November 15, 2004 Austal USA has launched a High Speed Vessel catamaran with advanced hullform technology for the United States Office of Naval Research (ONR). The 31.2 metre vessel was built for American Marine Holdings, which has been awarded a contract to deliver and demonstrate its "AMH SeaCoaster" military vessel design to the ONR. High Speed Vessels (HSV) enable significantly enhanced brigade-sized (up to 5000-7000 soldiers/marines) operational manoeuvre from the sea by the Navy/Marine Corps team at high speed and over long range.
The AMH SeaCoaster, Austal's Hull #612 and the eighth vessel to be built at Austal's purpose-built aluminium shipbuilding facility in the United States, was launched October 3. The current HSV experimentation series supports the development and refinement of missions using Network Centric principles and existing and proposed fleet modular capabilities. The commercial sector has already developed and demonstrated a number of relevant technologies; specifically, high-speed ships (45+ kts), long range at endurance speeds (30 kts, 4000 nm), good sea keeping ability (30 kts in 4.5-5 meter seas), shallow draft (12-14 ft) and ease of rapid modular adaptability to multiple missions.
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Assuring access to the world's littorals by Navy striking forces and Army / Marine combat elements is a fundamental imperative for the 21st century American Navy. The WestPAC HSV from Austal has already proven the capacity to reliably transport a 400-ton load to include 370 Marines and their camp gear, five Cobra helicopters, two Huey helicopters and aviation ground support equipment from Japan to Guam within 40 hours at far less time and cost than the currently employed airlift. In another configuration the HSV would be able to move over 800 soldiers or marines, 60 ground vehicles and 30 storage containers from the Kin pier to Yokohama in under 30 hours. Dependency on movements which traditionally have taken two to three weeks using airlift, spread out over several lifts with shifting priorities, on often unreliable schedules at high cost would no longer be necessary.
Bill Pfister, Austal USA's Vice President of Government Projects, said the ONR project was a further example of the US military's strong interest in the use of High Speed Vessels. "The Navy, Army and Marine Corps have all experienced the benefits of the types of ships Austal is able to design and build and they are clearly seeking to expand the application of this technology," he said, pointing out that Austal is already heavily involved in the defence arena.
The SeaCoaster catamaran design features cavities in each hull into which air is blown with the aim of reducing resistance and thus allowing higher speeds to be obtained. Designer-inventor Don Burg expects speeds just shy of 70 miles per hour. Following its successful evaluation by ONR, American Marine Holdings expects various departments of the U.S. military to decide on potential applications for the air-inducted technology and possibly order additional vessels for specific uses.
Overall length: 31.2 metres
Beam: 9.75 metres
Hull depth (moulded): 3.35 metres
Main engines: 4 x 1045kW Caterpillar diesels
Propulsion: 4 x surface-piercing propellers
Speed: 56 knots
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