Fed Ex’ing a PBRON

During the late 19th Century and early 20th, attaching a flotilla of small torpedo boats to repurposed old warship such as a monitor– ideal for their low freeboard– was the standard operating procedure. The small boats didn’t have luxurious accommodation and messing facilities while at the same time they had short legs and could only carry so much ordnance. Being a cub to a mama bear was able to fix those shortcomings to a degree.

Fast forward to WWII, and you saw the same thing with PT-Boat squadrons.

3 US Navy PT-boats Aleutians in June 1943 eaplane tender GILLIS AVD12 PBY Catalina Higgins boats Mk 19 torpedo tubes.

Official USN Photographs (National Archives) 80-G-K-9454 (Color).

In Vietnam, the Brown Water Navy often supped in the gallies of LSTs detailed to the task.

USS Garrett County (LST 786) in the Co Chien River, June 1968, with PBRs alongside and HAL-3 Seawolf Hueys aboard. Note the –manned –40mm Bofors on deck. U.S. Navy Photo K-51442

Today, we have the Expeditionary Transfer Docks (ESD), such as USS Montford Point, ready to serve as forward-deployed floating seabases for small craft, special warfare assets, and light aviation.

There are also other ideas on the table, thus:

PHILIPPINE SEA (Oct. 4, 2020) A Mark VI patrol boat assigned to Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MSRON) 3 prepares to board the amphibious dock landing ship USS Comstock (LSD 45). (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Manuel A. Serrano)

USS Comstock (LSD-45) is a 16,000-ton Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship capable of holding 5 LCACs or 21 LCMs in her dock while carrying around ~400 Marines of a MEU as part of an amphibious ready group. Currently, she is underway after loading Mark VI patrol boats and expeditionary mine countermeasure (ExMCM) elements in Guam for a security patrol in the Philippine Sea as part of the 7th Fleet.

“This level of integration of Mark VI patrol boats with surface Navy assets has never been accomplished before,” said Lt. Andy Bergstrom, Alpha Company Commander. “The Mark VI patrol boat provides a presence capability in the littorals beyond sheltered bays and harbors with additional mission capabilities including high-value asset escort, visit, board, search and seizure support, and theater security cooperation.”

The Mark VI, or Wright-class patrol boats are 85-foot vessels with a 10 man crew and a pretty decent armament for their size to include a pair of stabilized MK 38 25mm chain guns and six weapon stations.

SANTA RITA, Guam (May 8, 2019) Three Mark VI patrol boats attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2, maneuver in formation during a training evolution near Apra Harbor. CRS-2, assigned to Coastal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint, and combined operations.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelsey Adams)

Sure, they would be toast against an anti-ship missile, but they are meant more for counter-insurgency, anti-piracy, and coastal/riverine control, making them ideal for special operations platforms and recovering/supporting small UAVs/USVs (they have operated RQ-11 Ravens in the past).

Further, the Mark VI design is, as shown above, well-deck friendly, with as many as 8 able to be carried in an LSD-41-class vessel.

The above graphic shows how 4 MKVI patrol boats can be transported inside the well deck of either an LHD-1, LPD-17, or LSD-49 class amphibious warfare vessels. Even the older LPD-4 types can carry a pair of the super swifts. The huge LCAC-designed well-deck of the LSD-41 type landing docks can carry an entire expeditionary squadron of 8 MkVI boats inside her hull. Couple this with berthing for brown water sailors, flight deck spots for SH/MH60 helicopters, and UAVs and you see how a group of MKVIs can be UPS’d to a contested strip of coastline.

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