In addition to submarines and Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDVs), naval orientated Special Forces are increasingly employing purpose-built high speed surface craft for insertion, extraction and mission support. These high-powered surface planing boats are generically termed Special Operations Craft (SOC). The prototypical SOC is the US Navy’s Mk.V which is operated by the Special Boat Units (SBU) in support of SEAL operations.

These boats combine speed with utility, versatility and a modest amount of sneak. Although they are less stealthy than submarines or Swimmer Delivery Vehicles, they are growing in popularity. Part of the reason is that they provide organic shore-shore capability without having to depend on the Navy to loan their valuable submarines. And with Submarine forces stretched ever further, this trend is likely to continue.

SOCs are large powerboats 45-80ft (14-25m) boats capable of offshore operations. The current generation provide a covered cockpit, basic berthing and amenities (galley, toilet) and a large working deck with stern access for inflatable boats.

Although earlier generations of SOC have been all about speed, the general trend is towards improved seaworthiness and the resulting crew comfort (read ‘readiness’), reliability (e.g. inboard motors) and signature reduction. These are still powered high-speed boats capable of breathtaking speeds but the latest crop is not out to race with earlier open-topped generations.

The types of mission SOCs are intended to conduct include:

a) Insertion of Special Forces for cross-beach missions in medium threat environments

b) Extraction of cross-beach teams