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Welcome - Worldwide directory of special forces and government agencies
Your Online Source for info on Special Warfare and counter-terrorism Units!


10th Combat Weather Squadron

160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment

Agrupacion De Fuerzas Especiales Urbanas

Escuadron de Apoyo Comando, or EAC

Grupo De Operacoes Especiais ( GOE )

US Army Pathfinder Units

Brazilian Army's 1st Special Forces Battalion

U.S.A.F. Combat Control

Comando de Missiones Especiales

Tonelero Special Operations Battalion COMANF

Comando Tropas Especiales

Special Operations Weather Teams ( SOWT )

Delta Force


Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team

Brigada Halcon

Intelligence Support Activity ( ISA )

Joint Communication Unit ( JCU )

Joint Special Operations Command JSOC

Canada's Joint Task Force-Two

The Lanceros

LRSU Long Range Surveillance Units

Naval Combat Demolitions Units

US Navy Reserve SpecWar

U.S.A.F. Pararescue

Army Rangers

United States Marine Corps

Special Activities Staff

Special Boat Teams

The US Navy SEALs

Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR)



Underwater Demolitions Teams

Special Operations Command

Special Operations Command 2

US Air Force Special Operations


Maritime Special Purpose Force

USMC Radio Recon

Force F " Zorros "

Special Boat Teams

While the Navy SEALs may enjoy the limelight of Naval Special Warfare, they are not the US Navy's only special warfare unit. One of the other NAVSPECWAR groups is the Special Boat Teams. The SBT's are tasked with patrolling the littoral (near shore and inter-coastal waterways) environment and the insertion, support, and extraction of special units. The SBT are equipped with small to medium boats that can perform a wide variety of tasks in environments ranging from the open sea to small twisty rivers.

During the early part of the Vietnam War the US Navy discovered that there was a serious lack of fighting ability close to shorelines or withing the twisting and shallow rivers that crossed the Vietnam countryside. A crash program to create vessels and units that were capable of operating in the littoral environment was started. Originally, landing ships from WWII were modified; armor and armorment were added to help carry out some of the patrols and actions that were neccessary in the watery Mekong Delta and elsewhere. But these ships were slow and unweildy and hard to maintain. New classes of boats were needed.

The Navy bought 14 PTF Nasty Boats on coastal patrols to block supplies from North Vietnamese sailing in on trawlers and sampams as well as performing special raids on N. Vietnamese fortifications and insert reconnaissance teams into North Vietnam. While faster and more manuverable than a destroyer, Nasty boats were not well suited for operations in the shallow rivers and tributaries in southern Vietnam. Other boats were created and new units raised to operate them and provide the US Navy with the special warfare capabilty they had lacked before. They were unofficially christened the Brown Water Navy.

The Navy began to specially train selected members in a selection process designed to funnel competant littoral warriors to the Mekong Delta. Training stressed teamwork, adaptability, mental ability, and physical skills and toughness. Upon completion of the selection/training phase, members were authorized to wear the black beret and were more often then not given orders to the Vietnam theatre. By April of 1966 special commands had been created to control and coordinate these forces

Operating from fixed bases and moored ships, the Brown Water Navy existed as Mobile Task Force 115, 116, and 117. The task forces had a commom command center and had groups under Task Force 194, but their boats were spread out over South Vietnam, creating a hodge-podge of interoperating units and commands. Task Force 116 was the River Patrol Force and mainly operated the PBR patrol boats. Task Force 117 was the Mobile Riverine Force and operated jointly with the Army's 9th Infantry Division in modified WWII landing craft. During the course of the war the Brown water navy tried many different designs with some success and failures. Only one design was built from the ground up; the rest were modifications of existing civilian and military designs and were adapted to fit a certain mission.

The older landing craft designs were the first types, and they served throughout the war with two main types used. Both carried dual-hardness steel designed to stop .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds fired at a 20 meter ( about 60 feet ) range. The "Mike" or monitor boats weer heavily armed floating tanks. Sometimes weighing 75 tons, the Mike was slow and unweildy but was very difficult to sink and contained a massive level of firepower, ranging from M-16's and M-79 grenade launchers to automatic grenade launchers, turreted flame throwers, and 81mm mortars fitted to fire directly at targets instead of the conventional high arc.. The other boat was the "Tango" or troop carrying boat. While not as heavily armed as the Mike boats the Tango could carry troops, and was often seen patroling with members of Army's 9th infantry division or Navy SEALs.

