Metal Sharks: The USCG’s RB-S Boats
Huge US Coast Guard projects like the frigate-sized National Security Cutters get a lot of attention, but they can only be in so many places at once. Most people who encounter the Coast Guard do so inshore, and their encounter is often with a “Response Boat – Small.” RB-S was developed as a direct response to 9/11, and the corresponding need for additional homeland security assets. The current Defender Class boats are assigned to the Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), the Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Marine Safety Units (MSU), and to small boat stations throughout the coastal United States. They’re used for port, waterway, and coastal security; search and rescue; drug interdiction; immigration-related operations; fisheries enforcement; defense readiness; and law enforcement missions.
As you might imagine, these boats take a pounding. The first RB-S Defender Class boats arrived in May 2002, and they’re reaching the end of their expected 10-year service life. The US Coast Guard is looking to replace them with a new RB-S, and they’ve picked a winner.
The Winner: Metal Shark
The winning RB-S is based on Metal Shark’s 27 Defiant platform, a smaller version of the 38 Defiant aluminum boat that serves as the US Navy’s Force Protection Boat – Small (FPB-S).
The USCG’s new 28-foot RB-S is powered by twin 225-horsepower Honda outboards that can drive it to speeds exceeding 40 knots, and onboard fuel gives them a minimum range of 150 nautical miles. RB-S also includes a full complement of communications and navigation gear, as well as shock-mitigating seats to save the crew’s backs. The vessel’s side and rear windows drop down to improve crew communication and ventilation.
The boats can be armed, with multiple weapons racks and an integrated weapons-ready mounting system at the bow. The forward-mounted gunner’s platform and tub provides 180-degree firing capability, while a pass-through hatch leads to the fully-enclosed cabin for easy access in any conditions. That glassed-in cabin is “enhanced by ballistic materials,” which usually means Kevlar inserts, but in this case it also means ballistic glass.
The RB-S can be towed on a trailer for service between missions, and can also be airlifted on a C-130, using a more specialized trailer.
USCG RB-S Specifications
LOA: 28′ 6″
Beam: 8′ 6″
Draft: 1′ 8″
Fuel Capacity: 110 gallons
Dry Weight: 9,800 lbs
Max HP: 450 hp
Contracts & Key Events
Sept 26/11: Metal Shark Boats receives an initial $13 million delivery order, to begin replace the U.S. Coast Guard’s RB-S fleet. The initial contract is for just 38 boats, but the total could reach $193.1 million and 500 boats: Up to 470 across the Coast Guard fleet, another 20 boats available to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and 10 slated for purchase by the U.S. Navy.
This one of the largest boat buys of its kind for the US Coast Guard. To meet that order, Metal Shark plans to expand its 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Jeanerette, LA, while hiring another 40 skilled aluminum welders, rigging and electronics experts, and installation professionals. that would bring its work force from 80 to 120 employees over the next 6 months. USCG | Metal Shark.
Feb 4/11: The US Coast Guard awards 2 fixed-price indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contracts to its RB-S finalists: Metal Shark Aluminum Boats of Jeanerette, LA, and 2002 RB-S winner SAFE Boats International of Port Orchard, WA. The maximum potential value of the contract awarded to Metal Shark Aluminum Boast is $193.1 million, and the maximum potential value for SAFE Boats International is $180.1 million. The USCG adds that the “company not selected for additional RB-S production will only receive payment for the boat submitted for validation under this award,” without naming them.
Under the terms of the contract, each finalist will produced a minimum of 1 boat, based on a proven hull design, for delivery in June 2011. The Coast Guard will test and validate each boat in summer 2001, then and pick the winning boat design based on “best overall value to the government.” That means the lowest bidder could lose, if the other boat offers enough advantages. Which is what apparently happened. USCG.
September 2010: The USCG Acquisition Directorate’s “Delivering the Goods” Newsletter reports [PDF] that:
“The U.S. Coast Guard recently released [an RFP] for the next version of the service’s…(RB-S)… Dominique Bee, project manager for the RB-S project [said]
“Acquisitions take time, so you have to start in advance. If you need to replace a boat once it reaches its 10th year of service, you really need to start in the eighth year to be prepared.” The Coast Guard issued a request for information from prospective RB-S builders last February and determined that there is “very healthy competition,” he said. “There are plenty of boat builders who’ve expressed great interest in bidding on this. We’re very confident that we’re going to get some very good proposals and we’re going to have some very nice boats to select from.” Responses to the Coast Guard’s Aug. 20 RFP are due Oct. 15.”