Making like 1990
February’s Tip of the Spear, the journal of SOCOM, includes a great article by James D. Gray, the Combatant Craft Historian of the Combatant Craft Crewman Assc, (page 24-25) that ran originally on the Ethos Live NSW blog the month before.
It covers the operation of HSB detachments of Special Boat Unit-12 and three accompanying SEAL platoons during Desert Storm.
What is an HSB?
These were the High Speed Boats in operation mainly with SBU-12 from the late ’80s to the late ’90s. And were made by several manufacturers in my neck of the woods including Halter Marine and United States Marine, Inc (USMI) both in Gulfport as well as to a lesser degree, Fountain Powerboats of Washington, NC.
These boats were generally 33-41 feet long fiberglass racing hulls, powered by 500hp Bulldogs, then Innovation Marine’s 557’s and finally 572s and 575’s to scoot them along at speeds of up to 70 knots. They had all sorts of covert tweaks such as an under hull silent exhaust system, recessed deck hardware, and concealed engine drives to help make them stealthier.
Manned by three SWCC crew, they could carry as many as 12 cramped passengers (or a more typically a half platoon or a boat team of SEALs and a Combat Rubber Raider across the bow as shown above).
They were also termed HSAC (High Speed Assault Craft) and replaced the 1980s era Sea Fox boats.
Here is one I visited at the SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce recently on my way back down to Key West. This is a USMI 42-footer with twin 550-hp gas engines on racing outdrives dubbed SOC6 (Special Operations Craft #6).
SOC6 was used in the Great Deception Raid along with three other HSBs to draw the attention of two Iraqi armored divisions to a beach that would see no action while the main attack went further north. In effect using a few dozen special operations guys to tie down 25,000+ Iraqis.
From Gray’s article:
At Mina Saud, Kuwait, the SEALs under Lt. Tom D. Dietz, assigned to Seal Team Five, boarded their CRRCs and moved into the target area. The HSBs loitered to provide recovery or hot extract if needed. Within two hours, the SEALs in the area planted demolition charges and beacons to indicate an amphibious landing and ex-filtrated. They linked up with the CRRCs then transited to the recovering HSBs. The escort HSBs then moved in within 200 yards of the beach and conducted two firing runs on bunkers on the beach with .50 cal machine guns and Mk-19 and 7.62 Mini-guns, and threw satchel charges into the water during egress. The planted demolitions by the operators, exploded shortly after leaving the area, and air strikes were also called in. The raiders returned to base shortly before dawn.
After the arrival of the purpose-built 82-foot Halter Marine MkV SOC boats in the mid-1990s, most of the NSW HSBs were scraped or stripped down and sold to the general public. That has put a number in circulation.
SOC6 was found in poor repair in 2000 after being sold as surplus and was restored by retired SEAL personnel working with the Naval Historical Center with funds provided by the President of USMI.
Others have been reworked by civilians and security companies for their own reasons.
A scrapped condition 39-foot Halter HSB was up for sale recently for $4995 (without engines or drives and with holes in the hull).
So with a little elbow grease and a lot of patchwork you can make like 1990 all over again– though you’ll never be cool enough to tie down two divisions of Iraqis cool.