Shipbuilder Austal first came to Gizmag’s attention in 2005 with the launch of the world’s largest aluminum vessel, the 127 meter Benchijigua Express. The company then started building Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for the US Navy, based on the same trimaran design. And, now, Austal is launching an even more refined version that improves sea-keeping, passenger comfort and fuel efficiency. This week, Tony Armstrong, Austal’s head of R&D, spoke exclusively to Gizmag about potentially building 20% of the US Navy fleet, how they reduced fuel consumption by a quarter, what sick bags can tell you, and much more.
The US Navy has announced the award of a construction contract for the Austal designed General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) project. The US $223 million contract for the first of two planned “Flight 0” vessels follows a similar order for the single-hulled Lockheed Martin LCS last December. The two LCS ships will be evaluated and the contracts allow for up to two of each of the two designs to be constructed prior to a decision on how many of each will be ordered, with a fleet of between 50 and 100 LCSs expected to be required over the next 30 years. The General Dynamics LCS is a far different ship to the Lockheed Martin LCS with the secret to its remarkable speed and agility being the aluminium trimaran hull. The LCSs will be the most advanced high speed military craft in the world and are intended to operate in coastal areas globally. As a key part of the US Navy fleet, they will be highly manoeuvrable and configurable to support mine detection / elimination, anti-submarine and surface warfare. The trimaran hull form permits the ship to carry a large capacity of weapons packages with space to land two helicopters.