Zodiac Boats of the Bullet Proof Tour

By Weiss, Jim; Davis, Mickey | Law & Order, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Zodiac Boats of the Bullet Proof Tour


Weiss, Jim, Davis, Mickey, Law & Order


Suspects have been using waterborne operations since the United States was founded. Law enforcement needs to go where the perps go. Today, Zodiac boats provide this option.

Everyone involved in maritime operations has heard of Zodiac inflatable and Zodiac rigid inflatable boats (RIBS). As a refresher, Zodiac is the number one inflatable boat used by the U.S. military; these boats are used 99.9% of the time by all of America's Special Forces. Zodiac is one of the oldest nautical and marine companies in the world and is the second largest boat company. It has been in business since 1896, it began making boats for the European military groups in 1936 and building boats for the U.S. military for about 30 years.

In law enforcement, D.E.A., U.S.C.G., the F.B.I.'s Hostage Retrieval Team, U.S. Border Patrol, NYPD, National Park Service, Pierce County, WA, Sheriff's Department, Orange County, CA, Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles, CA, County Sheriff's Department are among the users of Zodiac boats. For government purchase of their boats, Zodiac will assist in the writing of grants.

The Bullet Proof Tour

Zodiac sponsored the 2002 Bullet Proof Tour. Rudy Boesch, Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Retired (of TV's Survivor fame), and Jack Lynch, Lieutenant (SEAL Team Commander) Retired, crewed a Zodiac Ribster, a collapsible RIB down the Mississippi River. They traveled 1,800 miles from Minneapolis to New Orleans, through good weather days and times of fog. The tour averaged 125 miles a day at 30 knots per hour top speed, passing 25 dams and locks. The team spent an average of eight and a half hours on the boats a day.

Zodiac provided a second boat as the safety or chase boat. This was basic: for police and military special operations, at least two boats are recommended. The safety boat on the tour had once been in the service of the U.S. Coast Guard, but was back with the folks at Zodiac. It was a H920 Cabin Rib, a 30-footer with a DuraRib, closed-cell, ply-foam collar for maximum stability, an aluminum hull, and twin pump jet Evinrude outboard engines. The U.S. Coast Guard primarily uses H920s for search and rescue operations. It is one of those tough boats that can take storms and stress.

As a service to America's law enforcement, and fire and rescue departments, Zodiac sponsored free hands-on training, as well as boat and waterborne tactical training. The training utilized a variety of Zodiac boats. These included an F470 Zodiac- a boat well known by Special Forces Green Berets, SEALS and the SOCOM (Special Operations Command) operatives- fitted with the world's only bulletproof system for inflatable boats, and the F470 CRRC (Combat Rubber Raiding/Reconnaissance Craft).

The F470 CRRC has a Futura hull, as well as eight airtight inflatable chambers, which provides a remarkable balance of design, technology, engineering and performance never before achieved in an inflatable boat. A number of Zodiac boats, such as the Mark III Grand Raid (MKIIIGR) have conventional hulls with no lower buoyancy tubes, but all Zodiac boats have upper or Main Buoyancy Tube (MBT). Tubes are usually filled with air and are made up of chambers.

To understand what the letters and numbers of Zodiac models mean, the letters refer to the model (for example, the F in the F470 stands for Futura) and the numbers refer to the boat's length in meters (470 means 4.70 meters, or about 15 feet and five inches). So, although a G470, designed for special operations use, is a different model, it is the same length as an F470.

According to J.J. Marie, the president and CEO of Zodiac of North America, Zodiac has been making boats for federal law enforcement agencies in the United States for a number of years. By sponsoring the Bullet Proof Tour, the company wanted to make the benefits of its products known to state, county and local law enforcement. Zodiac is working to evolve its products to meet law enforcement needs by hiring former police and military special operations personnel to resolve tactical issues. …

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