The U.S. Navy has been quietly working to convert a cargo ship into a secretive operating base for America’s Special Forces. The ship is 633 feet long and will be a helicopter carrier along with having facilities to house commandos and all their gear, which even include jet skis.
In November, Military Sealift Command awarded an initial $73 million contract to the shipping giant Maersk to convert one of its ships to a “Maritime Support Vessel.” So Maersk tapped their 30,000 ton displacement ship M/V Cragside for the task.
The vessel was then sent to the Gulf of Mexico in January to get its needed modifications, and there’s plenty of fun stuff being added.
MSC is adding all the needed hardware in order to allow it to function as a floating base for up to 200 troops and their weapons. It will also house small boats, helicopters and jet skis, which both the Navy and Air Force have been using for sneaky missions along enemy coastlines.
The ship is expected to be able to sail 8,000 miles at a time at speeds up to 20 knots in seas as high as 20 feet. It’s also getting a highly-secured communications room and a weapons locker, and so the guys can keep fit while at sea it’ll have a gym.
The sleek ship already has a rear loading ramp for vehicles, but will be fitted with a flight deck big enough to handle the military’s heaviest helicopter, the MH-53E. The ship will also be able to support Apache gunships, patrol helicopters, the Little Bird attack copters that the Special Forces use, and should the need arise they’ll be able to land a V-22 tiltrotor used by the Marines and Air Force.
The hangar will be large enough to hold two helicopters at the same time to perform maintenance, and will have dim lighting that will allow the crews to use night vision when necessary.
The end result of the ship is a floating barracks, headquarters, and air base in one package that looks like a civilian cargo ship and therefore shouldn’t be too easily identified.
Pretty cool, right?