Category Archives: littoral

USCG Updates: Healy makes North Pole while Austal Gets Closer to making Cutters

On a solo mission, the one-of-a-kind medium icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) reached the North Pole last week after traversing the frozen Arctic Ocean, marking only the second time a U.S. ship has reached the location unaccompanied, the first being Healy in 2015.

Healy departed Dutch Harbor, Alaska on 4 September for a months-long, multi-mission deployment with the intention to reach latitude 90 degrees North in support of oceanographic research in collaboration with National Science Foundation-funded scientists throughout their transit to the North Pole and recently helped keep tabs on a Sino-Russian surface action group that was poking around the Aleutians– the latter a sort of empty gesture as the icebreaker is unarmed. 

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20) cuts a channel through the multi-year pack ice and snow as Healy transits the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole, September 27, 2022. This is the third time the icebreaker has traveled to the North Pole since its commissioning in 1999 and the second time she has reacehed the pole unescorted. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist 1.

Capt. Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB 20), monitors the passage of the cutter as the crew approaches the North Pole, Sept. 30, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist 1.

The U.S. Coast Guard Healy (WAGB-20) transits through multi-year pack ice in the Arctic Ocean as the cutter approaches the North Pole, Sept. 27, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Deborah Heldt Cordone, Auxiliary Public Affairs Specialist 1.

More details from USCG HQ:

“The crew of Healy is proud to reach the North Pole,” said Capt. Kenneth Boda, commanding officer of the Healy. “This rare opportunity is a highlight of our Coast Guard careers. We are honored to demonstrate Arctic operational capability and facilitate the study of this strategically important and rapidly changing region.”

Healy, which departed its Seattle homeport on July 11, currently has thirty-four scientists and technicians from multiple universities and institutions aboard, and nearly 100 active duty crew members.

During the cutter’s first Arctic leg of the patrol throughout July and August, Healy traveled into the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, going as far north as 78 degrees. As a part of the Office of Naval Research’s Arctic Mobile Observing System program, Healy deployed underwater sensors, sea gliders and acoustic buoys to study Arctic hydrodynamics in the marginal and pack ice zones.

In addition to enabling Arctic science, Healy also supported U.S. national security objectives for the Arctic region by projecting a persistent ice-capable U.S. presence in U.S. Arctic waters, and patrolling our maritime border with Russia.

On their second Arctic mission of the summer, while transiting to the North Pole, Healy embarked a team of researchers as a part of the Synoptic Arctic Survey (SAS). SAS is an international collaborative research program focused on using specially equipped research vessels from around the world to gather data throughout the Arctic across multiple scientific disciplines. Dr. Carin Ashjian, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, is currently serving alongside Dr. Jackie Grebmeier as co-chief Scientists onboard Healy with support from the National Science Foundation.

“We are excited to reach the Pole!” said Ashjian speaking on behalf of the embarked science party. “We have little information from the ocean and seafloor at the top of the world so what we collect here is very valuable. It also fills in data from a region, the western Central Arctic, which was not sampled by other ships in the SAS. Our joint efforts with the Healy crew are producing important science results.”

After deploying a series of scientific equipment to collect valuable data at the North Pole, crew members and the science team were granted ice liberty. During this time, they enjoyed taking pictures and posing with a “North Pole” that had been erected on the ice. Healy also used the unique setting to advance two crewmembers and conduct a cutterman ceremony for three crewmembers who each recently achieved the career milestone of five years of sea service.

OPCs

We’ve talked about the 25-ship Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program of record several times in the past few years and it is one of the most exciting shipbuilding initiatives for the American maritime service. Intended to complement the capabilities of the service’s 418-foot frigate-sized National Security Cutters, growing flotillas of 154-foot Fast Response Cutters, and planned (armed) Polar Security Cutters “as an essential element of the Department of Homeland Security’s layered maritime security strategy.”

The OPCs will replace the 12 remaining 1960s-built 210-foot Reliance-class and 13 1980s-built 270-foot Bear-class cutters, on a hull-per-hull basis, with a larger and much more capable class of large OPVs or “surveillance frigates” that can likely still serve in lots of constabulary roles around the world, freeing up Navy destroyers for more combat-oriented tasks.

OPC Characteristics:
•Length: 360 feet
•Beam: 54 feet
•Draft: 17 feet
•Sustained Speed: 22 Plus knots
•Range: 8500 Plus nautical miles
•Endurance: 60 Days

The main armament is a Mk 110 57mm gun forward with a MK 38 Mod 3 25mm gun over the stern HH60-sized hangar, and four M2 .50 cal mounts. 

I say replace the Mk38 with a C-RAM, shoehorn a towed sonar, ASW tubes, an 8-pack Mk41 VLS crammed with Sea Sparrows, and eight NSSMs aboard and call it a day. The Mexicans do the same loadout with the new Reformador-class frigates on a hull the same size, so why not us? 

The first flight of 11 OPCs has been awarded to Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. (ESG) and they have a quartet– class leader USCGC Argus (WMSM 915), followed by USCGC Chase (WMSM 916), USCGC Ingham (WMSM 917) and USCGC Rush (WMSM 918)— in various stages of completion already at their Nelson Street facility in Panama City.

Well, the Coast Guard, in an effort to get all 25+ of these hulls completed ASAP, announced earlier this year that a second yard, Austal in Mobile, Alabama, would get to work on the second flight of 11 OPCs, a contract estimated at being worth $3 billion smackers (which is a deal these days for 11 American frigate-sized OPVs).

The latter just got a lot closer to getting real as ESG removed their protest over the award.

As noted by the Coast Guard on Wednesday:

The Coast Guard today issued a notice to Austal USA, the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) Stage 2 contractor, to proceed on detail design work to support future production of OPCs. The Coast Guard issued the notice following the withdrawal of an award protest filed in July with the Government Accountability Office by an unsuccessful Stage 2 offeror.

