This High-Speed Special Operations Boat Used By Navy SEALs Can Now Be Yours

The boat's weapons and other specialized gear have gotten removed, but you will get a microwave as part of the deal.

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If you're looking to stand out at the local yacht club, rescue your friends from pirates, or just be prepared to launch a raid on a small island somewhere, you might be interested in buying this ex-U.S. Navy Mk V Special Operations Craft, or SOC. VT Halter Marine built these high-speed waterjet-propelled boats in the late 1990s for the Navy's elite Special Boat Teams, who work closely with the SEALs, but the service has since replaced them with improved Combatant Craft Mediums, or CCMs.

The General Services Administration (GSA) is currently auctioning off this Mk V, which is presently sitting at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC Panama City), in Florida. The current bid is just $52,100 for the 82-foot long aluminum-hulled boat, which originally cost the Navy millions of dollars to buy, though this offer does not yet meet an unspecified reserve price for a final sale.

The boat's two MTU 12V396 TE94 diesel engines and its pair of Kamewa 50-511 waterjets "are reported to be operational; however, this is not a guarantee," according to the GSA listing. The auction listing does note that this Mk V went through a routine maintenance availability in October 2017, which is relatively recent.

This propulsion system is the core of the Mk V and gives it a serious top speed in excess of 50 knots, or more than 57 miles per hour, and a range of around 250 miles. To go along with performance, which can result in the boat slapping violently up and down on top of the waves at high speed, the SOC has shock-mitigating seats in its main cabin. These are also part of the package GSA is offering.

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A view of one of the Mk V's two MTU 12V396 TE94s.

In addition, the buyer will get the boat's Furuno navigation system, which includes a surface search radar, GPS, and a depth sounder, as well as a VHF radio and a Northern Lights PSL 1515 16 kilowatt generator. GSA is throwing in the boat's microwave, too. You can see the full list of what the package includes below.

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You will have to deal with a dent in the starboard side of the bow and the soft canopy that covers part of the cabin. Things like weapon mounts, and weapons to go on them, or any of the specialized sensors, communications, and data sharing equipment the boat once had are also, and not surprisingly, missing from the deal entirely. But any buyer still needs to submit an End User Certificate to actually buy the boat, which retains a distinctly military character.

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A US Navy Mk V SOC at speed.

The Navy hired VT Halter Marine to design the Mk V in 1994, with the goal of replacing supplementing and supplanting a variety of earlier special operations watercraft that it had acquired in the decades following the Vietnam War. The Mississippi-headquartered shipbuilder has constructed a number of these earlier boats itself, including the smaller kevlar-hulled Mk Mod 2 High Speed Assault Craft.

VT Halter Marine also worked together with United States Marine, Inc. (USMI) on many of these projects and two companies collaborated on the development of the Mk V, which occurred at a very accelerated pace. The Navy received the first SOC in September 1995, 18 months after issuing the original contract. The service eventually bought 20 Mk Vs with an average unit cost of around $3.7 million.

The Mk Vs had a standard crew of six individuals and space to accommodate a typical complement of 16 SEALs. The boat has a relatively low profile when cruising at lower speeds, which made it a valuable tool for sneaking SEALs close to shore in low-to-medium threat environments and recovering them after their mission. 

"The MK V SOC is fundamentally a single sortie system with a 24-hour turn-around time. The typical MK V SOC mission duration is 12 hours," according to one 2008 U.S. Special Operations Command handbook. "An MK V SOC detachment consists of two craft and support equipment and is deployable on two USAF C-5 aircraft into the gaining theater within 48 hours of notification."

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Personnel unload an Mk V SOC from a US Air Force C-5 cargo plane.

