Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark has been awarded the contract to produce the US Navy’s next-generation patrol boat, the PB(X).

This award is the culmination of a multi-year process by the Navy to select the replacement for the fleet of force protection boats currently in use with Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Coastal Riverine Forces (CRF).

The Navy intends to replace approximately 100 to 160 of its existing 25ft and 34ft CRF patrol boats, with the larger and more modern PB(X) platform over the next 15 years.

The Navy has placed an initial, immediate order for 11 of the new vessels.

Under the terms of the award, potentially worth over $90 million, Metal Shark will build up to 50 PB(X) vessels for the Navy, along with trailers, spares and training packages.

The winning PB(X) design is a 40ft, welded-aluminium pilot house patrol boat designed by Metal Shark’s in-house engineering team.

The PB(X) is powered by twin diesel inboards and water jets and the sharp-entry hull form achieves 35+ knot sprint speeds, and offers enhanced handling.

The PB(X) features ballistic protection and can be armed with a range of crew-served and remotely operated weapons systems.

The PB(X) will be built at Metal Shark’s Jeanerette, Louisiana production facility, which specialises in the rapid, serialised assembly of military patrol boats.

Other significant military fleet builds currently underway at the facility include ongoing production of the Navy’s 32ft Force Protection Boat – Medium (FPB-M) and 26ft High Speed Maneuverable Surface Target (HSMST), and the US Coast Guard’s 29ft Response Boat – Small (RBS).

This is the second major US Navy contract awarded to Metal Shark in 2017. In June the company was selected to build up to 13 Near Coastal Patrol Vessels (NCPVs), for the Navy. These 85ft patrol boats are being produced at Metal Shark’s Franklin, Louisiana waterfront shipyard.