The Coast Guard on June 30, 2022, awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract through a full and open competition to Austal USA to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters. The initial award is valued at $208.26 million and supports detail design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total. The contract has a potential value of up to $3.33 billion if all options are exercised.

The Coast Guard’s requirements for OPC Stage 2 detail design and production were developed to maintain commonality with earlier OPCs in critical areas such as the hull and propulsion systems, but provide flexibility to propose and implement new design elements that benefit lifecycle cost, production and operational efficiency and performance.

Marines’ Ship-Killing RC Truck Gets (Some) Funding

A Navy-Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System launcher deploys into position aboard Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Hawaii, Aug. 16, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Nick Mannweiler, released)

As spotted in last week’s DOD Contracts:

Oshkosh Defense LLC, of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is awarded a $23,709,168 hybrid firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the procurement of Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary Fires (ROGUE-Fires) carriers for use in the Navy/Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). NMESIS is a land-based missile launcher platform that provides the Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System battalions and operating forces with anti-ship capabilities. NMESIS integrates a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launcher unit, capable of launching two NSMs, onto a ROGUE-Fires carrier. Work will be performed in Alexandria, Virginia (18%); Gaithersburg, Maryland (15%); and Oshkosh, Wisconsin (67%). Work is expected to be completed in November 2023. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Marine Corps) funds in the amount of $15,989,908 will be obligated and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This action is a follow-on production contract in accordance with 10 U.S. Code § 4022(f). Marine Corps Systems Command, Program Manager Long Range Fires, Quantico, Virginia, is the contracting activity (M67854-22-D-1002).

As covered previously on the blog, ROGUE Fires, a remote-control JLTV loaded with a containerized module that includes a two-pack of the Norwegian Kongsberg-developed 900-pound Naval Strike Missile, is set to be a big deal for Marine Littoral units. The current buy is set to field 14 new Marine expeditionary precision strike units with 252 launchers. These could be useful on anything from atolls and reefs to oil platforms and grounded old hulks. The concept was validated after it got some actual hits in during a SINKEX against a moored FFG last fall.

A Naval Strike Missile is launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands during the sinking exercise. (U.S. Marine Corps/MC2 Lance Cpl. Dillon Buck)

The Marines are already theorizing about using their NMESIS batteries while underway on amphibious support ships if needed. The same concept could quickly arm ships taken from trade, such as old RO/ROs and tankers, giving the 1990’s Arsenal Ship theory an ersatz rebirth, at least for anti-ship purposes.

Uruguayan 87s

Originally intended as a 50-vessel class of patrol boats (WPBs) meant to replace the Vietnam-era 82-foot Point class vessels in Coast Guard service, the 87-foot Marine Protector class started to hit the water in 1998 at a cost of about $5 million a pop. Derived from the Dutch Damen Stan 2600 design and cranked out by Bollinger, the Coast Guard kept hitting the “buy more” button on these until a whopping 74 were completed, including four paid for by the Navy and used to escort Boomers in and out of domestic homeports (notably, the latter all have hybrid submarine names– Sea Devil, Sea Fox, Sea Dragon, and Sea Dog— saluting WWII fleet boats).

Economical, they cost about $3,200 an hour to operate and can stay deployed for up to a week at a time, stretching their legs up to 200 miles offshore if needed.

A close-up of USCGC Moray (WPB-87331) and USCGC Tiger Shark (WPB-87359), taken by me at Gulfport harbor.

I featured one of these great boats as a character in my zombie novel, having shipped out on one on a day patrol out of Gulfport for research.

The Coast Guard even has an innovative maintenance schedule for the 87s on the East/Gulf coasts to keep the in top shape. The Recurring Depot Availability Program (RDAP) project is a four-year recurring maintenance cycle for the Coast Guard’s entire Atlantic Area 47-boat coastal patrol boat fleet in which each cutter is at the Yard for a 66-day planned maintenance period. Crews arrive with a “used” 87-foot patrol boat and pick up a freshly overhauled patrol boat from the Yard, which they immediately sail back to their homeport.

Well, as the class ages and the USCG finds itself flush with new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-type Fast Response Cutters, the service is trimming high-mileage 87s. Thus far, eight have been withdrawn from service and they will no doubt see much further use in Third World service.

Case in point, the Coast Guard Yard recently completed a $1.3 million overhaul of three such long-serving Protectors that were transferred to Uruguay as part of the USCG Foreign Military Sales Program. The 11-month program included partial rebuilds and training Uruguayan Navy crews, which took final possession last month to sail the trio to new climes in Montevideo.

The program saw the ex-USCGC Albacore (WPB-87309), ex-USCGC Cochito (WPB-87329), and ex-USCGC Gannet (WPB-87334) slowly become the ROU-14 Río Arapey, ROU-15 Río de La Plata, and ROU-16 Río Yaguarón.

They sortied out as a group in late September from Baltimore, escorted by an active USCG member of their class.

And their last U.S. stop was at USCG Station Key West just before Hurricane Ian came ashore.

Make Ready the Boarding and Capture team!

The Coast Guard Historian’s Office has the 316-page CG-260 manual of organizations and regs for 378-foot high endurance cutters, dated January 1973, digitized online.

USCGC Morgenthau (WHEC-722), a 378-foot high endurance cutter, by John Wisinski

Covering the dozen Hamilton-class cutters, it makes interesting reading, especially for those interested in Cold War/Vietnam-era Coastie and by extension Naval lore.

I found the Landing and VBSS (Visit, board, search, and seizure) bills particularly interesting.

They include a two-squad 27-man Landing team, a 6-man Visit/Search team, a 31-man Boarding and Capture team, and a 27-man Prize Crew with the number of pistols (at the time M1911s) and rifles/SMGs (M1 Garands and M1 Thompsons) listed.

The Hamiltons would, in the 1980s, upgrade their WWII-era small arms lockers to M9s and M16A2s while ditching their 5″/38 main battery for a MK 75 76mm OTO. Also gone were the 26-foot whaleboats in lieu of RHIBs.

