The Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) was developed in the late 1960's and was originally conceived of for the role of life boats. Development took place at Atlantic College in Wales and the patented was awarded to Admiral Desmond Hoare in 1969. It wasn't long before Special Operations COMmands (SOCOM) from all over the world saw the inherent military applications for a lightweight, inflatable vessel sporting a fiberglass rigid hull. The RIB's characteristics are such that it allows the craft to fulfill sport and most military requirements with relative ease. RIB's come in a variety of sizes and most range between 13- and 40-feet in length. In 1997, US SOCOM chose the contractor USMI to manufacture the NSW RIB.
The U.S. Navy SEALs subsequently adopted the 11-meter RIB as their inflatable craft of choice. The hull is made of steel, wood and aluminum with a covering of a glass-reinforced plastic material for added strength. The hull is designed to hydroplane for maximum performance in shallow waters. The inflatable collar is a heavy duty fabric called Hypalon (Dupont) and is thicker than polyurethane. Bumper padding and bow skirts use a 2-ply Hypalon fabric needed for those "heavy-use" areas in and around the boat.
The 11-meter boat has a standard crew of three made up of the boat captain and two gunners and can handle up to 10 additional passengers. Propulsion can be two outboard motors or an inboard water jet stern drive generating up to 470 horsepower. The boat can handle 3,200lbs including the team with full gear and has two gun mounts that can accommodate a combination of 7.62mm (.30 caliber) M60 General Purpose Machine Guns or 12.7mm (.50 caliber) Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns or 40mm SACO MK 19 Automatic Grenade Launchers. Despite this formidable array of weapon choices, the "true" weapon that the RIB possesses is its 40 knot speed in "blue" or "brown" water and survivability in adverse weather conditions, being able to stand up in a Sea State 6 with winds upwards of 46 knots. Sea State 6 is a measurement as used by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and ranges from 0 (no waves with calm conditions) to 9 (over 14-meter high waves with phenomenal conditions)
The Special Operations COMmand (SOCOM) has almost 50,000 personnel in units spread across the US Navy SEALs (SEa, Air and Land), the US Army's Green Berets, US Army Rangers and the US Air force Special Operations Squadrons - all use RIB's of various sizes. The SEALs various missions send them into land areas all over the world but they always keep one eye on the nearest source of water. Their primary mission is stealth ground reconnaissance of a target prior to an attack by regular forces.
With over 50% of the world's population living near a river or an ocean, the SEALs need a lightweight, high speed, all-weather craft that has maximum buoyancy and is C-130 transportable - the RIB fits the bill.
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