The Navy’s Military Sealift Command is sniffing around the nation’s shipping industry to see if there’s someone who might be able to help the service’s SEALs get around.
Lots of this is secret, of course, but the Pentagon is pretty open in what it wants for its special operators. The vessel – with an open deck space of at least 95-by-48 feet, it’s going to be a pretty big boat – will be used “as host/support ship for Naval Special Warfare/Special Operation Forces (NSW/SOF).” Naval Special Warfare is home to the SEALs and their support elements.
The vessel, capable of sailing at least 3,000 miles from its expected home port at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, must be capable of sailing for 15 days at 12 knots. “The vessel shall provide hyperbaric chamber services for emergencies and routine decompression operations, replenishment/minor maintenance support, personnel support, and transportation of the NSW submersible by towing and/or carrying on the ship deck,” says the MSC’s recently-published announcement. In other words, sounds like a lot of diving will be going on.
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SEALs can deploy via their underwater “delivery vehicles” off of U.S. warships, submarines and helicopters, suggesting this vessel might be used for training purposes. But that isn’t stated in what the MSC stresses is a “request for information only” (meaning the government ultimately may not lease such a vessel). A Navy officer didn’t respond to questions about the request.
Some of the requirements seem pretty tame:
— At least 300-sq. ft administrative/conference space sufficient to handle up to 15 people. Space shall have tables and seating to accommodate the above number, with power outlets providing standard 120 VAC power for computers and presentation equipment.
— Vessel must support berthing for 25 government personnel no greater than four per stateroom, eight per head. Curtained-off bunks are acceptable.
— The vessel will be operational 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether at sea or in port.
— The Contractor shall provide three (3) galley-prepared meals and hotel services for 25 embarked Government personnel. Food provided to the Government shall have the most reasonably attainable degree of variety, quality, quantity, and nutritional value.
— The Contractor shall provide a 24-hour laundry facility for 25 Government assigned personnel.
But then there are the extras…
First of all, that nearly 110-by-50-foot open deck must be strong enough to support:
— One recompression chamber (recompression chamber consists of two units: (1) Life Support Skid, 8’x8’x10′, weighing 14,000 lbs. (GFE), (2) Fly Away Recompression Chamber, 8’x8’x20′, weighing 17,500 lbs.).
— Mission-specific support vans (three (3) 8’x8’x20’ Milvans, weighing up to 24,000 lbs. each).
— Six (6) Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRCs) (Zodiac boats, models F470 and G4702.(15.5 ft x 6.25 ft x 2.5 ft, 265 lbs ).
— Two (2) 24-ft. Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) (24’x11’, 9,000 lbs. each).
— Two (2) SEAL delivery vehicles (SDVs) weighing approximately 6,000 lbs. each (approximately 8,000 lbs. each with water entrained; dimensions approximately 20 ft. x 5 ft. x 5 ft.)
SDVs generally are small underwater craft used to transport a half-dozen SEALs clandestinely from their mother ship (or submarine or helicopter) to whatever it is they’re interested in. If the government decides it needs such a vessel, “the period of performance will commence 01 October 2012, and consist of a one-year firm period with three one-year options and one 11-month option ending August 2017.” (Not sure why there’s an 11-month “year” tacked to the end.)
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Part of the ship’s crew would be armed. “The Contractor shall ensure that five crew members who will bear arms as part of their physical security duties have successfully completed a small arms familiarization course,” the solicitation says. “The Contractor’s course shall be taught to the same content and standards as the U.S. Navy’s Small Arms Qualifications (Ashore/Afloat) Instructor Course.”
The captain of the ship will be required to hold a “secret” clearance. The rest of the crew must be U.S. citizens “with valid U.S. passports for the full length of their assignment” who have cleared terrorist watch lists and EPIC drug checks.
The vessel “must be able to support underwater telephone operations…accomplished by a retractable tube that shall be installed in a suitable location that offers maximum separation from shipboard noise.”
Despite these exacting requirements, there’s one thing the hired civilian crew won’t have to worry about: “The Government,” the solicitation notes, “will secure diplomatic clearances and operational area clearances when and where required.”