And don’t scream about OPSEC, as all this stuff is a few generations outdated.

Anyway, enjoy!

Coast Guard Keeps tabs on China in Aleutians, Maldives, and West Pac

The Coast Guard, flush with capable new vessels, has been steadily stretching its legs as of late, taking up the Navy’s slack a bit, and waving the flag increasingly in overseas locations. This new trend makes sense as, besides the formal People’s Liberation Army Navy, the growing (200 white hulled cutters) China Coast Guard and People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (4,600 blue hulled trawlers) are everywhere.

Case in point, this week the USCG’s 17th District, which covers Alaska, announced the USCGC Kimball (WMSL-756), while on a routine patrol in the Bering Sea, encountered the 13,000-ton Chinese Type 055 “destroyer” (NATO/OSD Renhai-class cruiser) Renhai (CG 101), sailing approximately 75 nautical miles north of Kiska Island. A state-of-the-art vessel comparable to a Ticonderoga-class cruiser but larger, Renhai has a 112-cell VLS system as well as two helicopters and a 130mm naval gun. Compare this to Kimball’s single 57mm MK110 and CIWS, and you see the disparity.

A Coast Guard Cutter Kimball crewmember observing a foreign vessel in the Bering Sea, September 19, 2022. (USCG Photo)

Kimball also noted other ships as well.

Via 17th District:

The Kimball crew later identified two more Chinese naval vessels and four Russian naval vessels, including a Russian Federation Navy destroyer, all in a single formation with the Renhai as a combined surface action group operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

As a result, the Kimball crew is now operating under Operation Frontier Sentinel, a Seventeenth Coast Guard District operation designed to meet presence with presence when strategic competitors operate in and around U.S. waters. The U.S Coast Guard’s presence strengthens the international rules-based order and promotes the conduct of operations in a manner that follows international norms. While the surface action group was temporary in nature, and Kimball observed it disperse, the Kimball will continue to monitor activities in the U.S. EEZ to ensure the safety of U.S. vessels and international commerce in the area. A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew provided support to the Kimball’s Operation Frontier Sentinel activities.

This is not the first time Coast Guard cutters deployed to the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean encountered Chinese naval vessels inside the U.S. EEZ/MARDEZ. Last August, Kimball and her sister Berthoff kept tabs on a surface action group– a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a general intelligence vessel, and an auxiliary vessel– transiting within 46 miles of the Aleutians.

Meanwhile, in the Maldives

Kimball’s sister, the Hawaii-based USCGC Midgett (WMSL 757) and crew, on a Westpac patrol under the tactical control of 7th Fleet, arrived in the Maldives last week, the first Coast Guard ship to visit the 1,200-island Indian Ocean country since USCGC Boutwell in 2009.

The class of large (418-foot/4,500-ton) frigate-sized cutters have done numerous Westpac cruises in the past few years. Since 2019, the cutters Bertholf (WMSL 750), Stratton (WMSL 752), Waesche (WMSL 751), and Munro (WMSL 755) have deployed to the Western Pacific.

Micronesia and the Solomans

Capping off a six-week extended patrol across Oceania, the 154-foot Webber/Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) arrived back at homeport in Guam on 19 September.

The 20-member crew, augmented by two Guam-based shoreside Coasties (a YN2 and an MK2) two Navy rates (an HS2 and HM3), and a Marine Korean linguist, conducted training, fisheries observations, community and key leader engagements, and a multilateral sail.

How about that blended blue and green crew? “The crew of the Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140) takes a moment for a photo in Cairns, Australia, Sept. 5, 2022. The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting a routine deployment in Oceania as part of Operation Blue Pacific, working alongside Allies, building maritime domain awareness, and sharing best practices with partner nation navies and coast guards. Op Blue Pacific is an overarching multi-mission U.S. Coast Guard endeavor promoting security, safety, sovereignty, and economic prosperity in Oceania while strengthening relationships with our regional partners.” (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Ray Blas)

They covered more than 8,000 nautical miles from Guam to Cairns, Queensland, Australia, and returned with several stops in Papua New Guinea and one in the Federated States of Micronesia. They also operated with HMS Spey, the first Royal Navy warship to be forward deployed to the Pacific since Hong Kong went back to China.

The two ships were also– and this is key– refused a port visit in the Solomans which is now under a treaty with China that allows PLAN ships to refuel in Honiara. The local government there later clarified that not all foreign military ships were off limits to their ports, as Australia and New Zealand will be exempt (both countries have significant economic ties with the island nation) but it is still a bad look. Of irony, Spey and Oliver Henry were conducting an Operation Island Chief mission in the region, policing illegal fishing of the kind China is noted for.

The Coast Guard currently has three new FRCs in Guam including Henry, Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139), and Frederick Hatch (1143), giving them options in the Westpac.

Bears growling

The Coast Guard’s 1,780-ton, 270-foot medium endurance cutters, the “Famous” or Bear-class are getting around in the news this week as two of them have just wrapped up lengthy patrols.

Built in the 1980s and akin to a patrol frigate/destroyer escort of old, these 13 cutters are downright elderly by modern surface warfare escort comparisons. While they are of the same vintage as the remaining Ticonderoga class cruisers (which the Navy is shedding as quickly as Congress will allow), their contemporaries in terms of “little boys” in naval service, the FFG-7 class, have long ago faded away.

In fact, the Bears have been living on lots of parts cannibalized from old frigates that were stripped away before being expended in SINKEXs– the class is the last American user of the MK75 OTO Melara 76mm gun system and its associated “boiled egg” MK92 GFCS components.

