AWARDS 2023 | Best Assault Craft – Lightning – Ultimate Boats
These large, open and fast RIB assault boats have been designed for a multitude of roles. Obviously built for military operations, they are MILSPEC but remain quite simple in both construction and fit out.
They will be easy to own and economical to operate in both coastal and riverine environments. They are remarkably practical and illustrate the future of military craft.
“What truly sets this craft apart is its adaptability to a wide range of mission profiles,” Tom Ryall MBE, Managing Director of Defence for Ultimate Boats’ parent company ExoTechnologies, told Baird Maritime. “It excels in a spectrum of operations – from high-stakes maritime interdiction and counter-terrorism to reconnaissance and search and rescue. It’s not just the technological prowess but the vessel’s ability to seamlessly shift roles and integrate with other units.”
Ryall added that the proprietary hull technology developed by Ultimate Boats’ Chief Designer John Moxham reduces cavitation, enhances propulsion efficiency, and ensures exceptional agility, while modern navigational systems and shock-mitigation seating ensure effectiveness and comfort.
The challenges posed by the vessel’s construction were related to the integration of the advanced design into a functional, robust craft. The advanced hull design required precision engineering and fabrication techniques to ensure its unique characteristics were flawlessly executed, particularly in reducing cavitation and enhancing hydrodynamic efficiency.
“Another significant challenge was in incorporating the array of advanced technological systems without compromising the vessel’s integrity or performance,” said Ryall. “Balancing the installation of state-of-the-art navigation, communication, and operational systems within the confined space of a RIB necessitated innovative solutions in spatial design and weight distribution.”
Even the incorporation of ExoTechnologies’ DANU proprietary recyclable material proved challenging, as the builder needed to ensure durability and lightweight agility while permitting sustainability.
“Ensuring the vessel’s durability while maintaining its high-speed capabilities was also a key challenge. We needed to select and work with materials that provided the requisite strength and resilience, especially for components exposed to harsh marine environments, while keeping the vessel lightweight and agile.”
Considerations also needed to be made for shock-mitigating seating and ergonomic design elements possessing the necessary functionality and durability.
“We strove to overcoming these challenges through innovative construction techniques and rigorous testing, all to deliver a vessel that meets the demanding requirements of modern tactical operations.”
Ryall said a key learning was the importance of integrating cutting-edge materials into the company’s designs. The use of DANU not only enhanced the vessel’s performance but also aligned with the company’s commitment to sustainability. For Ultimate Boats, the experience validated the potential of advanced recyclable materials in marine construction.
“Another significant lesson was the intricate balance required between high-performance capabilities and operational functionality,” he told Baird Maritime. “We learned that meticulous attention to detail in the design phase, particularly in spatial planning and weight distribution, is crucial in achieving this balance. This understanding will be instrumental in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our future designs.
“The process also underscored the value of rigorous testing and prototyping, especially when integrating novel technologies and designs. We’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the iterative process of development, where continuous testing and refinement play a critical role in achieving operational excellence.”
For Ultimate Boats, there were benefits gained from collaborating closely with end-users during the design and construction phases. The vessel was therefore able to satisfy the requirements of tactical forces.
“This provided us with direct insights into how our designs are utilised in the field,” said Ryall. “We plan to continue and deepen this collaboration approach in future projects to ensure our vessels are precisely tailored to the needs of those who rely on them most.”
Ryall remarked that the shipbuilding industry is witnessing a transformative shift, moving away from traditional and unsustainable composite materials such as FRP towards recyclable alternatives such as DANU.
“A significant trend propelling this shift is the global movement towards sustainability and environmental stewardship. This trend is evidenced by stricter emissions regulations and a collective effort to reduce the maritime industry’s carbon footprint. In response to this, the industry is exploring and adopting greener technologies, including alternative fuels and propulsion systems that minimise environmental impact. The transition away from conventional composites to revolutionary materials like DANU represents a pivotal aspect of this trend, underscoring a commitment to sustainable shipbuilding practices.”
Ryall added that technological advancements, particularly in digitalisation and automation, are reshaping the sector. The integration of sophisticated navigation, communication, and operational systems is becoming the norm, enhancing vessel performance and operational capabilities. The increasing focus on cybersecurity meanwhile underscores the importance of protecting maritime assets against emerging threats.
“The industry is also witnessing a move towards more adaptable and modular design philosophies. This approach enables the incorporation of the latest technologies through regular upgrades or modifications of vessels, ensuring their long-term relevance and effectiveness against evolving threats and operational requirements.”
For Ryall, these developments present a unique set of opportunities and challenges for the shipbuilding industry, especially in the defence and security sector.
“By focusing on sustainability, technological integration, and adaptability, we are not just responding to current trends but are actively shaping the future of maritime defence and security operations. Our commitment to innovation and the protection of maritime assets in an increasingly digital and interconnected world enables our vessels and materials to keep pace with the industry’s evolution towards sustainability and advanced technological capabilities.”
The year 2023 proved to be a year of significant growth and innovation for both Ultimate Boats and ExoTechnologies, as Ryall explained:
“With my background within the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, I have witnessed firsthand the increasing demand for advanced, sustainable solutions in the defence and security sector. Our focus on pioneering maritime defence technologies assures us of an ideal position within this evolving market and I’m proud to be associated with this shift through the use of DANU. Our outlook is therefore highly optimistic. We are excited for the future, confident in our continued impact on maritime defence and security.”
Ryall said he foresees the maritime defence and security industry is gearing towards significant advancements in sustainability, digitalisation, and collaboration to address current and future challenges. The focus on green technologies and practices is expected to intensify, with industry stakeholders working together more closely to achieve environmental goals and comply with evolving regulations.
“Additionally, the adoption of cutting-edge technologies, including autonomous systems and enhanced cybersecurity measures, will play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and efficiency of maritime operations,” he told Baird Maritime. “These trends reflect a holistic approach to tackling the complex issues facing the maritime security sector. This is even before we consider the impact of current global events and security challenges faced in the maritime domain. Here, collaboration is key and, as it was when I was still serving, we are driven to get the best capabilities into the hands of the user in a time frame that allows impact to be made.”
For Ryall, the British maritime sector, which is known for its substantial economic contributions and high-value jobs, is poised for growth.
“This industry, vital for its marine engineering, scientific industry, and renewable energy initiatives, directly supports significant national growth aspirations in GDP and employment. Innovations in green technologies, such as hybrid and battery-operated ferries, alongside advancements in the oil, gas, and renewables sectors, are pivotal for the UK’s energy transition, hinting at a future where sustainability and technological advancements lead the way.”