BAE Systems is to build 60 new lightweight rapid response boats for the Royal Navy.
The Pacific 24 Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), which are being built under a £13.5m contract, are designed to be deployed from ship or shore for anti-piracy or drugs missions, or to perform rescue operations.
But travelling at speeds of up to 44 miles per hour can put a huge physical strain on the driver and crew of these boats. So the new fleet of RIBs are being fitted with shock absorbing seats, in a bid to minimise the impact of high energy operations on crew members and to allow them to travel up to six-times further.
To incorporate these new, heavier, seats, BAE Systems had to make considerable weight savings elsewhere on the boats, according to Ben Mason, project manager for the P24 RIB. “We managed to save about 150kg, which on a 2000kg boat is pretty significant,” said Mason.
To make the savings, the boats are being fitted with a new, lightweight 370HP twin turbo diesel electronic engine. “Since the engine is electronic, it means a lot of the heavy mechanical components have been removed,” he said.
Fibre-reinforced composite is also being used in the boat itself. The composite contains less epoxy resin than traditional polyester resin materials, and has a foam core, both of which help to reduce weight, said Mason.
“The main weight saving comes through the production process,” he said. “The new P24s are manufactured from carbon and various types of glass, which are oriented in such a way as to give optimised strength to the boat.”
This increased strength means less material is needed, reducing weight, he said.
The material is produced using a resin vacuum infusion process. Resin is pumped into a mould and the vacuum is turned on, sucking it into the mould and ensuring it disperses evenly across the fibre.
The RIBs will be built over the next four years at the company’s small boats manufacturing facility at Portsmouth Naval Base. They will be deployed on the Royal Navy’s Off Shore Patrol Vessels, and the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, which are due to arrive in Portsmouth in 2017.
Scroll down to comment on this story.
Please note, you will need to complete our free registration process to comment on stories and to read other user’s comments.