Royal Navy tries trimarans

Representing the most major change in naval design since wood gave way to metal, Britain’s latest warship, the RV Triton, has just hit water. What’s remarkable about the Triton is that it’s a trimaran; in fact the biggest ocean-going trimaran in the world, and it could represent the future of marine warfare.

The ship will be handed over to the Royal Navy (RN) in August this year to embark on a rigorous, 18-month programme of sea trials that is already attracting the interest of navies around the world, most notably the United States. Back in Britain, the 98m-long vessel will be evaluated with a view to becoming a potential design basis for the Future Surface Combatant, the successor to the Royal Navy’s Type 22 and Type 23 frigates.

The radical Triton was built at the Southhampton shipyard of Vosper Thornycroft (VT), suppliers of more traditional naval vessels since the 1900’s.

Chief Executive of VT, Martin Jay, explained: ‘We are confident that the trimaran hull form is the way ahead and RV Triton will be a new alternative for both naval and commercial applications. The launch of RV Triton could become a defining moment in ship design.’

The lure of the trimaran concept is speed and stability. The small, slender outrigger hulls stop the ship from rolling about too much in heavy seas. Splitting up the load between three slender hulls also means that the ship’s engines don’t have to force a much bulkier single body through the waves, thus reducing drag by about 20% and improving efficiency.

The perceived ability of the trimaran to maintain higher speeds in sea states that would normally require monohulls to reduce speed or to alter course will be one area where the spotlight will focus quite heavily during the trials.

The designation ‘RV’ in front of the name Triton indicates that this ship is intended to be a research vessel only, albeit one that could easily be converted into full military service. However, the ship’s designers and backers want to get the multi-hull concept right before commissioning an entire fleet of them.

For that reason, and only if the trials are successful, Triton will be the father of a long line of related trimaran designs, rather than the blueprint for identical vessels.