Following the successful completion of initial manoeuvring and propulsion trials, QinetiQ’s PACSCAT (Partial Air Cushion Supported CATamaran) Innovative Solution Demonstrator Craft (ISDC) was accepted as a trials vessel by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) on 10 August. It will now undergo a series of tough practical evaluation trials through to the end of 2010 at the Royal Marines facilities at Instow, Devon.
QinetiQ was awarded the contract to manage the design and build of the PACSCAT landing craft ISDC in September 2007 and working alongside Griffon Hoverwork Ltd at their base in Hythe, Southampton, has just completed a series of contractor evaluation trials that included spending in excess of 100 hours at sea. The trials saw the team progressively operate the PACSCAT ISDC at unloaded speeds exceeding 30 kts in Sea State 2. An MOD crew were also trained to operate PACSCAT, and operating procedures were endorsed by Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) – the Royal Navy team that provides operational sea training.
"The handover is the culmination of many years of hard work and dedication to develop a new type of fast and functional landing craft,” explained Chris Ross, chief naval architect at QinetiQ. “The PACSCAT ISDC is generating interest in the military and commercial sectors where customers are looking to incorporate the innovative partial air cushion concepts into their own future vessels to enable them to benefit from higher speeds, heavier payloads and manoeuvrability.”
The contractor evaluation trials demonstrated that the PACSCAT solution could operate within the required specification. The MOD will now undertake extensive trials – which QinetiQ will oversee – designed to further understand the vessel’s capabilities with vehicles embarked. The trials will test PACSCAT's ability to perform a variety of roles focussed on the potential advantages of low and variable draught (for example in situations where high speed and high payload capacities are required in conjunction with exceptional beaching qualities.) On completion of trials and as part of the Fast Landing Craft Concept Phase, the MOD will conduct a cost and performance-based appraisal of this solution with other options determined in the MOD Fast Landing Craft Design Solutions Study.
The high speed, all aluminium PACSCAT ISDC vessel is 30m long, 7.7m in the beam, has a design vehicle payload of 55 tonnes and an approximate loaded weight of 175 tonnes. It is propelled by twin MJP water jets, driven by Diesel engines manufactured by MTU.
The fast landing craft design requirement is to off-load front line vehicles from Royal Navy amphibious ships to the beach. The Innovative Solution Demonstrator Craft is designed to test at full scale the hydrodynamics of the PACSCAT hull form and to investigate its feasibility to deliver significantly faster speeds than traditional landing craft. The vessel makes use of the PACSCAT concept originated by John Lewthwaite of Independent Maritime Assessment Associates Ltd.
QinetiQ was contracted by the MOD’s Research Acquisition Organisation to manage the procurement of the demonstrator vessel, act as the design authority and manage the all-important safety process and trials programme. QinetiQ then invited competitive bids from companies in the shipbuilding sector to bring a broad mix of experience to the project. Griffon Hoverwork Ltd, the world leaders in hovercraft construction, led the construction team and undertook the fit-out, setting to work and commissioning of the craft. They partnered with Aluminium Shipbuilders Ltd for the hull construction; BMT Nigel Gee Ltd for detailed design; and BMT Marine Projects Ltd for project management support.