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Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X)

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Riverine Command Boat (Experimental)

Riverine Command Boat (Experimental)

Photo courtesy U.S. Navy
The Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X) is an experimental craft testing alternative fuel blends. RCB-X uses a blended fuel consisting of 50% algae based biofuel and 50% NATO F-76 fuel. The goal is to reduce the Navy’s consumption of petroleum based fuels. RCB-X is an experimental version of the Swedish Riverine Command Boat. Over 225 Riverine Command Boat’s are in use world-wide.

General

Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X) is a 49 foot long, 12 foot wide craft that is fast and agile. The craft is designed for use on rivers for patrols and assaults by small forces. Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X) has a top speed of 44 knots. RCB-X has 1,700 horsepower and a crew of four. RCB has a 3 foot draft allowing for easy travel on most rivers. It has Swedish built engines and Rolls Royce twin-ducted water jet propulsion. The bow is reinforced allowing the craft to be run onto shore at full speed without damage. RCB has a range of 240 nautical miles on rivers or open water.

RCB contains six gun mounts. One on the bow and another behind the mast are remote controlled from the cockpit. The other four are used for manned weapons. It can carry .50 caliber machine guns, mortar, 40 mm grenade launchers or Hellfire missiles. The mortar launcher is a twin-barrel 12-cm mortar. RCB can carry up to 20 troops at one time, be transformed into a dive support vessel or a command craft. The RCB can also be configured as an ambulance to take wounded soldiers off the battlefield by river. Riverine Command Boat is made of heavy duty aluminum. It has a 580 gallon fuel tank which contains a large, high speed fuel fill capability. The bow drops down making it easy to disembark and return to the craft quickly. The cockpit is armor plated for protection and the cabin can be sealed against nuclear, chemical and biological agents. Over 4 tons of cargo can be carried on the craft.

RCB-X and RCB’s are built by Safeboat International under license from the Swedish company Dockstavarvet. The first models cost $2-3 million each.

Bio Fuel

Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) is a test version of RCB and uses a 50% algae based and 50% NATO fuel called hydro-processed renewable diesel or HR-D. If the RCB-X uses 100% biofuel it would contain water which fouls the engines of Navy craft. Biofuels also have a six month service life and the blend allows for longer term storage of fuel. The bio fuel blend is made by a company called Solazyme which calls the fuel Soladiesel. Soladiesel is designed to be used directly in place of conventional fuels, with no modifications to the engines or fuel system of the craft. In 2010 Solazyme delivered 80,000 liters of Soladiesel to the U.S. Navy and is under contract for an additional 550,000 liters. The fuel is produced in partnership with Chevron and Honeywell in Illinois. Solazyme also makes a replacement for jet fuel and standard diesel vehicles. Solazyme’s algae grows in the dark using sugars from plants such as sugar cane and corn. Their system uses standard, industrial fermenters allowing for rapid scaling of production. Solazyme is based in San Francisco, California.

Future

The Navy began testing the Riverine Command Boat (Experimental) (RCB-X) in 2010. It plans to deploy a strike group for local operations using the blended fuel in 2012 with full deployment in 2016. The Navy is testing the Riverine Command Boat as a new patrol boat to cover rivers, open seas and the areas in between. RCB is seen as a possible fast craft for going from brown water (river) to green/blue water (ocean).
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