The JetLev R200 was part of the waterfront exhibit. As I watched the demonstration, I couldn’t help wondering why any respectable SEAL would use one of these. I mean, they look like a lot of fun, but I wondered what practical application does it serve? I also have to say that I was not alone; a majority of the observers shared the very same thought. Before I get into the application, I’ll give you some of the technology.
As you can see from the picture on the left, the JetLev consists of a jet pack attached to a frame. The frame holds the controls, the jets, a small seat and seatbelts. The jetpack is tethered to a small boat via a hose that looked to be about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Since the operator can use the JetLev above or below water, the hose has provisions to run an air hose along its outer surface. The jetpack allows the operator to lock the throttle in position so both hands are free for weapon manipulation or any other hands-on requirements.
The small boat contains the seawater pumps and air tanks needed to support the entire system. The small boat may also be ballasted so that it has a lower freeboard; given proper camouflage it would be undetectable in state 1 seas or higher. Protected harbors maybe a slightly different story but not impossible.
The application is boarding. A team enters the water a few nautical miles away from the vessel making an underwater approach. The operators can be at a depth equal to the length of the hose. Once under the vessel’s keel they can rise to the surface and quickly get over the vessel’s freeboard to board the vessel. Getting out of the jetpack is easy, simply twist to unlock and you’re out. Most cargo vessels when empty have a freeboard of 80 feet or more, and fully loaded about 30 to 40 feet. The benefit here of course is that you eliminate or reduce the need to bring inflatable craft along side and board using rope or a ladder.
Anyone that has ever boarded a vessel at sea wishes that life could be as easy but technologies, like the JetLev R200 is one more tool that can be selectively applied to address a problem.
Amber, one of the instructors and a delightful chick, offered to let me fly it but I would have had to make my pants into shorts and decided against doing it. Amber, hold the thought, perhaps next year.