Special Operations Combatant Craft
The SOF Combatant Craft Systems program provides a short-range surface mobility platform for SOF insertion and exfiltration. The program supports the procurement of craft, trailers, prime movers, deployment packages, contractor logistics, and engineering support. The SOF Combatant Craft project funded the fabrication and testing of a high speed, variable freeboard for the insertion and extraction of SOF.
United States Special Operations Command is responsible for the safe and effective operation of maritime craft used by SOF Forces. In the surface application, these are planing hulls that range from 36 to 82 feet in length. Crew and other embarked SOF Personnel, in typical scenarios, are subjected to mission profiles involving at-sea periods of up to 500 miles and lasting as long as 24 hours. SOF Combatant Craft operate in harsh air (salt) and sea state conditions, to include up to SS-5. As such, they are subjected to the short term debilitating impact and the long-term injurious prospects associated with prolonged exposure to the effects of RMS.
SOF Combatant Craft are tasked to deliver SOF operators in support of the conduct of their mission. Once the mission is complete, the craft retrieves the operators for return to "base." In the simplest of terms, the combatant craft is a bus for other SOF operators. The physical and mental condition of those SOF operators, when the bus delivers them for mission execution, is of critical importance. This also applies to the supporting crewmen.
SOF Combatant Craft are becoming ever faster. Combined with combatant craft crewmen (NEC 5352) now being able to spend their entire career(s) at the Special Boat Units (SBUs), that has exacerbated significantly a historic medical problem: personnel injury from sustained Combatant Craft OPS. Higher-speed boats have greater accelerations that cause more/severer injuries than slower boats. Personnel can now spend a career with the SBUs; translates over the longer period into enduring more of those higher accelerations.
The Special Operations Forces (SOF) Combatant Craft Systems line item serves as the umbrella for all USSOCOM combatant craft programs. As of 2001 it incorporated the Naval Special Warfare Rigid Inflatable Boat (NSW RIB) and the Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) programs. It will also include the next generation craft replacement program for the Mark V Special Operations Craft.