Tag Archives: USS Comstock (LSD-45)

Goodbye RIVRONs, hello MESF

The Navy announced recently they have “officially changed the name and mission of the Coastal Riverine squadrons to reflect their role amid a new era of great power competition; they are now known as the Maritime Expeditionary Security Force.”

The prerequisite moto video, tying the new units to the old Brown Water PBR gang of Southeast Asia (although the SWCC guys of SBT22 will most likely dispute ownership of this lineage, as they carried the dim candle of the small boat shop at Rodman for decades):

“As we maintain a connection to our legacy we must honor those warriors that come before us and learn from their heroism,” said RADM Joseph DiGuardo, commander NECC, “we must continuously evolve to meet the needs of the Navy and the Nation for Great Power Competition, crisis, and conflict. The change to Maritime Expeditionary Security Force clearly articulates the mission of our sailors to reinforce lethality in the blue water and dominate in the littorals.”

The MESF now consists of two groups; one in San Diego and one in Virginia Beach. The force includes two expeditionary security detachments in Guam and Bahrain, seven Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadrons, and 31 Maritime Expeditionary Security Companies.

The original three Coastal Riverine squadrons of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (RIVRON 1, 2, and 3) were all formed in 2006-07, modeled after the Marines Small Craft Company (SCCO) of 2D MAR Div– then the only specialized small boat company in the Marines– which had been disbanded the year prior although that forgotten unit of Devil Dogs in tiny boats had been bloodied and proved their mandate in the marshes and reservoirs around Haditha, fighting the kind of war that was familiar to Vietnam. Their Riverine Assault Craft, zodiacs, and Raider boats were handed over to the Navy, although Big Blue soon bought lots of new go-fasts.

Marines from Small Craft Company tether their Riverine Assult Crafts together during a break in training. Marines from Small Craft Company, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, demonstrated their capabilities to Paraguayan Marines in the Joint Training Exercise Unitas. The exercise was conducted in Asuncion, Paraguay. USMC Photo by LCPL Tyler J. Mielke. 29/09/1999

“People think it’s money or manpower problems, but no one knows for sure why they’re getting rid of us,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Vinciguerra, who had spent 14 years with the SCCO, on the occasion of the unit’s disbandment in Feb. 2005. “The capabilities we provided to the Marine Corps, Special Forces, and Navy SEALS in Iraq are too big to be gone for long. We’re leaving an avenue of approach open for the enemy now,” he said. “I think Small Craft Company will be back in a few years when people realize what we brought to the fight.”

Now, after a similar 14-year run, the Navy’s trio of RIVRONs have a name change, and, notably, are moving to more 80+ foot platforms such as the MKVI. Not a lot of “river” about that.

Oh well, at least SBT22 and NAVSCIATTS are still around, keeping that lamp tended for the next time.

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.