Multi Agency Craft Conference Makes its Mark

Monday, August 09, 2004

By Jennifer Rabulan

With the the task of securing tens of thousands of miles of U.S. Coast, agencies at the federal, state and local levels are increasingly turning to high-performance boats. In turn, these buyers rely on premiere events such as the Multi Agency Craft Conference (MACC) to experience the latest tech first hand.

In its seventh year, over 1,300 representatives convened for the 3-day event at Little Creek Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va. where MACC provided an expansive venue for government and commercial marine companies alike. As the emphasis on littoral combat continues to permeate, decision makers gather to absorb invaluable information, including the latest technologies to equip the mission-minded modern fleet. The show featured several keynote speakers, technical presentation, static displays, discussion panels and a tented exhibition. The exhibition offered an array of products, ranging from bumper collars to waterproof gear. Above all, MACC's in-water demonstrations are what set it apart from other conferences and exhibitions. With almost 100 companies offering demonstrations, the show allows prospective buyers a chance to experience the latest technologies firsthand.

MNwas able to go along for the ride. Brunswick Commercial & Government Products touts their vessels as being "Built for the Mission." Our ride along on the 26-ft. Justice solidified Brunswick's mantra for their commercial applications. The Justice, which has been utilized in the law enforcement and harbor patrol platforms, features an unsinkable hull with a commercial-grade fiberglass laminate. The vessel features a new technology that its engine manufacturers, Mercury Marine, describes as the first multi-fueled engine which operates on JP5, JP8 or commercial grade jet A fuel. The vessel's engines, the OptiMax JP, come equipped with the Mercury PCM 038 microprocessor which aids in its performance. At the show, the Justice fueled with JP5 and topped off with 100 gallons of commercial-grade Jet 8. The Norfolk waters were relatively calm during our run, which magnified the vessel's precision handling. As the technology for commercial-grade boats are moving forward to meet DoD requirements, single fuels in the battlespace becomes more inherent, says Mercury Government Account Manager, Tony Nahitchevansky. The engines were developed to support blue water as well as expeditionary waters, making it ideal for functioning in marine law enforcement missions. Mercury Marine has developed the multi-fueled engines which can cross between fuels, to the extent that cross pollination won't hamper an engine's performance. The EPA-certified engines fully comply to the EPA 06 mandate, ensuring its environmental responsibility. The vessel, which tops at 48 knots, soared at speeds up to 40 knots during our test run. With its speed, power and precise maneuverability, it was clear to us why the Coast Guard, Navy and other government and city agencies rely on Brunswick Commercial & Government Products.

With the 27-ft. Defender in tow from Bellingham, Wash., Bullfrog Boats, perhaps the smallest company on display, left one of the biggest impressions. The vessel which can be facilitated to aid in dive and rescue missions, can also be equipped with a gun mount for Homeland Defense applications. The unsinkable Defender was designed to be extremely durable and practically indestructible which can hold up under rough water conditions. The boat incorporates foam filled polyethylene flotation tubes mechanically attached to a fabricated 5086 aluminum hull. According to Bulllfrog Boats, the Polytubes are foam filled and will not deflate if punctured or damaged. The hull is a 25-degree deep V with reverse chines for stability. Its innovative construction and hull design can be attributed to the smooth, yet swift ride we experienced. The Defender, powered by twin 175 hp Bombardier outboard engines, can offer an outboard variety. Even with one engine, the Defender was able to reach speeds to 40 knots. With the ease to carry up to 3,000 lbs of cargo, the Defender can still pack a load and meet speeds up to 40 knots. Giving his boats exposure to important government agencies’ decision makers with buying power, Director of Bullfrog Boats, Craig Henderson drove over 7,500 miles from Washington State to attend MACC. He described the show as a helpful venue that was worth the three-day drive.

The in-water demonstration makes the conference a hotbed for new launches and a springboard for new ideas. Zodiac, with a handful of vessels on display at MACC, unveiled two new RIBs for the Coast Guard's $8 billion fleet modernization Deepwater program. According to Zodiac, the Long Range Interceptor and Short Range Prosecutor MK-II are designed to be the latest technology in small craft to support homeland security and other missions of the U.S. Coast Guard. The 36 ft. Zodiac Long Range Interceptor (LRI) is a diesel cabin RIB, carried aboard the National Security Cutter and Offshore Patrol Boat. The LRI is designed to operate Over-The-Horizon (OTH) from its parent cutter in missions lasting up to 10 hours. The LRI is launched and recovered via a stern notch system. It supports bow and stern gun mounts for 7.62 mm weapons to be used for defensive return fire. The LRI also has a cabin with acoustical liner. Seating for the operating crew consists of four Ullman suspension seats to minimize the effects of high-speed vessel slam. The LRI is equipped with twin Cummins 380 hp engines with twin 274 Hamilton water-jets. It is designed with Zodiac's DuraRib II foam collar system. The second generation 25 ft. Zodiac Short Range Prosecutor (SRP) MK-II can be carried in a notch aboard a Coast Guard 123 ft. Patrol Boat, Fast Response Cutter and National Security Cutter. The SRP MK-II operates within visual range from the cutter in missions lasting up to four hours. Missions include boarding operations, personnel recovery and search & rescue. The SRP MK-II includes forward and aft gun mounts to support a MK 16 to be used for defensive return fire. The SRP MK-II holds seating for a crew of two on Ullman suspension seating and jockey seats for four members of the boarding team. The seating is to minimize the effects of high-speed vessel slams. The SRP MK-II is equipped with twin Yanmar 440 hp engines with 292 Hamilton water jet. It is also equipped with Zodiac's DuraRib II foam collar system. Moose Boats, a boat designer and manufacturer in the San Francisco Bay Area, showcased the 38-ft Moose 340C. The all-aluminum jet powered catamarans features twin 370 hp turbo diesels and is propelled by water jets. Their catamaran hull, designed to be stable along with its water jet propulsion are well-suited for its patrolling missions, where it can be deployed at speeds over 34 knots. This past May, Moose was awarded two new contracts from the U.S. Navy for the construction of six more of the Moose 340C Catamaran Patrol Boats. The contract totals approximately $2,840,000 and the first boat is scheduled to be delivered in January 2005.

Also on display was the once covert vessel, the 71-ft. Sealion. The SEALION (SEAL Insertion, Observation, and Neutralization), categorized under the Ship and Force Architecture Concepts, is a product of a team that involved representatives from the government, the boat builder, and special warfare combatant craft users throughout the design, construction, and acceptance.

The technology demonstration craft was designed by Little Creek, Norfolk, Va.'s Carderock Division and built by Oregon Iron Works. According to Navy officials, the craft refines the Navy's knowledge of advanced hull forms. The design incorporates construction techniques for craft that will operate in the littorals. Following completion of testing, Combatant Craft will maintain SEALION as a test bed for future littoral warfare concepts and equipment. SEALION will be operated by Carderock Division and will be based in Norfolk, Va.

Additionally, a second SEALION craft is under construction at Oregon Iron Works and is scheduled for delivery in early 2006. The second SEALION will incorporate a modular payload, upgraded electronics and many of its craft functions will be computer controlled.

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