Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Mk VI - Gunboat Diplomacy Story

The US Navy has always had a love-hate (mostly hate!) relationship with small patrol boats.  Witness the building and then rapid abandonment of the Cyclones, Pegasus class hydrofoils, and various riverine boats.  The current Mk VI patrol boats are underequipped, underutilized, and lack any coherent concept of operations which would take advantage of their potential.  With suitable modifications, various specialized versions could be built and integrated into multi-function squadrons.  The following story illustrates the concept.  Detailed descriptions of the Mk VI versions are presented after the story.

Mk VI Patrol Boat

The usual disclaimer (which no one takes note of):  This is NOT intended to be a fair and balanced simulation of combat.  It is intended to illustrate concepts and tactics in a more entertaining and understandable format than a simple listing.  Enjoy it as such.

Mk VI Story – Gunboat Diplomacy

The eight Mk VI boats of the squadron crept silently through the night toward the Iranian naval base facilities with the MkVI-ISR surveillance boat in the lead, cautiously sniffing the electronic air for any sign that they had been discovered. 

The boats had been working their way up the coast, hugging the shoreline, with the ISR boat scanning the shore with IR sensors, monitoring communication signals, and plotting radar sources.  So far, there was no indication that the Iranians were aware of their presence.

Stealth was vital for this mission, as was plausible deniability.  The new Administration had decided that Iran had finally gone too far.  The seizure of US boats and crews a few years ago, followed by numerous taunting harassments of Navy ships by Iranian small boats, followed by a period of harassments of carriers by UAVs intruding into the carriers aircraft operating space had made a laughingstock of the US Navy and US political resolve on the world stage.  Now, the most recent series of mock attack runs by Iranian small boats on US warships had been a step too far for the new Administration and the President was determined to send an unequivocal message that the days of “strategic patience” were over.

So it was that the squadron of MkVI boats were approaching one of the naval bases that the Iranian boats operated from.  The squadron’s orders were to clandestinely wreak as much damage on the base and boat facilities as possible.

Tomahawk and Air Force bomber attacks had been considered but ruled out because they would leave far too much evidence of their presence.  The President wanted plausible deniability as part of a larger political game.  He had no problem with letting Iran know who had hit them and why but he wanted no blatant evidence.  The use of the MkVI boats would maintain the thinly veiled, plausible deniability that would prevent Iran from claiming proof of US involvement on the world stage and escalating the incident.  Of course, if they did choose to escalate without the benefit of clear and overwhelming evidence …  well, there were assets and plans in place for just that eventuality – and that would be communicated via back door connections, as well, once the attack was completed.

As the squadron, throttled down to bare steerageway, rounded the headland that partially sheltered the port, it became clear that the Iranian base was suffering from the fruits of its repeated successes.  In a word, they had become complacent and were taking no great security precautions.  They flatly did not believe that America had the political will to take any substantive action against them, especially inside their territorial waters and against a base on their mainland.

The squadron spread out with the five MKVI-Attack boats in a line abreast and a bit in front.  The two MKVI-AA (anti-air) boats hung back a bit, covering each flank and the ISR boat dropped further back to continue monitoring.

The base was clearly visible about two miles ahead – well within rocket range of the attack boats.  Though not guided, the Hydra 70 2.75” rockets were computer controlled by the boats fire control system to achieve the best aiming aspect by the launcher.  Each boat had several pre-assigned targets and now each rocket launcher twitched as the final aiming corrections for the first round of targets were made.  The boats each carried four rocket pods with each pod containing 19 rockets.  That gave a total of 76 rockets per boat and the five attack boats carried a total of 380 rockets.  Each boat would retain 10 rockets for defense on the way out.  The base would receive the remaining 330 rockets.

The boats idled, waiting silently for the pre-determined launch time.  At the exact same moment, all five boats began firing.  The initial salvos exploded out of their launchers and sped toward the targets at 2400 ft/sec.  Travel time was only about 5 seconds.  The base lit up as the rockets exploded on their targets and secondary explosions added their fireworks.  Some of the rocket warheads were point detonation and some were air burst, depending on their assigned targets.  What wasn’t destroyed outright in the wave of explosions was shredded by shrapnel.

Even before the first rockets hit their targets, the rocket launchers were adjusting their aim for the second round of targets.  And so it continued until all the assigned targets were serviced and the rockets were expended.

Piers, boats, fuel storage tanks, control facilities, munitions storage, and warehouses were all targeted and, now, were all burning furiously.  Notably, a pair of barracks for the Iranian boat crews had been allocated ten rockets each.  The destruction was devastating and, this late at night, most of the Iranian crews were in the barracks.  The Iranian death toll would be high and this was another aspect to the message being sent.  The US would hold individuals accountable and the prospect of enemy deaths would no longer inhibit military actions.

