Tag Archives: VBSS

Just frogmen doing frogmen stuff

140121-N-KB563-148 CORONADO, Calif. (Jan. 21, 2014) Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDs) students participate in Surf Passage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. Surf Passage is one of many physically demanding evolutions that are a part of the first phase of SEAL training. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Russell/Released)

In two separate incidents within the same week, quiet groups of maritime commandos were out getting it done.

From the U.S. Department of Defense:

Statement by Jonathan Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs:

“U.S. forces conducted a hostage rescue operation during the early hours of 31 October in Northern Nigeria to recover an American citizen held hostage by a group of armed men. This American citizen is safe and is now in the care of the U.S. Department of State. No U.S military personnel were injured during the operation.

We appreciate the support of our international partners in conducting this operation.

The United States will continue to protect our people and our interests anywhere in the world.”

Word is the SEAL unit parachuted in from CV-22s, supported by a circling P-8A for comms and surveillance and an AC-130 gunship on standby if things went pear-shaped, then scratched six of seven kidnappers in short order.

One counterterrorism source told ABC News, “They were all dead before they knew what happened.”

Meanwhile, in the UK…

The SBS, the seagoing and much more low-profile nautical companion to the SAS, stormed the Greek-owned Liberian-flagged crude oil tanker Nave Andromeda off the Isle of Wight after seven Nigerian stowaways popped up and started threatening the merchant vessel’s 22-man crew, who retreated to a fortified compartment.

Ending a 10-hour standoff, 16 SBS operators boarded the ship, with some fast-roping from two Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and the others rappelling up the side from a rigid inflatable boat under the watchful eye of snipers in a Wildcat helicopter and the Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond. Clearance divers were also on hand if there were EOD needs. 

The entire ship was secured in just seven minutes and all stowaways were accounted for. 

It was not the first time in recent memory that SBS had to get to work in home waters, having boarded an Italian cargo ship, Grande Tema, in the Thames Estuary in 2018 after it had been hijacked by four Nigerian nationals.

The special Navy Seal gun you never hear about

For the past half-decade the U.S. Naval Special Warfare community has quietly used a device unique to its service– the Battelle Plummet Gun– and its half-Batman, half-Star Wars, and all-cool.

The problem

While after the recent activities in the Global War on Terror in which we see Navy Seals roping out of choppers and moving around on land a lot, they are actually first and foremost combat swimmers. These fighting frogmen, who evolved from the old Underwater Demolition Teams of World War II and Korea, are tasked with taking over suspect ships at sea, sinking the bad guy’s ships in port, and seizing offshore islands and structures such as oil platforms.

Commonly termed Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations, its these actions from small boats against platforms and vessels at sea that sometimes put these special operators behind the proverbial 8-ball as the bad guys often don’t leave a ladder down to allow the frogmen easy access.

U.S. Navy SEALs board a ship from a Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat as they conduct a joint Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) exercise alongside U.S. Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), during composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) in the Atlantic Ocean, July 20, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis/26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)

U.S. Navy SEALs board a ship from a Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat as they conduct a joint Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) exercise alongside U.S. Marines assigned to Force Reconnaissance Platoon, Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), during composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) in the Atlantic Ocean, July 20, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis/26th MEU Combat Camera/Released)

This means special devices such as a backpack-sized magnetic ship-climbing device that would “drive” up the side of a ship’s steel hull to the top, where an operator would anchor it and drop a rope ladder to the other team members below.

NSW ship climbing device at the U.S. Navy Seal/UDT Museum, Image by Chris Eger

NSW ship climbing device at the U.S. Navy Seal/UDT Museum, Image by Chris Eger

However, these are big and bulky– not to mention noisy and complicated to employ.

What would be ideal would be a grappling hook gun like the one Luke Skywalker used to escape the Stormtroopers on the Death Star with Leia in tow, or that Batman used repeatedly. Hey, about that…

Meet the 25 pound Battelle Plummet Gun, and yes, it is as big as the M60 shown next to it for scale. Image via Chris Eger

Meet the 25 pound Battelle Plummet Gun, and yes, it is as big as the M60 shown next to it for scale. Image via Chris Eger

So suffice it to say, this is one piece of kit you aren’t going to add to your turn out bag just yet.

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

USCG VDEL Training

HOUSTON – Members of Marine Safety Unit Port Arthur and Air Station Houston perform vertical delivery training at the Naval Reserve Fleet in Houston on the motor vessel Cape Taylor, Jan. 24, 2012.

This is the first time MSU Port Arthur has conducted VDEL training in almost seven years. VDEL training allows Coast Guard law enforcement teams to board commercial vessels underway from a helicopter. VDEL is not the only option for boarding teams to get aboard underway vessels, but it does provide another avenue should sea conditions present a problem to the safety of the Coast Guard boarding team.

–Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.