Naval News covered the decommissioning of the Mark VI Patrol Boats here.
Each Mark VI Patrol Boat is armed with one or two Mark 38 25mm autocannons and a combination of non-stabilized pintle-mounted crew-served .50cal M2HB heavy machine guns, Mark 19 40mm automatic grenade launchers, M240 7.62mm medium machine guns, or 7.62mm gatling guns. Also included in the Mark VI’s armament suite are two Mark 50 Sea Protectors stabilized Remote Weapons Station (RWS) mounts that can be found on the roof of the cabin, one facing forward and one facing aft, as shown in the photo below. The Mark 50 RWS allows the boat gunners to sit and use a console monitor and joystick to fire from inside the cabin, hidden, protected, and not exposed to the outside elements and to any potential enemy fire.
Mark 50 Sea Protector Remote Weapon Station Background
Kongsberg released a statement stating that the U.S. Navy acquired the Mark 50 Sea Protector in April 2013.
“Mark 50 Sea Protector Remote Weapons Station:
Sea Protector is a lightweight, fully stabilized, remotely-controlled high-precision weapon station for small caliber weapons and missiles. It provides surveillance, detection, tracking and prosecution of various threats. The system will automatically recognize the weapon mounted and utilize the default ammunition characteristics for that particular weapon.
Specifications (excluding weapons and ammo):
Weight: 135 kg (297 lbs)
Height: 749 mm
Operating temperature: -40 to +65 °C
Storage temperature: -51 to +71 °C
Maximum Azimuth Slew Rate >100°/s
Maximum Elevation Slew Rate >50°/s
Range of Traverse, Azimuth Continuous 360°
Range of Elevation -20° to +60°
Sensor package (standard version):
Color Day Camera (VIM)
Infra-Red Camera (TIM)
Laser Range Finder (LRF)
Clean Sensor System (CSS)
Mountable weapons and calibers:
Browning M2HB 12.7mm / caliber .50 heavy machine gun
FN MAG M240 7.62 mm machine gun
FN M249 5.56 mm light machine gun
Mk-19 40mm automatic grenade launcher AGL
Mk-47 Striker 40mm automatic grenade launcher AGL
Heckler & Koch HK GMG 40mm grenade launcher
FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile”
The Fate of the Weapon
The U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) replied to a Naval News inquiry on March 17, 2023. Naval News asked about the status of the Mark 50s due to the decommissioning of the Mark VI Patrol Boats, how many Mark 50s were acquired, and if the Sea Protector will be transferred to Ukraine or sold as Foreign Military Sales (FMS), or placed into warehouse storage for future use, or sent to the scrap heap. Naval News also asked if the 40-foot Patrol Boat (40PB) will receive the Mark 50.
“MK50 is no longer in service; it went out of service with the MKVI Patrol Boat. The Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) determines the final configuration for the 40-foot patrol boats.”
Naval News contacted the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Information Department (CHINFO) on March 29, 2023 to ask if NECC will mount the Mark 50 Sea Protector on the new 40-foot Patrol Boats. NECC replied on March 30, 2023 with the following statement:
“Navy Expeditionary Combat Command is not using the Mark 50 RWS on the 40-foot patrol boats. The 40-PB platform was designed to support such a system, but NECC’s final configuration did not incorporate it.”
Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Spokesperson
Naval News Comments
NAVSEA did not disclose where the Mark VIs’ removed Mark 50s will end up and Naval News sent a couple of follow-up emails which NAVSEA did not reply to. Thus, it remains unclear on if the Mark 50s will ever see use on other U.S. Navy boats and/or ships but it does still remain in U.S. Coast Guard usage. “Their lightweight `Protector RS4 Naval’ is the basis of the Mk50 remote .50 cal. The [U.S.] Coast Guard has four 87-foot patrol boats used for SSBN force protection that are equipped with these and we expect to have two on each of the Offshore Patrol Cutters,” wrote Chuck Hill in his Coast Guard Blog on May 22, 2021. (The Mark 50 is also used by NATO navies. “Several versions of Protector have been developed with more than 15,000 units sold around the world in service with more than a dozen countries,” posted Seaforces.org). Since the U.S. Coast Guard uses weapons acquired from the U.S. Navy, it is possible that the Mark VIs’ removed Mark 50s and their associated equipment will be stored for future use, but one can only speculate.
From a tactical standpoint, not having a remote weapons station that allows the patrol boat’s gunner(s) to fire from under shelter and cover seems illogical until one notices that the U.S. Navy is divesting itself of these small patrol crafts because the Navy doesn’t see them as beneficial in a peer nation conflict where large warships and long-range anti-ship missiles come into play. This has been a repeated statement and opinion with some top U.S. Navy admirals and a U.S. Marine Corp general for a few years—mentioned during naval conferences, webinars, and expositions. Respectively, the U.S. Navy’s inventory of small Patrol Coastals and Mark VI Patrol Boats are aging and are being retired, most have been in service with the U.S. Navy for around three decades, and most will be transferred to foreign navies.
The U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) Fast Response Cutter (FRC) will assume the role of the decommissioning U.S. Navy Patrol Coastals and Mark VIs. The USCG FRCs may not be as fast as the Mark VI’s 40+ knot speeds, but they’re similarly armed (one 25mm Mark 38 autocannon at the bow and four non-stabilized pintle-mounted .50cal M2HBs although some in the Persian Gulf may receive a Mark 19 40mm automatic grenade launcher in place of one .50cal). Furthermore, the FRCs are considered United States’ warships (USS designation) with assigned crews and are not considered patrol boats. The FRCs do not have the Mark 50 Sea Protector RWS on them.