On one of the boats, a Hellfire launcher trained slightly to one side to target a large, lavishly decorated house that Iranian officers and leadership used as their quarters and as a luxury headquarters.  In fact, the base commander and his family occupied one wing of the house.  Four Hellfire missiles shot off the launcher and impacted the house.  There was nothing but rubble left when the dust settled.  This was yet another part of the message – that the fear of collateral damage would no longer unduly restrict US military actions.

As the boats completed their assigned attacks, silence settled back over the squadron and the boats throttled up a bit.  Led by the ISR boat, the squadron reversed course and began their return.  Surprisingly, they did not immediately throttle up to full power and begin a high speed run straight to the safety of international waters, twelve miles out to sea.  Instead, they began to slowly retrace their ingress route.  It was assumed that as Iran began to react the first place they would look was on a direct line to open waters. 

The boats hugged the shore, proceeding slowly along the coast.  They would continue this way for several miles before breaking veering off to international waters.  The exposure time was longer but the planners had concluded that the overall safety was increased.

After about 15 minutes, the ISR boat noted indications of helos and UAVs swarming towards the area and a few Iranian boats that had survived the destruction appeared to be putting to sea.  Sure enough, the majority were heading directly out to sea, right where the squadron would have been if they had made a direct run for safety.

After a few more minutes, the ISR boat spotted an infrared heat source several hundred yards ahead and about a hundred yards inland.  It appeared to be an Iranian truck of some sort with several people milling around.  They were likely Iranian soldiers ordered to look for intruders.

The squadron was prepared for this eventuality and this was why each boat had retained 10 rockets.  The ISR boat issued the first spoken command of the evening and assigned one of the attack boats to eliminate the threat.  A minute passed as the target was acquired and then five rockets ignited out of their pod.  One of the rockets hit the vehicle near the cab and a second exploded on the ground almost beneath the vehicle.  It was shredded and flipped over in a spectacular fireworks display.  The remaining three rockets impacted in the area, killing or severely wounding the presumed soldiers.  This was further proof that the US military would not be unduly constrained by fear of collateral damage.  The vehicle and people were almost certainly Iranian army and the squadron would take no chances. 

The squadron continued on their way.  Several more minutes passed and the ISR boat noted a small UAV about 3 miles out and heading in their general direction, possibly attracted by the attack on the vehicle.  Again, a brief message designated one of the anti-air boats to deal with the intruder, if it continued to close.

The AA boat’s Mk38 Mod 2, 25 mm remote control gun tracked the UAV.  The UAV was a small one and flying low, probably using an optical scanner of some sort, looking for the source of the base attack.  The squadron was tucked inshore and throttled way down, leaving no wake.  Unless the UAV had an infrared scanner, it wasn’t likely to see the boats from a couple of miles away. 

The UAV continued to close.  As it approached three quarters of a mile, the Mk38 fired.  The first short burst missed but before the UAV operator could react and veer off, a second burst connected and sent the UAV tumbling to the sea.

By this time, the squadron was far enough away from the base to turn out to sea and head for international waters.  Besides, they had begun to attract attention and a change of direction would be a good idea.  Turning perpendicular to the shoreline, the squadron increased speed to 12 kts.

Ten minutes later, the ISR boat detected a helicopter headed their way.  The flanking anti-air boat needed no directions for this encounter.  As the helo reached five miles, the boat’s Stinger mount launched.  The missile tracked the low, slow helo and impacted with a brilliant flash of light and a couple of seconds later, a sharp crack of thunder.  The helo wasn’t instantly killed but did immediately veer off, losing altitude steadily.  It likely wouldn’t make it back to its base.

It was obvious the Iranians were beginning to realize that the squadron was the source of the attack so there was no further need for stealth.  The boats throttled up to 37 kts to complete the run to international waters.  At that speed, the 12 mile territorial limit was just a 16 minute run away.

However, 12 minutes into the dash, the ISR boat detected communications signals from ahead and offset a bit to starboard.  One or more surviving Iranian boats must have put to sea and were now being vectored towards the squadron or, perhaps, had just stumbled into the right location.  Either way, it didn’t matter.

The AA boats dropped back a bit and the attack boats formed a line abreast, oriented towards the threat.  Two Iranian small boats appeared in the attack boat’s IR scans, about two miles out.  The ISR boat allocated one Iranian boat target to each of the two closest attack boats.  The boat’s Hellfire launchers trained and fired one missile each.  One of the target boats exploded in a blinding flash.  The other missile clipped a wave top just before impact and skidded above the boat – a clean miss.  This prompted the lucky, surviving boat to launch its rockets in an immediate and, probably, unaimed attack.  The rockets arced over the squadron and impacted the water well beyond the boats.

