Contributing Editor

Does the charter of wave piercing catamarans by branches of the U.S. military spell the beginning of the end for big gray Navy ships? Not likely. But it does mark what could be the start of a subtle change in the Navy’s post-Cold War thinking under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s top-to-bottom defense review. The move, however, remains consistent with the DOD’s cost-conscious effort to acquire Commercial Off-the-Shelf Technology to fill its needs.

Starting this October, the U. S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard will take turns putting a 96 m wave piercing catamaran through the paces. The goal of the trials is to gauge the aluminum-hulled catamaran’s ability to move over 450 tons of cargo, such as light armored vehicles and trucks, and 325 personnel, over a distance of 1,100 nautical miles at an speeds averaging 35 knots in a sea state 3. The wave piercer must also show the ability to launch and recover helicopters and rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and, alternatively, move a deadweight cargo capacity of about 570 tons over 600 miles.


The high-speed vessel (HSV), the Incat 050 Devil Cat, is being chartered through Bollinger/Incat USA LLC, the partnership formed in December 2000 by privately held concerns Bollinger Shipyards, Lockport, La., and Incat Australia Pty. Ltd., Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM), Warren, Mich., awarded Bollinger/Incat a $2.5 million delivery order amount as part of a $22.3 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for select modifications, lease, testing, evaluation and training support and delivery of a HSV for joint use by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. Successful trials could eventually lead to the tendering of a construction contract. The wave piercer would be built in the U.S. at one of Bollinger’s 14 shipyards along the Gulf Coast.

Modifications to the 1998-built Incat 050 for the trials will include a bit more than just a coat of Navy gray paint. It will have a U. S. Navy-certified helicopter deck, a launch and recovery system for RIBS up to 39 ft, a ship’s self-defense system and vehicle ramps with heavy track vehicle capacity. The main vehicle deck has an unrestricted height of over 14 ft and beam of 75 ft. With a draft of less than 14 feet, Incat 050 can access ports unavailable to conventional ships further boosting the boat’s operational flexibility and military mission options.

Propulsion power for Incat 050 is supplied by four Caterpillar 3618 marine diesel engines each developing 7,200 kW at 1,050 revs/min driving four Lips model 150D waterjets via four Reintjes model VLJ6831 gearboxes.