence. Interestingly, boats and canoes are also relatively inexpensive. This gives them a high degree of expendability, meaning that they can be destroyed once a team has arrived at its objective to ensure that the group leaves no trace of its movements. In the case of the canoe, they can be folded up and packed away in readiness to cross other waterways they may encounter later in the mission.

Several companies around the world in Europe, the Middle East and the United States are producing assault craft, boats, canoes and swimmer delivery vehicles. For example, CMN of France produces the Intercepteur DV15 class of high-speed insertion craft. With a top speed over 50 knots (kt) these small boats can carry up to four occupants. Constructed from carbon fibre and epoxy resin, the craft can also house integrated communication and navigation suites. The company's DV33 design has a slightly lower top speed of 45 kt, but larger accommodation for up to ten occupants. The DV33 displaces around 85 tonnes and can also be outfitted with guns and short-range surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, in addition to surveillance radar, electro-optics and a combat management system.

Also based in France, Sillinger offers a number of assault boats including the 3.82-metre, 24-kt 380UM, which can carry seven. The larger 4.2-metre, 'eight-seater' capacity 425UM can reach 25 kt, a similar speed to the company's 5.2-metre-long 525UM design, with a capacity of 12 to 14 passengers. The ten-passenger 4.7-metre 470UM craft has a top speed of 30 kt, along with the 630UM boat which can reach similar speeds and accommodate 20 in its 6.4-metre hull. The company's 570UM 5.7-metre, 24-kt boat can carry 16, Sillinger also produces rigid inflatables; the figure in the designation indicates the length in centimetres: the 330 Rib UM, 380 Rib UM and the 425, 470, 490, 525, 650 and 765 Ribs. These boats can carry between five and 22 people depending on sea condition.

Zodiac

No mention of insertion craft would be complete without discussing Zodiac of France. The company's inflatables and rigid inflatables are a standard item in the waterborne commando's tool bag. Zodiac produces a wide range of military products including the inflatable boat ranges of Grand Raid (4.2 to 4.7 metres), Heavy Duty (5.3 to 7 metres), Series G (3.8 to 4.7 metres) and most widely recognised and used by the special ops community, the Futura Commando, which includes four models with lengths ranging from 4.2 to 5.3 metres. Zodiac also produces 'catalogue' types in the sea rigid inflatable range including the SRMN and the more sophisticated SRR.

The Zodiac portfolio also comprises the Hurricane range, which are fully customised rigid inflatable models; from 4.7 to eleven metres in length. The range consists of aluminium or glass-reinforced plastic hulls, air or foam collar, inboard or out-board power and most of the larger models have options for cabins. They are used by military and paramilitary organisations with the option of air transport and airdrop capability. The latest use a stepped hull for speeds in excess of 60 kt.

Canoes

In terms of canoes, Nautiraid of France produces the SB Commando Mk VI two-seater kayak which is used by the French Army and Navy. The craft has a length of 5.4 metres and weighs 40 kg. The SB Commando Mk VI can also carry up to 350 kg. Arguably the most famous canoe in the special forces world is the Klepper Kayak. These folding canoes produced by Klepper in Germany can carry two and are up to 5.3-metres long.

From Race to Intercept

Usually associated with producing high-speed racing boats, Italy's Fabio Buzzi has developed the High Speed Intercept Craft, which displaces around 6.3 tonnes and can carry one 40-mm Mk 40 grenade launcher, a single 12.7-mm machine gun or two 7.62-mm weapons. The company builds a host of other vessels suitable for commando missions including the Rib 242 which can reach speeds of up to 26 kt, the Rib 33" and Rib 33" SC which can reach speeds in excess of 53 kt. The SC version is particularly suitable for insertion missions, given its extended cockpit and accommodation for up to twelve.

Damen Shipbuilding of the Netherlands builds the Interceptor series of fast boats which includes the 1202, 1503, 2004 and 2604 models. The 1202 is capable of speeds up to 55 kt, has an aluminium construction and an 11.5-metre length. Damen's Interceptor 1503 has a hull length of 15 metres, plus a similar construction and top speed to the 1202 craft. The 2004 model has a 20-metre hull length and can reach speeds of up to 50 kt. Finally, the largest vessel in the series is the 2604 with a 26.1-metre length and a 51-kt top speed. Both the 2604 and 2004 models have an aluminium construction.

Swedish Mettle

At the heavier end of the dedicated insertion craft spectrum is the Combatboat-90H craft produced by Dockstavarvet of Sweden. This craft can travel at up to 45 kt when laden with up to 4.5 tonnes of cargo or 21 troops. For self-defence, the vessel can be equipped with machine guns or a remote-controlled weapon station that can be commanded from the boats' wheelhouse. Even a 120-mm mortar has been installed on the CB-90H, giving it significant firepower.

UAE 'Specials'

Asis Boats of the United Arab Emirates produces a wide range of military rigid inflatable boats. These include the S-6-5, S-8-0 and S-9-5 designs with lengths of 6.4, 7.8 and 9.8 metres respectively. These craft can carry nine, twelve and 16 occupants (1.9, 2.8 and 4.2 tonnes at full displacement). Their maximum speeds range from 27 to 31 kt. Other company offerings include the eight-metre STL-8-0, which can carry either 13 personnel or two tonnes of cargo. Emirates Marine Technologies builds swimmer delivery vehicles, notably the Class 5 design with a carbon-fibre construction. The vessel is 9.3-metres long, contains sonar, global positioning and inertial navigation systems and has a maximum speed of over six kt. The Class 5 can carry two divers and 450 kg of payload.