The attack boat that had fired the errant missile immediately launched another missile and this one found its mark, demolishing the Iranian boat.

With no further threats, the squadron resumed its dash to international waters where a Burke destroyer was waiting to escort the boats back to their mothership.


The MKVI boats described in the story were one of three specialized, conceptual versions, as described below.  The boats operate in squadrons with types being mixed and matched according to the mission.

Mk VI Anti-Air

  • 2x Stinger Pod Mounts, 4 missiles/pod, 2 pods per mount, 16 missiles total and ready, mounts fore and aft, FIM-92, effective firing range 5 miles

  • Mk 38 Mod 2 Remote Weapon Station, effective range 9800 ft (1.8 miles), max firing range 22,000 ft (4 miles)

  • 4x twin 0.50 cal M2 machine gun, 1 mile range

Mk VI Attack

  • 2x AGM-114 Hellfire Pod Mounts, 4 missiles/pod, 2 pods per mount, 16 missiles total and ready, mounts fore and aft, effective range 4 miles

  • 2.75” Rocket Pod Mounts, 4x on 2 mounts, 76 rockets total, Hydra 70 rockets, 8700 yd (5 miles) effective firing range, 11,000 yd (6.25 miles) maximum range

Mk VI Surveillance

  • Signal collection and analysis electronics

  • Passive signal triangulation electronics

  • Radar threat receivers

  • Laser detectors

  • EO/IR imaging sensors providing hemispherical coverage

  • IR tracking sensors


  1. Question - I can't figure out if the stinger listed for the Cyclone is a mounted weapon or just a crew trained to use the man portable version. Any ideals. If it as the Griffin as well it would show there is room to up small craft.

    Good article. Can't see the navy every putting that much effort into small boats they hate. But it might save them from another Vincennes incident. A cruiser does not need to barreling into a fight with small craft. It should be managing small craft to do the job.

    1. To the best of my knowledge, Cyclones do not have Stinger launcher mounts. They are man portable.

    2. That's what I though.

      I am troubled about why the navy is persistently allowed to avoid its job. A well designed fleet of ships properly sized (in numbers)from the Mk VI to the Cyclone (or even the now departed Pegasus) is clearly needed. That is obvious since USCG assets are sucked into endless foreign deployments. But then again congress seems unstressed in the looming lack of subs so why care about PT boats.

    3. "congress seems unstressed in the looming lack of subs"

      Just to be somewhat fair about this, Congress and the Navy have been trying to fit in an additional sub per year but the build capacity apparently won't support it although you hear differing opinions. Congress is willing to fund an additional sub per year but the Navy hasn't really put forth a request which, I assume, is because the build capacity isn't there. That said, the just released budget does contain an additional sub. So, to be fair, I think Congress is quite willing to fund additional subs but we can't seem to actually be able to build them.

      The larger point is that the looming sub shortfall has been known for decades and no one cared enough to do anything about it. This falls mainly on the Navy who should be managing numbers and types of ships via the budget. Yes, Congress is at fault, too, but our professional warriors are the ones who are mostly to blame.

    4. Why not get the Brits to build some? There should be some spare capacity and a chunk of commonality.

    5. Although of course an alternative of AIP subs might have been feasible with many friendly or allied nations pioneering excellent models. What's the point of sustaining alliances and basing all about the world if you don't use that asset. Spam cheap effective subs at every choke point. Let the nuclear subs do their job in the blue water and deny that to anyone else in a war. Let the AIPs make rivals afraid to leave port.

      If capacity is a problem than for f-sake let Japan or Sweden build them (AIPs). I know congress loves 1000+% domestic but I would prefer 100% real effective for my defense dollar.

      A couple more Virginias or whatever the new models are would be nice I suppose. Several dozen Diesel Aip subs hanging about in the Baltic or based out of Japan or Romania would I think be a substantial statement more than just barely not just let the SSN numbers crater.

      But that means more people. The USN hates people now. I am sure they will find a way to cut the crew size with cross training (and inter ship teleportation or whatever sounds cool) on new subs.

    6. I liked your story. Reading your responses to other posts was also interesting. I see that you intended the main points to be those around political will and overall strategic goals and I mostly agree with your approach.

      Having said that I'll observe that it seems like you put at least as much effort into the technical details of the action. Perhaps that's why some got bogged down in those details rather than seeing you main points.

  2. Call 'em PT boats, and cutting out expeditions, for traditions sake.
    If you are going for implausible deniability you have to fly the Imperial German Naval flag, John Wayne style.

    Excellent post.

  3. Air launched Hydras have a dispersion of around 29 mils. Assuming similar dispersion for a sea launcher at 2 miles, the CEP is around a 300ft radius. Half rounds fall in that radius.

