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article imageUSS Independence, the 'Aussie jetski' combat vessel

By Paul Wallis     Jan 5, 2010 in Science
A trimaran warship built in Australia is defining the new class of cheap, agile, warships being built for the US Navy. This is a “littoral”, or coastal waters ship, one of a type which is increasingly seen as necessary for complex warfare.
These are multi purpose ships, designed for anti-piracy, anti-terrorism, and other difficult jobs which simply aren't in the script for more conventional designs.
The USS Independence
, built by Australia's Austal Ltd, is defining the new class of cheap, agile, warships being built for the US Navy. This is a “littoral”, or coastal waters ship, one of a type which is seen as necessary for complex warfare. These are multi purpose ships, designed for anti-piracy, anti-terrorism, and other jobs.
Independence is the General Dynamics entry in a contest with Lockheed Martin for building the new class of ship for the navy. The trimaran design is a hallmark of the new Australian designs, used for high speed, high reliability and survivability in tough situations. Unlike mono-hull ships they can achieve very high speeds and stability. Other Australian ships, mainly catamarans, have received good reviews from the USN.
Independence is a very interesting bit of naval architecture in anyone’s language. The hydro dynamics alone would have required a lot of work. It’s a needle nosed, aggressive-looking thing, with an auto gun in the bow. The minute you look at it, the natural reaction is “Stealth ship”. The needle nose can help with acceleration, (45 knots, new benchmark for combat vessels) and the “grunt factor” of the rear hull includes some obvious space for additions if required. A helipad is another useful feature on modern warships, allowing a lot of operational flexibility.
This is a very flexible design, with plenty of scope for "plug and play" systems. It could also be a truly lethal combat vessel with relatively minor modifications to her armaments. Put a few Harpoons on Independence, and she’d be faster than any other vessels, as well having as her built in ASW and other capabilities. She’d be a real pest to any opponent she met.
Independence has a crew of 40, with an experienced captain and crew. She’ll be commissioned on January 16. The design, however, is looking like the beginning of a whole new era in naval design. It obviously won’t be dull.
Additional note: The name USS Independence is a revered name in the US Navy. The vessel is following a truly proud tradition.
Update: I previously stated that Independence was built in Australia. It wasn't. I received an email from the Public Affairs, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) that "INDEPENDENCE was actually constructed at Austal USA’s construction facility in Mobile, Alabama." (Not that I'm at all partisan... we do opera houses, too, by the way... )
More about Uss independence, General dynamics, Littoral warfare
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