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Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) - Modern and Progressive Solution that Exceeds the Capabilities of a Corvette

Austal has been at the forefront of high speed aluminum shipbuilding for three decades. From our origins in the commercial fast ferry industry, we are among the pioneers of large vessels capable of moving people, vehicles and equipment at high speed. We are constantly reviewing trends and opportunities and innovating vessel design, construction and sustainment. In the global defense market, we see many countries with common maritime security challenges including long coastlines, irregular arrivals of people by small boats, and a need for counter-terror, counter trafficking and other border protection activities. Turkey’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia has seen a number of regional security challenges that cross into the maritime domain. However, Turkey has a vibrant and capable naval shipbuilding industry and therefore we are looking at niches where our innovative products can differentiate themselves. We see opportunities in both the larger high speed patrol vessels, and also in high speed logistics vessels. 

Austal has an intrinsic understanding of aluminum and its outstanding capabilities as a construction material. We developed highly specialized, proprietary process to design and construct vessels with optimal strength and minimal weight. Our “Finite Element Structural Analysis” allows for an optimal design solution to be developed based on the customer operating requirements. 

Elaborating on the company’s defense product portfolio, this article will focus on the 80 metre Multi-Role Vessel (or ‘MRV’).  This vessel can be compared and contrasted to a Corvette in terms of capabilities and performance (Austal have also designed similar MRV’s from 56 to 90m). The global interest in multi-mission warships is growing – all Navy’s must seek to maximise value for money, minimise risk and have a flexible fleet for the spectrum of modern naval missions. 

The Austal Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) is a modern and progressive solution that exceeds the capabilities of a Corvette; it has a long range, is high speed and multi mission ready. Austal has been refining the MRV concept, based on the company’s proven trimaran hull platform now in service with the US Navy’s Independence Variant Littoral Combat Ship. As the largest aluminium ship builders in the world and an experienced Defence Prime Contractor, Austal has significant experience in the design, construction and provision of Integrated Logistic Support to a range of Navy and Coast Guards.

The trimaran design is effectively a stabilised monohull and comprises one long slender hull in the centre and two side supporting hulls - delivering superior performance in sea keeping and significant space for accommodating mission modules, weapons and sensors. 

The MRV is incredibly flexible and has a proven low risk pedigree. The ship can be deployed to patrol Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), execute Task Force Level Command and Control, complete surveillance and search and rescue missions as well as amphibious operations and humanitarian aid missions. The 500sqm mission bay is ideal to support specialist attachments (such as special forces, mine warfare drones, hydrographic surveys, etc).

The vessel can be deployed in offshore and littoral warfare environments or in support of long range counter-terrorism and piracy interdiction operations. The United States Navy have been using the larger (Austal design and built) Independence variant Littoral Combat Ship for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), escort duties and are continuing to explore the vessel capabilities, globally. 

The 80 meter MRV Trimaran Design and Features

The Austal MRV 80 has Corvette warfighting capability as well as being able to accommodate ISO packaged mission modules. The MRV can execute warship vessel duties and offers many enhanced capabilities.

The key advantages of the Austal MRV over a conventional Corvette include:

Mission bay

The enormous mission / logistics bay provides 500 square meters with a clear height of 4 meters (equivalent to 2.5 tennis courts). It is designed to accommodate cargo, equipment and military vehicles – it is this large, versatile mission bay that sets MRV the apart from conventional Corvettes. This can be configured for a range of missions:

Special Forces boats, swimmer deliver vehicles and mine counter measure drones can all be stored, launched and recovered (up to 12.0 tones).  

Anti-Submarine Warfare towed arrays and other modular packages can be positioned over the stern.

Tracked or wheeled vehicles can be embarked via the folding ramp.

Aft crane enables movement between flight deck (290sqm) and the mission bay

Multi-hull Deadweight for Ship Length

The MRV design uses Austal’s patented trimaran technology, delivering fuel efficiency with low deadweight and high internal volume within modest ship length. Aluminum vessels’ comparable lightness can equate to a 20-30% fuel saving over a similar steel hulled vessel – a significant through life saving in operating costs.

Draft and maneuverability

The shallow draft of the MRV’s trimaran hull allows access to a wide range of ports and affords high maneuverability even within constrained waters.

Speed 

The long slender multi-hull configuration offers significant savings in resistance to a monohull design of similar same length; achieving high speed with less power to conventional monohull, steel vessels. The MRV delivers high speed without high fuel costs.

Signature management 

The trimaran hull MRV is shaped to incorporate Stealth lines. The low superstructure reduces Radar Cross Section (RCS), while in-tunnel exhaust reduces infrared signature, shock mounting and acoustic signature management can be discussed in detailed design phase. 

Austal’s larger Littoral Combat Ship (Independence variant LCS), in service with the U.S Navy have passed three (3) US Navy physical shock trials in July 2016. This is the first time that an all-aluminum vessel has been through shock trials. The trials check the performance of the vessel when there is an underwater explosion, such as a torpedo or mine. It’s the first time that the US Navy has shock trialed any vessel since 2008.  Independence variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS 6) completing the first of three full-ship shock trials. (U.S. Navy photo). The trimaran hull MRV is based on this proven, tested design.