    These boats are going to scatter rockets all over the place. With small warheads, it's unclear if this is any more than harassment.

    1. Okay, so they'll get a little closer or use the APKWS guided version. Seriously, with all the great aspects of this to discuss, that's your takeaway? How about a little more substantial contribution to the discussion next time?

    2. Mk VI's aren't stealthy. They're easy to see.

      Two miles is well within visual and radar range of shore. Also well within territorial limits. Are they really going sneak in that close without being noticed? Without being ID'd and challenged?

      Maybe switch the MK VIs for these and they'll have a better chance,

      Use Spike NLOS instead, to shoot from outside territorial limits and over the horizon.

      Use a boat-launched UAV for targeting.

    3. Oh good grief. Do you have any idea how many small boats travel those waters? Tucked up against shore, at night, against an enemy that isn't expecting them, they're not going to be seen. Heck, we can't see giant, hulking commercial cargo ships with the benefit of Aegis, nav radar, EO/IR, and whatnot before they collide with us.

      As far as alternate stealth boats, if and when the Navy gets any, I'll write about them. Until then, Mk VI is what the Navy has.

      If you'd like to discuss any of the many discussion-worth aspects of this story and the concepts contained therein, please feel free. If you just want to argue irrelevant trivia, that won't happen.

  4. Stingers are fine against light UAVs and helos, but what's the plan if an IAF Mig-29 is in the air and comes to the aid of the boat base? You would have to support the boat raid with larger air defense ships or a CAP, which risks escalation.

    1. You caught the part about a Burke, right?

      And, clearly, the tone of this story was that escalation was perfectly acceptable.

    2. "risks escalation"

      Geez, when did we become so timid? Escalation with Iran? Who cares? If Iran wants to escalate, we should seize the opportunity and thank them - you know, right after we utterly destroy them.

      The people who make and write history (the winners) were not the ones who were afraid of escalation. We'd have never gotten beyond Plymouth Rock if we were that afraid of escalation.

    3. Escalation is desired if there's something to gain. What would we have to gain from smashing up Iran? Another trillion-dollar counterinsurgency war? Deploying a huge fleet and using all our missiles up on Iran while depleting our forces around the world for this Iran war? I thought you believed that China was our key rival that we needed to counter in the Pacific, and they would love if we spent a decade focusing on pacifying Iran.

    4. Escalation doesnt have to end up that big. Even if theyre evil, most leaders arent retards, and realize theres a line that cant be crossed. Theyre like childten. Escalation can help reinforce the idea of that line by showing that we can be poked, but not pushed, and that we will respond to lesser provocation. That way its understood that a larger provocation will have consequences that arent palatable (or survivable??) to those leaders...

    5. "What would we have to gain from smashing up Iran?"

      Seriously?? Why do you punch a bully in the nose? I have to explain why reigning in Iran is a good thing? How about removal of a regional threat to peace, stopping harassment of our ships, preventing export of terrorism … how about removing a truly evil regime that causes nothing but instability and terror in the world? Good grief.

      " spent a decade focusing on pacifying Iran."

      A decade???? How about a month? Seriously, how long do you think it would take to decapitate Iran's leadership and wipe out their military? I'm thinking a week but, just to be conservative, I'll give it a month. And then we walk away. We don't occupy the country and impose democracy. That's where we've gone wrong so many times. We remove the offending leadership and military and then leave and let them do whatever they want with their country. I essentially did a post on this just recently.

    6. Obviously I concur with you on the idea that we could probably destroy the current regime militarily within a short timeframe, but then what? Endless radicalization, civil unrest, factionalism resulting in civil war.... Just like Libya or Syria, and while the current regime is nasty, better the evil we know and can deter than complete chaos next to one of the most important shipping routes in the world.

    7. "but then what?"

      You're not grasping the picture, here. With Iran's leadership dead and the military wiped out, no amount of unrest (if there is any) can affect the shipping lanes - they won't have a military to do any disruption! Similarly, the state sponsorship of terrorism will come to an abrupt halt with no leadership or organization pushing it.

      If civil unrest results … well, that's not our fault or concern. We've only made things worse by trying to set up governments. They can come to their own solution how ever peacefully or violently they want. Our own nation formed somewhat violently, as I recall from the history books.

      Our job is to remove the current Iranian threats to our Navy and international shipping, sponsorship of terrorism, and regional threats of nuclear weapons. What happens after that is their issue to deal with. If a government emerges that wants our help then we can step in (though I'd recommend against it). Otherwise, let them be them, for better or worse.

      'The devil we know' is the mantra of timid people. We should have left Hitler in place because we 'knew' him? If you encounter evil, eliminate it. If more evil takes its place, eliminate that as well. Eventually, a better situation will arise. This was the point of the recent post on Tomahawk diplomacy.

