Jetpacks, fast boats, commandos, and a suspect vessel. A recent special operations exercise in Netherlands contained all of the above and showcased one of the most difficult special operations mission-sets.
Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) is a kinetic way to interdict or take down an enemy or suspected vessels. In the US special operations community, Navy SEALs, Navy Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC), Green Berets, Marine Recon operators, Marine Raiders, and even conventional Marines are all trained to varying degrees in VBSS operations.
Most real-world VBSS operations take place against suspect vessels and don’t pose any significant danger to the operators. Nowadays, real-world VBSS operations are usually targeting ships and tankers suspected of violating sanctions against Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, or Libya. During these operations, commandos are able to get on the vessel unopposed and conduct their searches. But it’s a whole different ball game when the crew is openly hostile and wants to prevent boarding.
During such contingencies, the commandos have to use several insertion methods to successfully board and take down the target vessel. These insertion methods include, but are not limited to, fast-roping from a helicopter, scaling with ladders from boats, scaling with magnets, and now jetpacks.
By using different insertion methods, the rescue force is trying to disorient the terrorists or hostile crew and divert their attention, ideally long enough for the commandos to neutralize them and secure the hostages or vessel.
VBSS shares a lot in common with maritime counterterrorism, arguably one of the tougher special operations mission-sets. During a maritime counterterrorism scenario, for example, a cruise ship taken by terrorists, the rescue force has to get on the ship despite the terrorists and rescue the hostages before they are executed.
In the US, it’s the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (formerly known as SEAL Team 6) that is always on call for a maritime counterterrorism mission.
The Dutch commandos used a jet pack suit made by Gravity, a UK firm founded by a Royal Marines Commando. The jetpack suit uses over 1000 Break Horsepower, which coupled with natural human balance and agility, offer spectacular results.