Navy SEALs to get
BOOTHBAY, Maine - Navy SEALs are tough by
nature, but they take a beating from their patrol boats:
bruises, bumps and sore backs, even sprained ankles and
An all-composite version of the aluminum
Mark V patrol boat constructed
by luxury boat builder Hodgdon Yachts Inc. is
aimed at reducing the wear and tear on boat operators and
SEALs by absorbing the impact as the vessel crashes through
the waves at 50-plus knots.
The goal is to deliver up to 16 combat-ready Navy SEALS in
shape to carry out their missions and to reduce the boat
operators' neck, back and joint injuries.
"The idea is to build a boat out of the best carbon-Kevlar
composite that we can build to reduce those slamming
forces," said David Packhem Jr., president and chief
executive officer of Maine Marine Manufacturing LLC, a
military spinoff of Hodgdon Yachts.
The 82-foot research prototype unveiled Friday looks similar
to current patrol boats, but it has a new hull made from
advanced composite materials.
Though designed to reduce slamming forces, the prototype is
actually 50 percent stronger - and slightly lighter - than
the aluminum version. Packhem thinks even more weight can be
eliminated without sacrificing performance.
"This extraordinary boat is going to be of extraordinary
value to the Navy and to our SEALs," said U.S. Sen. Susan
Collins, R-Maine, who christened the vessel Friday with a
bottle of champagne.
The original Mark V, known in military parlance as the MK V
Special Operations Craft, was created in the mid-1990s to
get special operations forces, primarily SEAL combat
swimmers, quickly in and out of messy situations.
Powered by a pair of diesel engines, the vessel is propelled
to a top speed of about 60 mph by twin water jets.
The aluminum hull is stiff and lightweight, but the ocean's
force is transmitted to the boat's occupants in bone-jarring
Fighter jet pilots are subjected to forces up to 10 times
the pull of gravity, but the Mark V has produced forces
upward of 20 Gs slamming against waves, said Lt. Damon
Shearer, senior medical officer of Naval Special Warfare
Soon after the vessel went into service, the Navy began
getting reports of injuries.
Though it responded by installing shock-absorbing seats,
there continues to be a problem with back, neck and joint
injuries that occur over time, Shearer said in a phone
interview. Furthermore, SEALs are sometimes weary from the
beating by the time they arrive for their mission, he said.
Navy Capt. Evin H. Thompson, commander of Naval Special
Warfare Group 4 in Norfolk, Va., who attended the ceremony
in Maine, said he hopes the new vessel dubbed the Mark V.1
will build upon the lessons learned at sea with the original
"We've learned along the way about the power of the sea,"
Thompson said. "The sea can be cruel."
Hodgdon Yachts worked with the University of Maine's
Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center on the project.
Maine's congressional delegation secured $14 million through
a series of earmarks over several years.
The prototype developed for the Office of Naval Research and
the Special Operations Command was created using multiple
layers of carbon with a foam core and an outer layer of
Kevlar for additional strength, Packhem said.
Dubbed MAKO for the shark that frequents the Gulf of Maine,
the vessel will undergo shipbuilder testing this month in
Maine's coastal waters before traveling to Norfolk for
further evaluation by the Navy.
If it performs as expected, it could be deployed within two
to three years, Thompson said.