SAFE Boats International has won a competition to build a new class of patrol boats for the U.S. Navy’s Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), the company announced May 24.
The 85-foot-long Mark VI patrol boat is intended to expand the operating area of Navy patrol craft farther off shore, supplanting and replacing existing craft such as the 68-foot Mark IV and 34-foot Sea Ark patrol boats.
The $30.5 million SAFE Boat contract award is for five new patrol boats, with an option for a sixth — which, if exercised, would add another $6 million to the contract’s value.
Ultimately, the Navy intends to buy 48 Mark VIs.
That’s a good looking little boat. And the stabilized Mk38Mod2 25mm gun is a real improvement over earlier boats mounting an unstabilized Mod1 gun.
You can conduct an awful lot of anti-piracy patrols with a squadron of boats like this. The problem is, if you’re operating off the coast of a place like Somalia, where there are few if any secure ports to work from, you need a support vessel of some sort.
Ideally, it would be a dedicated ship, perhaps converted from an Offshore Supply Vessel, many of which can be bought used very cheaply. More likely, however, is tasking an amphibious warfare ship to support deployments. The only real problem with that is there aren’t enough amphibs to support their primary mission, let alone additional taskings like this.
The Mk VI is the latest Patrol Boat in a series that can trace their heritage back to the 50′ Swift Boat of the Vietnam era. Small patrol craft have never been very popular with Big Navy, but the need for them keeps arising. And yes, I know I still owe you a post on the Swift Boats, TF 115, and Operation Market Time. Soon, I promise.