Navy Receives First New Patrol Boat

By Valerie Insinna
The Navy is moving forward with plans to refresh its patrol boat fleet, which hasn’t been updated since the 1980s. Safe Boats International in August delivered the first of 10 new MK VI boats to the service.

The new MK VI boat is more survivable than the legacy fleet and is better equipped with modernized weapons, communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, a Navy news release said. The boat completed sea trials this summer and will undergo further testing before its operational deployment in spring 2015.

“This versatile platform leverages a proven, quality design and will provide enhanced capabilities to patrol and protect shallow coastal areas,” Frank McCarthey, the Navy’s program manager for auxiliary ships, boats and craft, said in a statement.

The Navy is still determining how many MK VIs it will ultimately purchase. Officials have said it could buy as many as 48 vessels. Safe Boats’ current contract has an option for two additional boats.

“I think they’re going through an evaluation to find out what their future needs really are,” said Dennis Morris, president and CEO of Safe Boats International.

The 85-foot long MK VI accommodates a 10-person crew and up to eight additional passengers. It can sprint in excess of 35 knots and is equipped with a covered fly bridge, reconfigurable main deck cabin and shock mitigating seating that offers greater comfort in high sea states.

The company will deliver an additional boat this year and its remaining eight vessels at a rate of three per year through 2017, Morris said.

Safe Boats’ 65-foot-long coastal command boat — a smaller, early version of the MK VI — has been operating in Bahrain since the beginning of the year, Morris said.

The MK VI will have space for additional crew and payloads, as well as greater mission capability, but the Navy can sail it to refine the larger boat’s concept of operations.

“Given that it’s a ... similar type of platform, they’re actually learning a lot that will then transfer over to the MK VI,” he said.

Safe Boats also plans to market the vessel internationally, Morris said. Potential customers from the Middle East and Central and South America have already made inquiries about the MK VI.

“This is such a new platform and a new set of capabilities for the U.S. Navy, I think once it gets into the fleet and they start to see it operational, I think we’ll get an interest from quite a few [more] areas,” he said.

Topics: Business Trends, Manufacturing

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