CB-90 for Canada

By Peter Sanderson, Capt (Ret’d) Canadian Army, Reserve, 31 October 2022

The CB-90, a class of fast military assault craft, has been a YouTube star for 30 years but once you get past the hype, you will find a boat that can address a lot of Canada’s littoral shortcomings. How does the RCN put troops ashore? A small commando team can be put ashore using rubber boats, from a submarine, a frigate or a Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel (MCDV). For a platoon or company, the Battalion Assault Pioneer Platoon with its powered rubber assault boats, will ferry the troops ashore.

       How does this compare to other countries? How, for example, does the Swedish Navy put troops ashore? In the 1980s Sweden realized that if Gotland Island was occupied, it could be used as a base for invasion. The problem was how to safely reinforce the Gotland Home Guard when large troop ships were vulnerable to anti-ship cruise missiles and even fast boats made troops vulnerable when coming ashore. In 1989, the small Swedish aluminum boat company, Dosksta, built a 16m low profile combination 40 kn fast boat and assault landing craft – called the Combat Boat 1990. The CB-90 has a shallow draught and is powered by water jets, which allows the boat to ride up on the rocky shore. To exit, the 18 troopers just open the bow doors, drop the ramp and walk off with dry feet. Sweden bought 120 CB-90s so it could move its Amphibious Battalion in one lift.

       Other countries have purchased the CB-90 as well -- Norway 20 boats, Mexico 48 boats, Peru 24 boats and Malaysia 17 boats. Russia’s Raptor and several Asian countries copied the CB-90 but none of them have the copy-righted Dosksta vertical ‘dive plane’ on the stern which allows the boat to make extremely sharp turns at high speed. All these countries are frigate navies, and except for Mexico, all have submarines, and they have one or two coastlines and believe it is important to be able to land troops covertly on their coasts.

       The CB-90 HSM is the latest version of the boat, and this is the one Canada should buy. The basic options are as follows: ARMOUR: Ballistic hull lining and ballistic windows in the wheel house and troop compartment; ARMAMENTS: Trackfire Remote Weapon Station (RWS) and 5x .50 HMG mounts c/w ammo storage and hot barrel racks; PROPULSION: 2x 900 hp 16L V8 Scania marine diesel engines, powering 2x new high efficiency Kamewa water jets, through hydraulic clutches, with optimal engine placement, the new driveline provides better stability, speed and runs quieter; PERFORMANCE: Maximum speed is 45 kn; (83 km/h) maximum range at 20 kn is 300 nmi; ELECTRONICS: The Trackfire sensor module includes a CCD TV (day camera), Thermal IR (night camera) and a Laser Range Finder (LRF), thereby allowing the boat to take on a serious surveillance role.

       Trackfire has ‘SILOS,’ which simply means that the sensor module is stabilized, not the recoiling weapons which allows the operator to maintain line-of-sight on the target, greatly reducing target acquisition times. And since the LRF is continuously lasing during the engagement, it can provide true ballistic calculations. Thanks to the Combat Management System (CMS) the RWS operator only has to flip a switch to share the console picture with crewmates’ monitors, the flotilla, or HQ. Trackfire and CMS increased the crew to four. Other options available are: toilet; air conditioning; chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear (CBRN) protection (over pressurized); 230 V generator; fuel cooling system; and stern launching trays for depth charges and sea mines.

          In terms of price, $60 million USD will buy 20 CB-90 HSM. Since it involves day or overnight sailing in littoral waters, this a perfect Naval Reserve tasking. Will it help recruiting and retention? Yes. The Naval Tactical Operations Groups (NTOGs) are well suited for developing an Assault Boat Operator course, as well as costing it and deciding how many courses are needed each year, to crew the weapon system.

       How would such a boat be employed? (1) Training with the Army While ferrying Regular and Reserve units, Assault Boat Operators would practice flotilla tactics and learn all aspects of amphibious operations. (2) Training with the Canadian Ranger Patrols The boats would support BC Ranger Patrols of 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group (CRPG) and NFLD Ranger Patrols of 5th CRPG. Like civilian power boaters, the CB-90s would use auxiliary bladder tanks to operate in the Ranger area of operations. (3) In a crisis seven boats could be shipped (by truck flat bed or rail) to the threatened coast. This boat flotilla would then form the Fast Reaction Force able to lift a 3 company light infantry battalion of 306 soldiers. (4) Use by Government Agencies: Federal agencies would include SAR, JTF2, RCMP, CCG, CBSA, Transport, Fisheries, and Provincial would include Provincial Police, Municipal and Tribal Police. The CB-90 has special features of interest to police/law enforcement officers: (a) Trackfire passive day and night surveillance; the ability of CMS to send these real time images to HQ and make video copies for evidence; (b) the guarantee of superior speed; (c) armour protection beyond helmets and vests; and (d) a proper enclosed boat, not a RHIB requiring survival suits.

References: 

1. www.saab.com/products/cb90hsm    

2. www.saab.com/products/trackfirerws         

3. www.naval-technology.com/projects/combat-boat-90-hsm   

4. Wiki CB-90 – class fast assault craft  

5. Docksta CB-90HSM   https://youtu.be/epbzbRgTNdU

6. www.scania.com/us/en/home/products/marine-engines/propulsion/marine-engines-specifications.html

7. Naval Affairs Program Briefing Note #33 NTOG 

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