Versatility is a must for modern vessels. Tampa Yacht Manufacturing's Timothy Chalfant and Robert Stevens explain how simplicity is key to today's most sophisticated multirole craft.
The world economy can no longer afford single-purpose vessels. The days of exclusivity are gone: modern service vessels must adapt efficiently to changing times and variable conditions. Craft handling duties such as patrol, interdiction, survey, command and control, and search and rescue can no longer be primarily suited to a single purpose. Today's leading-edge vessels should be adaptable and reconfigurable to the various - and constantly varying - needs of a modern military. Just like the modern soldier, or municipal first responders, training and education have honed their skills in a broad spectrum of directions and abilities providing the wherewithal for small teams to function diversely, but effectively.
Just like the field-configured Humvee, modern service vessels should be theatre-adaptable 'flatbed trucks' like open-bay C130 transports or the mission-adaptable Space Shuttle, which can fit multiple roles using preplanned, selected equipment to fulfil their next intended purposes. From troop transport, to search and rescue, to command and control centre, to cargo transport, floating hospital and ambulances, to advanced interdiction, patrol and reconnaissance to high-speed attack craft, adaptability is paramount. Key features accommodating transformation are large bay aft doors, Douglas equipment tracks in the deck, large ballistic windows and open full headroom main cabins. Specific extra features may also include cabin ballistic protection, bow landing doors and an open low profile aft deck providing convenient stern access for small raiding craft, cargo loading or towing operations.
Ship-shape, naval fashion
The basic platform should be high-speed, long range and shallow draft. Advanced composite construction ensures structural resilience, fair and efficient hull lines and low maintenance, while incorporating inherent thermal and acoustic insulation features for crew comfort, stamina and safety. High horsepower-to-weight ratio common rail diesel engines coupled with shallow draft, highly manoeuvrable mixed-flow water-jet pumps, or shallow draft, high-speed, surface drive super-cavitating propellers make the state-of-the-art reality in one efficient package. No unstable, racing-style transient bottom steps are incorporated in this hull, simply sound design and honest naval architecture. Watertight bulkheads below the main deck guarantee optimum structural bottom panel design, as well as stability, whether intact or damaged.
As a matter of course, the vessel should be designed and built to International Association of Classification Society (IACS) Standards, such as ABS, RINA or DNV. Every customer, agency or government entity in harm's way deserves the best industry-sanctioned materials, engineering and construction techniques available. Additionally, the envelope should be configurable for transocean or air transport rapid deployment. With Henriksen hooks, this package will fit as deck cargo on a modern warship, in the docking well of well-deck cruiser or even the cargo bay of a C-17 transport plane. Today's leading-edge craft embodies maximum versatility with optimum use of space.
Setting the standard
Equipment packages must be best-quality, robust and available commercially, off the shelf (COTS). The best way to optimise value and maximise redundancy is with industry-standard equipment. Parts availability, equipment maintainability and serviceability, as well as crew training, ready transfer of knowledge and versatile exploitation are all borne in mind. From main engines and propulsors, to electronics and navigation equipment, to weaponry and armament, outfitting can be basic, or specialised, but it needn't be highly customised. Too many highly sophisticated installations yield only marginal advantages at exponential costs. Consideration should be given to compatibility with the vessel's mother fleet. What equipment does it carry and use effectively, what parts, service and training does its personnel already employ?
Modern service vessels need not be exotic, or expensive. Sophistication can be found in well-planned simplicity and suitability to purpose. Purpose design may also include multimission. Future roles for today's platform should only be limited by the imaginations of the users.