The U.S. Navy has awarded Willard Marine, Inc. (WMI), a five-year contract to provide two types of 7-meter rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) that will serve as ready service lifeboats for search-and-rescue missions.

The contract includes a standard craft based on the 7-meter RIB WMI has been producing for the Navy for 25 years, and a separate version specifically for LPD-17 class ships, which WMI has also been supplying for a number of years. Twenty-four vessels have already been ordered under the contract and the first scheduled delivery begins in March 2015.

The terrorist attacks on the USS Cole in October of 2000 and multiple homeland target attacks in 2001 sparked secondary missions for these craft as identified in the contract as anti-terrorism/force protection; maritime interdiction operations; visit, board, search and seizure; safety boat/escort; and tow and recovery.

A critical operational requirement for these shipboard RIBs is that each boat must be carried aboard and deployed from a variety of U.S. Navy ship classes. Thus, the boats will be compatible with a variety of existing shipboard handling and stowage systems, including traditional davits and stowage chocks and other class-specific launch, recovery, and handling systems.

The contract specifies a 254-hp inboard Steyr diesel engine with a Bravo Two X MerCruiser sterndrive. All vessels will be delivered with a Briartek man overboard indicator system display and antenna, as well as a forward M60/M240 machine gun foundation.