January 25, 2007 The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract for the design, construction and evaluation trials on a technology demonstrator vessel, which will be a contender for the next generation of fast landing craft. If selected, the high speed Partial Air Cushion Supported CATamaran vessel (PACSCAT) will be used to support future amphibious operations. PACSCAT technology is also being developed for high speed freight transport on inland waterways within Europe. The freight vessel is expected to do around 20kt (37km/h), with a payload capacity of 2000 tons, so the development of the high speed landing craft will be interesting to watch. The increased speed and payload balance of the PACSCAT will make 'over-the-horizon' amphibious operations feasible for task force commanders. They will be able to stay offshore at a safe distance and return at high speed to recover troops when required.
The build of the technology demonstrator will be subcontracted to the marine industry through competitive tender.
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The new generation of fast landing craft will play an integral part in the primary role of the Royal Navy’s new Landing Platform Dock (LPD) vessels, HMS ALBION and HMS BULWARK, to support Royal Marine Commandos during amphibious operations. The LPDs will be used to transport, deploy and recover troops and their equipment.
The concept of PACSCAT vessels was developed by John Lewthwaite of Independent Maritime Assessment Associates (IMAA) Ltd. The technology demonstrator will be built to the same dimensions as the Landing Craft Utility Mk10 currently in use with the UK's Royal Marines and trials are expected to begin with 11 Amphibious Trials and Training Squadron based at Instow, North Devon in 2008.
The PACSCAT craft will be capable of a variety of roles where high speed and high payload capacity are required and its low and variable draught will give it exceptional beaching qualities. Trials already conducted with a 1/3 scale manned model have proved it to be capable of beaching on a 1:120 gradient beach in scaled operational conditions.
The contract was awarded to Qinetiq.