The Australian marine industry is noted for building large, fast, efficient vessels, primarily for commercial ferry purposes. But as coastal patrol needs grow, so too do the military applications for these amazing breeds. Following is a brief review of some of the recent news from Down Under.
Hobart-based shipbuilder Incat is emerging from a challenging year with news of not one, but two orders for the United States military. Just three weeks after the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) announced the lease of their first Theater Support for the Army from Bollinger/Incat USA. Military Sealift Command (MSC), Washington, D.C., also announced a contract for a 322-ft. (98-m) craft from Bollinger/Incat USA, to support U.S. Navy Mine Warfare Command.
From its inception, Incat has constructed more than 50 vessels of varying lengths. The company's first passenger/vehicle ferry was delivered in 1990, a 243-ft. (74-m) Wave Piercing Catamaran with a maximum deadweight capacity of 200 tons. The more recent 98 m Evolution 10B range has a dwt four times that amount.
Incat's shipbuilding activity is conducted from a modern facility with more than 32,000 sq. m. under cover, located at Hobart's Prince of Wales Bay. Recently an additional 17,420 sq. m. under cover building hall was commissioned. The new Wilson's dry dock facility has already played host to Joint Venture (hull 050), Condor 10 (hull 030), Winner (hull 045) and The Lynx (057), all of which returned to Incat to undergo dry-docking and refit.
From a military perspective, the Incat built HMAS Jervis Bay (hull 045), commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy in May 1999 for two years to operate between Darwin and East Timor, highlighted to the world how high-speed, light, multihull craft can be utilized for military purposes.
In 2001 and in response to interest from U.S. forces in high-speed craft Incat, via its United States affiliate
Incat USA, formed a strategic alliance with an American Shipyard to market and build for the U.S. military and commercial markets. Impressed with what they saw in HMAS Jervis Bay, the U.S. Military followed
suit with Incat's 315-ft. (96-m) Wave Piercing Sealift Catamaran HSV-X1 Joint Venture (hull 050).
Speaking of Joint Venture's performance in a sealift role, U.S. Navy Admiral Robert Natter, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, said recent fleet exercises had revealed the craft's military potential. "I think there are all kinds of applications for this kind of a high-speed, relatively small craft," he said.
In addition to sealift, Admiral Natter believes the catamarans could be used for inserting special operations forces along coastal waters, as well as to perform surveillance and command and control missions. He also singled out the vessel's potential for mine warfare.
"I'm convinced, based on our experiments thus far, that with a little different approach to dedicated mine warfare, that something like a high-speed vessel — and I don't care whether it's the HSV that we are leasing or something like that - is the answer," Admiral Natter said. "I can make it work. Somebody's got to let me buy this thing."
Spearhead is the U.S. Army's first Theater Support Vessel (TSV) and is part of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (ACTD) program by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Army. The vessel will be used to demonstrate and evaluate its ability to perform during certain mission scenarios, assess its usefulness to the U.S. military and refine the requirements for the next generation of army watercraft. The TSV is critical to the Army's ability to perform its Title 10, intra-theater mission. Spearhead will be utilized on missions to maximize its speed and flexibility and is needed for both sustainment deliveries and the movement of Army prepositioned stocks, and troop units.
TSVs promise to change the way the U.S. Army gets to the fight. They will allow the Army to quickly deliver intact packages of combat-ready soldiers and leaders with their equipment and supplies, enabling them to "fight off the ramp" if necessary. Delivering intact units within a theater also will reduce the need for a large-scale on-shore reception, staging, onward movement and integration of soldiers, vehicles and equipment within the battle space. Just three weeks after the awarding of the contract for Spearhead came another, separate, order from the U.S. military. Military Sealift Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting arm that will lease a 98 m craft from Bollinger/Incat USA, LLC, Lockport, La., to support U.S. Navy Mine Warfare Command. The craft, HSV-X2 (hull 061) is currently under construction at the Hobart, Tasmania shipyard with delivery to Ingleside, Texas scheduled for June, 2003.
