As the world’s only active large catamaran builder with high power gas turbine experience, Austal Ships has a strategic advantage in the growing market for high-speed military vessels. Austal together with US joint venture shipyard has been short-listed to build an experimental vessel for a program sponsored by the United States’ Office of Naval Research. Dubbed the “X-Craft”, the 80 metre catamaran will feature twin LM2500 gas turbines and be capable of speeds of around 50 knots.
Prime contractor for the project is San Diego-based Titan Systems Corporation, which has selected Austal USA as one of five shipyards to participate in the final tender round. The tender closes early in 2003, with delivery of the aluminium catamaran scheduled for mid-2004.
In bidding for the project, Austal USA has been able to draw upon the extensive high speed catamaran experience of its parent company, Austal Ships of Western Australia. Among the more than 60 fast catamarans built by the yard are six fast ferries powered by gas turbines, including the 86 metre catamaran “Villum Clausen”. In February 2000 this vessel claimed the world record for the longest distance travelled by a ship in a 24-hour period. The propulsion plant on “Villum Clausen” comprises two 18,000kW GE LM2500 gas turbines each driving a pair of steerable waterjets via single-input, dual output gearboxes. During its record breaking journey, the ship covered a distance of 1,063 nautical miles at an average speed of 44.29 knots.
Austal’s familiarity with the LM2500 is particularly relevant for defence applications, with 29 of the world’s navies using this gas turbine model. Today, over 190 ships in the United States Navy fleet are fitted with LM2500s. Other navies that have selected LM2500 gas turbines include those of France, Italy, Norway, Australia, Spain, Thailand, Canada, Japan, South Africa and Germany.