Building patrol boats is big business, especially for foreign defense needs. U.S. yards compete on a global stage in the all-important maritime security workboat arena.
Patrol boats have continued to enhance bottom lines at many U.S. vessel builders this year through sales that are usually government directed or assisted. Budget cuts are a concern, but the sector’s federal funding remains high. Patrol boats are sold to other nations under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales or FMS program, authorized by the Arms Export Control Act to provide defense items. FMS sales of all goods and services were an estimated $25 billion in FY 2013, below a record $69 billion the previous year, but exceeding an average of $10 to $13 billion annually before FY 2006. The U.S. government, with an eye to military-equipment competitors, including Britain, France, Russia, Brazil, China and South Korea, intends to remain a top supplier. For their part, U.S. builders have combined to create an enviable $410 million trade surplus, during last year alone.
Domestically, the U.S. Coast Guard has continued to fund Fast Response Cutters (FRC) to replace an aging fleet of patrol boats and conduct search-and-rescue, secure borders, interdict drugs, respond to disasters, enforce immigration laws and prevent terrorism. But with tight state and municipal finances, fewer funds and grants are available to pay for patrol vessels for local government entities.
Abroad, patrol boats are needed to counter terrorism, crime and piracy and to shore up weak maritime defenses. “Large vessels with limited mobility have become sitting ducks for motivated terrorists with small boats,” Robert Stevens, CEO of Tampa Yacht Manufacturing in Florida, said last month. Coastal and littoral protection has been stepped up in response. “Nations are particularly concerned about the possibility of asymmetric threats, presented by countries equipped with a number of small craft, such as Iran,” he said. “To combat these threats, similar, small-craft defense is required.”
Piracy is also on the rise, contributing to the need for patrol boats. Last year, a record number of boardings by pirates occurred in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen, Stevens said. And because today’s maritime security missions cannot, by themselves, be performed by traditional bluewater hulls, the smaller workboat model comes increasingly into play. But the cumulative needs of the maritime security workboat sector demand much more than just more hulls. Innovation and cutting edge features therefore trump sheer work volume. Fortunately, there is plenty of the former to go around.
Innovation of a Different Kind: Co-Building Strategies
A 28-meter patrol craft, made of steel with an aluminum superstructure, is Swiftships’ best known and most stable Egyptian navy platform, Shehraze Shaw, CEO of Swiftships Shipbuilders, said last month. The Morgan City, La.-based company introduced its parent craft to Egypt in1983 through U.S. Foreign Military Financing, a program providing security to friendly governments--including border and coast guard duties performed by the Egyptian navy.
“Thirty years later, this relationship has grown into co-production to facilitate economic development in Egypt via joint funding,” Shaw said. Vessels produced through the liaison are the basis of the company’s coastal brigade, 28-meter patrol boat.
Swiftships’ 28-meter sales to Egypt are under an International Traffic in Arms Regulations-approved program. The Egyptian Navy has requested up to thirty 28-meter vessels. Swiftships and the Egyptian navy are co-producing these vessels under FMS at Egyptian Ship Repairs and Building Co. or ESRBC in Alexandria, Egypt. The latest six vessels, PB 595-600, were constructed under FMS.
Shaw said the patrol craft’s parents are thirty years old and still in operation. Hulls for new vessels are numerically cut and built in accordance with the American Shipping Bureau and High Speed Navy Craft rules. “This vessel has a long service life and utilizes materials and designs that allow it to be produced easily in different yards under proper guidance,” Shaw said. “Security advantages include ease of operation, along with minimal training and maintenance needs, thereby limiting off-time or time not patrolling.”
In this case, co-production is probably the most significant aspect of the company’s relationship with Egypt, Shaw said. “And we intend to promote this strategy globally on numerous vessels of different styles and sizes,” he said.
Field Replacement & Repair: Tampa Yacht Packs Value into Each Hull
In Pinellas Park, Fla., Tampa Yacht is in a mid-contract build for ten boats for the Indian navy. Introduced this year, the 11-meter, or 36-foot advanced composite, deep-vee monohull craft was designed and built to strict cost and weight standards. “This craft provides the customer with controlled lifting limits for berthing on mother ships and at the best value for their investment,” CEO Robert Stevens said last month. “Follow-on contracts may include a version adapted to air-drop configuration for extended, ready deployment.”
For its 36, rigid hull inflatable/hybrid collar boat, Tampa Yacht chose a wing collar assembly. Its universal and adaptable hybrid collar offers many of the advantages of fully inflated collars, without some of the drawbacks. The collar’s shape and size is established mainly by a closed-cell polyethylene foam core. That makes the collar robust, shock absorbing and non-collapsible. “A polyurethane skin and neoprene rub guard provide excellent abrasion resistance, yet a soft interface for shouldering other craft,” Timothy Chalfant, chief naval architect at Tampa Yacht, said. “And the contained, inner bladder ensures a drum-tight fit to the final assembly.”
