Why Do Navy SEALs Use Inflatable Boats?

Written By: Jennifer Fielding

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Have you seen videos of Navy SEALs conducting missions out at sea? The SEALs are often seen using a variety of different boats, but most commonly, they use inflatable boats when out at sea.

But why is that?

In this article, we will look at the inflatable boats used by the Navy SEAL team and why they prefer these boats.

rigid hull inflatable boat

What boats do Navy SEALs use?

All the boats that Navy SEALs use:

1. The MK V Special Operations Craft (SOC) – solid hull boat

These vessels are used for medium-range ocean transport to transport Navy SEALs and lightly armed raiding parties to areas where the chance of combat is low.

SOCs are also used to patrol the coast. They can carry the SEALs as well as a marine corps boarding team, as they are deployed from the shore or other boats.

mk v special operations craft
MK V Special Operations Craft

2. Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) – inflatable boat

The RHIB is 36 feet long and is extremely fast, buoyant, and great in any weather conditions.

Consisting of eight individual airtight chambers in the inflatable tubes, this inflatable boat has a primary mission of extracting or inserting SEALs and a secondary mission for marine interdiction operations along the coast. It is also commonly used for naval expeditionary warfare.

rigid hull inflatable boat
Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat

3. Special Operations Craft-Riverine (SOC-R) – solid hull

The SOC-R is lightweight and mainly used in riverine environments. It can carry up to 20,5000 pounds, meaning the entire SEAL squad can get on board.

Special Operations Craft-Riverine
Special Operations Craft-Riverine

4. Combat Rubber Raiding Craft (CRRC) – inflatable boat

The CRRC is a strong inflatable boat made from specially fabricated rubber that has been reinforced to perform various missions. It is mostly used for long-distance transport of armed SEALs.

Combat Rubber Raiding Craft
Combat Rubber Raiding Craft

Why do Navy SEALs use inflatable boats?

There are various reasons Navy SEALs use inflatable boats – they’re fast, durable, easy to steer, perform exceptionally well, and can stand up to extreme weather. They are much lighter than solid hull boats, easier to transport, and often much more maneuvrable.

1. They are fast

An inflatable boat used by the Navy can reach speeds up to 70 knots (80.5 mph), which means they can quickly reach their destination. Solid hull boats are slower – the SOC can only reach 65 knots.

2. Solid structure

Unlike recreational inflatable boats, RHIBs have solid hulls, which stabilize the boat in water, even in choppy conditions. This stable hull also allows the boats to cut through waves without capsizing.

3. Durable vessels

These vessels are made from durable material, making them ideal for over-the-horizon transportation. The material is resistant to UV rays, and some even consist of an inflatable bulletproof system.

The hulls are also durable, made to resist scraping against rocks and gravel beaches.

4. Easy to steer

The solid structure of these inflatable boats means that they are easy to maneuver during Naval special warfare operations. The large inflatable tubes and the solid hull allow the boat to turn quickly and accelerate fast while remaining stable.

5. Extreme weather craft

The design of the Navy’s inflatable boats makes them perfect for cutting across rough waves during extreme weather events.

Who drives the boats for Navy SEALs?

The Navy SEAL boats are driven by Navy Special Boat Operators, who form part of the Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC).

The SWCC consists of sailors and boat operators who control the special warfare craft of the Navy. These operators support the SEALs during missions on both the ocean and rivers.

Members of Navy SEAL

Final Thoughts

Navy SEALs are considered the toughest men (and so far, one woman) in the US, and they require watercraft that matches their toughness.

The inflatable boats used by the SEALs are faster, lighter, and easier to steer than solid hull vessels, making them the perfect addition to the naval team.

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Jennifer Fielding

Jennifer Fielding is your go-to expert on all things inflatable, from pools to tents and beyond. A former owner of Deluxe Hot Tub Hire Ltd., she's experienced the ups and downs of inflatables firsthand. Nowadays, she writes practical guides on maintaining and enjoying inflatables. A mom of young enthusiasts, her family's favorite outing is the inflatable fun park!

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