From Tyre to Boat

Britain's Avon Inflatables has supplied insertion craft in the form of rigid inflatable boats for many years. Two of the company's favoured products for commandoes are the CRRC 450 and CRRC 520Mk 2 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft. Both of these vessels can be air-dropped or deployed from a submarine. The 4.5-metre CRRC 450 can carry up to 730 kg of cargo or up to ten personnel. This craft can also reach speeds of 20 kt. The 5.2 CRRC 520Mk 2, meanwhile, can carry up to 1136 kg of cargo or up to twelve troops and can travel at similar speeds to the CRRC 450 model.

Avon is joined by Delta Group in Britain, which has produced a 10.5-metre, 43-kt patrol vessel for the Finnish Border Guard as well as a three-metre, 38-knot craft for the Irish Navy. The company has also produced 10.5-metre, 44-kt fast craft for a Middle East customer, plus a range of craft for the British Ministry of Defence including designs ranging from 6.2 to 7.9 metres capable of speeds of between 35 and 44 kt. Delta Group also supplied the Royal Netherlands Navy with an 11.7-metre, 44-kt fast craft.

Alston, Cumbria is the British home of KSA (Underwater), which builds the Subskimmer swimmer delivery vehicle. The craft can be deflated to enable it to run underwater using electrical thrusters while the craft's outboard motor is sealed. The Subskimmer has a range of five nautical miles when operating at two knots, and 100 nm when operating on the surface at 20 kt.

Brunswick of the United States offers a wide range of boats suitable for insertion missions. The company's Guardian family includes several models that come in a range of sizes from 4.7 metres in length to 8.2 metres, while the Justice line offers boats with a length of between 5.7 metres and 9.7 metres. Brunswick also produces two 8.2-metre models; the Challenger and the Vigilant. The robust design of Brunswick's craft has won the company orders from around the world. To this end, its vessels are used by navies and marine corps in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America and Latin America. In March this year, Brunswick unveiled a new family of rigid inflatable boats called Impact. The company offers these boats in a range of sizes from 4.2 to 11.8-metres with a number of propulsion options including diesel, inboard, water-jet or outboard engines.

Another American supplier is VT Halter Marine of Pascagoula, Mississippi. The company is best known for its High Speed Interdiction and Special Operations Craft. These boats can be constructed from aluminium; fibre reinforced plastic, steel or high-grade composites. In terms of armament, the vessels can carry small or medium-calibre weapons and missiles. Optronics and radar can also be fitted. Arguably the most famous craft constructed by VT Halter Marine is the Mk V class used by the United States Naval Special Warfare Command. The Mk Vs can reach 40 kt, displace 54 tonnes when fully loaded and can carry 16 fully equipped troops.

Willard Marine supplies fast craft to the US Navy and Coast Guard, along with numerous other armed services around the world. The smallest craft offered by the company is the 4.9-metre Sea Force 490. Of the same length is the company's Sea Force 490 Solas rescue boat. Both of these designs have a 599-kg maximum capacity. The Sea Force 540 comes equipped with either single or twin outboard motors and is 5.4-metres long with a maximum capacity of 748 kg. Willard Marine produces the 6.7-metre, 2812-kg maximum-capacity Sea Force 670 in outboard, inboard and Solas rescue boat versions.

Willard Marine's portfolio includes the 7.3-metre Sea Force 730 offering a 1349-kg maximum capacity. Of a similar length, but with a 1679-kg capacity the company builds a rigid inflatable craft to US Navy standards, which is available in both fibreglass and aluminium construction. The eleven-metre Sea Force is also built to standard US Navy specifications and has an 8165-kg maximum capacity. Military fast boats with cabins include the Sea Force 730 Cabin offering a 2037-kg maximum capacity. A heavier cabin design is available with the 8.2-metre-long 3307-kg capacity Sea Blazer 820. Other large cabin vessels include the 10.7-metre, 10,886-kg maximum capacity Long Range Interceptor, which can reach speeds of 45 kt and the eleven-metre, 8165-kg maximum capacity Sea Force 'Enforcer'. Although it is not fitted with a cabin, the 13-metre, 1588-kg maximum capacity 43 Assault High Speed Interceptor can reach speeds of 60 kt. Finally, two of the largest cabin boats by Willard Marine include the 13.4-metre Open Ocean Fast Response, which has a maximum capacity of 15,512 kg and the 14,061-kg maximum capacity, 17-metre Sar Fire Boat.

Based in Seattle, Washington, Safe Boats International produces the Small Unit Riverine Craft for the United States Marine Corps. This boat has a length of twelve metres and a combat displacement of one tonne. Accommodation can be provided for up to 18 troops and the vessels can reach a sprint speed of 39 kt. At normal speeds, range is in excess of 250 nm. Three machine gun mounts are included and the boat is transportable in a Lockheed Martin C-130 fixed-wing transport or externally on a Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter.

Given the growing concern regarding the increase of maritime piracy in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, the United Nations unanimously passed a resolution towards the end of 2008 allowing the pursuit of pirates on land. The craft surveyed above will provide naval commandoes across the world with the capability to approach pirates and other targets, at speed, with lethality and stealth.
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Title Annotation:Naval: small craft
Author:Withington, Thomas
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:2120
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