Field repair and replacement of the RHIB’s collar are key features. A deck ring receiver incorporates bolt rope extrusions top and bottom, providing attachment points for sliding the collar assembly on and off the boat. The foam core and sheathing can be installed fairly easily from bow or stern, Chalfant said. Final insertion and inflation of the entrained bladder completes the installation and provides tightness for service. All parts are standardized and interchangeable among sister craft.
Built to International Association of Classification Societies or IACS standards, like most Tampa Yacht vessels, the 36 RHIB allows for added, storable and deployable crew-ballistic protection panels, along with a manually activated, self-righting bag fixed to the aft-mounted arch mast. Customer-requested features include shock-mitigating seating for 16 passengers, split helm consoles, fore and aft lifting strong points and weapons foundations. The boat is Ultrajet propelled, with power from twin Fiat Power Train Model 560 diesel engines to operate at over 40 knots in Sea State 3 and above.
Bollinger Delivers Proven Design in Sentinel Class FRC’s
Lockport, La.-based Bollinger Shipyards delivered its 154-foot, patrol craft CHARLES DAVID JR. to the U.S. Coast Guard on August 20. That boat was the seventh in a 58-vessel, Sentinel-Class Fast Response Cutter program. “To build the FRC, Bollinger Shipyards used a proven in-service, parent-craft design, based on the Damen Stan Patrol Boat 4708,” Skip Bowen, vice president of government relations at Bollinger, said last month. The risk-adverse Coast Guard insisted on a proven hull form – and that’s what they got.
The CHARLES DAVID JR has a minimum top speed of 28 knots, along with state-of-the-art command, control, communications and computer technology, and a stern launch system for the vessel’s 26-foot cutter boat. “The FRC has been described by senior Coast Guard officials as an operational game-changer,” Bowen said.
The cutter is armed with a remotely operated 25-mm machine gun mount and with four, crew-served .50-caliber machine guns. “The FRC’s design allows enhanced sea keeping for operations in very rough waters,” Bowen said. Beyond this, a sophisticated command-and-control system operable with the Coast Guard’s existing and future assets, also works with those of the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Defense.
Ocean Craft’s Newest Output: Riverine Assault Vessels
Ocean Craft Marine’s 12.5m riverine assault vessel, OCM 1250-RAV, will be delivered in 2014 and is built in several configurations for customers in the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council countries and South America, Todd Salus, vice president at Ocean Craft in Annapolis, Md., said last month. The Gulf Cooperation Council includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Built of aluminum alloy and powered by twin, inboard diesel water jets, at 880 HP, the assault vessel can reach a top speed of 42 knots. “With a sharp forward dead rise and shoal draft of 27 inches, it’s ideally suited for law enforcement, security and military operations in both inland and riverine environments,” Salus said. The vessel has a number of options, including shock-mitigating seating, gyro-stabilized thermal imagery, NVG-compatible lighting, ballistic-protective panels and windscreen, crew-serve weapon mounts, countermeasure launchers, and electro-hydraulic articulating bow and stern ramps.
“Capable of beaching at speed and emergency stops, our assault vessel is transportable by rotary and fixed wing aircraft, and provides unrivaled, close-quarter maneuverability with durable, robust propulsion for prolonged patrols,” Salus said. “To date, we have contractual orders in house for fourteen hulls, and we expect to at least double that number before the end of 2014.”
Willard Marine: Aluminum Specialty for Foreign Navies
Willard Marine in Anaheim, Calif. is building three patrol craft for the Ukraine navy under the U.S. Navy FMS program. Based on the 7m (23 ft. 9 in.) RIB hull that Willard developed for the U.S. Navy, vessels for the Ukraine are being constructed in aluminum to meet that customer’s needs for speed, sea keeping and mission capabilities. The Cummins-powered vessels will be used for rescue and patrol missions and can be launched from larger mother ships. The craft’s hull is 5086 aluminum, and the inflatable collar is polyurethane-coated nylon, with seven separate chambers.
Willard has supplied similarly designed, 7m aluminum RIBs to the Iraq navy with Yanmar 430hp diesels and water jet drive. “The Yanmar engines have been designed to function well in the extreme heat and dust that they’ll encounter in their operating environment,” said Richard Bryson, Willard Marine’s director of engineering. The 7m RIBs have a carrying capacity of six people, including three crew. “Our new boats showcase Willard Marine’s ability to build in aluminum with the same high quality as our composite boats,” Bryson said.
RiverHawk: High-Speed Interceptors on Patrol
SeaStriker 22, operating since October 2012, is a high-speed, patrol interceptor built by RiverHawk in Tampa, Fla. The SeaStriker responds to international demand for affordable and effective answers to surface threats in the littorals, Jacob Shuford, RiverHawk’s development director, said last month.
