Over the past decade, the use of fast boats by criminals and terrorists worldwide has been growing. This poses a serious challenge to authorities, and presents a serious threat to the national security of all maritime nations. Additionally, during the past forty years globalization has seen a dramatic increase in maritime traffic engaged in containerized shipping of good worldwide. This has allowed an accompanying dramatic increase in the shipment of illicit material and human smuggling. The global economic downturn and austerity measures taking effect worldwide have only conspired to highlight the maritime threat.
As early as 2005, world navies including the Unites States began multi-billion dollar programs to address these threats by creating a new class of smaller vessels that can operate in littoral waters.
The littoral zone is the part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged. It always includes this intertidal zone and is often used to mean the same as the intertidal zone. However, the meaning of “littoral zone” can extend well beyond the intertidal zone. The use of the term also varies from one part of the world to another, and between different disciplines. For example, military commanders speak of the littoral in ways that are quite different from marine biologists.
MDSI has set out to approach the global market with a vessel that can robustly satisfy a variety of operating climates, water conditions, and mission requirements, while realizing that customers have to do more with less funding. This approach is realized in Seawolf.
Speed was always a major requirement for naval and coast-guard patrol boats, and in recent years, boats were introduced with cruising capability beyond 50 knots. However, in a rush to market these faster boats, manufacturers took the path of least resistance, simply placing large engines into lightly designed hulls formed of fiberglass and/or other composite materials. This has proven to be a failure. In a number of instances, these vessels have ripped themselves apart when subjected to operational stresses.
Problems plaguing those vessels include poor performance, maneuverability, and difficulty in maintaining them at forward operating locations. Additionally, the high cost of training crews, and operating these complex platforms, combined with very high maintenance requirements have left customers worldwide frustrated and standing on the beach. These problems were compounded when once again industry offered fixes that were only modest improvements in performance, and maneuverability, while further degrading the endurance of these vessels.
Interception boats, operated by coast guards and customs authorities, usually require higher speeds, while navies engaged in coast guard and counter-insurgency activities (Israel, Sri-Lanka, India, Philippines, Indonesia etc.) have different missions and requirements. Resulting from initial experience with +50 Knots vessels, some navies have reversed their requirements for higher speed, in a more balanced approach favoring improved maneuverability.
Another military application is the fast attack boat, designed for defensive and offensive operations in littoral and brown water. The mission of such boats requires speed, maneuverability and load carrying capability which is different from the common patrol missions associated with fast patrol boats.
Seawolf employs a design that is tested and proven. New technologies in the construction of Seawolf, such as Friction Stir Processing and Intelligent Laser Processing will enhance this design and insure that our customer’s investment realizes a significant return by enhancing economic and national security postures.
In 2006, the tradecraft demonstrated by terrorists in staging maritime attacks led then-Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen to raise the issue among policymakers, the boating community, and involved agencies. While a host of port security initiatives had been enacted in the wake of 9/11, none specifically addressed terrorist use of small vessels—those with displacements of less than 300 gross tons. The admiral’s quest was to find consensus for rational improvements to the homeland-security architecture to head off terrorists’ abilities to carry out Cole-style attacks in American waters or smuggle a weapon of mass destruction into a U.S. port.
Seawolf’s ability to perform multiple missions precisely mirrors and complements the U.S. Navy’s development of littoral combat vessels with multi-mission packages.
Most ships involved in reported cases of sanctions-busting or illicit transfers of arms, drugs and equipment that could be used in the development of missiles and weapons of mass destruction are owned by companies based in the world’s richest countries. The ships are primarily commercial lines based in Germany, Greece and the US.
It is time to rekindle the effort to improve security on the nation’s waterways, before enterprising terrorists take advantage of existing weaknesses and use small vessels to reap a deadly harvest on American shores.
Sitting along or operating in America’s expanse of coastal waterways are hundreds of potential terrorism targets: cruise ships, military vessels, chemical plants, highway bridges, oil t