A “Swift” Passage Establishes Barrier Reef Speed Passage

HSV 2 Swift, the Incat-built US Navy high speed Wave Piercing Catamaran delivered by the Hobart, Tasmania based shipyard last month, has completed the fastest ever transit of the northern Great Barrier Reef from Cairns to Booby Island.

The distance is 488 nautical miles pilot to pilot and on August 31 the Swift covered the distance in 12.5 hours at an average speed of 39.04 knots. The speed takes into account the period required to slow down to embark and disembark the pilot and once underway the transit was made at an actual speed of over 40 knots.

The Torres Pilot Capt. Jens Edwin Mertens, said; “Having had the pleasure to pilot HSV 2 Swift from Cairns at 10:00 to Booby Island at 22:45 the same day, I can only express my deep satisfaction and gratitude for this memorable experience.

“The high degree of competence displayed by the Officers and Crew was most impressive and my own local knowledge added only little to the crews existing skills. My thanks again to the Master and Crew and I wish them safe travel wherever the HSV 2 Swift may sail.” He said.

The transit was made using electronic charts and using Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) available in the Great Barrier Reef courtesy of Australian Maritime Safety Authority shore stations.

The passage through the Reef also included the transit of the newly established Fairway Channel.

The High Speed Vessel (HSV) HSV 2 Swift will serve operationally as an interim Mine Warfare Command and Support Ship (MCS), and support transformational mine warfare modular mission payload initiatives. In support of Navy experimentation, the HSV will be used to explore concepts, capabilities and military utility associated with the advanced hull and propulsion technology integrated with advanced communications in support of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.

For the Marine Corps, the HSV will conduct a series of limited-objective experiments, exercises, demonstrations and training events that develop interoperability potential of high-speed vessels with causeways, watercraft, amphibious ships and other shipping. Experimentation data will be used to access the military utility of HSVs and future joint and naval military operations or applications.

The HSV is capable of maintaining an average speed of 35 knots or greater, loaded with 500 short tons, consisting of 350 personnel and military equipment. A minimum operating range of 1100 nautical miles at 35 knots is required by the contract, as is a minimum transit range of 4000 nautical miles at an average speed of 20 knots. Furthermore, she must be capable of 24-hour operations at slow speeds (3-10 knots) for experimentation with unmanned autonomous vehicles, and to support dedicated and emerging organic mine warfare missions.

A stern ramp capable of on/off loading directly astern or to the starboard quarter is fitted. The ramp is capable of loading/unloading a multitude of military vehicles up to and including M1A1 main battle tanks of up to 141,000 lbs. Swift is also fitted with a load compensating crane capable of launch and recovery of small boats and unmanned vehicles up to 26,000 lbs. whilst underway. The crane is capable of lifting up to 22,000 lbs. to and from the flight deck.

Perhaps one of the most impressive features of Swift is the NAVAIR certified helicopter flight deck for operation of MH-60S, CH-46, UH-1 and AH-1 helicopters. An area protected from the weather for storage and maintenance of two MH-60S helicopters has also been provided to enhance aviation operations in day, night and instrument meteorological conditions.

With sea trials, Navy acceptance, and crew certification complete Swift will now deploy and commence routine operations. The vessel will operate with crews stationed at Naval Station Ingleside, Texas, and Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia.

HSV 2 Swift is the fourth Incat Wave Piercing Catamaran to enter Military service.

In 1999 the Royal Australian Navy chartered the 86 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran HMAS Jervis Bay (Incat Hull 045) for use during the East Timor crisis. The vessel seized the attention of the worldwide military, enabling them to witness the potential of the Wave Piercing platform to perform various military roles.

In 2001, joint forces from the US Military awarded to Bollinger / Incat USA the charter for a High Speed Craft to be used as an evaluation platform for various trials and demonstrations for the different forces involved. The 96 metre Wave Piercing Catamaran HSV-X1 Joint Venture became the benchmark for future Fast Sealift acquisitions, thanks to her high operational speed, long-range deployment capabilities, combined with a high deadweight capacity. Joint Venture has excelled during her deployment in the Persian Gulf is support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Just hours after Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Joint Venture sped into the shallow Persian Gulf waters near the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, acting as an afloat forward staging base for Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams and Navy SEAL commandos.

On 14 November 2002, the US Army took acceptance of its first Theater Support Vessel TSV-1X Spearhead. The craft is part of the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator (ACTD) program, a joint effort by the acquisition and operational (war fighter) communities within the Department of Defence (DoD). Typically ACTD’s begin by identifying significant military needs and then matching them with current commercial technology or other programs ready to focus on military application.