Surface Forces: June 3, 2005

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Although the U.S. Navy intends its new LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) to be used for landing SEAL commandoes, the SEALs themselves are shopping around for a smaller, stealthier ship for such missions. The first LCS is being built, and it will displace over 3,000 tons. The SEALs are particularly interested in the Norwegian 260 ton Skjold class ships. These stealthy boats normally carry one 76mm cannon, plus eight anti-ship missiles and portable Mistral anti-aircraft missiles fired from a pedestal mount. The SEALs would remove most of this armament to provide space for commandoes and their gear. The unique catamaran/air cushion design of the Skjolds enable them to move fast even through rough seas. Top speed is over 100 kilometers an hour. Built of composites, the Skjolds are very stealthy and boxy in appearance (155 feet long and 45 feet wide). But they are expensive, costing over $100 million each. They are highly automated and only require a crew of fifteen (although as few as ten sailors can operate it). Two years ago, one has crossed the Atlantic to demonstrate the ship to the U.S. Navy. The ship can go 1400 kilometers on one load of fuel, and stay at sea for over 21 days at a time. In addition to 35-40 tons of fuel and water, the ship can carry 30-35 tons of weapons, including a hundred troops (for a few hours) in the aft missile bay (instead of the missiles). The first of this class was built in 1997 as an experiment.

 


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