The two boats completed the 500-nautical-mile transit in just two days. The objective of the mission was to test and evaluate the operational reach of the patrol craft. Special attention was given to how much fuel the patrol boat was consuming at different speeds, how it handled the different weather conditions, and how the crew was affected by the long transit.
“The transit is the longest these boats have ever made in the Pacific,” said Lieutenant Commander Greg Dusetzina, the commanding officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 Alpha. “It’s incredibly valuable to test the endurance of these boats, which will give the crews and leadership confidence in the platform and thereby expanding the operational reach of Mark VI to our close and valued partners in the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.”
Overall, the patrols boats cruised at an average speed of 25 knots around (around 30 miles per hour). The Mark VI is powered by two diesel MTU 16V2000 M94 and two waterjet Hamilton HM651 engines. With a length of 85 feet, the boat has a crew of five and can carry up to 16 fully-loaded troops. Regarding armament, the Mark VI is armed with an assortment of Mark 50 and Mark 38 chain-cannons and Mark 44 machine guns.
The Mark VI patrol boats are designed and built by Safe Boats International (SBI), a manufacturer located in Washington state. Aside from the Navy, SBI’s clients include the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, the Mexican Navy, and the Royal Navy. SBI delivered the first Mark VI in 2014. The U.S. Navy has ordered 48 boats in total.
CRG 1 Det Guam is responsible for conducting maritime security operations, such as Vehicle Board Search and Seizure (VBSS), long-range maritime patrols, and transporting troops and materiel in military and natural disaster contingencies. For example, Mark VI boats were part of the relief efforts after the Super Typhoon Yutu struck the islands of Tinian and Saipan last fall.
Such fast-patrolling capabilities could prove invaluable in the case of a future conflict with China. The Chinese maritime strategy is based on deterring U.S. Navy aircraft carriers from approaching close to the mainland and launching their deadly fighter jets. That is the reason for creating artificial islands in and contesting the sovereignty of the South China Sea. Anti-ship batteries based on these islands could prove a very persuasive deterrent. Small and agile crafts, such as the Mark VIs, however, wouldn’t have a problem coming close to the islands — which are nothing more than piles of sand — and engaging the Chinese batteries.