  5. Escalation is the point of a raid like this - it let's the other side know there is a consequence for actions.

    I suggest that these boats should use electronic countermeasures, however. The IDF regularly does this to hostile defenses when launching an air strike. An attack by a fast jet would have to locate the boats, identify them as threats, and deliver weapons. Active jamming measures (probably on the ISR boat) would complicate all three requirements.

    1. Active jamming would be from the Burke (you caught the part about a waiting Burke, right?) so as not to give away the MK VI location (plausible deniability).

      That minor point aside, you get that I have a few paragraphs to work with, not a book. I left out electronic support, search and rescue assets standing by, carrier or land based air defense and attack standing by in case the Iranians wanted to immediately escalate, standby plans to attack all Iranian naval and air forces, and a million other items that would be part of an actual operation.

    2. "Escalation is the point of a raid like this - it let's the other side know there is a consequence for actions."

      That's exactly the foundation of the story! Kudos for getting it!

    3. "Escalation is the point of a raid like this - it let's the other side know there is a consequence for actions."

      Doesn't this directly conflict with the stated desire for "plausible deniability"?

      Oh we're escalating, but we don't want you to know WHO is escalating.

      Of course nobody else in the region operates small boats with Hellfires and Hydra rocket launchers, so "plausible deniability" is kinda ridiculous in this case. It's just a tortured rationale for sending eighty sailors into harm's way instead of just firing Tomahawks from a safe distance.

    4. "Doesn't this directly conflict with the stated desire for "plausible deniability"?

      Oh we're escalating, but we don't want you to know WHO is escalating."

      I have two questions:

      1. Do you understand what plausible deniability is?
      2. Did you read the story?

      Plausible deniability isn't deniability. It isn't removal of traces of evidence about who it was. In fact, it's almost the opposite. It's sending a message but without leaving a smoking gun of evidence. No one will have any doubt about who did it but they won't have a smoking gun to display on the world stage - just some circumstantial, deniable, ambiguous evidence. In this case, lots of people use rockets and Hellfires so the remains wouldn't prove anything.

      If you read the story, you didn't read it carefully. Here's the quote from the story that answers your question:

      " The President wanted plausible deniability as part of a larger political game. He had no problem with letting Iran know who had hit them and why but he wanted no blatant evidence. The use of the MkVI boats would maintain the thinly veiled, plausible deniability that would prevent Iran from claiming proof of US involvement on the world stage and escalating the incident."

  6. Wow, it's a bit surprising to see how many seem to have misgivings about striking an Iranian port and its small boats! with what is a pretty minimal force! 8PTs and Burke (plus some probable air assets) is pretty close to as small a footprint USA can use and still raising issues!?! I know we dont talk politics on CNO blog, (one reason I love this blog!) since I'm pretty sure we dont share the same political views but never less still can debate BUT this scenario and the emotions brought up makes one ask if TODAY, would a POTUS order an El Dorado Canyon strike? This is at first glance, a lot smaller operation.

    Makes me wonder about how much resolve WE REALLY HAVE when we talk about China and its aggressive moves?

    1. "resolve"

      What you're talking about is cultural psychology and I don't mind a little discussion of that. Our psychological makeup, as a nation today, has been shaped by the feminization of our society over the last few decades. We have become conditioned to flee from violence, turn to others for help (courts, primarily) rather than solve our own problems, resolve everything through talking (like that's worked well in our political system!), and engage in feelings-inspired group hugs. Thus, as we turn outward and view the world, we are psychologically unprepared to respond to beheadings, genocide, terrorism, and true evil. The women's movement is neutering our society. Note, this is not a diatribe against women's rights, just a recognition of the fact that it has been taken to the point of feminizing our psychology in a world that does not reward feminism as a survival trait. How's that for a discussion point?

    2. Honestly, I'm all over the place as to why we seem to be lacking in "resolve". I'll have to organize my thoughts better.LOL!

      As a small example, without going into politics or psychology, this is another illustration of being on the defensive (lack of resolve? timidity?) and not going on the offense (lack of aggression?). I'm OK with USN not releasing the names of these officers BUT geez, why can't we hack the Russians, Chinese or Iranians ONCE IN AWHILE to make them pay a little bit and send a message?!? Come on, we don't have any hackers in the USA for a little bit of payback?!? I don't even care if USA denies it or admits that they did it, just do it to send a message! Either way, THEY will understand the message.

    3. CNO- I think youre onto somthing about mentalities borne of recent societal changes and attitudes. I think the sailors that surrendered to the Iranians are representative of generations that have grown up without age-honored American traditions, like schoolyard fights!!! Also absent is the mechanical tinkering and know-how previous generations had due to growing up in farm environments, building motorcycles and hot rods as a teen, etc... Todays generations are not only feminized, but neutered by technology. Ok Im done. Wont turn this political or anything else. But I had to comment my agreeance, as this is a problem I combat daily as a parent...

