Welcome all, to this first part of a short series I wanted to bring you. While it’s no secret that I’m a weapons guy through and through, some of you might not have seen my intro to the site some time ago. Yes, I’m also a Navy guy…But don’t be fooled into thinking we Navy bred bastards can’t bring some serious fight up close and personal. Many in the small boat community look to the pirate as a sort of unofficial mascot, and we sure as hell have some cutthroat tactics for laying down the hate when the time comes. In this series, Death from the Water: Small Boats, I want to talk about our boats just a little to give you an idea of what the boats bring to the fight.
While the scenario I’ll cite here is straight up fighting, the boats are a lot more diverse than many give them credit for. They can act as search and rescue, perform casualty extractions, conduct intel gathering, supply forward forces, and can perform any number of other missions. They have organic forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, Furuno Radar, JTAC operators, UAV operators, and extensive communications suites. In the case of Riverines, you can also add a light infantry capability. Another often overlooked facet of the SBT’s and Riverines is that they possess a large pool of vehicles including MRAPs and can conduct ground mobility missions, route recce’s, or other humanitarian missions if tasked.
In this part, I just want to convey the feeling of a real-world combat mission as best I can in writing and in future parts I’ll go into each platform in particular. The US Navy currently has 3 different groups running armed small boats and each has their own strong and weak points. Top of the pack is the Naval Special Warfare Special Boat Teams (SBT), followed by NECC Riverine Squadrons (RIVRON), and then Mobile Security Squadrons (MSRON). Of those three, only SBT’s and RIVRON have a combat role by mission doctrine, so those are the 2 units I’ll focus on. Security is security…and not very interesting, sorry MSRON.
The scenario I’ll try to paint for you here could really be applied to both SBT-22 or RIVRON, employing either the NSW Special Operations Craft – Riverine (SOC-R) or the RIVRON Riverine Assault Boat (RAB). They are the same hull, just with some configuration changes. I can discuss the boat in more a little more detail in another part. Riverines have an organic troop which are often put inshore called Riverine Security Team (RST) while SBT’s do not have an organic troop and would bring on Rangers, SEAL’s or other units troops. The SWCC and Riverine communities are full of outstanding people, and certainly deserve some respect. Not to take anything away from the Riverines, but the SBT’s seriously put a lot of effort into their training and being masters of their craft. Having a vast pool of money certainly helps, in addition to employing SEAL’s as their officers instead of big blue Navy Surface Warfare Officers (SWO’s). My strong opinion is that fighters should lead fighters. SWO’s are fine for ships, but Riverine’s are a different breed and I don’t think their brass get it yet. In following that statement, SWCC are dedicated to their job for their career, whereas a Riverine comes out of the big Navy fleet and then later returns to the fleet.