In a year’s time, progress has been made in all programs ranging from Combat Crafts to mini submersibles to Unmanned Underwater Vehicles as USSOCOM gears towards peer nation challenges. Naval News presents a summary of the NSW programs discussed at Virtual SOFIC 2021.
PEO Maritime presented their maritime programs status report at the Virtual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (vSOFIC 2021), held virtually in mid-May 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic just like vSOFIC 2020.
Captain Randy Slaff, United States Navy (USN), took over the reins of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Program Executive Officer (PEO) Maritime in August 2020 from Captain Kate Dolloff. Captain Slaff updated the attendees on USSOCOM’s naval assets of small boats, clandestine submersibles, Precision Strike Munitions and remote guns, and SEAL diver and swimmer gear.
The SOCOM small boats and mini submersibles are operated by U.S. Naval Warfare Special Boat Teams to clandestinely deliver Special Forces anywhere in the world in medium to high threat (combat) environments.
Combat Craft Medium (CCM)
Captain Slaff stated that all initial 30 contracted Combat Craft Medium (CCM) special operations boats have been delivered and one more CCM was awarded post-contract for a total of 31 CCMs; the one extra CCM will be ready in FY2022.
The SOCOM 2020 Fact Book states “The Combatant Craft Medium, operated by Special Boat Teams, is a reconfigurable multi-mission craft with a primary mission of SOF insertion, extraction, and fire support in medium-to-high threat environments. It can also support maritime interdiction and visit, board, search, and seizure operations; maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance; and counter-terrorism operations.”
Vigor’s website provides the following specifications:
Length (Hull) 60’7” (18.47m)
Beam (Overall) 13’2” (4.01m)
Draft 3’5” (1.04m)
Full Load Displacement 59,600 lbs (29.8T)
Engines (2) MTU 8V2000 M94, 1250HP each
Top Speed 52 knots
Cruise Speed 40 knots
Range (Cruise) 4′ combined seas 600 N. MI
According to Captain Slaff, the CCM is described as the workhorse of the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) community. “Additional priorities for the CCM Program include interoperability and lethality,” said Captain Slaff, such as the integration of stabilized weapons systems and Precision Strike Munitions being developed by PEO SOF Warrior.
“We’re working on a universal launch and recovery system for future payloads.”USSOCOM Program Executive Officer Maritime, Captain Slaff.
Presentation slide photos show a 6×6 armored cab Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) and a silver-colored commercial trailer with a mounted CCM in the surf. Another photo shows the rear of the CCM with two metal pedestal mounts for machine guns on the port and starboard. CCFLIR2, the white flat saucer-shaped FLIR turret, will be fitted to these crafts to replace the obsolete CCFLIR1 “dark gray ball” on the same roof pedestal mount (see below for more details).
Combat Craft Heavy (CCH, or Sealion III)
Often considered more secretive and Classified than the CCM and Combat Craft Assault (CCA), the three Combat Craft Heavy (CCH), or known as Sealion III for (Sea Air Land Insertion, Observation and Neutralization) are also built by Vigor, USA, but no specifications are shown on the Vigor CCH website. The three CCHs are meant for long-range insertion and extraction in medium-to-high-threat environments.
As of SOFIC 2021 in mid-May, two of three CCHs have been fielded, meaning there must be Operators onboard even though all three CCHs have been delivered. According to USSOCOM, “The original procurement cost for Sealion III in 2017 was approximately $15 million.”
“These are platforms [CCA, CCM, and CCH] that are fielded; they’re out there; they’re in use, they’re great crafts and CCH is no exception. We’ve got all three [CCHs] built. The last one has yet to be delivered to the Operator as she undergoes some backfit on Engineering Change Proposals (ECPs); however, that transfer is imminent and will happen in the coming months.”USSOCOM Program Executive Officer Maritime, Captain Slaff.
There is a fourth CCH being built (with the same ECPs as CCH Number Three) to replace CCH Number One so the total number of USSOCOM NSW CCHs will still remain at three.
“The engineering changes for Sealion III [CCH Number Three] are minor and will be made to the hull and mechanical systems prior to delivery. The changes will improve the overall characteristics of the craft and do not represent significant performance enhancements.
“Sealion I and II [versions] were originally technology demonstrators. Sealion III [version] was purposely built to higher standards for operational use and reliability. Sealion III incorporates lessons learned from maintaining and operating Sealion I and II.”
“Sealion IV is the lifecycle replacement for Sealion I, meaning Sealion I will be retired when Sealion IV is fielded. Lessons learned from building Sealion III [with the engineering changes] will be incorporated in the final design of Sealion IV.”U.S. Navy Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, a U.S. Special Operations Command spokesman
Combat Craft Assault (CCA)
PEO Maritime said that the Combat Craft Assault (CCA) is built by USMI down at the Gulf Coast and all 32 craft have been fielded and are being sustained. “The production line is still hot as we replace the initial ones with new craft right off the assembly line,” said Captain Slaff.
CCAs have medium range for medium-to-high-threat environments and are smaller (20 feet shorter than the CCM), more agile, and easier to transport than the CCM. Unlike the CCM, the CCAs can be airdropped via parachute by a C-17.
Captain Slaff said that Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) has all 24 out of 24 craft fielded, operational, and are being sustained.
The SOC-R boat can fit inside a C-130 or larger cargo aircraft, or be slung under a MH-47 Special Forces helicopter. SOC-Rs have a crew of four and can carry eight SEAL passengers (or 700 lbs/317 kgs of cargo) at speeds of 40 knots with a range of 125 nautical miles and a draft of two feet (0.6 meters). They have five weapons mounts for 360-degree coverage provided by various mixes of machine guns, gatling guns, and grenade launchers, and armor protection up to 7.62mm caliber for the engines, helmsman, and gunners. The V-hull allows it to skate across the water’s surface. The boats have no protrusions such as propellers or rudders to hang up on submerged trees, roots, rocks, and debris and have very tight turning radiuses, perfect for narrow waterway maneuvering.