The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Northland conducts a live firing of the MK 75 76mm weapons system while underway, September 20, 2020, in the Atlantic Ocean. The cutter returned to its homeport of Portsmouth, Virginia, Wednesday after a 47-day patrol conducting counter-drug and migrant interdiction operations in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

One of their Cold War selling points was that they could be cheap ASW vessels in time of war, fitted with Light Airborne Multipurpose System III (LAMPS III) integration and the ability to carry a TACTAS towed passive sonar array and a set of Mk32 sub-busting torpedo tubes. It was also planned to fit them with CIWS and Harpoon somehow. Coupled with the cutter’s refueling-at-sea rig, SLQ-32 electronic support measures (the first such fit on a cutter), SRBOC countermeasures, and main battery, they promised a lot of interoperability with the Fleet if Red Storm Rising ever kicked off and were leaps and bounds ahead of the cutters they replaced– the old circa 1930s 327-foot Treasury class of WWII fame and converted fleet tugs.

Bear-class Coast Guard Cutter Escanaba (WMEC-907) leads the formation of International Maritime Forces at UNITAS LVIII in Callao, Peru, Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Well, the Bears never did get their ASW teeth, or Harpoon, or CIWS, but they do still have a Slick 32 and its 75mm gun and the ability to carry a lightly-armed (machine gun and .50 cal anti-material rifle) Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter– and do still practice Convoy Escort missions on occasion!

Class leader USCGC Bear (WMEC 901) returned to her homeport in Portsmouth Tuesday, after a 74-day patrol in the northern regions of the Atlantic Ocean.

During the deployment, Bear “sailed more than 10,000 nautical miles while simultaneously working in tandem with allied and partner nations as a part of the naval convoy in Operation Nanook, a signature military exercise coordinated by the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Included in the image is HMCS Margaret Brooke, Bear, French support ship  Rhone, Her Danish Majesty’s Ship (HDMS) frigate Triton, HMCS Goose Bay, and Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Leonard J. Cowley. Bear is in the top right corner. 

Operation Nanook 22 USCGC Bear (WMEC 901) with RCN French and Danish forces (RCN photo)

For approximately two weeks, American, Canadian, Danish and French forces navigated the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean performing multiple training evolutions that included search-and-rescue, close-quarters maneuvering, fleet steaming and gunnery exercises. Additionally, personnel from Maritime Security Response Team East, a specialized Coast Guard law enforcement unit, embedded with Bear to exercise their capabilities and assist with enhancing the training curriculums for other nations.

Bear also completed a living marine resource enforcement patrol for commercial fishing vessels as part of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, ensuring compliance with federal regulations while safeguarding natural resources.

Meanwhile, her sister, USCGC Legare (WMEC 912), just returned to her homeport Wednesday, after an 11-week counter-narcotics deployment that included key partner nation engagements and search and rescue operations throughout the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Legare patrolled more than 15,000 nautical miles in support of Joint Interagency Task Force South and the Seventh and Eleventh Coast Guard Districts, working in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and federal agents from throughout the U.S., the Royal Netherlands Navy, and partner nation coast guards in the Caribbean Sea and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

During the patrol, Legare successfully interdicted four smuggling vessels, including one specially designed low-profile craft, and seized more than 7,000 pounds of illicit narcotics, valued at approximately $67 million. The crew also offloaded approximately 24,700 pounds of cocaine and 3,892 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $475 million, at Base Miami Beach Sept. 15, 2022.

Crew members assigned to USCGC Legare (WMEC 912) interdict a low-profile vessel in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in July 2022. Legare’s crew returned to Portsmouth Wednesday, following an 11-week deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea in support of the Coast Guard’s Eleventh and Seventh Districts and Joint Interagency Task Force South. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Andrew Bogdan)

The Torch and the Torpedo Boat

For Liberty’s sake, enlist in the Navy!

Recruiting poster showing the Statue of Liberty beaming brightly over the distinctive bow of a circa 1900s torpedo boat. Issued by the City of Boston Committee on Public Safety. Boston: Smith & Porter Press, [1917]. LOC LC-USZC4-6264

Although some would bemoan the above image of an old torpedo boat running patrols in New York harbor in 1917 to be more artistic license than likely, it happened.

While the U.S. Navy commissioned 35 Torpedo Boats (TB) in 18 evolutionary classes between the 105-ton/140-foot USS Cushing (TB-1) in 1890 and the 165-ton/175-foot USS Wilkes (TB-35) in 1902, the overall poor showing of such types in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, the 1898 Spanish-American War the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and the Italian-Turkish War of 1911– coupled with the entry of larger and much more capable destroyer types– led to these slim green sea dragons to be retired by the Great War.

By 1917 when the U.S. entered the Great War, many of these obsolete boats had been scrapped or disposed of as targets already but a few newer models still swaying quietly in mothballs.

Note the difference between these five boats of the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla in Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Virginia, circa 1907. They are (l-r) BAGLEY (TB-24), BIDDLE (TB-26), BARNEY (TB-25), DUPONT (TB-7), PORTER (TB-6). Color-tinted postcard photo, published as a souvenir of the Jamestown Exposition by The American Colortype Company, New York. Courtesy of R.D. Jeska, 1984. NH 100041-KN

These unloved and forgotten vessels were dusted off and used for coastal patrol/harbor defense along the East Coast.

This included USS Bailey (TB-21) and USS Bagley (TB-24), who would head to the Big Apple.

Armed with a quartet of 6-pounder (57mm) rapid-fire guns and just two forward-firing 18-inch torpedo tubes, the 205-foot-long Bailey is a giant compared to the later WWII-era PT boats. Capable of only 30 knots with all four Seabury boilers lit and twin screws spinning at maximum revolutions, Bailey required a 59-man crew, versus the 14-man complement of a WWII mosquito boat. NHHC NH 397

Bagley, while smaller than Bailey, only mounted three 1-pounders (37mm guns) but carried a third torpedo tube to make up for it. She made 29.15 knots on her speed trials in 1901, a benchmark likely far away in 1918. NHHC NH 64056

These two boats, assigned to the Harbor Entrance Patrol of the 3d Naval District, operated from Brooklyn on a series of regular patrols and scouting ahead of the convoys leaving the harbor until they were demobilized in 1919 and subsequently discarded.

