Sea Transportation: August 28, 2003

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The U.S. Navy has accepted the first of a new class (HSV, or High Speed Vessel) of transport ships. The USS Swift (HSV 2), a twin hulled catamaran, was designed and built in Australia and is the second ship of the type used by the navy. The first ship, HSV-X1, was a commercial version (a high speed ferry) of the ship, chartered for two years as a joint Army-Navy experiment. Based on that very successful experience, many modifications were made and the Swift was built in ten months. The HSV 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. This is not the kind of ship you can use much in the north Atlantic or Pacific. 

There is also a helicopter pad and space for two UH-60 or CH-46 class choppers. The basic crew is only 20, but there are crew quarters for 51 and the galley can feed up to 150. The important aspect of the HAV 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 Swift is going to be used mainly as a mine warfare support ship, but additional HSVs will serve as high speed transports. 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. The navy also has a similar ship in service, the Westpac Express, which is used to move marines and their equipment between Okinawa and Japan.


 


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