On a mission

Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 30, ISSUE 6
The Zodiac Milpro SRA-750 combines aggressive styling with beautiful handling. The D-shape inflatable collar is removable and optionally O-shaped.
You don’t have to be a Navy SEAL to appreciate the Zodiac Milpro SRA-750’s tough visage and serious seagoing credentials.

This is not your run-of-the-mill Zodiac. The Zodiac Milpro SRA-750 OB is a purpose-specific design for military and professional use. It looks quite aggressive, with its alloy deep-vee hull in natural finish topped by matt-black, D-shaped inflatable tubes, and crested by heavy-duty hardware.

That hardware includes a tall and very strong towpost forward, a protective centre console amidships, and a tubular targa arch aft that carries spot and navigation lights, antennas and a Raymarine radar dome. Further aft is another tubular framework that protects dual 150hp Evinrude E-TEC outboards and keeps towlines clear of the counter-rotating props.

Zodiac Milpro (an abbreviation of Military and Professional) has more than 100 years of Zodiac technical heritage to draw from, with facilities in Spain, USA, Canada, and Australia. This particular boat was built to show the capabilities of the range of Milpro SEA RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boat – a rigid hull in fibreglass or alloy, matched with an inflatable collar) and to develop further interest in local markets.

The alloy hull of this SRA-750 SEA RIB Aluminium was made in Spain and then shipped to Australia where the console was added and all the equipment and electronics installed.

Zodiac Milpro vessels are used worldwide by navies as well as by fisheries, customs, rescue and other government authorities – including where boarding or naval interdiction operations are required in potentially dangerous situations, where the danger can originate from the sea conditions or the target vessel.

BESPOKE FITOUT AND POWER

The power and fitout of the boats is very flexible and can be adapted to the client’s particular requirements – for example, 30 Zodiac Milpro SEA RIBs have been purchased by the German Navy with inboard diesel power and jet drives.

Our test SRA-750 OB is surveyable, with a host of ISO documentation including stability reports. The hull is a soft-riding, very deep-vee, 26-degree deadrise, with strakes that run all the way to the transom, plus broad chines that help with stability and handling. The design of the hull, along with the well-proven characteristics of the RIB concept, makes it a very seaworthy craft, entirely suited to offshore and rough-water operations.

Fitted with the twin Evinrudes, special seating and a healthy suite of electronics, the package comes to about $203,000 (plus GST). Less highly specified versions start at around $150,000. The price does not include a trailer, as the style of trailer needed varies significantly depending on use. With the side tubes deflated, the boat is legally trailerable in Australia.

A key feature of this Zodiac, and also a factor in its pricing, is the seating, which comprises eight Milpro Air jockey-style seats. They have adjustable air-shock suspension in order to be supportive and comfortable when running at speed in rough waters. The seats are height-adjustable and the skipper’s seat is also adjustable fore/aft. They each have a grabhandle in front and can have underseat stowage.

The engineering and installation of the seating is impressive, with its mounting into hard-points (deck tracks) on the floor achieved with a host of fasteners. The aft three seats can fold down out of the way to allow more working room around the aft towing post and in front of the engine well.

Other, non-suspension seating is available at less cost, and alternative seating layouts – such as longitudinal – can be fitted, as can a boarding or dive door on the port side in front of the engine well.

ALL BUSINESS

The centre console is businesslike, with hefty grabrails either side and across the top above the small clear-screen panels. A rubber-rimmed wheel is to port with twin throttle/shifts in the centre and a 12in Raymarine A-Series multifunction display to starboard – it’s integrated with the Evinrude electronics and displays engine data as well as the usual radar, depth and GPS plotter navigation functions. The Raymarine display has a touchscreen, but it’s not always possible to use that in rougher water, so a joystick and set of buttons is provided as a substitute means of operation.

Bluetooth capability allows mobile devices to be connected so that the crew can monitor what’s happening, plot courses, or carry out other duties from their seated position. On the dash above the wheel is a set of triple gauges for the Evinrudes, with multiple digital displays that can be scrolled through or set as required – in this case, the outer gauges monitored each engine, and the centre dial was set as a trim gauge. Between the triple gauges and the Raymarine display is a bank of switches, and below the Raymarine is a transceiver. Also provided are a USB port and a 12V outlet.

As might be expected for this type of military/ professional craft, the control console is very efficient and practical. The Milpro Air helm seat is surprisingly comfortable and provides good support. The reach to the wheel was perfect for me, so I didn’t need to adjust the seat for easy operation of the controls, or for a clear view of the gauges, compass (properly centred in front of the wheel), electronics and the surrounding water.

The fly-by-wire throttle and shifts are light to use and immediately responsive, as is the twin hydraulic steering. The dual 150hp Evinrudes give as much grunt as even a fully loaded Milpro would need; two 115hp engines are often recommended, and single outboards up to 250hp are an option. The throttles are easily set to be synchronised so both engines can be controlled through one lever, making the skipper’s job easier. For low-speed manoeuvring, the throttles can quickly be re-set to operate individually.

Driving the Zodiac was a revelation – the outboards were quiet and smooth, and the silky-ease of the throttle and steering made everything remarkably effortless. The hull design showed its breeding, too, with a soft ride and excellent turning … no doubt aided by the good engineering of the outboard installation and choice of 17in-pitch, three-blade Rebel stainless props.

From a low-end cruise at 3000rpm and 21 knots (38.9km/h), the Evinrudes fluently spooled up through 4000rpm and 30.7 knots (56.8km/h) to a still easy-running, wide-open throttle of 5500rpm and 42.2 knots (78.2km/h).

If invading an unfriendly shore at night in hostile conditions is your thing, I’d recommend you do it on a Zodiac Milpro for sure …

ZODIAC MILPRO SRA-750 OB

Length (overall): 7.89m

Beam (overall): 2.76m

Weight (boat only, dry): 1060kg

Capacity: up to 16 persons (8 as tested)

Fuel capacity: 2 x 260lt

Power: Single outboard to 186kW (250hp); dual outboards to 112 kW (150hp each)

Power (as tested): Dual Evinrude E-TEC (112kW/150hp each)

Price from: around $150,000 plus GST

Price (as tested): around $203,000 plus GST

More information: Zodiac Milpro – Craig Jordan, tel: 0413 120 667. Web: ZodiacMilpro.com.


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