However, during this wartime service, they suffered the indignity of being stripped of their names in August 1918. Bailey was renamed simply Coast Torpedo Boat No. 8 while Bagley would become CTB10. Their historic names were needed for shiny new four-piper destroyers (DD-269 and DD-185) that would go on to make their own pages in history in the next World War.

Romanian Minesweeper Survives Detonation

According to a release from the Romanian Navy, the minesweeper Lt. Dimitrie Nicolescu (DM-29) sortied from Constanţa, last Thursday, 8 September, to respond to a flash from the diving support platform GSP Falcon of a floating mine some 25 miles NE from the port.

Minesweeper Lt. Dimitrie Nicolescu (DM-29) of the Romanian Navy. She is 200-feet oal with a displacement of 790 tons and has been in service since 1987, dating back to the Cold War. She is a variant of the old Soviet Project 266M Akvamarin “Natya” type design. Note the ubiquitous AK-230 30mm mounts. (Romanian Navy photo)

However, high winds and sea state (Beaufort 7, near gale) interfered with the recovery as it kept the MCM from launching her EOD team boat. One thing apparently led to another and the mine impacted against the hull overnight and produced a small hole. The Romanians report that Nicolescu is stable and suffered no casualties and the support tug Grozavul went to the minesweeper’s assistance to shepherd her back to port.

Since most of the 28 mines recovered/destroyed in the Western Black Sea since the start of the Russo-Ukraine war have been small riverbed/coastal types, this slight damage tracks.

Most of the devices encountered so far have been Soviet M1943 MyaM-type shallow water (inshore/river) contact mines of the type licensed to both Iran (SADAF-01 type) and Iraq (Al Mara type) back in the 1980s, typically seen with very fresh Ukrainian naval markings and contact horns covered. (Romanian Navy photo)

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022: Come Hell or Low Water

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Sept. 07, 2022: Come Hell or Low Water

U.S. Army Photo 111-CCV-113-CC43650. National Archives Identifier: 100310246

Above we see the Benewah-class self-propelled barracks ship USS Colleton (APB-36), some 55 years ago this month on 24 September 1967, moored in South Vietnam’s My Tho River. A collection of floating piers and docks sister the big, armored converted LST, to her small craft brood of the Mobile Riverine Force. Alongside her are at least 10 LCM-6 landing craft converted to Armored Troop Carriers (aka “Tango” boats), four CCB (aka “Charlie” boats) communication/control monitors, and a helicopter-pad equipped Aid Boat. Note the quad 40mm Bofors fore and aft on Colleton along with two 3″/50s flanking her helicopter pad as well as her location near shore.

Colleton had to be one of the most formidable vessels to even be labeled a “barracks ship” and these days would pull down the designation of an Expeditionary Sea Base, although she was much better armed.

About those APBs…

The Old Navy’s primary receiving ship/barracks ships, based at naval stations and shipyards to house blue jackets between homes, were usually just hulked warships, their topsides covered over by dormitories. 

U.S. Navy frigate, USS Constitution, photographed while serving as a receiving/barracks ship in Boston, circa 1905. Detroit Photographic Company, circa 1891-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

USS Chicago (IX-5) at Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, October 20, 1926. Chicago was originally commissioned in 1889 as a protected cruiser was classified as CA-14 in 1920 and became a barracks ship at Pearl Harbor after decommissioning in 1923. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-1010827

With the U.S. military swelling to a multi-million man force in WWII– much of it to be sent far overseas into often remote areas such as isolated Pacific islands with no infrastructure– the Navy quickly realized that barracks ships would be needed. Soon, starting in FY 1942, a class of 40 non-self-propelled Barracks Ships (APL hull numbers) were begun. Dubbed the APL-2 and APL-17 types, they were simple 2,000-ton, 260-foot, covered barges with a two-story barracks built on top.

APL-17, under tow to her next location, 8 October 1944. Able to accommodate 500 or so troops or sailors, these barracks barges had three generators for lights, cooling, and amenities but no engines and a 71-man crew made up primarily of Ship’s Servicemen– Barber (SSMB), Laundryman (SSML), Cobbler (SSMC), and Tailor (SSMT)– rates along with a few engineering rates and GMs. For defense, as they were to be forward deployed, was a battery of 20mm Oerlikons on the roof and some M1919 mounts to cover the water. 

Midway into the numbering sequence for the APLs, starting with APL-35 and running through APL-40, it was decided to create a run of larger, self-propelled barracks ships. These would become the Benewah-class authorized as APL-35 (soon morphed to APB-35) and 15 sisters soon following.

To avoid reinventing the wheel, the Benewahs were all 4,000-ton, 328-foot, LST-542-class landing ship tanks, or AKS-16 class general stores issue ships (which used the same hull and machinery). They were able to steam at 12 knots and had a decent self-defense capability including two twins and four single 40mm/60 Bofors as well as a mix of smaller cannon and machine gun mounts. Gone was the landing and beaching gear and added was a double-deck troop accommodation for 28 officers and 275 enlisted as well as galley and recreation facilities for those embarked as well as the 137-man crew.

For a time still termed APLs then “LST (Modified)” they eventually became APBs by the time they joined the Navy List.

Ten of the class were quickly converted to APBs post-commissioning while still at their builders including USS Wythe (APB-41) (ex-LST-575), Yavapai (APB-42)(ex LST-676), Yolo (APB-43)(ex LST-677), Presque Isle (APB-44)(ex LST-678), Accomac (APB-49)(ex LST-710), Cameron (APB-50)(ex LST-928), Blackford (APB-45)(ex AKS-16), Dorchester (APB-46)(ex AKS-17), Kingman (APB-47)(ex AKS-18), and Vanderburgh (APB-48)(ex AKS-19). These ships made it to the fleet first and some were sent into the thick of the action by 1944.

USS Yavapai (APB-42) at anchor off the coast of Okinawa in the summer of 1945. Note the magnificent view of a DUKW six-wheel amphibian in the foreground. Photo from the NARA US Army Air Force photo collection.

