Austal has displayed, at the recent Euronaval exhibition, a wide range of high-speed military support vessels. They range from a 45 metre catamaran with capacity for 285 troops and six utility vehicles through to a 127 metre, 38 knots, trimaran complete with flight deck, helicopter hanger, command and control spaces, berthed accommodation for 100 crew, seats for 260 transit personnel and a 1900 square metre deck for vehicles and cargo. Regardless of its size or hull configuration the vessels can offer a choice of medium speed diesel engines, gas turbines or combination arrangements. Each vessel is provided with sufficient fuel capacity for ocean transits and, where required, can be equipped for replenishment at sea.
Consolidating the best seakeeping qualities of monohulls and catamarans, the trimaran designs offer improved operability in high sea states. This is particularly relevant where long open water transits or operations involving the launch and recovery of vessels or aircraft in exposed conditions are envisaged.
Both hullforms provide low resistance, excellent strength and durability and greater deck space than monohull alternatives. Chief among these is the mission deck which, depending on vessel size, provides space for a range of military hardware including wheeled vehicles, tanks, amphibious vehicles, helicopters and small boats. Ship based ramps enable fast and efficient loading and discharge of this deck even in the most basic of ports and also facilitate the launch and retrieval of amphibious vehicles at sea. A separate boat launcher is used for small boats and unmanned underwater and surface vehicles. All the new designs also have an aviation capability. On smaller vessels this is limited to a vertical replenishment deck while the larger multi-mission platforms can fully support helicopter operations with a full flight deck and hangers for two aircraft. In each case cargo delivered to the vessel by helicopter can be transferred to the mission deck using cranes. These cranes are also used for over-side cargo handling.
The various designs have a number of common features that are considered central to the majority of military applications:
- Deployment and support of helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance, combat, search and rescue, vertical replenishment, special warfare support, airborne mine countermeasures and other military activities
- Amphibious assault operations using small boats and amphibious vehicles
- Co-ordination and command of other vessels including Unmanned Underwater and Surface Vehicles (UUVs and USVs)
- Reconnaissance, surveillance and patrol duties
- Afloat support of smaller vessels including connected replenishment
- Deployment of police and customs teams and their supporting vehicles and logistics
- Disaster and humanitarian relief operations including the provision of medical facilities, supplies and evacuation of personnel and equipment