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BATH — From the grin on U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ face as she sliced the Greenough Advanced Rescue Craft through the waves of the Kennebec River, it was clear the new line of vessels had another fan.
“That was so cool,” the Maine Republican beamed as she climbed off the 13-foot vessel, launched at Hodgdon Defense Composites’ 2 Town Landing Road site, after its christening Tuesday morning.
The HDC-built vessel, a cross between a personal water craft and a small boat, is built to maintain extreme stability in breaking surf and rough seas, according to hodgdondefensecomposites.com. It can hold up to four people and reach a speed of 40 knots, suiting it to search-and-rescue missions on the water.
Tested by National Guard officials, the GARC has been certified for use by the military, and can be air-dropped from a C-130 aircraft.
“In these challenging times, it is imperative that America’s special forces be able to operate effectively, quickly and safely in the most difficult of conditions,” Collins said.
According to information provided by Collins’ office, HDC won a contract last December to build five GARCs for the Air Force Special Operations Command. Rapid Response Technology of Wilmington, N.C., was the designer.
“The announcement just last Friday that the Air National Guard is purchasing 16 additional GARCs is wonderful news,” Collins said.
Company owner Tim Hodgdon said that while the vessel launched Wednesday was HDC’s fourth, its affiliated parent company, Hodgdon Shipbuilding, has a history going back nearly 200 years and has launched more than 400 vessels.
Hodgdon signed a lease for the city-owned waterfront facility last December and began operations in February. US Windblade previously occupied the site.
“We’re very happy that Hodgdon Composites has chosen to locate here,” City Manager Bill Giroux said. “We’ve been building ships on the Kennebec River for 400-plus years, and this builds on the tradition that Bath Iron Works has established, and it’s a great thing for Bath.”
HDC has delivered two vessels and has three more under construction, Hodgdon said.
Peter Maguire, owner of Rapid Response Technology and co-designer of the Greenough Advanced Rescue Craft, demonstrated the vessel Wednesday morning with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, at the helm.