Marines: For Very Small Landings


August 15, 2011: The U.S. Department of Defense has ordered over 800 Zodiac inflatable landing craft. These 4.7 meter (15.4 foot) long boats can actually carry up to ten people, but for combat missions, six troops and their gear can be carried, plus a sailor operating the craft. Fully loaded, with outboard engine and fuel, these boats weigh 1.2 tons. The latest models use a bullet resistant fabric, and multiple chambers. Thus one or two chambers can be penetrated, and the boat will stay afloat. Each of these inflatable boats cost $13,000.

Zodiac is most famous for its rigid inflatable boats (RIB). A typical one of these is the 9.3 meters (28.8 feet) Zodiac, designed for commando operations and police patrols. RIB is a relatively new technology, developed in the 1960s. Inflatable sections are added to a rigid (aluminum or plastic composite) frame. Powered by two outboard engines, these boats are fast (over 70 kilometers an hour), shallow draft and more resistant to damage than standard boats. Light as well, the boats can be easily transported by aircraft. But for smaller boats, the older, non-rigid design is still favored.


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