Big cat takes to the water

A UK designed military catamaran, said to be the fastest of its kind, has been launched by the US Navy.

Weighing 1,500 tonnes, the 262-ft long X-Craft, designed by Southampton-based BMT Nigel Gee and Associates, is the largest catamaran ever to be built in the US. Its top speed of 50 knots also makes it one of the fastest large naval craft in the world.

The all-aluminium ship, officially named Sea Fighter, will be used as an experimental platform to evaluate the hydrodynamic performance, structural behaviour and efficiency of high-speed vessel technology. Designed specifically for use in litoral, or coastal, regions, the ship’s innovative modular design makes it suitable for a wide range of missions including minesweeping, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious assault support, and assistance with humanitarian aid.

The hull form was specially developed to enable helicopters to land and take-off in all conditions up to sea state five. Two helicopters can be accommodated on the upper deck, while a ramp at the craft’s stern allows boats up to 10m long to be launched and recovered.

The ship is propelled by waterjets, driven by gas turbines for high-speed operation and diesel engines for low-speed cruising.

Nigel Gee, managing director of the UK company, claimed that the design of the ship has already attracted the interest of major navies around the world and that he expects the hull form will be considered for other military, paramilitary and commercial craft where the mission demands a high speed in moderate to rough conditions.

This July X-Craft will travel to San Diego, California, where it will be stationed for an initial two-year test programme.