DECEMBER 13, 2012 — By now we're all used to seeing pictures of NATO forces using RIBs to swoop down on pirates and pirate suspects off Somalia. In the case of Dutch forces, the latest RIBs being used come from Liverpool, England, based MST (Marine Specialised Technology). The company reports that it has now delivered almost half the 48 RIBs called for under a contract with the Netherlands Defense Materiel Organization (DMO).
In the ten years since MST started in business the yard has focused on the military and para-military sectors and has been successful in securing contracts from prestigious clients such as the Norwegian Navy and both the British and German Lifeboat Societies. This track record made the yard eligible to bid for the DMO contract but the contract terms were tough with all 48 boats to be based on the same basic design but to be capable of various roles. The arduous prototype testing required MST to build a 10 metre prototype to demonstrate their capabilities.
"We had the experience to meet this demanding challenge but the multi-role requirement meant that we had to incorporate a number of innovative features into the design" commented the sales director of MST, Philip Hilbert. "It was largely due to our sophisticated computer aided design facilities and considerable experience that we could develop the first concepts for this design to present to the DMO and their end-user; the Netherlands Navy. This enabled us to get on the short list of preferred bidders and at that stage we were asked to build a prototype"
When the first 12 m pre-production craft was delivered it was tested almost to destruction over a 14 week period to ensure that it would meet the requirements.
"The MoD found over 70 items that needed detail modifications but this was the reason for adopting this approach to the contract," says Mr. Hilbert. "With 48 boats at stake we had to be absolutely sure that we had the design correct and all the problems sorted out before we started up production. One of the major changes required was in the method of securing the inflatable tubes to the hull. MST had developed an innovative solution to tube design to meet the MoD's challenging replacement requirements and at one stage during extreme testing a section of the tube had come adrift. We wanted all of the changes required to show up at this stage of the development so that we could be confident that the production boats would work effectively and reliably".
A self-righting system was an important requirement but a conventional A-frame system would increase the air draft and impinge on the aft weapon's field of fire. To overcome these problems MST employed its innovative and patented FISR (Fully Inflatable Self Righting) system which simply need scaling up in size for the 12 m, 6,750 kg RIBs and despite initially failing on the first trials, it worked perfectly after modification and has now been exhaustively proven in full scale trials. The MST FISR®system is modular and readily detachable from the craft for maintenance and servicing purposes.
Shock mitigation for the crew was a high priority and five commercial seats were tested under a wide variety of conditions with both objective measurements and subjective evaluation. This narrowed the choice to two seats and the contract was finally awarded to Scotseats.
The contract covers three RIB designs but there is a strong thread of commonality between all of them to simplify training, spares and inter-changeability. The primary design is for 19 of the 12 metre boarding craft that will be carried on board the new offshore patrol vessels being built for the Navy. They will also be used by the Netherlands Special Forces where the RIBs need to be air-transportable. These RIBs will have stern drive propulsion and facilities or provisions for davit and slipway launch and recovery. Based on the same design concept are 17 raiding craft that will have water jet propulsion and which will be used on the Landing Platform Dock vessels. Finally the contract includes twelve 9.6 m RIBs that will be used for patrol duties at the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao which follow the same design concept but with a shorter length. All of the designs are capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots from the twin Volvo Penta diesel power.
"It was a considerable design challenge to accommodate all of these operational requirements in one basic design", commented Mr. Hilbert, "We think that this is the first time that a client has managed to reconcile their different requirements into one basic design and this will lead to reduced costs and improved management of spares and training".
MST is producing these Netherlands MoD RIBs at the rate of two per month and each completed boat is put through rigorous acceptance trials lasting a week by a DMO and MoD team to ensure that the high quality and reliability developed from the initial trials is maintained.