Sea Transportation: February 19, 2004


After five months of testing the USS Swift (HSV 2), the navy is eager to get more ships of this type. The Swift is a twin hulled catamaran, designed and built in Australia and is the second ship of the type used by the navy. The Swift was built in ten months. The HSV (High Speed Vessel) is actually a small ship, 320 feet long and displaces 1900 tons. It can carry up to 800 tons of cargo and has airline style seating for 300 troops, although up to 600 can be carried. The cargo can include vehicles of up to 70 tons each, including M-1 tanks. Vehicles are driven on and off. There is a trade off between tonnage carried, and speed and range. The twin hull design is also slowed down quite a bit in rough seas. The HSV would have a rough time of it in the violent seas common in the north Atlantic or Pacific. But in coastal waters, it is an excellent high speed transport. 

The HSV also has a helicopter pad and space for two UH-60 or CH-46 class choppers. The minimum crew is only 20, but the navy staffs the ship with 40 officers and sailors. There are crew quarters for 51 and the galley can feed up to 150. The ship is highly automated. Normally, no one is in the engine room, with the sailor keeping an eye on the engine doing so from the bridge. The automation allows the ship to be run with only five or six people, rather than the 12-15 in most other ships. The sailors serving on the Swift are quite happy with it. It's a low maintenance ship and the living conditions are better than most navy ships. 

The key asset of the HSV is speed. The Swift maintained a speed of 83 kilometers an hour for four hours during sea trails. The ship can cruise at 63 kilometers an hour for 2,000 kilometers, or 7,200 kilometers at 36 kilometers an hour before it has to be refueled. The HSV has four water-jets, in addition to its normal engines, making it very maneuverable. The sailor maneuvering the Swift into port does so with a joystick and the HSV is so maneuverable that it does not need a tug for getting into tight dock spaces. The Swift was originally going to be used mainly as a mine warfare support ship, as well as a high speed transports. But now the navy sees HSVs as useful for delivering SEALs (via their special landing craft, which can be easily carried and launched from the HSV).

Weapons can include manned 25mm automatic cannon and remote controlled 12.7mm machine-gun or 40m grenade launchers. The HSV design is also being studied as the basis for a new class of coastal warships, and so far the prospects for a combat version of the HSV look positive. The navy plans to buy another HSV in 2007 for $220 million. The US Army is also testing a HSV ship and theirs was used in the Persian Gulf to support commando operations. The navy is considering using HSVs as command and control ships as well.


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