The 418-foot long USS Independence is one of two prototype ships for the Littoral Combat Ship contract. This one was built by the General Dynamics consortium. And it went out on a little cruise into the Gulf of Mexico this week.
Most striking feature of this ship is it's tri-hull configuration. But both ships (Independence and the Freedom built by Lockheed Martin) both have water thruster propulsion. And with this latest test, the Independence reached 52 mph! Impressive for a ship of this size. That's 45 knots for you Navy types out there! And it was doing so in 6 to 8 foot swells and against a headwind of 30 knots. And the USS Independence did this for a sustain rate of speed for four hours. Normal cruising speed for normal warships is suppose to be in the 30-35 knot range.
Both ship designs use very powerful diesel engines plus gas turbines for that extra boost of speed. (I have to wonder if the skippers of these ships will start calling this "Warp Speed" when they have the throttle pushed to the wall?). Both the Independence and its competitor - the USS Freedom, have shallow drafts that let them get in closer to shore than regular naval vessels.
Main mission selling point by both companies right now seems to be pointing out how these ships can go up against the pirate threat. Whether its Lockheed Martin or General Dynamics that ultimately wins the contract - the U.S. Navy will have 55 of these speedy ships. Expected costs per vessel is in the $220 million dollar range.
This class of ship has multiple mission modules that can support anti-submarine, mine sweeping, or traditional surface warfare. Both designs have helicopter flight decks on the stern to operate helicopters.
From this blogger's personal opinion, I hope that the Navy goes with the USS Independence. I wonder if John Paul Jones is looking down from Heaven and saying, "That is a fast ship going in harm's way!"
Ref. WAVY.com news, October 22, 2009. AP news article by David Sharp (http://www.wavy.com/dpp/military/military_ap_mobile_New_warship_tops_out_at_over_50_mph_20091022).
Reaganite Republican Resistance.blogspot.com article "The Navy's New Pirate Vaporizer" (http://reaganiterepublicanresistance.blogspot.com/2009/10/navys-new-pirate-neutralizer.html)