Plastic kayaks, small dinghies and the like are so common nowadays that we rarely give them a second thought. But a polyethylene vessel large enough to accommodate six combat personnel plus three crew (think coxswain and two gunners), that’s also tough enough to handle the rigours of active service? You’d better believe it.
Cape Town-based Rhino Marine has plenty of experience building virtually indestructible HDPE (high-density polyethylene) boats for the offshore oil and gas industries, so it was only a matter of time before they tried their hand at developing a military derivative. Says Rhino marine’s Luc Herman: “The reason we use HDPE is that it’s such a tough, robust material. It’s extremely low-maintenance, shatterproof, resistant to chemicals, almost impossible to puncture and very easy to repair. In the harsh, often unforgiving offshore environment most of our boats operating in, no other material would survive.”
The company believes its 9-metre long high-speed monohull design is ideal for various military applications, including harbour patrol, general sea boat work, boarding operations, special forces deployment, riverine patrols and diving support, to mention a few. The boats can also be armour-plated up to NIJ level III (multiple hits from NATO 7. 62 mm rounds) with negligible weight increase.
Powered by two inboard 235 kW Yanmar Marine turbo diesels driving two UltraJet propulsion units, the boat can reach speeds in excess of 38 knots (70 km/h). It’s also proven itself to be extremely manoeuvrable and well suited to choppy seas. Says Herman: “The beauty of the twin jet drive system is that it allows you to either crab sideways or, by slamming the throttles into reverse, come to a complete stop in just one boat length. They are also very safe for when you have divers in the water.”
Rhino Marine has also teamed up with mission system integrator specialists Cybicom Atlas Defence (CAD) to provide the SA Navy with an optimised, high-tech communication and situational awareness turnkey solution.
For more information, visit www.rhinomarineboats.com