Tip of the Spear: USN Riverines

Happy Tuesday. Check out the latest in Military.com’s Tip of the Spear series. This time we join Detachment 2 of the U.S. Navy’s Riverine Squadron 3 for a tour of their boats and training runs in the waterways around Fort Knox, Kentucky. While their armored Riverine Patrol Boats, equipped with everything from multiple M240 Squad Automatic Weapons to the GAU-17 mini-gun and an M2 .50 cal heavy machine gun are badass, the riverines face questions about their future now that the U.S. is pulling out of Iraq.

From our homesite:

According to the Riverines’ overall commander, the near constant deployments to Iraq were great for establishing the “brown water” force within the Navy’s increasingly diverse portfolio, but the downside was few commanders outside the Iraq mission understood what the unique force could bring to the fight.

“For the last five years, the Riverines were fully invested in what was going on in Iraq,” said Capt. Chris Halton, commodore of the Norfolk-based Riverine Group 1. “That left very little capacity to do other missions in other [operations areas].”

“We are still building awareness and understanding of what the capabilities of the Riverines are in other AORs,” he added.

That’s why Riverine commanders are tacking in the direction of “theater security operations,” where crews and their boats would help patrol vulnerable inland waterways and train foreign forces to secure their own brown-water environments.Officials say the mission in Iraq showed the crews can operate in small units dispersed over a wide area and even work as individual training teams without their boats. Several Riverine Sailors have been dispatched to the southern Pacific to work with partner nations there, and a detachment is set to deploy to Aruba to work with the Dutch Royal Marines.

“We’ve been educating people since last fall on what is it we can do, how quickly we can respond and what are the mission sets we are best used for,” Halton said, adding that he’s working to build in more missions to Africa and South America in the next two years.

The Navy is also set to expand the Riverine force by establishing the new Composite Riverine Squadron 4 to work in what Halton calls the “brown-to-green water” areas close to shore. The units will use the Riverine Command Boat and a new Force Protection Coastal craft that’s bigger than an RCB, but still can go 40 knots and carry a crew of four Sailors and an eight-man boarding party.

There’s no doubt that we’ll need a riverine force in the future. With the small size and low operating cost of the riverine community, it makes sense to keep at least a small cadre of riverines in existence to ensure that this capability can be quickly ramped up when such need arises.

  • leesea

    First off, CMC said he did NOT want the Marines performing riverine ops.
    Next the US Navy has been conducting Brown Water Navy missions since oh about the Revolutionary War and should continue doing same. While the other parts of the Navy may have more sway, that is NOT what operational commanders say they need right now.
    Third the Marines have a mission and are fighting to keep it. Why would they want to take on a mission another service is already set up to do?

    The Marines can only go where their amphibs do and that is not in enough dispersed locations as the Riverines can do. Simply put the Marines are over-reaching in an attempt to justify their size and cost. They have a good mission set now and that’s enough.

    Your stats about Iraq are wrong since the riverines only deployed to two AOs there and did not go to AFG. I am sure the sailors who got shot at in Iraq did not think it was a joke. And are going to other AOs now. With some more research you might find out more accurate details about what River Group One does.

  • chaos0xomega

    IMHO, the Marines should have become America’s brown water navy. The Navy could then focus on the mission it actually cares about, being blue water and the littoral zone, whereas the Marines could do a damn fine job in the brown/green water area. That would also solve a lot o our issues of the Marines being a second army, while allowing them to continue/evolve their amphibious/ship to shore mission concept.

    3 to 4 Rivrons is not enough. Thats what, 36 to 48 boats, only 12 of which are deployed at a time?In ‘nam we had some 3-4k boats in the mobile riverine force. Yeah Iraq/Afghanistan don’t have quite so complex and extensive a network of rivers, but 12 boats to patrol 4000km of waterways just isn’t going to cut it, really, thats just a bad joke.

  • radj

    Woefully unimpressed. by the tech and firepower…

  • jamesb

    A couple on this…..

    Didn’t the SARMY do this job in Viet Nam?

    Is this piece about a unit looking for a mission?

  • jamesb

    Darn….The US Army do the job in Viet Nam……

  • joe

    Riverine and inshore coastal work…..hmm….
    Somali pirate suppression, maybe?

  • Alex

    Actualy Coast Guard units under the navy did alot of the riverine patrols in Viet Nam, but for a small conflict having a Marine riverine unit is a good idea. http://www.uscg.mil/history/uscghist/USCGVietnamC

  • chaos0xomega

    Hmm, I made a superlong response to leesea’s post that covered basically all angles, but it says a moderator has to approve it in order for it to appear, anyone know whats up with that?

    • blight

      There’s a reason I Control+C all my posts before submitting comments. Sometimes it has to do with the number of posts you’ve been posting per day?

  • CClark

    Back in 1994-97 when I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, the Marines have Riverine patrol units / boats. Is this still a viable unit or did the mission go to the navy completely?

  • Hminus

    I thought a MK-19 might be a nice addition for suppressive fire. I would fit on that M2 mount and has about the same effective range. But…I don’t know if it can kill someone without touching them like he said that .50 cal can do. I would love to get my hands on some of that ammo. I guess it scares them to death.

  • CClark

    Oh and by the way, all the Army/Air Force needs to have happen to allow them to patrol the boarder / Rio Grande is have Congress suspend the Posse Comitatus Act signed in 1878.
    The Navy and Marines are not prohibited by this act, but by a DoD Directive.
    Bottom line, Congress can have the Military patrol the boarder if they want it to.

  • Rajarata

    Awesome machine !

  • RCDC

    It doesn’t seems to have a lot of shield around the boat to protect the operator. We need to develop something to protect the operator and the one who is protecting with alot of firepower and speed on it. Then mass produce it at a 1000 unit for each States. To protect its water shore boundaries against rogue missile boats and ships attacker. We receive a lot of threat from Iran, N Korea, Russia and China. I think we need these numbers for defense.

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