    4. @NICO- It does seem worrisome doesnt it? Like you said, this is a tiny flexing. Honestly if I was a Flag or higher, Id have a hard time limiting myself to somthing like this!!!

    5. "why can't we hack the Russians, Chinese or Iranians ONCE IN AWHILE to make them pay a little bit and send a message?!?"

      I assume (I hope) that we are hacking them but, if so, we'll never directly hear about it and that's the way it should be. Remember the Iranian centrifuge sabotage? Recall the Cold War submarine escapades? I've got to believe we're doing the things we need to and we're just not talking about them - plausible deniability!

    6. Hopefully we are BUT if the "BAD"guys aren't getting the hint and backing off a little, maybe we need a more overt hacker attack to reinforce the message....

    7. This gets back to the psychology issue. We're too afraid to take forceful actions whether it's shooting Iranians who are trying to illegally seize our boats or using cyber attacks to forcefully disrupt a country that attacks us.

      Our passive appeasement while China annexed the South China Sea has, undoubtedly, only encouraged them to take more aggressive cyber action. If we wouldn't take any action while they seized the entire South China Sea, why would they be afraid of what we'll do about any cyber activities? Appeasement only breeds more aggression - just ask Chamberlain and Hitler.

      We're pretty sure that China has all our 'secret' knowledge about our weapons. I'd like to believe that we also have all their knowledge.

  7. Sorry, I did miss the waiting Burke in the story. One of those would put a real damper on any thoughts by a Mig pilot to go after the patrol boats...

  8. I was almost dissappointed when it was a Burke offshore and not one of the BBs from "Return of the Broadside"...

  9. Upgrade the 25mm to a 30mm or larger with programmable airburst or proximity fuses.

    1. Possibly, if there's a substantial gain in performance that offsets the increased complexity of the weapon or slightly reduced (presumably) ammo load.

      Acknowledging that most of these stories I write involve non-existent platforms and equipment, I do try to limit myself to existing weapons and systems IF THEY HAVE THE REQUIRED CAPABILITY. I know, a bit of an inherent contradiction given the 'what if' nature of most of the stories. So, I'd stick with an existing 25 mm unless, as I said, the gain was substantial - and maybe it is.

      Alternatively, we could adapt an airburst 25 mm munition. See, 25 mm airburst for an example.

      This brings up the anti-UAV capability gap in the military. We just don't have any good anti-UAV weapon, currently.

  10. Would this be more suitable for the Marrines to do? Some of the training / missions could well include chaps going ashore so would be sesiblse in my opinion to keep it in one service.

    1. The last thing one would want in this scenario is a captured American soldier. There is much less risk using strictly naval assets. Of course, there is even less risk using a Tomahawk cruise missile but then the story wouldn't have been very interesting and wouldn't have illustrated the points I wanted to make!

    2. Sorry, I didn't make it clear. I meant that some possible operations in the future may require "men on the ground" (may be in small numbers as spotters, SEAL missions etc.)

      As you said this mission wouldn't require it but others may. It just seems to me having this as an all Marine "force" would make command more integrated. If it is appropriate for the Marines to fly F35's, manning small boats that do literal operations must be in their remit.

      I don't think the Navy is interested in "doing this sort of thing" (like the Airforce providing CAP). But the Marines could excel at it and in my opinion is a capability that would be more useful than beach landings without tanks, logistic back up etc. I may be wrong, happy to be corrected

    3. "If it is appropriate for the Marines to fly F35's, manning small boats that do literal operations must be in their remit."

      Okay, if your point was to give the Marines a small boat/infiltration capability, that's fine. However, in the past, when the Navy has offered boats to SOCOM they were flatly turned down. No one else wants the expense of maintaining even small boats if they can avoid it.

      The thing about the Mk VI is that they aren't transport vessels. They could only carry a very few troops each. You'd have to assemble quite an armada to get a sizable raid and if you're talking about just a few operators, we already have that - SEALs. So, I have nothing against the Marines operating craft like this but I just don't see any interest on their part or practical uses that could be made of them that we don't already have/do.

    4. SOCOM has it's own boats, thanks very much. They want to avoid conventional missions such as this kind of direct strike.
      As for Marines and boats, it's been a non-starter in the past. Given today's USMC, I don't see them getting all gooey over it either.
      Very much like your plan of torching the mullahs and their military and letting the chips fall as they may. I would posit that the Iranian people might just come up with something positive and perhaps avoid returning to a pariah state.
      Boat Guy

  11. I liked the scenario and the idea of using the boats for other missions. However, the amount of weapons in the anti-air and the attack variants seem to exceed what you could physically mount on such a boat. That's 4 major weapons mounts in each variant. The bow is just big enough for the Mk 38 mount as it is.