This left Benewah, Colleton, Marlboro (APB-38), Mercer (APB-39), and Nueces (APB-40) to be built as barracks ships from the keel up rather than converted.

USS Mercer (APB-39) and USS Marlboro (APB-38) under construction at Boston Navy Yard, 3 January 1945. Note the two-level superstructure running nearly the entire length of the ship with the pilot house onthe  top forward. The destroyer at the top is USS Babbitt (AG-102) and across the channel, there is probably a British battleship. NARA Identifier NA 38329801

However, this meant that the five-pack of fresh-built Benewahs, Colleton included, were only completed post-VJ-Day.

Speaking of which, Colleton, authorized, on 17 December 1943 as Barracks Ship (non-self-propelled) APL-36 and later reclassified to APB-36 on 8 August 1944, was laid down, on 9 June 1945 at Boston Naval Shipyard and “completed” in September 1945. As she wasn’t needed, she was never commissioned and was placed immediately in reserve at Boston, her bunks never slept in, an ensign never flown from her. She would slumber for 22 years, just in case.

She earned her name from the county and river in South Carolina, near the vital entrance to Port Royal.

Preliminary chart of Port Royal entrance. Beaufort, Chechessee, and Colleton Rivers, South Carolina From a trigonometrical survey under the direction of A. D. Bache, Superintendent of the survey of the coast of the United States. Triangulation by C. O. Boutelle, Assist. Hydrography by the parties under the command of Lieuts. Commdg. J. N. Maffit and C. M. Fauntleroy, U.S.N, Assists. Courtesy of the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division: G3912.P62 1862. U5 CW 389.2

Good Morning, Rat Sung Special Zone!

On 1 April 1966, Naval Forces, Vietnam, was established to control the Navy’s units in the Army’s II, III, and IV Corps Tactical Zones. This eventually included the Coastal Surveillance Force (Task Force 115), River Patrol Force (Task Force 116), and Riverine Assault Force (Task Force 117). The latter unit formed the naval component of the joint Army-Navy Mobile Riverine Force.

Patterned after the French naval assault divisions, or Dinassauts, which performed well in the Indochina War from 1946 to 1954, the MRF consisted of an Army element– 2d Brigade, 9th Infantry Division (augmented by the 3rd Brigade after mid-1968), and a Navy element– River Assault Squadrons 9 and 11 along with River Support Squadron 7– under COMUSMACV’s overall direction.

The “Old Reliables” of the 9th Infantry Division were reactivated on 1 February 1966 and arrived in Vietnam on 16 December 1966 from Fort Riley, Kansas, and would spend most of their time “in-country” with wet boots, motored around the Vietnamese river complex via the Navy.

Original Caption: 26 September 1967, My Tho River, Republic of Vietnam: “Soldiers from the 9th Infantry Division’s ‘Riverines’ assault a heavily wooded area. The Soldiers were brought to the beach head by an Armored Troop Carrier landing craft.” Note the CAR-15 (XM-177) in the hands of the platoon leader, the Marlboros and bug juice in the bands of their M1 helmets, and the general lack of shirts/blouses. U.S. Army photo 111-CCV-113-CC43676, NARA 100310250

As detailed in By Sea, Air, and Land » Chapter 3: The Years of Combat, 1965-1968 from The Navy Department Library:

Each 400-man assault squadron, divided further into two river assault divisions, marshaled a powerful fleet of five monitors. Each monitor was protected with armor and equipped with .50 caliber, 40-millimeter, and 20-millimeter gun mounts, two 40- millimeter grenade launchers, and an 81-millimeter mortar. Another two or three similarly armed and armored craft served as command and control boats. A total of 26 Armored Troop Carriers that mounted .50-caliber machine guns, rapid-fire grenade launchers, and 20-millimeter cannons transported the Army troops. Also installed on the former amphibious landing craft were helicopter landing platforms. A number of craft mounted flame throwers [dubbed “Zippo” boats] or water cannons [dubbed “Douche” boats] to destroy enemy bunkers. A modified armored troop carrier functioned as a refueler for the river force. Beginning in September 1967, to augment the firepower of these converted landing crafts, each squadron was provided with 8 to 16 newly designed Assault Support Patrol Boats for minesweeping and escort duties.

By the end of 1967, each river assault squadron contained 26 ATCs, 16 ASPBs, five Monitors, two CCBs, one Aid Boat, and one refueller (a modified LCM).

An Assault Support Patrol Boat (ASPB) of Task Force 117 moves slowly up the outboard side of an Armored Troop Carrier (ATC). The ATC is sweeping for Vietcong command detonated mines during a Mobile Riverine Force search and destroy mission. The boats are assigned to River Assault Flotilla One, 16 December 1967. USN 1132289

Army infantrymen of the Second Brigade, Ninth Infantry Division return to a U.S. Navy Armored Troop Carrier (ATC) of River Assault Flotilla One, Task Force 117, after conducting a reconnaissance in force mission in the Rung Sat Special Zone in October 1967. USN 1132292

A group of riverine craft consisting of ASPB and Armored ATCS makes a firing run on a suspected enemy position. The craft is part of Commander Task Force 117. K-74760

However, the MRF needed mother ships, and the first, USS Whitfield County (LST 1169), clocked in to support River Assault Squadron 9 at Vung Tau in January 1967. The utility of this put the Navy on a course that would bring its APBs out of mothballs and sent them  to Southeast Asia

Converted to provide a mobile operating base for river patrol squadrons and serve as a command ship in support of Amy infantry battalions, Colleton was finally commissioned on 28 January 1967, at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Colleton’s ultimate conversion included upgraded habitation amenities, a large amidship helicopter pad for supporting aircraft (primarily Army and Navy UH-1s), expanded 18-bed sick bay facilities, and some quickly installed electronics and commo gear. Her WWII-era guns, well-greased but never fired, were put back in service as threats from Viet Cong sappers and NVA PT boats were a real thing.

