The Navy's coastal command boat, seen zipping around Manama harbor in Bahrain, can hit speeds well over 30 knots. It is similar in form and features to the larger Mark VI patrol boats being built for the Navy. (Christopher P. Cavas/Staff)
MANAMA, BAHRAIN — It’s small, fast, heavily armed, networked and one of a kind. But the new coastal command boat just starting to operate in this region is giving sailors in the Persian Gulf a taste of the swift and bad-ass boats coming to the brown-water Navy.
“There are lots of concepts we’re trying to prove out here,” said Capt. Joseph DiGuardo, commodore of Task Force 56, whose job is to assess the armored boat’s uses for explosive ordnance disposal, Seabees and more.
The unnamed craft — numbered 65PB1101 — arrived here aboard a cargo ship in February, shipped from San Diego. The 65-foot, 50-ton CCB was built by Bremerton, Wash.-based SAFE Boats International.
The craft is similar in form and features to the larger Mark VI patrol boats being built by SAFE Boats. The first of six Mark VIs is scheduled for delivery in the early fall.
Until the Mark VIs get here, CTF 56 will use the CCB to prove new operating concepts.
The craft, steered by a joystick and able to top 35 knots, got a thumbs-up from crew members on a recent trip.
“It’s fun to drive,” Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Stout said with a smile as he whipped the boat around Manama harbor.
The craft is a major step up from the Navy’s riverine command boats operating in the Persian Gulf.
“It has the legs and endurance to get us out into some of the blue-water areas,” DiGuardo said March 28.
The craft carries a crew of 10 to enable port-and-starboard watches of five sailors with a boat captain in command — the same setup used on the RCBs.
Seats on heavy-duty shock mountings are fitted for 13 SEALs in the main compartment, each with laptop connections. Video screens abound in the vessel’s interior.
Sound-deadening curtains separate the berthing area from the galley and an electronics space, and noise-reducing floor mats reduce machinery and water noise. A galley is fitted, along with a head and shower and five racks for crew rest.
The CCB features an armored citadel enclosing the propulsion plant and fuel tanks.
Numerous automatic and crew-served weapons are fitted topside, up to .50-caliber machine guns.
Standoff weapons like Griffin and Spike missiles are to be tested on the vessel, DiGuardo said. When such weapons are mounted, a qualified tactical action officer will be aboard.
Cradles on the fantail and a small handling crane were installed in Bahrain to handle two 800-pound mine-detection vehicles, and the vessel is intended to function as a platform for a variety of unmanned vehicles, including Puma UAVs.
Small rubber rafts can be launched off the step-down stern, and divers have easy access off the fantail or on either side amidships.
CTF 56 has installed the CCB on its own dock in Bahrain, and plans to operate the vessel in a variety of scenarios around the Gulf region, occasionally transporting it even farther afield.
Ultimately, the CCB is to be returned to the U.S. after the Mark VIs arrive, according to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.
The 85-foot Mark VIs will be larger and, with two Mark 38 stabilized 25mm machine gun mounts, more heavily armed, designed to engage with hostile fast attack craft. After the first boat is delivered this year, three more are to follow in fiscal 2015 and two more in 2016.