Admiral: Fast Catamaran Shows Mine-Warfare Potential

The use of Incat-built HMAS Jervis Bay by the Royal Australian Navy and Bollinger / Incat USA chartered 96 metre Joint Venture HSV-X1 by the United States military are indicators of how the concept of high speed craft as a multi mission platform is rapidly being embraced by military forces around the world.

In the February 28 edition of Defense Week Daily Update, journalist Nathan Hodge interviews US Navy Admiral Robert Natter, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, and highlights the growing acceptance of how fast ship technology can be applied to a broad range of military applications.


In a roundtable discussion this morning with reporters, the head of the Navy’s Atlantic fleet gave good marks to a high-speed catamaran the Navy has leased to test new hull design. And he suggested the test ship might serve as a model for a new type of mine-warfare vessel.

Over the past six months, the Navy has been conducting experiments on the Joint Venture, a fast catamaran made in Australia that once served as a car ferry. Adm. Robert Natter, commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet, said recent fleet exercises had revealed the ship’s military potential.

“I think there are all kinds of applications for this kind of a high-speed, relatively small craft,” he said.

The twin-hull design caught the eye of Navy planners during operations to dispatch peacekeeping troops to East Timor in 1999. Australian peacekeepers used another high-speed ferry, the Jervis Bay, to carry out crucial sealift missions. Natter said he had seen the potential of high-speed vessels [HSVs] when he was commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, because the ships were based out of Tasmania.

In addition to sealift, Natter said the catamarans could be used for inserting special operations forces along coastal waters, as well as to perform surveillance and command and control missions. He also singled out the vessel’s potential for mine warfare.

On Natter’s recommendation, the Navy recently decided to decommission the USS Inchon (MCS-12), which was damaged last year in a fire. The admiral suggested that a ship such as the Joint Venture might provide a template for a new mine warfare support ship.

“I’m convinced, based on our experiments thus far, that with a little different approach to dedicated mine warfare, that something like a high-speed vessel-and I don’t care whether it’s the HSV that we are leasing or something like that-is the answer,” Natter said. “I can make it work. Somebody’s got to let me buy this thing.”

Natter also addressed concerns that the HSV might not meet the Navy’s requirements for battle survivability: “Because it’s a commercial design, my view is that it doesn’t have to be fully militarized, it’s not going to go in and wage war at sea with other ships, it’s going to support mine warfare operations. It’s not going to be left defenseless if we send it into a theater where there’s a threat to that specific ship.”

In the future, Natter said, the Joint Venture could also provide a model for new ship design.

“We think we can do this better longer term if we’re allowed to take advantage of this sort of technology,” he said.

Defense Week Daily Update
By Nathan Hodge
February 28, 2002