The Mark V SOC (Special Operations Craft) primarily serves the United States Navy's Navy SEALs special forces group as a high-speed insertion/extraction vessel with the ability to carry up to 16 SEAL specialists along with its standard operating crew of five or six. Additionally, the craft can serve as a general patrol vessel in low engagement areas and as a launching platform for unmanned aerial vehicles. Built by Halter Marine, Incorporated, the initial Mk V boats were delivered beginning in 1995 with some 20 total craft accounted for. Full operational status was achieved by 1999.
After a fast development time, the first Mark V SOC boat were found to reveal several structural design issues. When operating in rough waters, the Mark V's aluminum hull was known to transmit much of the shock impact throughout the boat and (in some cases) onto the crew, resulting in various injuries. Additionally, the pilothouse structure was known to collapse if struck with the right amount of force from a marauding wave at full speed in rough waters (the Mark V could reach speeds nearing 50 knots). After several years of operation and modifications to the base Mark V, an improved Mark V was on the drawing boards in an attempt to address the rough water operation of the original craft altogether. The newest in the Mark V SOC line became the Mark V.1 (known unofficially as the "MAKO") and featured a composite carbon-fiber hull (as opposed to the aluminum type) along with other improvements in an effort to help protect the crew. As of this writing, the MAKO is in the testing phase with design undertaken by Maine Marine Manufacturing LLC.
When serving the Navy SEALs, the Mark V can carry up to four CRRCs (Combat Rubber Raiding Craft) complete with outboard motors including two motors held in reserve. A handy ramp at the stern makes for easy pick up of the CRRC's and SEAL team as the vessels can come right up and unto the Mark V. Self-defense is accounted for through at least five weapon mounts that can provide a field of active fire covering all 360 degrees of the vessel (along with any personal weapons deployed by the crew). Armament initially included single-mount heavy caliber and general purpose machine guns and automatic grenade launchers but the arsenal has since grown to include a station for the (man-portable) Stinger surface-to-air missile system, miniguns, chain guns, cannons and twin heavy machine gun mounts. It should be noted, however, that the Mark V series is not an ideal offensive weapons platform and is generally reserved for low-to-medium engagement threats - it remains primarily a high-speed insertion/extraction vessel with a secondary role of coastal patrol/interdiction.
Beyond its ample firepower and speed, the Mark V series of patrol boats features a sleek profile with angular shapes helping to provide some "stealth" functionality. Along with the powerful diesel engines, the Mark V can rely on two water jets for low-speed approaches, in effect reducing its wake signature significantly. Mark V's can be launched virtually from any forward-operating post that can offer ample storage space, supplies and maintenance facilities while deployment can be handled through transport aircraft (C-5 Galaxy), by land-based trucks via special transport trailers or applicable support/supply ships.
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