The baddest ass military boat in the world is built in Youghal, Ireland. Billed as the answer to drug barons, navy’s around the world may now purchase a gunboat known as the ‘Barracuda’.
Frank Kowalski (52), entrepreneur and owner of Safehaven Marine in County Cork, spent two years in R&D and over €1 million making his arms-laden boat a reality. With a seaworthy prototype built in May 2015, Kowalski spoke exclusively to Irish Empire:
‘It’s the world’s most advanced gunboat. There’s nothing on the market like it that combines stealth, usability, concealed weapons, and has really good sea-keeping.’
Video: Dramatic footage of the ‘Barracuda’ around Youghal harbour says it all.
As the largest specialist boat-maker in Ireland, Safehaven believes the ‘Barracuda’ military boat is ideal for patrol and surveillance duties around ports but is also capable of high-speed pursuit.
‘I didn’t go for the ultimate in speed. I could have designed a pure rocket but then it couldn’t have taken the sea. But, trust me, she’s a formidable opponent.’
Picture: Frank Kowalski with his 'baby'.
Kitted out with a pair of 575-horsepower Caterpillar diesel engines the pursuit vessel can cut through the sea at up to 40 knots (that’s 46mph!). The specs are impressive: capable of being deployed by helicopter, the 13 metre boat can hold a crew of 6 in shock mitigation seats and has lethal weapons concealed below deck. Constructed using stealth panels and a specially angled superstructure, it can sneak up on you as it has a high degree of radar invisibility.
‘We don’t want to sell it to any villains,’ Kowalski told Irish Empire. ‘Who will be in for it are law enforcement agencies. NATO navies. United States Navy SEALs.’
While Safehaven has built over 110 boats since it began in 1998 and employs 30, entering the gunboat field was an ambitious move.
‘It’s not like you can go out there with a piece of paper. Navies wouldn’t have you. You must take the gamble. Build the prototype. Then market it. It’s early days.’
Kowalski got help from military ‘consultants’ (who he won’t name) when it came to weapons. The Barracuda features James Bond-like lethal weapons raised up through hatches when engaging the enemy.
‘Weapons is just an engineering challenge. How to remove them from deck. Yet how many gunboats are there with retractable machine-guns that are gyroscopically mounted? Stealth technology was the biggest hurdle. How much do you compromise, between stealth and usability? For stealth you must design a shape that reflects radar waves back from its source. Think of a mirror reflecting back light. So you angle the hull away from the source. Front on, due to her shape, the Barracuda is very stealthy.’
Frank Kowalski reads like a mysterious Tom Clancy character. His father was Polish, mother Irish, from Cobh. Kowalski senior was a World War Two veteran who came to England. They married and retired to Ireland. Kowalski junior followed behind, returning from London 30 years ago to settle in Youghal with wife and children.
‘My wife doesn’t bat an eyelid when I tell her I’m going out in a Force 12 hurricane to do sea trials. She’s used to those things around here.’
Criminals and Colombian druglords be forewarned. The world’s most revolutionary stealth interceptor and the coolest-looking boat is coming for you!