In partnership with Raytheon and Rheinmetall, RiverHawk designed, built, outfitted and operates the 22-meter Striker, a 55+ knots full load, high-performance craft optimized for tactical environments. “We built the 22 as an operational prototype,” Shuford said. “We bought it ourselves for development.”
The Striker 22 is a modern, composite hull form, with a 500 nautical-mile range and accommodations for multi-day operations. Its innovations include speed, stability and integrated electronics to ensure responsiveness and flexibility in missions. The Striker 22 is optimized against multi-axis, multi-wave, high-speed aggressor watercraft. The craft introduces Raytheon’s Command Bridge, integrating navigation; tactical planning; EO/IR or electro-optical/infrared sensors; ECM or electronic countermeasures; and missile and gun-fire control functions into one system.
The Striker’s platform has twin 12.7 mm advanced, stabilized remote-operated mounts. The craft can accommodate a larger, medium-caliber gun such as Rheinmetall’s MLG-27 and a surface-to-surface missile launcher system, like Raytheon’s Griffin.
Other features include network-capable communications. Speed and C2, or command and communications, allow the Striker to surge assets and concentrate deterrence in response to intelligence or alerts. Forward, remote-controlled, stabilized mounts and aft-deck crew-served weapons provide accurate, redundant, overlapping, high rates-of-fire. Aft deck supports fast-roping operations and USV/UAV/Comb, or unmanned surface and aerial vehicle combat. Notably, RiverHawk also markets 16-meter and 31-meter craft in its SeaStriker series.
Euro Marine’s Maneuverable, Enigmatic PI-65
Euro Marine Ltd.’s 20-meter PI-65 is a high-performance, aluminum patrol boat, operating from land or maritime platforms. With it, the company has redefined an enigmatic, hull-form concept dating to the early 1950’s. The PI-65 is designed to combat piracy in international shipping lanes and to protect offshore assets, including oil platforms and wind farms. Arguably, the PI-65 brings together all of the desirable aspects of the maritime security platform, while allowing operations in a multiple conditions.
Amidships, the PI-65’s hull flares into an enigmatic form, creating five planing surfaces--a flat box keel, two inner chines and two outer chines. The design allows for a highly efficient lift onto a plane and excellent lateral stability, Bill Rigby of Euro Marine said last month. The aft section provides stability through its relatively flat, wide shape, while its concave form sends clean, non-turbulent water to the propulsion area, creating a slipstream for the props.
The single-engine, propeller operation of the craft’s Hydro-Multi-Lift hull form doesn’t push against the keel and consequently, vessel steering isn’t affected the way it is in deep-V hull forms. As a result, water entering the propeller area is clear of turbulent backwash from the keel. Captains can cut to using one engine on long voyages since the aft-hull shape eliminates the steering action that a single, rotating prop causes.
The Hydro-Multi-Lift hull is on plane quickly, conserving fuel for longer ranges and extended cones of interdiction. The boat has a fuel capacity of 14,000 liters; in itself, a new standard for offshore patrol vessels. Another chief benefit of the Hydro-Multi-Lift design is its shallow draft. The low displacement of newly introduced Alustar high-strength, light-weight, corrosion-resistant marine aluminum, coupled with the elimination of the deep-V amidships, makes it possible to maneuver the PI-65 in areas too shallow for other vessels.
The PI-65 offers the ability to patrol beyond sheltered harbors and bays, in open water and past the Departure Sea Area to operate safely in Beaufort-scale 10 storm conditions. On orders to deploy for interdiction, PI-65 gas-turbine-powered boats can switch from electric APU fuel-conservation, auxiliary power to main turbines running at 75 percent power. The craft can be brought on plane to 50 knots for high-intercept speed.
To date, two PI-65 have been delivered to undisclosed foreign buyers to provide security for offshore and coastal installations, Rigby said. “As the role of the 600-foot warship becomes less effective in combating piracy, terrorism and other security threats, a new concept is emerging of using a number of small, high-speed vessels capable of speeds of 50 knots,” he said. Euro Marine has U.S. offices, but assembles the hulls in the Netherlands.
Demand Continues, Export Markets Strong – and U.S. Firms Deliver
“Smaller nations that previously benefited from the presence of larger nation navies are now rethinking their defense situations,” Tampa Yacht’s CEO Stevens said last month. Because of budget tightening, large navies are reallocating resources closer to home. “Smaller nations are now making serious plans for their own defense, and these plans include a significant coastal element,” using patrol boats, he said. When they do, they’ll also turn to U.S. builders for quality, price, reliability – and yes – innovation, too.
(As published in the December 2013 edition of Marine News - www.marinelink.com)