The Washington Post

Photos, details emerge of U.S. commandos working off new combat ship

A U.S. Marine Special Operations team member lowers a working dog inflatable boat set to depart the littoral combat ship USS Independence during a training mission that is part of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Elite U.S. commandos are preparing to use the new LCS ship model in future operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey T. Jones)

The Marine Corps began preparing its Special Operations component in earnest for life after Afghanistan last year, joining a war game overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command designed to assess how its elite troops could better fit into U.S. maritime operations.

A year later, that picture is starting to emerge.

Navy SEALs and commandos with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are among a cadre of troops working from the Navy’s new ship, the USS Independence, this month as part of the 2014 Rim of the Pacific military exercise off the coast of Hawaii. The mission began with U.S. helicopters delivering Special Operations troops to the flight deck of the Independence, and then lowering an 11-meter inflatable boat into the Pacific Ocean to conduct a simulated raid known as a visit, board, search and seizure, or VBSS, military officials said.

Navy SEALs, MARSOC Marines and Special Operations troops with South Korea and Peru are all involved, U.S. officials said. Combined, they’re testing how the Independence will work as an “afloat forward staging base,” a concept in which the U.S. military can launch everything from humanitarian assistance missions to counter-piracy raids from a ship resourced to help.

U.S. Navy SEALs within an inflatable boat depart the littoral combat ship USS Independence during a training mission for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corey T. Jones)

The Navy announced  in 2012 that it was keeping the aging USS Ponce, an amphibious assault ship, in service as an interim afloat forward staging base for the Middle East. That ship will get additional use this summer with the installation of the Navy’s new experimental laser system, capable of hitting small aircraft and attack boats.

It’s the Independence and other newer ships that will be used by Special Operations in the longer term, however. It is part of the Navy’s new LCS class, envisioned to provide everything from anti-submarine warfare to counter-mine missions. The ship is not without its critics. After years of questions about its reliability and ability to survive warfare against larger vessels, the Pentagon decided in January to cut the size of the future LCS fleet from 52 to 32.

Special Operations commanders are preparing for life on other new ships, as well. Navy and Marine Corps officials have both indicated that they’re looking for ways to use the new Mobile Landing Platform ship class, which features an unusual design with a ramp that will allow larger ships to transfer vehicles to the MLP directly. MARSOC and other highly trained troops with the Marine Corps’ Force Reconnaissance units already have started working in unconventional arrangements from Navy destroyers.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Video curated for you.
Next Story
Dan Lamothe · July 22, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.