THE first in a new line of state-of-the-art boats for the Royal Navy has been unveiled at Portsmouth’s Naval Base.
Since January, engineers inside BAE Systems’ Small Boats Centre of Excellence have been building the latest generation rigid inflatable boat (Rib).
Now, the first of 60 new Pacific 24 Mark 4 Ribs has rolled off the production line and is set to join the Senior Service in a matter of weeks.
The vessel is a quantum leap forward in design and capability over its predecessors and will allow sailors to operate for longer in more comfort.
The craft will embark with the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, as well as Type 45 destroyers and off-shore patrol ships.
One of the key improvements to the boat is the high-performance, shock-absorbing seats, which help to minimise crew fatigue, allowing them to travel up to six times the distance of other designs.
‘This is going to be a big step forward for the Royal Navy,’ said BAE production manager Paul Berry.
‘This has been a slow build to make sure we get everything correct.
‘But the boat is just fantastic. We’re very proud of it.’
Production on the first vessel began in January after defence secretary awarded BAE with a £15m contract to build the new fleet of boats.
Building is split over two floors, with the top floor focusing on the hull and deck moulds, while the ground floor pulls everything together and installs the engine.
Sam Young, 25, of Portsmouth is a fourth-year apprentice with BAE and has been working on the craft.
He said: ‘Being an apprentice has been exciting.
‘It’s great to see the boat start from nothing and then getting to see that finished product.’
The Ribs can travel from ship or shore at speeds of up to 38 knots (44mph) as a rapid response craft to perform fast rescue, anti-piracy and counter-narcotics missions.
They feature a 370HP twin turbo diesel electronic engine with in-built self-diagnostic technology, making them easier to maintain.
The boats have also gained the Safety of Life at Sea accreditation meaning they can now also be used for rescue operations.
Ben Mason, project manager at BAE Systems said: ‘This has been a really significant investment and it is going to be a really key platform for the Royal Navy.’
The other 59 rigid inflatable boats are due to be finished by summer 2019.