Special Operations: New Boats For French Amphibious Commandos

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April 24, 2017: The French First Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment began receiving the first of three new riverine combat craft in 2016. The marine paras are part of French SOF (Special Operations Forces) and specialize in waterborne and amphibious operations. The new EFC (Riverine Combat Craft) are 9.1 meter (30 foot) long shallow water craft powered by twin 300 HP outboard engines that give the EFC a top speed of 80 kilometers an hour. Armed with two gun mounts each with a pair of 7.62mm machine-guns and a rear facing mount for a 12.7mm machine-gun or 40mm automatic grenade launcher, the boat can accommodate twelve personnel and weighs about 2.5 tons fully loaded. The EFC has a small radar and two GPS navigation systems.

The French SOF is a small force of 4,000 active duty and 400 reservists. But like the Americans and British the French SOF forces are given a lot of freedom to obtain the weapons and equipment they believe is best for the job. Since 2001 the French SOF have received more money, in part to pay for a lot more overseas operations. After 2013 the force was increased from 3,000 to 4,000 to deal with the persistent problems with Islamic terrorism, especially in Africa.

Britain pioneered this sort of thing with its SBS (Special Boat Service) during World War II and has maintained a small SBS force ever since. The U.S. Navy SEALs came along after World War II but are mainly for commando operations, especially from the sea. Currently the U.S. Navy also has a small "brown water navy", including three Riverine Squadrons. The riverine force contains 2,500 active duty and 2,000 reserve sailors. Organized for service in Iraq, the three riverine squadrons were rotated in and out of Iraq from 2007 to 2011. Before first arriving in Iraq the riverine sailors received lots of infantry and amphibious training, much of it provided by U.S. Marine Corps instructors. Until 2007, the army and marines had been providing most of the riverine units in Iraq. There were some sailors there as well but not as organized riverine units.

In 2005, the U.S. Navy established Riverine Group One, which eventually had three squadrons. Each squadron had 230 sailors and twelve 12.5 meter (39 foot) boats. With headquarters and support troops the group had 900 personnel and 36 armed boats. Each boat has a crew of sixteen and is armed with machine-guns and automatic grenade launchers. The navy riverine forces eliminated terrorist movements along, and across, the main rivers in Iraq. This was similar to the successful riverine campaign the navy waged in Vietnam four decades ago, using 16 meter (50 foot) "Swift" boats.

Most nations cannot afford to maintain peacetime riverine troops thus it is popular to have some of the special operations troops specialize in this. If a major war comes you have a source of experience for recruiting and training a larger riverine force.

 


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