    1. The existing Mk VI has a Mk38 on the bow and and the stern along with several 0.50 cal MG mount locations. For the anti-air variant, the stern Mk38 is replaced by a Stinger mount. The second Stinger can be mounted atop the cockpit, on the MG platform, on the forward cabin roof, or side mounted port or starboard, among other possible locations. Stinger mounts have been placed on Humvees and JLTVs so mounting one somewhere on a Mk VI would not seem to be a challenge.

      Similarly, for the attack variant, the Hellfire mounts would replace the fore and aft Mk38s. The two rocket pod mounts can be placed anywhere. Look at any helo rocket pod mount. It's not large or complex. Atop the bridge, sides of the cabins, etc. Look at any late war WWII PT boat to see the incredible range and number of weapons that were mounted. Our decades of peacetime vessel designs have caused us to forget how densely we used to mount weapons on ships and boats.

      I see no problem finding mount space.

  12. I know it is a sample scenario to highlight the ship , but if deniability is paramount , woudlnt a submarine attack be wiser ? coupled with SEAL assault from DSRV and subs , it would be far less risky ..

    1. Deniability was NOT paramount - just the opposite, almost. The concept was plausible deniability which means you intend for the target to know it was you but you don't want to leave 'smoking gun' pieces of evidence that can be held up on the world stage. Bits of rockets or missiles that are used by many countries offer only ambiguous, circumstantial evidence.

      The worst approach in this scenario would be to land men. It's far too risky. A captured soldier totally ruins the plausible deniability. Standing off shore and firing weapons is very low risk and leaves no concrete evidence.

      Besides, a few men can't totally destroy a base which was the intent in this scenario. Tomahawks could have been used but, given the US propensity for using them, that would provide the 'smoking gun' evidence that you want to avoid.

  13. Audacity is the point of a raid. Tomahawk missiles or a submarine attack would show the Iranians we have better technology. A raid by patrol boats would show them that we have better sailors.

    1. Tomahawks could have been used but, given the US propensity for using them, that would provide the 'smoking gun' evidence that you want to avoid. The approach in the story leaves behind only bits of rockets and Hellfires, both of which are used by many countries. Thus, the evidence is ambiguous and plausibly deniable.

  14. The mount space is not an issue.
    The new Mk38 used on the Mark VI is the Rafael Typhoon. These can have a two canisters for the Spike-NLOS missile mounted co-axial with the 25mm. In fact the Philippine navy just bought some of these mounts. There is also the mini-typhoon .50 cal mount can have the Spike-ER mounted co-axial. So modifying existing 25mm gives you 4 missiles with more range than a VLA Hellfire. Then replace 4 existing Army Crow-based.50's mounts with .50/missile mini-typhoons would give 8 more missiles with performance equal that of a VLA-Hellfire. That’s 16 guided missile without losing any of it’s existing gun armament. Oh, and since these are individual mounts, you can fire simultaneous missiles in different directions which I believe would actually be more efficient than a VLA.

    For the AA variant, the Army is testing an AA mount for the striker that would have a 4 stingers on one side, 2 Hellfire on the other side and a .50 in the middle. If you used stingers on both sides, you could replace MK 38’s with these and have all 16 AA missiles plus two more .50’s and not even add a new mounting site. The original with the Hellfire would be good a defensive mount for the surveillance boat which would replace other with surveillance gear.
    Another modification could be replacing a couple of the remote .50 mounts with the Trophy or Iron Fist active protection. Both are combat tested, although the Iron Fist is less well known. The Trophy uses “smart claymore” explosion of pellets to intercept missiles, while the Iron Fist uses small, cheap interceptor missiles and has bit more range.
    I also like the Vietnam modification the Coast Guard came up with to replace their standard .50 mount; an over and under .50 cal/81mm mortar. Besides the short range HE, the 81mm also could be used for illumination rounds for night attack and smoke or CS rounds for cover.

    1. Nice summary of weapons options. What some people don't understand is that the proposed Mk VI variants are concepts and the weapon fits are placeholders. They illustrate the concept rather than the mandatory, exact, and only arrangement. If the naval designer has a better weapons fit, that's great. Too many people want to argue a weapons fit that is just a conceptual placeholder.

      Trophy/Iron Fist is an interesting concept. It's intended to counter the main threat to armored vehicles in 'peacetime' operations. Whether the threat to a small boat falls within that envelope enough to warrant the added equipment, I don't know but it's certainly worth looking at.

      I also don't know whether a Trophy engagement is survivable for exposed crew. Will the incoming debris from the engagement shower the crew? That's not an issue for tank crew but might be for boat crews. I just don't know. Any idea?