From the Mobile Riverine Force Association:

After a complete paint job (green Army olive drab), several hundred square feet of bar armor was fabricated to cover the bridge and operations area. This had to be constructed entirely by ship’s company from angle iron and ½-inch steel bars. The month of May [1967] also saw the installation of 8-50 caliber and 12 7.62mm machine guns to the armament of the ship. She also acquired three ammo pontoons to be used as a mooring place for the small boats of the River Assault Squadrons and as assembling points for troops about to be embarked in the Armored Troop Carriers (Tango’s).

She was soon joined by Benewah who had been laid up at Green Cove Springs, Florida since 1956, and the ship was recommissioned, on 26 February 1967 and sent to Vietnam.

USS Benewah (APB-35). In the Soi Rap River, the BENEWAH lies at anchor with her assault ships nesting alongside, 24 October 1967. K-41574

USS Colleton (APB-36) with a full dozen Armored Troop Carrier LCM-6 conversions– including one outfitted as an Aid Boat– alongside while in the Mekong Delta. L45-55.02.01

Mekong Delta, Republic of Vietnam. Soldiers of the joint U.S. Army-Navy mobile riverine force get a “hosing down” to remove Mekong Delta mud as they return to their floating home base, a self-propelled barracks ship, after completing a mission during Operation Coronado Nine. Photographed by PH1 L.R. Robinson, December 1967. 428-GX-K42765

“Mother Ship: the USS Colleton’s bow, quad 40mm gun mount, loaded and fully manned during the ship’s movements up and down the Delta. It was also partially manned from 6 PM to 6AM every night at anchor. Three different crews taking shifts. We slept in the gun mount when we were able. Most nights we were usually awake and firing, off and on, in support of Army infantry. Sleep was not an option then.”– Dennis Noward

As detailed in Riverine Warfare, The U.S. Navy’s Operations on Inland Waters:

By late May 1967, the five ships that formed the initial Mobile Riverine Base had arrived in the Delta. These include two self-propelled barracks ships, the USS Benewah (APB 35) and USS Colleton (APB 30); a landing craft repair ship, USS Askari (ARL 30); the barracks craft APL 26; and a logistics support LST assigned on a 2-month rotational basis by Commander Seventh Fleet.

These five ships provided repair and logistic support, including messing, berthing, and working spaces for the 1,900 embarked troops of the 2d Brigade, and the 1,600 Navy men then assigned to TF-117. Benewah served as the Mobile Riverine Force flagship. By mid-June, 68 boats had joined the force and others arrived every few days (the full complement of 180 river assault craft was reached in 1968).

Thus, beginning June 1967, it was possible to conduct six to eight search and destroy missions per month, each lasting 2 or 3 days. (A number were joint United States-South Vietnamese.) On each of eight separate operations during the year, more than 100 Viet Cong were killed.

Sisters Mercer (also laid up in Green Cove Springs) and Nueces (laid up in Orange, Texas since 1955) would soon follow by 1968.

USS NUECES (APB-40) commissioning ceremony at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, 3 May 1968. Note the 40mm Bofors mount. USN 1132322

PBR alongside USS Colleton APB-36, near Dong Tam, 1969

USS Colleton -APB-36 and her cluster of river boats. Mekong Delta-1969. Note, that the photo has been reversed.

PBRs alongside USS Colleton APB-36 Near Dong Tam 1969

The four barracks ships, augmented by a rotating force of LSTs (Caroline County, Kemper County, Vernon County, Washtenaw County, Windham County, Sedgwick County, and the aforementioned Whitfield County), and supported by the landing craft repair ships USS Askari (ARL-30) and Satyr (ARL 23) and a couple of yard tugs, would form the hard nucleus that the MRF would operate from throughout 1967 through 1969.

Notably, Colleton was the only one of her sisters outfitted as a pseudo-hospital ship. Arriving in the theater just days before the Tet Offensive, she managed 890 combat casualties from 29 January 1968 to May 1968 alone. Of these patients, 134 were admitted to the ship’s ward, and 411 evac’ed after stabilization.

Seaman Arthur Melling, the coxswain of Monitor 92-1, is loaded onto a “dust off” medevac Huey from an Aid Boat LCM after he was wounded. Helicopters could evacuate wounded MRF Sailors and Soldiers to medical care in a matter of minutes. Melling was evacuated to USS Colleton (APB 36) which had an operating room and medical facilities. Putting flight decks onto Armored Troop Carriers to turn them into Aid Boats was another example of adapting equipment to the demands of the battlefield. Official U.S. Navy photo (XFV-2530-B-6-68)

Then came the policy of Vietnamization, which aimed to reduce American involvement in the country by transferring all military assets and responsibilities to South Vietnam. With that, the MRF soon changed hands, and, with “the locals” taking over its tasks, the MRF faded away and its support ships went home.

The riverine craft of commander Task Force 117 is moored alongside the self-propelled barracks ship USS Colleton (APB-36) pending the ceremony in which the craft will be turned over to the Republic of Vietnam at Dong Tam. The photo was taken on June 14, 1969. K-74723

Armored Troop Carrier (ATC) with the current U.S. crewmen and the Vietnamese future crewmen aboard await the word to lower the U.S. Flag and raise The Republic of Vietnam Flag during ceremonies in which the Riverine task force 117 craft are to be turned over to the RVN at Dong Tam.The photoo was taken on June 14, 1969. K-74731

OG-107 clad Navy personnel of Commander, Task Force 117, stand in formation during ceremonies in which their riverine craft was turned over to the Republic of Vietnam Forces, in July 1969. Taken at Dong Tam, Republic of Vietnam. Note the insignia patch of River Assault Division 111, on the shoulder of the nearest man with the motto “Come Hell or Low Water” and the rocker “Mekong Marauders.” K-74726

The four barracks ships earned no less than a combined total of 27 campaign stars for Vietnam War service in addition to seven Combat Action Ribbons, a Presidential Unit Citation, seven Navy Unit Commendations, and one Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation. To this were added a host of RVN awards and decorations including multiple Gallantry Crosses and Civil Action Medals. Not bad for floating hotels.

