Super Shorties Spotted in 3rd FLT

A newly commissioned littoral combat ship was recently spotted with her crew sporting some very compact little carbines.

Based in San Diego, the USS Mobile, an Independence-class LCS variant that only joined the fleet in 2021, earlier this month left her home port to take part in the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative. The initiative is designed to “reduce and eliminate illegal, unregulated, unreported fishing, combat transnational crimes, and enhance regional security” across the Western Pacific region under U.S. 3rd Fleet orders.

Embarked with the ship, besides a Navy helicopter and drone group, is a Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, or LEDET, from the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team.

Mobile recently posted some images while underway on the Initiative showing what looks to be members of her crew and the LEDET getting some range time with some noticeably short carbines.

Like super short. (Photo: U.S. Navy) “PACIFIC OCEAN (March 20, 2023) Sonar Technician (Surface) 2nd Class Haines Ybarra, from Eaton, Ohio, assigned aboard Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS 26) Blue Crew, fires an M4 rifle during small arms shoot on the flight deck, March 20.”

It looks like they are running ELCAN Specter DR sights with this example having a PEQ in addition to a white light. (Photo: U.S. Navy) “PACIFIC OCEAN (March 20, 2023) Fire Controlman Chief Petty Officer Kelly Hall, from Harbor City, Calif., assigned aboard Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Mobile (LCS 26) Blue Crew, fires an M4 rifle during small arms shoot on the flight deck, March 20. 

The guns, which look to have barrels in the 8-to-10-inch range, still feature a big A2-style front sight as well as a bayonet lug and what looks like a KAC QD flash hider. This gives it a fairly similar look as the old (circa 2000) Colt CQBR but with a short quad rail for accessories, or yet another variant of the vaunted Mk 18 frogman special.

In short (see what we did there?) it looks to be an Mk 18 Mod 1, which points to Coasties as the Navy and SF guys who used the Mk 18 have since switched (post-2017) to 416s and URG-equipped models.

Colt has even introduced their own URG system for 2023 in a move to get back in the shorty 5.56 game

The USCG has often used the Mk 18 in its LEDETs embarked on Navy littoral combat ships in the past (see USS Sioux City (LCS 11), Dec. 13, 2021).

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean, another LCS, USS Milwaukee, with embarked Coast Guard LEDET 104 aboard, last month seized an estimated $27.4 million in suspected cocaine from a drug smuggling go-fast vessel at sea. We’d bet there may have been some Mk 18s involved in that as well.

For a deeper dive into the Mk 18 concept, check out the below by Jeff Gurwitch, a retired Green Beret, who has much downrange first-hand experience with the platform in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gurwitch also covers why it was (and still is) loved by many despite the loss of velocity due to its abbreviated 10.3-inch barrel.

He calls it a “300-meter gun, easy,” saying you can stretch out hits to 400-500 yards with it.

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