      You've taken the concept and offered some variations that might better meet the intent. Good for you and thank you.

    2. Good question regarding Trophy with an exposed crew. A good indicator to me is that the US Army is going to put Trophy on the M-1 Abrams (fights buttoned down) and the Iron Fist on the Bradley APC (fights with troops). From what I’ve read in some articles, you don’t want to be an infantryman anywhere outside a Trophy-equipped Tank when it goes off. Off course you also don’t want be standing near any serious naval weapon either (aka Tommy Lee Jones in Under Siege), and the 25mm/.50’s are remote operated so if you’re hopefully inside anyway. I also would have my worries about using it on a ship with anything but a metal hull.
      That said, the Iron Fist would be more like a miniature SeaRAM. During combat in 2014 it intercepted guided anti-tank weapons of the variety Swarm boats like to use. It also didn’t suffer any false alarm launches unlike Trophy. There’s a lightweight version that is bolt on (no deck penetration) and weighs around 600 lbs, so you could place it anywhere stressed to support a remote .50 cal.

  15.'ve got AA, Attack, and Surveillance. No ASW? Kidding in terms of being needed for this scenario, but what of PB's for coastal ASW? Even without stretching the hull or simply going to something OPV sized, A 100 ton or less boat can do anything an ASW helo does but with a couple days worth of endurance. A Mk VI variant could put a Mk 32 launcher aft , and have a dipping sonar, and sonobuoys like an MH-60R, plus retain the forward 25mm (with a co-axial missile pod)
    and .50 mounts so it could still do PB duties as well. The engines are too noisy to hunt at speed but Helos hover over a spot then move on, so the ASW/PB would do the same and sit still then move on.

    1. Not a bad idea! That never entered my mind. They would be ideal for harbor ASW patrol or navigational chokepoint patrol.

      Are you aware of any comparable existing ASW patrol boats?

  16. Not specifically, but Elbit has demonstrated a 39 foot drone boat with half the weight of the MkVI carrying a two tube MK32 and a dipping sonar. The MK V1 itself has been tested with the MK 18 kingfisher drone which is about the size of a MK 48 torpedo.

    The Russians still field the Stenka class PB although at around 250 tons it straddles the line between PB and Corvette.
    When you think about it, anything that can go on a 9 ton loaded SH-60 which can carry around 3 tons of ASW gear, should be able to be fitted on a 72 ton MK-VI. In fact weapons you listed for your scenario are regularly carried by combat helos, so why not ASW?
    You can fit four MKVI boats into an LSD-49 class amphib's well according to the Navy so you could deploy a small squadron pretty quickly overseas or wherever needed. For that matter,
    And of course, at 15 million a MKVI, even if you tripled the cost with ASW gear, four ASW boats would be less than one LCS with an ASW module.

    1. "You can fit four MKVI boats into an LSD-49 class amphib's well"

      And, using flight deck storage, even more could be transported.

      Thanks for the examples. I really think you've got an interesting idea, here. I mentioned harbor protection. Where else would you see them being used?

    2. You also already mentioned choke points so I’ll leave off the usual suspects like Hormuz, Bosophorus, etc. Instead I’ll suggest the littorals off the Korean coast. While some think the North Korean fleet a bit of a joke, they have done what no one else since Britain in the Falklands has done; sink a ship. They sunk the ROKS Cheonan with a torpedo fired by a Yono class sub back in 2010. We know they have commando carrying sub that could be a pain. In fact the NK navy subs are in sweet spot in terms of cost for the PB sub-hunters as the NK subs are enough of a threat to warrant attention, but not enough of a threat to deploy billion dollar frigates and destroyers at in large numbers.

      I see them as offensive ASW in this case bottling up enemy harbors and shallows to keep subs from leaving ports or home waters to cause mischief elsewhere.

      They could also be deployed to protect an asset the US takes for granted, our own offshore oil platforms. If I were an enemy, taking down an offshore rig with commandos or weapons fire from a sub would be one of my first sub missions. Any threat to our oil supplies must be taken deadly serious, and our only present response would be billion dollar Burkes needed to protect our fleets. Thus even it wasn’t a big threat, we would still have to waste valuable resources. ASW patrol boats could be easily and cheaply deployed to the same ports as the rig’s supply boats at a fraction of the cost not only in ships but manpower. Supplemented by P-8A’s (which would be safe within our own air space) they could provide ASW coverage for the Gulf and the California coast.

      They would also make economical training adversaries for our own Virginia subs as they can simulate both helos (due to their dipping sonar) and surface ships by their search patterns.
      They would also make economical training adversaries for our own Virginia subs as they can an simulate both helos (due to their dipping sonar) and surface ships by their search patterns.


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