The military is typically tightlipped about its cutting-edge weaponry, so it was a little surprising when the U.S. Central Command recently revealed that the Navy’s stealthy Combatant Craft Assault boats were operating in Middle Eastern waters.
The assault boats, seemingly ripped from the pages of a James Bond novel, are used for medium-range interdiction operations to whisk Navy SEALS and other special forces in and out of dangerous situations. With their composite hulls and high-performance diesel engines, the Combatant Craft Assault boats are designed to elude enemy surveillance.
Related: 3 Attack Planes the Air Force Will Test to Replace the A-10 Warthog
The 41-foot long craft, known as the CCA Mk.1, is highly versatile and small enough to be dropped directly into water by an Air Force C-17. U.S. special operations recently began using the assault boats in the Middle East, according to The Drive.
The reports suggest that CCAs are being used by a special operations task force in training and advising their counterparts including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and others Middle Eastern countries.
On July 27, CENTCOM posted a picture on social media of one of the craft traveling off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, who is in charge of the command that oversees military activities in the Middle East and Central Asia, took part in boat ride with other senior leaders during a trip to the region.
The CCA in recent years have begun to replace the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Mark V fast boats, which were used extensively to transport crews and SEAL passengers but that provided a punishly bumpy ride. The Navy purchased the CCAs for medium-range missions and discreet coastal surveillance. There are side-folding panels at the rear of the boat that may afford additional protection, but there are no provisions for mounted weapons.
Related: The Troubled F-35 Nails Its Paris Debut, Closes In on a $37 Billion Sales Deal
“These fixtures are built inside the boat's clean outer mold-line or are retractable/removable when not in use to maintain the CCA’s stealthy shape,” says The Drive. “The crew and passengers would undoubtedly carry individual weapons for self-protection as well.”
Like many of the other details of the CCA, the cost of the assault boats is murky. The Defense Department in 2014 awarded two subcontracts for development of a new generation of sophisticated stealth assault boats. Although the contracts were indefinite as to the quantity of the new boats and when they would be delivered, reports at the time suggested that the Navy was interested in ordering a maximum of 30 boats for a total of $400 million over a ten-year period.
That works out to roughly $13.3 million per boat, absent any change orders or cost overruns.