After 9/11 the USCG decided that it needed over 700 patrol boats to secure U.S. ports, harbors and boarders. It would need a platform that could handle its 30 mm machine guns, be fast and nimble enough to intercept water-born suicide bombers, and be extremely reliable in the harsh saltwater environments where they would be deployed 24/7 in all kinds of weather. Not only that, but it would need to do all of that on a budget.
The Defender Class boats cost $180,000 each, including twin Honda outboards.
One can imagine the hoops that suppliers have to jump through to prove themselves to the USCG. Safe Boat International in Oregon won the USCG contract to build the Defender Class, powered by twin Honda 225hp outboard engines. The boats are trailerable and are also transportable in C-130 cargo planes. The boats have a 50 mile to 125 mile range, depending on the size of their fuel tank. The boats are designed to operate in maximum seas of 6 feet and to be able to survive 10’ seas. The boats are said to have a WOT in excess of 45 knots.
The boat’s hull is made of marine grade (5086) aluminium. The design is a deep-V with longitudinal and stringers all designed to project force upward and to the transom. The hull itself is completely welded shut and is air-tight, making it one large flotation chamber. So long as this chamber keeps its integrity, the boat is unsinkable.
The boat has no bilges and is self bailing without moving forward.
This is the Defender Class boat without is “collar.”
One of the changes made from the prototype of the Defender Class was to lengthen the size of the cabin. It is heated and has a windshield defroster powered by a diesel heater. Two side doors are designed for quick egress. Windows in the overhead are designed to ease communication with choppers and for better sight lines when next to large vessels.
The collar abaft the cabin on both sides is designed to make it easier to haul people aboard from the water.
When the boat is fully swamped, it drains completely in less than 60 seconds. As of this writing there have been no hull failures, according to the builder.
The collar gives the boat stability and protection against piercing projectiles – it is bulletproof!
Working under an exclusive license from Norseman Marine Products Inc. of Port Orchard, WA. SAFE Boats International is the only legal manufacturer of foam stabilized watercraft in all of North America. This patented system allows only SAFE Boats to utilize a full sized foam collar for flotation, stability, and fendering.
SAFE Boats sponson repair can be made by an inexperienced boater within hours, and is much easier than repairs on conventional inflatable tubes, according to the builder.
The collar foam used by SAFE Boats was designed to insulate the Alaska oil-pipeline and is impervious to petroleum products and other solvents.
The Standard SAFE Boats Collar system has been proven, says the builder, to stop small arms fire from penetrating the side plate of the hull. With the addition of ballistic material either behind the collar or laminated in the collar, it can stop up to 7.62 mm.
Honda engineers train USCG personnel in proper maintenance and repair procedures.
The powerful Honda 225 horsepower has a large displacement V-6 engine, giving it outstanding torque. The 24-valve, six-cylinder design produces all the durability and performance of the smooth-running Honda Acura MDX it was based on.
An "on-demand", 60 AMP alternator reduces heat build-up. And an oxygen sensor feedback system refines economy. Compact, computer-controlled Dual-Stage Induction makes this engine the standard for reliability, which is one reason it was chosen by the USCG for its Defender Class boats.
So, the next time you see one of the USCG’s Defender Class go whizzing by you’ll realize that it is not an inflatable, and that it has lots of power and versatility built into a small package.