The U.S. Navy is building a new class of 48 Mk VI patrol boats for its coastal defense forces. The 26 meter (85 foot) craft have a top speed of over 70 kilometers an hour and a range of over a thousand kilometers (at a much slower cruising speed.) Armed with a 25mm remotely controlled autocannon and small arms, these ships cost about $6 million each. Five of the Mk VIs are under construction and the first of them will enter service in 2014. The Mk VI has a crew of about 25 and are small enough to be transported in the well decks of large amphibious ships.
Meanwhile the navy has built and sent to the Persian Gulf a smaller version of the Mk VI called the CCB (Coastal Command Boat) to experiment with tactics and techniques for the Mk VI. The CCB is similar in shape and layout to the Mk VI but is smaller (20 meters long and displacing 50 tons) and a little slower. It has the same armament and crew of the Mk VI. That means it’s equipped to handle small UAVs.
Both of these boats are used by the NECC (Navy Expeditionary Combat Command). This is the new ground combat force the navy formed in 2006, staffed by 40,000 sailors. NECC is capable of operating along the coast and up rivers, as well as further inland. NECC units served in Iraq and are ready to deploy anywhere else they are needed. The 1,200 sailors in the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams are particularly sought after, because of increased use of roadside bombs and booby traps by the enemy. NECC organized three Riverine Squadrons which served in Iraq. NECC basically consists of most of the combat support units the navy has traditionally put ashore, plus some coastal and river patrol units that have usually only been organized in wartime.
This new navy organization, and the strategy that goes with it, came as a surprise to many people, especially many of those in Congress who were asked to pay for it. It came as a surprise to many NECC sailors as well. The navy even called on the marines to provide infantry instructors for the few thousand sailors assigned to riverine (armed patrol boat) units. The navy already had infantry training courses for Seabees (naval construction personnel) and members of EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) teams. Now all that was combined in the Expeditionary Combat Skills (ECS) course, which is conducted at a base in Mississippi.