Boat Forces Tour – RB-M Program

The hull off an RB-M is assembled on a jig.  Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

The hull off an RB-M is assembled on a jig. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

The Response Boat-Medium is the Coast Guard’s replacement for the aging fleet of 41-foot Utility Boats, a venerable platform that was known as the workhorse of the Coast Guard for most of it’s 25-year-long service life.  Making that transition, from planning to delivery, is the business of the RB-M Program in Kent, Wash.

Wiring is laid out before being installed.  Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

Wiring is laid out before being installed. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

The team here have a broad mandate to ensure the quality of the boats being delivered to the fleet.  This involves directly monitoring assembly, observing test trials, engineering and supporting the operators who use these boats.

“It’s definitely a multifaceted program,” said Lt. Andrew Hoag who handles warranty issues and tracking reliability and maintenance of the platform.  “Our mission is ensuring quality control of the RB-Ms being constructed.  The feedback I’ve heard has been mostly positive but with any new acquisition there’s always going to be design elements that can be improved.”

Learning what to improve comes from vigorous testing.  Much of that testing is done before the boats ever leave Washington but the ultimate shakedown comes when these highly capable boats are put into service.  Feedback from the fleet is an important source of information.

Input from operators has been an integral part of the design process from the outset.  While the program was still in the planning stages, 22 highly experienced Coasties were brought in to lend their experience.

A welder pieces together an aluminum RB-M keel.  Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

A welder pieces together an aluminum RB-M keel. Photo by PA2 Dan Bender

“Input from real operators is priceless,” said David Shepard, a boat project specialist from the Office of Boat Forces.

From the comfortable air-conditioned cabin, to the safety of its self-righting capabilities this boat far exceeds the capabilities of the UTBs it is replacing.  That couldn’t happen without the crew of the program who work behind the scenes to ensure their shipmates in the fleet have the best platform possible.

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