Next was the fifty-foot Swift boat, a modified Oil Rig Crewboat. Officially known as a PCF, Swift's were fast patrol boats that had a high speed in rough water at shallow drafts allowing them to operate in the shallow rivers and tributaries of Vietnam or off the coast. Lightly armored, a swift boat's best defense was it's high speed and manueverability. Swift's were armed with a twin-machine gun open turret on top of main cabin and a M-60 machine gun mounted amidships. Swift's served throughout Vietnam, with most being left to the South Vietnamese Navy when the US forces pulled out.

The PBR ( or Pibber ) was a modified civilian design built by Modutec. Sporting a fiberglass body and hull with twin diesel engines, the PBR offered almost no protection from enemy rounds but was extremely fast and manueverable ( It could change course by doing a 180 within the distance of its own length ). In addition, the PBR was nearly impossible to sink as the empty spaces in the body were filled with foam and kept the boat afloat in case of leaks or holes caused be enemy rounds or fragments from explosives. Using Jacuzzi waterjets instead of propellers, the PBR's could operate in as little as 18 inches of water. The PBR was armed with a twin .50 caliber heavy machine open turret in the bow and a .50 caliber heavy machine gun in the stern ( rear for those non-nautical types ) with another pintel mounted M-60 and Mk 18 grenage launcher mounted amidships. In some cases 60mm mortars, 90mm recoiless rifles, flamthrowers, and even 20mm cannons were carried. The PBR was a extremely succesful design, serving with the US Navy in Pamama up until the late 1990's.

The Navy also decided it needed a small boat that could be used to aid the growing SEAL operations by providing a platoform for insertions and extractions in enemy controlled areas. Two designs emerged, the LSSC, or Light SEAL Support Craft, and the STAB , for Strike Team Assault Boat. Both were small and fast boat with a shallow drafts. The STAB used dual 110 HP outboard motors though, while the LSSC had its motors in the hull to make them as quiet as possible. The LSSC proved to be difficult to maintain, however, and was gradually phased out and replaced by an improved model of the original STAB. The new STAB was lengthened to allow more capacity and better armored as well. Top speed was 40 knots and it could accelerate to that speed within 15 seconds from a dead stop.

Members of the brown water Navy were also attached to the SEAL units to operate the MSSC, or Medium SEAL Support Craft. The MSSC was a catamaran-hulled design that was low to the water making it harder to see and target. The MSSC also had a shallow draft and a top speed of over 30 kts. It was also designed with Pintel mounts for weapons, allowing heavier weapons such as the 7.62mm minigun firing 6,000 rounds per minute and Mk 18. automatic grenade launchers.

The last of the boats that the ships officially designated for SEAL use was the Heavy SEAL Support Craft, a LCM (Landing Craft, Mechanized) modified with extra weapons such as a 106mm recoiless rifle, Mk18 40mm automatic grenade launcher, and two to three M2 heavy machine guns. In practice the HSSC proved to be too slow and noisy and the weapons almost too powerful, in some instances enemy sampams that were spotted and taken under fire sunk before the large craft could make their way over.

The Brown Water Navy had its successes and failures, like any other unit, but managed to rack up an impressive and distinguished record by the end of their service in the war. More importantly, the groundwork had been laid for the future growth of the Special Boat Units. The Navy had started an official school for small-craft and had run a number of soldiers through it, soldiers who stayed int eh Navy and provided institutional memory and experince when the buildup began again. In addition many designs and idea had been tried and improved.

Two Special Boat Squadrons were set up, with Squadron One on the West Coast and Squadron Two on the East Coast. After some reorganizations the Special Boat Units were created and were functioning by 1980. Initially the SBU's were outfitted with Mk 2 PBR's and Mk 3 PB's and the LCPL for insertion and extractions of Special Warface personnel. The LCPL was not the best platform however, being large and slow, and was replaced in 1983 by the Seafox boat, which had its own problems and was eventually replaced by a 24 foot RIB before the end of 1987.

Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Combatant Craft Crewmen (River Rats) can trace their modern origins to the personnel who served in coastal and riverine units during the Vietnam War. Their operational ancestors also include the sailors who manned Motor Torpedo (PT) Boats during World War II, as well as small craft operators assigned to the Amphibious Scouts and Raiders.

On 1 March 1979 SBT-20 formally evolved from Coastal River Division TWENTY, one of three operational units under Special Boat Squadron TWO. SBT-20 consisted of an armada of 65 ft MkIII PBs and Landing Craft Personnel, Large (LCPLs) and was on call to support NSW in littoral waters.

In the early '80s SBT-20 experienced a transitional phase, testing their capabilties and expanding their horizons. They tested the 36 ft Seafox and inserted SEALs to recon the beaches for the Grenada invasion. In 1983 the Seafox became the standard short range insertion craft. and replaced the LCPL. It deployed with the Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG), to Macrihanish, Scotland, and to NSWU-4 in Puerto Rico.

In the mid 80s 42 foot HSBs and 24 ft RIBs were assigned to 20. It also became the gaining command of the Naval Reserve SBT-20 (Det 306), a 60 man resereve det stationed in Richmond, VA. It began conducting Counter Narcotics patrols with the Coast Guard from the Bahamas to Miami, often deploying 2 PBs on their own as far south as the Antilles.

In 1987, during Operation EARNEST WILL, SBT-20 was called on to conduct harbor security operations in Bahrain. Over 250 SBT-20, SBT-24, SBT-22, NR SBT-20, and SURFLANT volunteers were deployed in support of the Mid-East Force (MEF), where they served with the PB detahcments thatprovided escort services for reflagged Kuwaiti tankers. In this capacity, they were directly involved inthe IRAN AJAR boarding. Operating from a mobile sea base, Barge Hercules, the PB crews patrolled in mined waters, with the constant threat of Silkworm missiles.

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Though an improvement over the LCPL, the Seafox eventually proved unseaworthy in conditions greater than sea state 2 (occasional whitecaps), which was a severe operational limit for deployed forces. Consequently, the 24ft RIB was phased into EUCOM deployments in 1987. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, SBT-20 provided a total of eleven RIB Dets (22 craft) to NSW Task Group Central, which was one of the first NSW elements operational in DESERT SHIELD/STORM. At the conclusion of the ground campaign, these detachments were very active in several humanitarian relief operations including PROVIDE COMFORT (Northern Iraq), SEA ANGEL (Bangladesh) and EASTERN EXIT (Somalia).

The 90s proved to be a fast paced productive time for the command. The five Mk 3 PBs remaining in service were transferred to SBT-24 in 1991. The first of a series of Seafox replacements arrived in 1992 with the dilivery of the 30 ft Interim-RIB (IRIB). In 1993, four 24 ft Defender RIBs and six more IRIBs arrived. Deployed SBT-20 Detachments conducted 54 combat missions in support of Operations Restore Hope and Continue Hope (Somalia).

Eight 10-meter RIBs arrived in 1994. 3 IRIB detachments deployed with the ARG and two PCs in support of Operation SUPPORT DEMOCRACY (Haiti). The first MK 5 Special Operations Craft (SOC) were delivered in 1995. 18 personnel tested and successfully deployed them to the Mediterranean.

SBT-20 is now developing the Maritime Air Delivery System (MADS). This is an air dropped RIB capability that will enhance respons time in support of operational commanders. In October 1997, SBT-20 will take delivery of the last in the series of Seafox replacements (the new NSW 11 Meter RIB) in time for them to deploy on the MARG in 1998.

Today SBT-20 operates 14 two-craft RIB dets and two (soon to be four) MK 5 dets with 21 oficers and 250 enlisted personnel. The "River Rats" job involves inserting and extracting SEAL Team personnel to and from mission objectives, barrier operations, board and search operations, drug interdiction, combat search and rescue (CSAR), and other Naval Special Warfare operations. Combatant Craft Crewmembers are not only specialists in their rates (military specialties), but are well versed in all aspects of special warfare operations insupport of both Navy SEALs and other service Special Operations Forces.