 Stability and performance 

The trimaran exhibits considerably better stability characteristics than a monohull. The peak in the righting lever curve for the trimaran is typically at a 15° to 20° greater heel angle than for an equivalent catamaran. The reserve buoyancy in the outer hulls above the design waterline allows the righting lever of the trimaran to dramatically increase as the vessel heels. The speed loss typically experienced during operation in head seas is not as apparent with the trimaran configuration due to reduced wave impacts and slamming when compared with an equivalent monohull. 

Ship Motions

Monohull designs are susceptible to roll which adversely effects passenger comfort / crew effectiveness. The trimaran stability characteristics allows for a long, slow and very comfortable roll characteristic. Proven in both commercial and defense operation, the trimaran offers high speeds and slower roll. The direct correlation between ship motion and crew mission effectiveness is well understood – the Austal MRV seakeeping ensure crews are fighting the mission not fighting the sea conditions.

Configuration

The 80m MRV overall length is 80 meters, beam of 21.1 meters and a draft of 3.2 meters. The dead-weight of the vessel is 400 tones. The ship complement is 35, with 87 berths for mission crew. Significantly, the ship’s permanent crew may be augmented by mission crew – depending on the task and skill set required; this reflects the modular approach to embarking systems and missions as required. 

There is a full CIC, briefing rooms and spaces for embarked staff. The volume of internal space achieved in a trimaran is at the core of the flexibility, comfort and value for money unique to the MRV. The flight deck area is 290 square meters; capable of supporting a Black Hawk S-70 or similar medium sized helicopter with a hanger and helicopter control station. The specific mission bay doors, ramps, overhead gantry and other systems can be tailored to suit national preferences.

Defense Prime Contractor

Austal are an experience Defense Prime contractor as illustrated in Table A – Austal recent and ongoing Defense Programs.

 

Through this global experience Austal understands the requirements to integrate local Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) components, equipment and systems. Main guns, combat management systems, close-in-weapon systems, remote weapon stations and all the C4I networks are open to client preferences.

The MRV can be adapted for Vertical Launch ESSM, 57 or 76mm gun, Revolving Airframe Missile (RAM), and various gun Remote Weapon Stations (RWS). 

Propulsion is by three MTU 20V 4000 diesel engines - driving three fixed pitch propellers. Each engine will deliver a power an output of 4,300kW at 2,170rpm. The propulsion system will provide a maximum speed of 26kt and a range of 4,500nm at 12kt with an endurance of 28 days. Additional speed can be achieved with alternate configurations – for example, the LCS has Gas Turbines and waterjets propulsion.

Innovation and Technology

Austal are open to Transfer of Technology (TOT) under various national requirements. The United States Navy LCS is an example of Austal completing defense TOT. The revolutionary ship design was Australian based. With investment, local contractor engagement, training and equipment – the Austal facility in Mobile Alabama is now in continuous production for two innovative classes of US Navy ships and has grown to become the 4th largest shipyard in the USA, employing over 4,000 people. 

Austal can provide a similar TOT project model, scalable to conditions and requirements of the local market. We are cooperating with a major local shipyard in Turkey and have signed an MoU in 2017.  We are looking for long-term relations where Austal can share its competitive advantage.

The Austal ongoing investment in Research and Development (R&D) and culture of embracing lessons learnt leads directly to continuous improvement. Deliveries to more than 55 countries and many repeat clients illustrate Austal’s ability to provide technologically advanced vessels that are well priced and a valuable fleet asset.

Austal innovation includes ship operating systems – MARINELINK Smart is a whole of ship management system for engineering, firefighting, remote control and reporting of various operating systems. This commercially proven system provides real time data for engineering – key to efficient maintenance practices. 

The Austal LCS is under innovation too – based on the proven Independence-variant platform Austal’s proposed Frigate (FFG-X) solution for the US Navy possesses increased lethality with an addition of a number of enhanced combat systems. Retaining the LCS’s high-speed, shallow draft and multi-mission capabilities, the Austal Frigate (FFG-X) is designed to meet and exceed US Navy requirements and offers a cost effective yet powerful combatant solution.

Conclusion

The Austal MRV is an advanced, next generation warship. The weapons and sensors are appropriate to many Corvette applications – the large flight deck, hangar and force multiplier mission bay are  true revolutions. The trimaran hull provides enormous internal space for vehicles, SF detachments, ISO containers, towed arrays and any combination of mission packages – operational planning and deployment flexibility is unparalleled against comparable monohulls. 

The Austal experience in defense Prime contracting, aluminum construction and multihull vessels drives down risk. Proven ability in Transfer of Technology and OEM engagement ensures maximum local industry engagement. The Austal MRV is a major step forward from traditional monohull steel vessels – providing greater, innovative Navy capability for a modern fleet.