Colleton transited back home, arriving at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for decommissioning in December 1969. Back in mothballs at Bremerton for a few years, she was struck from the NVR in 1973 when it became apparent that she would not have to return to Vietnam, and was sold for $172.226.62, to American Ship Dismantler’s Inc. of Portland, Oregon, for scrapping.

As for the 9th ID, they incurred 2,624 causalities in Vietnam and were brought home and inactivated in 1970 with the Vietnamization of the MRF, then reactivated in 1972 then served as a state-side equipment testing unit at Ft. Lewis, Washington until 1991. There are 10 Soldiers of the 9th ID or its component units in Vietnam still listed as missing in action, some vanished during MRF operations.
 
For more on the arrival and first year of the 9th ID in Vietnam, see George L. MacGarrigle’s Combat Operations: Taking the Offensive, October 1966–October 1967, The United States Army in Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1998), 14–15, 117. 

Epilogue

The U.S. Navy has only had a single USS Colleton on its list and as far as I can tell there is little in way of relics around from her life.

As noted by the MRF Assoc, “She was a good ship and will always be remembered by all who served and lived on her in Vietnam, Navy and Army alike.”

Of her sisters, they would prove to be extremely hard to kill indeed. The pair of APBs that arrived in Vietnam to support the MRF in 1968, Nueces and Mercer, once they left Southeast Asia, they only made it as far as Japan and are still there. Nueces is still in Yokosuka while Mercer is in Sasebo, providing berthing and messing assistance to U.S. Forces Japan. Of course, they long ago landed their guns and were officially decommissioned in 1970, redesignated APLs as they are no longer self-propelled.

APL-39, ex-Mercer, moored at SRF Det., Sasebo Japan, 13 December 2012. (By Bob Gregory, Dep Requirements & Special Programs Officer, COMPACFLT N43, via Navsource) and APL-40, ex-Nueces, moored pier side, at Ship Repair Facility Yokosuka, Japan, date unknown. US Navy photo.

Specs:

Displacement 2,189 t., 4,080 t.(fl)
Length 328 feet
Beam 50 feet
Draft 11′ 2″
Fuel Capacity: Diesel 2,975 Bbls
Propulsion: 
two General Motors 12-567A Diesel engines
double Falk Main Reduction Gears
five Diesel-drive 100Kw 120V/240V D.C. Ship’s Service Generators
two propellers, 1,800shp
twin rudders
Speed: 12 kts.
Complement: 
Officers 12
Enlisted 129
Berthing Capacity:
Officers 26
Enlisted 275
Armament (1945)
four single 40mm AA gun mounts
two twin 40mm AA gun mounts
twenty .50 and .30 cal machine guns


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Ah, the sound of CRRCickets in summer

Check out this great photo essay, shot in the Philippine Sea (Aug. 19, 2022), featuring Maritime Raiding Force Boat Company Marines of 2/5 with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conducting a boat launch aboard the 25,000-ton San Antonio-class amphibious assault dock USS New Orleans (LPD 18).

Official caption: “Boat companies launch from the well-deck to provide the landing force a ship-to-shore capability. The 31st MEU is operating aboard ships of the Tripoli Amphibious Ready Group in the U.S. 7th Fleet to enhance interoperability with Allies and Partners and serve as a ready response force to defend a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

15 CRRCs of a full boat company, carrying at least 90 Marines, trailed by a RHIB serving as a control boat. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Danny Gonzalez)

The craft are Enhanced Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft (CRRC, or just “Crick”) of the type made by Wing Inflatables of Arcata, California.

Wing’s five-chamber P4.7 series inflatable runs 15′ 5″-feet long, has a 6′ 5″-foot beam, and offers 38.32ft² of usable deck space on a 12×3-foot deck. Empty weight is 180-pounds not counting the 274-pound rollup hard deck insert and can accommodate a 65hp outboard and 10 passengers/2,768-pounds of payload. The whole thing folds up into a 27″x29″x56″ package or roughly the size of a curbside garbage can.

Each of the 7 Marine Expeditionary Units (a battalion landing team with a bunch of stuff bolted onto it and a harrier/helicopter airwing for support) has a bunch of different ways to get to the beach. These include of course the choppers, navy landing craft (LCU, LCAC, etc), and the Marines own amtrac swimming APCs. However, each one of these MAUs also has 18 (15 active and 3 spares) of these little rubber zodiac-style boats.

A little larger than a sectional couch and powered by an outboard (or two) these can motor out from a task force still some 20 miles out at sea and approach an enemy-held beach, port, or vessel with very little footprint. They are hard to spot by eyeball, radar, or other means, especially in a light chop state. It’s a wet ride for the Marines aboard and anyone who has ever ridden one through the surf doesn’t look forward to doing it a second time– especially on a contested beach.

For landings, a company of the battalion landing team is designated the “Boat Company” and they spend a couple weeks figuring these boats out. This includes sending as many as 36 of its force before deployment through a four-week coxswains school where they learn basic sea-nav, and what not to do with these temperamental crafts.

Meanwhile, a few other members of the Boat Coy head off to scout swimmer school where they learn the finer points of exiting a rubber raft on fins and doing lite frogman shit.

In the end, Cricks allow two-thirds of a 144-man company to be landed on a strip of beach or empty pier in three, five-boat waves. The latter third can be shipped in follow-on elements or landed by helicopter. This type of landing was done under OOTW conditions by Marines in Somalia in 1992.

Air transportable, Cricks can be slid out the rear ramp of MV-22s or parachuted from cargo planes such as the C-130 (and Navy C-2 CODs), can be launched from surface vessels ranging from Amphibious assault ships (shown) or smaller craft like patrol boats, LCS and frigates.

They can also be (and are) carried up from submerged submarines by divers for inflation on the surface.

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