U.S. Navy Gets New Heavily-Armed Port Patrol Boat
The U.S. Navy and Louisiana-based boatbuilder Metal Shark are nearing the end of the testing period for the new “40 PB” 43-foot patrol boat platform, and full-rate production is set to begin soon.
The design was developed as the replacement for the small 25-foot and 34-foot patrol boats operated by the Navy's Coastal Riverine Force (CRF) in ports and waterways around the world, and it was selected from a field of seven competitors. Metal Shark will soon be delivering one production boat per month; the firm holds an initial contract for 11 hulls, extending up to 50 with options. The existing fleet numbers about 100-160 vessels, and it is expected that the new design will replace these hulls over the next 15 years.
The new platform represents a departure from the Navy CRF patrol boats in current use. The Navy specified a "visual-deterrent" appearance for the new vessel, which the design satisfies with a futuristic and "menacing" faceted hull profile above the waterline. It is also conspicuously and heavily armed: the vessel is built with six MK 16 weapons foundations plus a large forward foundation for remotely-operated MK 49 / MK 50 weapons systems. This armament capability is nearly as formidable as that found aboard the new Mark VI patrol boat, a much larger vessel ordered as a replacement for the Navy's Riverine Command Boat. The 40 PB's pilothouse has ballistic protection for extended firefights and enough shock-mitigating seating for a crew of five.
With the extra firepower and survivability, the Navy hopes to expand the CRF patrol boats' mission profile. In addition to traditional port security and asset protection operations, the 40 PB is built to venture into hostile environments if needed.
The vessel’s hull form is designed to achieve 40-knot sprint speeds, with reduced operating costs at the 10-15 knot escort speeds where the 40 PB will spend the bulk of its life.