By Chief Journalist Fred Frailey, RIMPAC Combined Information Bureau
The Navy's newest experimental ship sailed into Pearl Harbor July 5 to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2004 exercise. Of the 40 ships in RIMPAC, this ship stands out as unique.
The High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV) 2 is a 321-foot catamaran drawing only 11 feet of draft, with a top speed of almost 50 knots powered by its four swivel water jets.
According to Chief Mineman Paul Bertsch, Swift's engineering department head, HSV's primary focus during RIMPAC will be mine counter-measures, to include deploying divers and underwater robotic vehicles to seek out and disarm mines. While Swift is conducting the mine warfare operations
, it will also be testing its ability to perform underway replenishment with the mine counter measure ships.
"Our function here will be mine warfare, command and support," said Bertsch said. "We will conduct operations with three U.S. mine counter measure ships and one Canadian vessel."
In addition to serving as an important factor in mine warfare, Swift can be modified to anti-submarine warfare or even troop deployment. Its hold can carry up to 678 tons, and its stern ramp has the capacity to load an 80-ton M-1 Abrams main battle tank.
"The whole concept of Swift is to be modular. We can reconfigure it to meet a variety of missions," said Bertsch. "It is a test-bed for the new Littoral Combat Ship now in development."
One manner in which Swift can be reconfigured is to support Noncombatant Evacuation Operations. Swift’s speed and ability to get close inshore are important elements of such a mission.
"We can set up emergency medical facilities, and deliver necessary supplies and equipment to places that have no port facilities," said Chief Quartermaster Michael Fallis of Prairie, Texas. "If necessary, we can quickly evacuate personnel."
Swift also serves as a test platform for high-tech features, such as paperless navigation.
"We are the only ship in the Navy authorized not to carry paper charts,” said Fallis. “Navigation is electronic. Our computer can also track up to 100 contacts and plot their courses and speeds. Once plotted they are displayed on the screen in relation to our position and they are continually tracked.”
Swift is rightly named. It transited from Norfolk, Va, to San Diego in only eight days. That included a port visit in Acapulco and an overnight at the Panama Canal.
"It's fast," said Fallis, "but it's the worst ride in the park. Whereas a Navy ship rocks and rolls, this ship pitches and yaws on all four quadrants at the same time. Still it's great duty."
Swift is scheduled to stay in Pearl Harbor beyond RIMPAC for further testing and experimentation.
(Source: NavNews (NNS), the official newsletter of the U.S. Navy)