The Navy SEAL: Small in Number, Mighty in Force By: Michael Ruiz The Navy SEAL is the most respected and feared special operations force in the world. The SEAL name is derived from their capacity to operate in the sea, in the air and on land. Operating in total secrecy from public view, few forces in the world have the training to resist a Navy SEAL surprise attack. Compact in size and heavily armed, the 16-man Navy SEAL platform can stealthily attack under any circumstances and project a killing power far beyond its physical size. The Importance of the Navy SEAL: Then and Now Created in 1962, the Navy SEAL is the descendent of the famous underwater demolition teams of World War II and the Korean War. The SEAL’s first action was in Vietnam. This war was to be fought using traditional military tactics which called for superiority in numbers and equipment to ensure victory. Although this conventional approach ultimately failed on the battlefield, Vietnam became a watershed for special operational thinking. With never more than 300 men in Vietnam at any one time, the Navy SEAL was brutally effective in adapting themselves to the situation. The Viet Cong called the SEAL “Men with Green Faces” because they appeared out of nowhere with green camouflage paint, capturing or killing the Viet Cong. Before Vietnam and the immediate years that followed, conventional military wisdom held that special operations forces could never affect the outcome of any conflict. This belief has been reassessed, however, because of two historical occurrences: the rise of international terrorism and the military collapse of the Soviet Union. Now, the Navy SEAL, numbering at just 2500 men, is at the forefront of the United States’ ongoing war on terrorism, and they continue to train in special reconnaissance, sabotage and surprise attacks. Navy SEAL’s First Rule of Combat: The Most Efficient Movement is the Silent One The SEAL’s attack relies on the shock effect of swift, awesome violence to create a perception in the enemy's mind of the SEAL’s superiority. The SEAL’s objective is to first ambush the enemy and then quietly disappear from the chaos. The Navy SEAL has a great advantage because its men have unique physical abilities and state-of-the-art technology to reach and leave their target quickly and undetected. Navy SEAL: Sea Operations • Special Operations Crafts Traveling over the water surface remains the most efficient and effective means to take SEAL teams to and from their target. The Mark V Special Operations Craft is a security/patrol/transport boat that can carry a 5-man crew and 16 SEALs. With two powerful diesel engines, the Mark V can travel distances up to 500 nautical miles and reach a speed of 40 knots. These powerful, open water racing boats can be transported by ship or plane to the target, increasing operational range. The Mark V has enough room to carry four Zodiac rafts with six outboard motors and fuel to deploy the SEAL teams from a distance. The craft’s stern has a ramp that allows SEAL teams to ride their Zodiac rafts right up to the stern for quick extraction and insertion. The Mark V’s angular shape and low silhouette blunts its radar signature, making the craft difficult to detect. The Mark V also has two water jets for slow-speed approaches which significantly minimizes the craft’s wake. Mark Vs are outfitted with five gun mounts for supporting any combination of heavy and light machine guns and automatic grenade launchers. The Mark V is also equipped with a portable air defense system to protect against aircraft. The SEAL’s most important defense, however, is its amazing aquatic capability. A SEALcan elude the enemy by simply getting into the water. • Swimmer Delivery Vehicles The submarine is essential for getting the Navy SEAL to destinations throughout the world. These submarines are equipped to carry the Dry Deck Shelter (DDS), a special underwater housing attached to the hull. The DDS contains the SEAL’s Zodiac rafts or larger mini-submarines, known as Swimmer Delivery Vehicles (SDV), or the Mk8 Modi. Launching the SEAL from a submarine is a time-consuming and complex undertaking. A difficult task in good conditions, performing this job at night and in cold water takes patience beyond the ordinary. Launching a SDV to the target requires the SEAL to remain underwater for hours. As SEAL teams move through water, the problems of dehydration, cold, underwater navigation and avoiding detection multiply in difficulty as distances increase. Swimming to and from a target becomes a mixture of planning, attitude, physical conditioning and luck. Every drop in water temperature corresponds to a rise in difficulty for survival. Wearing bulky dry suits and 50 pounds of extra insulation affects every movement. Simple communication between teammates becomes difficult. It is the SEAL’s master ability to work in the harsh sea environment that separates it from every other military unit in the world. Despite the demands of SDV operations, it remains the most important and potent offensive capability the SEAL has. Top-secret as to its technical capabilities, SDVs can carry explosives into a harbor or inland waterway, positioning them to be detonated at any given time. Of all the Navy SEAL weapons in tactics, SDVs remain the most difficult for enemies to defend against. Navy SEAL: Air Operations • Parachuting Parachuting is probably the most dangerous insertion methods employed by the Navy SEAL. High- altitude, low-opening military free fall, or HALO, is a devastating means of attack. Fourteen or fifteen SEALs can jump out of aircraft at an altitude of 25,000 feet, eight or nine miles away from the target, land quietly on the ground at speeds of 60 to 70 miles per hour and be within 25 yards from the target. • Fast Roping In fast roping, the SEAL slide down a thick rope of woven wool, like firemen slide down a pole. On the signal, the SEAL drops to the ground from a helicopter hovering between 50 and 75 feet above the ground. In a matter of minutes, these specially trained forces can overcome an objective, landing onto their target ready to shoot in seconds. Navy SEAL: Land Operations The Desert Patrol Vehicle (DPV) is used for traveling long distances on the ground. DPVs can travel distances of 200 miles at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour. Designed to be airlifted to the forward staging area and then driven to the target, DPV carries heavy weapons and drives with the speed and durability of a Baja racing car. DPVs carry a crew of three men each. The side basket can carry a passenger or extra fuel bladders to increase range. The side basket seat can be outfitted with a number of weapons, depending on the mission. DPVs are typically armored with one, .50 caliber, M2 Browning machine gun, two 7.62 millimeter machine guns and two AT4 anti-armor rocket launchers. The special fuel bladders and the racing tires are self-sealing and can withstand a hit by a .50 caliber round without deflating or exploding. With an extended range of 600 miles on the ground, DPVs can remain camouflaged and hidden deep inside enemy territory to report back on enemy troop movements or provide fire support for raids on small, fixed targets. Depending on the specific mission, a typical SEAL platoon on a land warfare mission will carry a variety of weapons, such as the MK23 MOD 0 45 caliber offensive handgun, 9 MM SIG Sauer P226, M4A1 5.56 MM, AK-47, HK MP5 9 MM submachine gun, M14 sniper rifle, or the M2HB machine gun, to name a few. Some men may arm themselves with a M203 grenade launcher mounted on an M4 Carbine, M16A4 rifle or A4 rifle. Taken in combination, the armament and initial fire power of a SEAL platoon equals that of a 100-man company of regular infantry. Navy SEAL: Small, Clever and Fiercely Dedicated While the Navy SEAL employs a lot of different weapons and logistics technology to maximize its small size and mobility, an individual SEAL needs only his wits, a pair of swim fins, his KA-BAR knife and a rope of some kind to prosecute his mission on some level. For the Navy SEAL, sophisticated weapons and technology are merely tools. It is the SEAL’s unwavering dedication to its missions that makes it the most effective, fierce, small fighting force in the world. Without a doubt, the Navy SEAL will continue to play major clandestine roles in furthering U.S. foreign policies.
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