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Thursday 22 October 2020

MAGNA 960RIB Invader, the workhorse of Hellenic Army Amphibious Special Forces

Written by Γ.Μ.

Motomarine Magna 960RIB Mk I Invader
The Hellenic Army Amphibious Raider (Special) Forces (
Δυνάμεις Αμφίβιων Καταδρομών, Ελληνικός Στρατός) which were developed in the islands of the eastern Aegean after 1974, are the most elite part of the Greek defense against the threat from the east to these islands. The main and, at present, the most capable and most numerous floating mean available to the Amphibious Special Forces, are the high speed rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) Magna 960RIB Invader. The procedures for their acquisition began immediately after the events in Imia between Greece and Turkey in 1996, under the urgent need to replace the old boats of the types L19, L27 and L30 used by the Special Forces of the Hellenic Army of that time.
Characteristics and missions

Fully loaded Magna 960RIB Mk II

The seats for the crew
Magna's I/II helm
The Magna 960RIB was manufactured by Motomarine and it is 9.58m long and 3.28m wide with 0.65m draft. They have rigid hull bottom joined to side-forming air tubes of 0.58m diameter with nine air chambers that are inflated with air to a high pressure. They usually have a crew of three (helmsman, navigator, forward machine gunner) and can carry up to twelve commandos seated in fixed saddle-type seats, placed in three parallel rows in the open space behind the ship's steering station. Their full load displacement is 4.6 tons, while they can develop a maximum speed of 55 knots (48 knots with full load) at Sea State 4. Special care is taken in the reduction of spray and lateral / vertical acceleration while the anti-vibration seating installed reduce wear of personnel. With an operational range of 150nm the boat is capable to infiltrate hostile waters and under the cover of a forward Browning M2HB 12.7mm heavy machine gun and an aft FN MAG 7.62mm machine gun the Magna 960 represents a tool of war not to be trifled with used in countless tactical scenarios. There is a built-in seat on the mount for the machine gunner on the bow while the second weapon aft is usually handled by one of the members of the transferred group. The ship's navigation is assisted by military-grade GPS and navigation radar.

Magna 960RIB getting ready for operations

View from onboard
Αs it can be easily understood from the appearance and characteristics of the Invader, these are not "pure" special purpose vessels, as they lack even the basic elements of this category (e.g. they do not have anti-vibration seats, the crew is fully exposed to enemy fire and in the elements of nature, their armament is limited to the role of basic self-defense, etc.). Therefore they are only offered for rapid transfer of personnel to and from the area of ​​interest. Finally, because there is a substantial need for patrol vessels, they are carrying out patrolling duties on the eastern maritime borders of Greece, in the context of increasing measures to prevent illegal immigration. In this case the Magna 960RIB usually operate in pairs, with only 4-6 crew members. 
From left to right: Magna 960RIB Mk III, Mk I and three Mk.II


Invader variants

The engines of Magna 960RIB Mk I/II &and IV
The first batch of 18 Magna 960RIB boats was ordered by the Hellenic Army in 1998 and the deliveries by Motomarine began in February 1999. These boats were equipped with two 502hp Mercruiser Bravo GM502B inboard/outboard engines and Raymarine navigation radar. This batch was followed in 2000 by a new batch of 14 vessels carrying the same engines but newer Raymarine navigation radar. The vessels of the first batch are informally characterized as Magna 960RIB Mk I, while those of the second batch, Magna 960RIB Mk II. The majority of the boats were delivered to the Amphibious Special Forces Squadrons, while a small number is stationed at the Special Forces Training Center at Nea Peramos (Megalo Pefko) for training purposes. Another seven (7) boats Magna 960RIB Mk II were acquired for the transport of infantry teams of the Immediate Intervention Squads of the islands. In this case, the boats are operated by the Engineers Corps. 
Magna 960RIB in high speed

Based on conclusions and observations from the use of boats, two newer versions of the Magna 960RIB were developed, which incorporate various improvements, as well as a completely new suite of electronic navigation equipment including new Simrad radar. These are the Magna 960RIB Mk III and Mk IV. The difference between them is that the Mk III has two Mercury Verado-300V8 outboard engines (in order to test if they offer more economical use and maintenance compared to the inboard) while the Mk IV has two inboard/outboard engines Volvo Penta D6AQ. Two (2) boats from each version were delivered but there was no follow-up with additional orders from the Hellenic Army.
Magna 960RIB Mk III
Magna 960RIB Mk IV. Note the new side mounts, the aim sight
on M2HB and the support structure for the radar

Although not widely known, apart from the Hellenic Army, another user of Magna 960RIB is the Hellenic Navy (Πολεμικό Ναυτικό), which acquired two Mk III boats with outboard engines, for the needs of NMIOTC/ΚΕΝΑΠ (NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre) in Souda Bay, Crete. There, these vessels are mainly used for training in tactics and techniques of VBSS (Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure) and naval deterrence, for which NMIOTC provides training, recognized and certified by NATO. Due to their training duties, these boats lack armament and radar. 
Magna 960RIB Mk III of NMIOTC
Magna 960RIB Mk III of NMIOTC

Modernization and Future

Several of the Magna 960RIB boats have undergone various modifications and minor improvements from time to time (e.g. installation of a folding awning for basic protection of the helmsman and navigator from the elements of nature, installation of two additional side rails for 7.62mm machine guns on a small number of boats, modification of the mount for the 12.7 heavy machine gun in 32 boats so that they can receive an automatic Heckler & Koch GMG 40mm grenade launcher and others). 
Photo by Kostas Sarikas
Invader Mk II
Photo: Kostajoh Sight
Invader Mk I
Photo: Kostajoh Sight
More recently, a wider modernization program has begun to be implemented on all vessels, including the general inspection and reconstruction of hull and engines and the installation of new Raymarine navigation radar in conjunction with FLIR on a new small mast. 
One of the Invaders features FLIR. Photo by Kostajoh Sight

Invader with new Raymarine radar and FLIR

In the near future, the Invaders of the Hellenic Army Amphibious Special Forces will be supplemented and, finally, replaced by new, larger and more capable vessels of the same category, as part of a relevant program for the supply of 41 high-speed vessels in progress. In July 2020, VIKING Norsafe won the competition with a variant of Munin S1200 (more details, here), an advanced design that will increase the capabilities of the Greek Amphibious Commandos.
Munin S1200 Open

Even then, however, the Magna 960RIBs are not expected to be withdrawn completely, but will be transferred to other Units to cover the needs of rapid transportation of the Rapid Response Squadrons of the islands, which are currently limited, except for the aforementioned seven (7) Magna 960RIB Mk II and any small number of vessels already deriving from material redistribution, in RIBs of smaller dimensions and capabilities. Until their complete retirement, the Invaders will always accomplish their mission fast and efficiently.

Invader, the workhorse of Hellenic Army Amphibious Special Forces

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