Arlington, Va.— On August 24, 2006, onlookers gathered at the shipyard of Alaska Ship & Drydock Inc. in Ketchikan, Alaska, to witness the keel laying of what will be a very unusual and versatile ship.
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the vessel´s sponsor, performed the honors as she welded her name onto the keel of the M/V Susitna, a twin-hulled catamaran ferry that is being funded jointly by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Alaska´s Matunuska Susitna (Mat/Su) Borough. Attendees also included ONR´s Chief of Naval Research RAdm. William E. Landay, Mat/Su Borough Mayor Tim Anderson, as well as State of Alaska and Ketchikan officials and the management team for the Susitna program.
When complete, the Susitna (which is named after a river and mountain in south central Alaska, and means "sleeping lady") will be operated by the Mat/Su Borough as a ferry between Anchorage and Port Mackenzie. ONR also is interested in the vessel´s transformational hull form as a technology demonstrator to support the Navy´s sea basing and expeditionary warfare concepts.
The ship will have a center "barge" that can be hydraulically raised and lowered; it also will have the option to adjust the buoyancy of its catamaran hulls while under way. The vessel will demonstrate the functionality of a ship that can provide a multipurpose, expeditionary cargo and troop ship that performs efficiently at high speed, in ice, and in shallow waters, and that can even beach itself to load/discharge vehicles up to tank size.
The vessel will have three distinct modes of operation: a catamaran mode for high speeds; a small-water-area-twin-hull (SWATH) mode for stability in high sea states; and a shallow-draft landing-craft mode that provides substantial buoyancy for maneuvering in shallow water. In addition, the Susitna will be the world´s first ice-breaking twin-hulled vessel.
· Length -195 Feet, Beam – 60 feet
· Displacement: 940 tons full load
· Variable Draft - SWATH mode is 12± feet, shallow-draft landing-craft mode is 4± feet.
· Capacity: 100 Passengers and 20 vehicles.
· Speed: 20 knots
· Power Plant: 4 ea., MTU 12V 4000 diesel engines
The Susitna project is a collaboration between the Office of Naval Research, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Alaska Ship & Drydock. It is funded through the Office of Naval Research´s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, Code 33X (Paul Rispin, program manager).