Arlington, Va.--Naval special forces units have to work in extreme—and more often than not, unfriendly—environments. But one of the most persistent problems they face comes when they´re just trying to get to or leave the battlefield—and it isn´t from flying bullets. The 82-foot-long Mark V aluminum patrol boat—a primary mode of transport for Navy SEALs—has long been known as a rough ride by those who use it. Personnel have been known to get everything from bruises to back and foot injuries as the vessel roars along at speeds in excess of 50 knots.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Navy´s leader of science and technology, is spearheading a program to develop and demonstrate technologies that will make the Mark V Special Operating Craft replacement into a more user friendly vehicle—making it stronger and a more effective tool for warfighters, while simultaneously increasing personnel safety.
A new version of the Mark V with an all-composite hull—noted as Mk V.1 and nicknamed "MAKO"—was launched at a shipyard in East Boothbay, Maine, on January 11, 2008. The Navy is set to accept the craft for sea trials and other testing in February, 2008. The use of composite materials and construction techniques in MAKO has created a more compliant structure that may significantly reduce the vertical accelerations that are experienced in small high-speed craft which may ultimately improve personnel safety. “The Mark V.1 is making real advances in the use of carbon/epoxy composites and advanced design tools. The data we collect from operations of this craft will be a big step forward in understanding the impact of light weight composite materials on design and performance” said Dr. Paul Hess, ONR program manager of the Mark V.1.
The vessel was built by small boat builder Hodgdon Yachts in partnership with Maine Marine Manufacturing, Applied Thermal Sciences, Donald Blount & Associates, Inc., the University of Maine´s Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center, U.S. Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare Group 4, and Naval Surface Warfare Center-Carderock Division. The strong coordination between the research community, designers, shipbuilders, and Navy labs, acquisition professionals, and military operators has been integral to the success of the program to date. This theme was echoed repeatedly during the launching ceremony in East Boothbay.
"The MAKO represents one of the most applied science and technology activities we support at the Office of Naval Research," said Dr. John Pazik, director of ONR´s Ship Systems and Engineering Research Division. "This craft has unique aspects of design and material that will be tested and evaluated to improve performance of future craft of this type."
A direct comparison of the composite Mk V.1 and the aluminum Mk V will take place during head-to-head operational testing in summer 2008. Both boats will be outfitted with sensors to measure the various forces that affect the ride and structural response of the crafts, providing data to the technical community for development of future design tools and computer models for high-speed, lightweight craft such as the Mark V.