Officially, the Metal Shark 28 Defiant is known as “RB-S,” which stands for Response Boat—Small, but that’s a pretty boring name for an all-aluminum attack craft that sports a pair of 50-caliber guns and has an armored cabin designed for four to six rifle-toting aqua-grunts. So let’s just call a spade a spade: this is one bad-a** boat.
The Metal Shark is produced for governmental agencies ranging from the Coast Guard, to law enforcement, to fire departments, to… um, they’d rather not say. But if it’s any indication of this boat’s designed purpose, note that the 28 is sized and weighted so it can be shoved into a C-130 cargo plane, and flown wherever Uncle Sam decides he needs one or two or 20. And although only 35 of these boats are presently in the field, 477 are currently on order.
Why did Metal Shark bring one to the Miami International Boat Show, where I had the good luck to snag a test run? Pirates. Or, possibly because they’ll build recreational and/or commercial versions (sorry, machine guns not included), on a custom basis.
For commercial purposes, this boat qualifies as heavy-duty. The towing bit mounted in the transom is rated for 20,000 pounds of pull, and a foam collar protects the hull from impacts. Not that it needs much protecting. The hull plating is quarter-inch thick 5086 aluminum, and the keel is three-eighths of an inch thick. As a point of reference, the average aluminum runabout you see zipping across the lake rarely has hull plating that’s more than a tenth of an inch thick.
Quarter inch aluminum is not, however, thick enough to stop a lead projectile backed up by 10,000 or so foot-pounds of explosive energy. And when the bad guys are well-equipped, we want our good guys to be safe in the Metal Shark. So they beef up the hull and cabin sides with ballistic plating, the exact thickness of which is REDACTED. Large windows above the plating slide down so said good-guys can pop up from behind the plating, get in a few well-placed shots, then duck back down into the protected area.
When the situation calls for even more firepower, the fore and aft 50-cals can be put to use. Though few of us will ever have the choice, the forward position is the one to opt for; its user gets to sit in the “gun tub,” which is sort of like the bow cockpit of a regular bowrider, except that instead of getting cushions, drink holders, and stereo speakers, you get a big, mean-looking gun.
All Zing, No Bling
|Test conditions: 1 ft chop, numerous boat wakes to 3 feet, 2 POBs, fuel full.|
Performance figures courtesy of BRP.
|Power||Twin 225 HP Evinrude ETEC two-stroke outboards|
|Props||15” x 23” three-bladed stainless-steel|
Whether you’re engaged in rescue operations, port security, or chasing down pirates in Biscayne Bay, your boat needs to be fast. So the Metal Shark has a pair of 225-HP Evinrude ETECs hanging on the transom. And when I nailed the throttles I discovered that they provide the head-snapping acceleration which can only be generated by two-strokes. In fact, we jumped up onto plane in a heart-thumping five seconds, and shot up to a top-end of over 58 MPH.
If there’s any weakness to the 28 Defiant, I’d have to say it’s the boats’ minor-league fuel capacity. At 140 gallons it hauls significantly less fuel than an average center console fishing boat of the same size. Even with the ETEC’s miserly burn-rate of 18.2 gallons per hour at a 35 MPH cruise, range is just barely over 200 miles (with 10-percent reserve). But Metal Shark says that the capacity was specified by the military—not space or weight constraints—so they can add some on for commercial and recreational applications.
The bay was fairly calm when we ran the boat but fortunately, lots of traffic coming from boat show sea trials produced an endless supply of steep wakes to play with. And play, we did. The boat has a “twisting” V-hull design that starts with a 45-degree entry and tapers back to a 22-degree transom deadrise. That’s plenty steep for cleaving open waves, but as is often the case with aluminum boats, it felt like we were sailing over the peaks instead of chopping through them. Note that the Metal Shark weighs in at a mere 6,000 pounds, while a similarly-sized molded-fiberglass boat would be in the 7,500 to 9,000 pound range.
|Fuel capacity||140 gal.|
The ride isn't just fast and smooth, it’s also exceedingly dry thanks to over-sized reverse chines and that foam collar, both of which help keep spray from flying up from the hull. The big shocker, however, is how easy this boat is on the captain and passengers. The 28 Defiant’s need for speed can be a bit more urgent than the usual recreational boat calls for, and when it arrives on-station the crew needs to be fresh and ready for action. So they get to sit in stainless-steel-framed Shockwave coil-over-shock seats with built-in suspension systems. Since they have a whopping eight inches of travel, these seats turn sudden impacts into serene love-taps. When I sat at the helm with my feet planted firmly on the footrest and my elbows wedged in against the padded armrests, running into wakes full-tilt was about as comfortable as cruising down a bumpy road in a modern SUV.
Those interested in acquiring a 28 Defiant for non-military application will probably want to know about a few other details, like the unusual way you get around on this boat. While there is a (narrow) sidedeck ringing the cabin, accessing the bow is properly done through the cabin, which has a sliding door on the front. GI Joe likes this because he can crawl into the gun tub without taking fire, and we like it because there’s no chance of falling overboard when going up to the bow. But from a practical standpoint, all the ducking and crouching that this arrangement requires is less than ideal. The cabin also houses a utilitarian bunk, and several stowage compartments that will work equally well for tucking away fishing tackle or flash-bangs.
Another oddity is the aft navigation station. Although there is room for a single flush-mounted MFD at the helm, since the captain of this boat could get preoccupied with things like flying bullets and high-speed maneuvers, there’s a second nav station aft in front of the port-side passenger’s seat. Stranger still, mounted on the overhead there are a pair of (shudder) fans. When’s the last time you saw fans on a new boat? I don’t know what’s wrong with Uncle Sam, but if I were spec-ing out this machine I’d surely want air conditioning for those long patrols off the sweltering Somali coastline.
Okay: so the 28 Defiant doesn't have 36 cup holders, a flat-screen TV, radical graphics, or a jamming stereo system. And yes, it is officially called “small”. But the punch it packs is as big as any boat on the water. And besides, it’s downright fun to run.
So enough of the gabbing—let's go get us some pirates.
Other Choices: The Targa Protector 30 is another boat that blurs the line between military and recreational, though it’s a RIB with a fiberglass hull. An all-aluminum choice is the Pacific 26, a fishing boat available in both cabin and center console models. More ambitions boaters may opt for the MK-49 Fast Missile Craft, which features electro-optical fire-control but requires a crew of 38 and boosts MSRP by about 1.2 billion.
For more information, visit Metal Shark Boats.