A ramp at the back could launch rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIB), jet skis, or even a Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV) mini-submarine, allowing the boat to remain further from shore during insertions and extractions, if necessary. This also meant that the Mk V could conduct more dynamic extractions, with SEALs in a RHIB or other craft driving right up onto the boat's rear deck as it speeds away from the target area. With five weapons mounts for 7.62mm and .50 caliber machine guns and 40mm automatic grenade launchers, and a standing position for an individual armed with an FIM-92 Stinger shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, it could provide its own defensive firepower during either insertions or extractions, too.

The Mk V also offered a relatively spacious main cabin and rear deck area, allowing for the installation of additional communications and other gear so it could act as a small command and control platform. There was also enough space for a launch and recovery system for a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle, which gave personnel another means of monitoring situations, providing overwatch, and just gaining additional situational awareness during operations.

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Naval special operators launch a Scan Eagle drone from a Mk V SOC.

The boat's performance and other features made it a valuable tool for conducting boarding operations, such as assaults on ships that terrorists or pirates had seized control of, too. Its high speed similarly meant that it could chase down opponents, such as drug smugglers, in their own speed boats, if necessary.

There is limited information about the actual operational activities of the Mk Vs. They did help insert SEAL teams to seize control of offshore oil terminals in the open stages of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. At least four Mk Vs from Special Boat Team 20 (SBT-20), among other boats, took part in the operation, according to The New York Times

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A US Navy RHIB sits off the Mina Al Bakar Oil Terminal in Iraq during the open phases of the U.S.-led invasion of that country in March 2003. Mk Vs also reportedly took part in this assault.

In 2010, in a much different kind of operation, one of SBT-20's Mk Vs helped in the rescue of individuals who had ended up in the Delaware River after the World War II-era DUKW "Duck" amphibious truck they'd been riding in as part of a pleasure tour collided with a barge and sank. "Duck tours" saw a surge in popularity in the early 2000s and various companies continue to operate them in the United States and around the world, despite a number of high-profile accidents.

Two years earlier, Maine Marine Manufacturing, a subsidiary of Hodgdon Yachts, in cooperation with the University of Maine's Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center, had launched an improved derivative of the Mk V with a composite material hull. The Office of Naval Research had funded the development of this prototype, known variously as the Mk V.1 or Mako, with the main goal of finding ways to reduce the craft's violent movements at high speeds. 

As noted earlier, this had required the installation of shock-mitigating seats in the Mk Vs, but the boats were still notorious for injuring their crews, especially on longer duration operations. The new boat also offered an opportunity to experiment with advanced manufacturing processes for composite boat hulls and how those materials factored into hullform design and final performance.

This effort seems to have helped contribute to a program to find a composite-hulled and otherwise improved successor to the Mk V, which eventually became known as the Combatant Craft Medium (CCM). The Navy subsequently held a competition for new craft and chose a design from Oregon Iron Works over a submission from VT Halter Marine. 

Oregon Iron Works has since become known as Vigor Works. As of 2018, the Navy had fielded 17 CCMs out of a total of 30 that it plans to buy. The Navy officially retired the Mk V in 2013, according to Jane's Navy International

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One of the US Navy's new CCMs.

The U.S. military has now been offering the Mk V to allies and partners through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. In 2018, Jane's 360 reported that Greece would receive four of them. There have also been limited direct foreign sales of the design overseas over the years, including to Kuwait in 2009. Four years later, the U.S. government approved the potential sale of Mk Vs to Saudi Arabia.

There's now at least this one up for sale to the highest bidder through the GSA and more might appear at auction in the future if the Navy can't find homes for them itself. The one on offer now could just as easily continue life in a more specialized capacity, going to an organization with a need for a high-speed watercraft, including law enforcement agencies, emergency management services, or a public or private wildlife conservation organization, such a state fish and wildlife service, or even Greenpeace. The Mk V's design offers significant space to convert it into a patrol boat, search and rescue platform, or even a small pleasure craft.

If you're interested in potentially buying a high-performance boat that you can turn into a small luxury yacht and still have the ability to launch an assault on a nearby beach, you have until Apr. 29, 2019, to place your own bid.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com