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Trimaran gets some respect from the Navy

A new, high-tech trimaran warship for coastal operations combines stealth, speed and huge payload.

General Dynamics

Maybe it's the trimaran's festive appearance that put off the scrambled-egg crowd, but one still wonders why the U.S. Navy took so long to adapt this 4,000-year-old Polynesian technology to its combat ship inventory.

In any case, they're making up for it now with the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which promises to deliver more payload per ton of displacement than any previous U.S. warship, all on a high-speed, stealthy trimaran hull made of aluminum and steel.

The LCS is the Navy's response to asymmetric threats in coastal waters. The trimaran hull enables the ship to do 50 knots, then sneak up through the sand bars and unleash multiple helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or a swarm of Stryker- and Humvee-mounted troops. An LCS can do all this while supporting mine detection, conducting anti-submarine warfare and blowing opposing attack craft out of the water with its Bofors 57mm Mk.1.

The Navy says it has opted for a plug-and-play open architecture because it not only offers greater mission flexibility but also allows it to exploit newly developed commercial software and other technological upgrades faster and more cost effectively. Unlike legacy systems, open architecture can be easily upgraded with off-the-shelf products, not having to rely on costly proprietary hardware and software.

The onboard systems will integrate seamlessly with others across the fleet, according to General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. Delivery of the LCS is scheduled for 2008.