Incat's US Military Project Manager Nick Wells comments: "Once commissioned, the vessel is expected to serve as an interim replacement for the U.S. Navy Mine Countermeasure support ship Inchon. The craft will also serve as a platform to conduct a series of limited objective experiments, exercises, demonstrations and training events determined by the Navy Warfare Development Command and the Marine Corps Combat Development Command."
The ship will be capable of maintaining an average speed of 35 knots or greater, loaded with 500 short tons, consisting of 350 personnel and military equipment. A minimum operating range of 1,100 n.m. at 35 knots, is required by the contract, as is a minimum transit range of 4,000 nautical miles at an average speed of 20 knots. Furthermore, she must be capable of 24-hour operations at slow speeds (3-10 knots) for small boat and helicopter operations. Development work on the exciting 367-ft. (112-m) Evolution one 12 RoPax catamaran continues. Boasting an operating dwt of 1,000 tons, the Evolution one12 will operate at speeds of 40 knots, or 45 knots with 500 tons dwt. An additional bonus to operators is the ability to increase deadweight to 1,500 tons in which state the craft will operate with cargo at medium speed of approximately 23 knots.
The vehicle deck provides 589 truck lane meters plus 50 cars, or 312 cars in a full tourist mode. With extra optional mezzanine decks fitted the possibility for even greater car capacity exists. Increased vehicle deck headroom of 6.3 m at the center lanes and 5.9 m outboard, under the raised mezzanine decks, will allow the stowage of double stacked containers or MAFI trailers. With a beam of 99 ft. (30.2 m), heavy road vehicles such as B-Double trucks and semi-trailers can easily turn in the bow for quick disembarkation over stern ramps. The innovative passenger cabin layout for up to 1,000 persons with panoramic window layout further improves the traveling experience.
The wide beam also serves to increase passenger comfort by reducing transverse accelerations in the main cabin area. Combined with a new wider trim tab configuration, these will minimize the time the active forward T-foil is required, bringing further fuel and maintenance economies to the operator. The Evolution one 12 is the optimum high-speed RoPax for today's demanding requirements.
Liferaft Systems Australia
Liferaft Systems Australia (LSA) recently won many contracts to supply locally designed and manufactured Marine Evacuation Systems (MES) worth approximately $3 million. Orders have been received for Marine Evacuation Systems (MES) from Derecktor Shipyards in New York, Rodriquez Cantiere Navali in Italy, Australian shipbuilders Incat Tasmania (2 vessels) and Austal Ships (1 vessel) in Western Australia which demonstrates a strengthening in the market. The initial Derecktor order consists of MES and large capacity liferafts was for the Alaskan Government ferry operator Alaska Marine Highway System, with the potential for more orders. The contract is the first received from an American shipbuilder and the first LSA equipment to be manufactured to U.S. Coast Guard approval. "Orders received from Incat Tasmania for MES to be installed on two vessels that are to operate for the USA military will also strengthen the presence of our product in the USA, with no less than three military vessels operating with LSA MES installed" said Mr Grainger. Incat's first vessel 'Joint Venture HSV - X1' has created enormous interest for LSA, having circumnavigated the world as a showcase for Incat and associated equipment suppliers. The 'flow on effect' is already being experienced, with a steady stream of enquiries from various military applications filtering through to the LSA Hobart and European offices. In addition to the Derecktor and Incat orders, LSA have also secured an order to supply MES to Western Australia shipbuilder Austal Ships. The high-speed vessel will provide a new service route between Rochester and Toronto across Lake Ontario, connecting the United States and Canada. This will see the total number of U.S. ferries with LSA MES installed increase to seven. The order from Italian shipbuilder Rodriquez is the fifth order for LSA equipment installed on their high-speed monohull designed vessels and consists of four MES and five liferafts for delivery in March 2003.