It stands to reason that if a boat is to be used for military purposes, it needs to be very strong and robust; and if that vessel is to be initially dropped from a plane, it’s absolutely vital that it can withstand the impact of hitting the water before embarking on its challenging mission. Zodiac Milpro’s boats are these such impressive vessels.
As the global leader in producing military RIBs and other professional inflatable vessels, the company’s Zodiac Hurricane range of high-speed boats are used by special forces teams from countries including France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, the US, China, Singapore and Malta. Many of the models are powered by Volvo Penta’s inboard engines, and so, of course, these appliances must also be tough and resilient when put under the stresses of harsh conditions.
“When dropped from a plane, the boat is fully assembled with the collar deflated, and it is released with specific equipment allowing the user to re-configure it and make it operational for the mission,” says Gregory Bon, key account export manager for Zodiac Milpro.
“The hull, the deck and all the structural equipment of the Zodiac Hurricane RIBs are designed according to specific loads to handle the impact with the water when dropped. Structural calculation and drop testing are performed extensively prior to delivery to our clients.”
He adds: “The engines are specifically integrated with customized interfaces to handle the loads, while not impacting the engine reliability and hull structure.”
Zodiac Milpro is based in France and has subsidiaries and operations around the world. The company was formed in 1896 and developed the first prototype inflatable boat in 1940. With more than a century of expertise, Zodiac Milpro has continuously pioneered RIB design, offering both turnkey and customized options. In addition to supplying RIBs to more than 80 military forces, the company also provides high-speed inflatable patrol boats to prestigious customers including the International Red Cross, coastal rescue organizations such as the governmental customs organizations, and multi-national blue-chip companies.
The company’s Zodiac Hurricane RIBs are customized to suit each customer’s requirements. They can be built with aluminum or fiberglass hull, fitted with inboard or outboard engines, and use either propeller or jet drives. All models have removable collars, filled either with air or a Durarib patented foam collar; and the size, cabin layout (with shock mitigation options), console, and seating configurations are also built according to specifications. The RIBs are also fitted with world-class electronics equipment, as required.
Most of the Zodiac Hurricane vessels with inboard engines are powered by Volvo Penta’s D4 and D6 models, in single or twin installations, with Duoprop drives. The RIBs can be dropped from planes and helicopters or launched from large ships – for fast-paced critical missions – or be shore-based, for general use. And many of them are recovered by the mothership or air-lifted by a helicopter sling, after completion of an operation.
“We select Volvo Penta engines due to their large power range, good power-to-weight ratio, quick acceleration with the Duoprop drives, fuel efficiency, excellent torque on the water, and reliability,” says Bon. “Inboard engines allow us to better tune the center of gravity of the rib – in mid or aft configuration – which is essential to having good maneuverability in high seas, and lifting the rib from a single point to the mothership during extraction after a mission. Inboards also provide good endurance and a steady compromise through different conditions, which is needed for a multi-action mission.”
Satisfying the most demanding of requirements
Zodiac Milpro’s customers require RIBs that can reach speeds of 45 knots or higher, and there is increasing demand to achieve distances of around 300 nautical miles. Payload capacities are another consideration, to ensure safe and efficient transportation of personnel and equipment. The company offers training for operational use and maintenance of its vessels.
“The combination of our patented Military Air Channel II (MACH II) hulls and Volvo Penta D4 or D6 engine with Duoprop, offers excellent performance in term of speed, fuel consumption and achievable distance,” says Bon. “This solution gives satisfaction to the most demanding users in the military and professional market.”
He adds: “In addition, we are happy to work with Volvo Penta’s because of their large dealer support network, good documentation, and a unique point of contact for support.”
The collaboration with Zodiac Milpro is an important relationship for Volvo Penta.
“The supply of engines for military RIBs and professional uses is an area that is developing well for us,” says Andrea Piccione, product management for Volvo Penta’s marine segment. “Our reputation for producing robust products is of great benefit in this market, where high performance, maneuverability and reliability are critical to the success of a mission. To be working with Zodiac Milpro as the leading global military RIB producer, is a great boost – not only in terms of cementing our position in this market, but also in the way it enables us to look at ways we can develop new products.”