The US Navy has taken delivery of the first of several hundred new High Speed Maneuverable Surface Target (HSMST) craft in a five-year procurement effort involving two Gulf Coast boatbuilders.
In November 2013, Metal Shark Aluminum Boats of Lousiana and Alabama-based Silver Ships were awarded firm fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts by Naval Sea Systems Command to supply HSMSTs through to late 2018, beating offers from four unsuccessful contenders.
Metal Shark received a first year order for 100 optionally-manned target boats, plus trailers, shipping cradles and spare parts, valued at USD13.8 million, while Silver Ships secured a deal for 100 craft worth USD11.7 million.
Over the full term of the contract, Metal Shark said that it expects to receive follow-on orders for up to 350 HSMSTs - based on its 26 ft (7.9 m) Relentless centre console boat - worth nearly three times the initial sum. The entire programme has a total estimated ceiling of USD48 million across both contractors, according to the Department of Defense.
"The first boats were delivered following acceptance by the navy in March ," Josh Stickles, Metal Shark's sales and marketing manager, told IHS Jane's .
Constructed from welded aluminium, each craft is fitted with twin 200 hp Mercury OptiMax outboard engines providing a maximum speed in excess of 50 kt.
The boats are configured for manned operation when delivered to the navy's lead agency for seaborne targets, the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at Port Hueneme, California. Remote control systems are subsequently installed by NAWCWD's surface targets team.
Representing the kind of small fast craft that might be encountered in littoral engagements, HSMSTs are utilised primarily for fleet training exercises and weapon system test and evaluation events at nine seaborne target ranges. Ten or more independently-controlled HSMSTs have been employed simultaneously to replicate the threat posed by 'swarms' of hostile fast inshore attack craft approaching from multiple axes.
Meanwhile, NAWCWD is looking to procure up to 500 unpowered Polyethylene Tow Target (PETT) craft, intended to be towed by HSMST or by a remotely-controlled personal watercraft known as the Shipboard Deployable Surface Target.
According to a solicitation issued in April, the PETT will measure less than 16 ft (4.9 m) in length and support a variety of government-furnished items designed to augment visual, radar, and IR signatures. It must be capable of surviving significant damage by munitions, including more than 30 half-inch (12.7 mm) diameter holes or a major hull breach. A sole source contract over five years is anticipated.