QinetiQ's PACSCAT technology demonstrator takes to the water

11 Oct 2009
The PACSCAT (Partial Air Cushion Supported CATamaran) Innovative Solution Demonstrator Craft (ISDC) has just entered the water for the first time at the Hythe Marine Park, near Southampton and will shortly commence rigorous sea trials. QinetiQ was awarded the contract to manage the design and build of the vessel and then conduct a series of evaluation trials in September 2007.

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 waterjets, driven by MTU Diesel engines and is designed to test at full scale the hydrodynamics of the PACSCAT hullform 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.

The original fast landing craft design requirement was to accommodate up to five Viking armoured fighting vehicles. It is intended to off-load front line vehicles and troops from Royal Navy amphibious ships to the beach and is in response to the MOD’s requirement to launch rapid and effective amphibious operations from over the horizon.

QinetiQ was contracted by the MOD’s Research Acquisition Organisation, (now the Defence Technology Innovation Centre) to manage the procurement of the demonstrator vessel, act as the design authority and to 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, lead the construction team and are also fitting out the vessel. They joined with Aluminium Shipbuilders Ltd for the hull construction; BMT Nigel Gee Ltd provided the detailed design; and BMT Marine Projects Ltd undertook project management support for Griffon Hoverwork Ltd.

“The PACSCAT concept is a leading contender to meet the MOD’s fast landing craft requirement. It will be capable of performing a variety of roles, where high speed and high payload capacity are required and has exceptional beaching qualities because of its low and variable draught,” explained Iain Kennedy, practice leader for QinetiQ’s Maritime Platforms Consultancy business. “The industry partners are all working well together and the trials of the full-sized PACSCAT ISDC that start later this year will determine the performance of the PACSCAT hullform at full scale and the relevant operational capability. We will then provide comprehensive recommendations for design optimisation to inform the Fast Landing Craft IPT’s requirements engineering and procurement process.”

Trials already conducted include 1/15th scale model tests in QinetiQ testing tanks at Haslar and a 1/3rd scale manned model that show enhanced performance over the current in-service capability, with exceptional performance during beaching noted during the manned model trials.

Background on other industry partners

  • The Royal Marines’ existing hovercraft were built by Griffon Hoverwork and they produced amphibious hovercraft for both commercial and military operations. Other recent customers include the RNLI and the Royal Swedish Navy.
  • Aluminium Shipbuilders has built many lightweight marine aluminium structures including the 50m Condor 9 catamaran vessel and over 80 hovercraft hulls.
  • BMT Nigel Gee has designed high speed marine vessels including catamarans and sidewall hovercraft for many worldwide civil and military customers.
  • BMT Marine Projects specialises in project management and has recently been involved in large MOD trials programmes.
  • Griffon Hoverwork, BMT Nigel Gee and Aluminium Shipbuilders have all previously worked together as a team; supplying Fleet tenders to the MOD.
  • QinetiQ People Who Know How
    QinetiQ's PACSCAT technology demonstrator takes to the water