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.
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.