by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Defence: US Navy commissions Australian high speed catamaran
, November 3, 2001
Incat Australia, the world leader in catamarans, has just commissioned a 96 metre wave-piercing sealift catamaran, for deployment by the United States Navy and Coastguard - the first high-speed naval craft to go into service with US military forces.
A smaller Incat catamaran, the 86 metre HMAS Jervis Bay
, played a key role in the deployment of Australian forces to East Timor, after the referendum on independence in 1999.
The Jervis Bay
made possible the rapid deployment of troops and equipment in East Timor at a time of violence and a complete breakdown of law and order, and was regarded as one of the most remarkable features of that deployment.
However, it was decommissioned last year, and the Australian Navy currently has no large catamarans of this type.
The new contract with the US military forces involves a partnership of the US Navy, Army, Marine Corps, US Special Operations Command and Coastguard.
The new vessel was constructed to enable sections of the US defence forces to examine the opportunities of using high speed, longer range vessels, with higher payloads than comparable surface vessels.
After undergoing a major refit in September 2001 the craft has been upgraded and fitted with military enhancements such as the helicopter deck, stern quarter ramp, troop facilities, crew accommodation and more.
The craft, formerly known as the Incat 050, has been transformed and capable of carrying 363 persons, military vehicles and equipment over 1110 nautical miles at a speed greater than 35 knots.
Although the high speed catamarans have been regarded as unstable in rough seas, since the 74 metre Hoverspeed Great Britain commenced duty in 1990, Incat has supplied vessels for ferry operators throughout the world, including the treacherous Cook Strait, between the North and South Islands of New Zealand.
Incat is very interested in developing naval operations within Australia.
The company found that the deployment of HMAS Jervis Bay
as a naval vessel gave Incat the opportunity to work with naval personnel, giving rise to a rethink on how coastal and intercontinental high speed naval logistical transport is handled.
Incat designed a Coastal Patrol and Rescue Vessel, with the flexibility to perform a multitude of tasks loading the required equipment for the specific mission, whether medical facilities, temporary accommodation, detention cells, messing facilities, relief equipment, stores, vehicles, rescue boats, helicopter equipment or high speed interception craft.
Fitted with a helicopter landing area and hoistable boat ramp for the deployment and retrieval of smaller 60 knot rapid response craft, the Patrol Vessel's large deck area can also be used to carry containerised modules designed and fitted out for a wide variety of uses.
In such a role, the Incat catamaran eliminates the need for large conventional ships to be at sea for long periods of time.
It estimates that two large naval ships covering an entire coastline could be replaced by six smaller fast craft working out of home ports and equally distributed around the seaboard performing the same duties better.
At the same time there is the added benefit of improved crew morale from less time at sea and more time with families.