High-tech ship to patrol the coasts: kinda cool. Tricked-out, ultra-fast, aluminum catamaran to test out all the gear: awwwwww yeah!This Saturday, on Whidbey Island in Washington state, the Office of Naval Research will christen its "Littoral Surface Craft Experimental, or "X-Craft." The 262-foot long vessel, with a crew of 16 Navy sailors and 10 Coast Guardsmen, is designed to try out the technologies that will be going into the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the Navy's shoreline fighter of the future. By checking out the relatively low-cost X-Craft's hydrodynamic performance, structural behavior, and engine efficiency now, the Navy hopes to save a bundle later when it builds the LCS.The X-Craft will also be able to switch from fleet protection to sub-hunt to anti-mine to amphibious assault mode quickly, by using a series of 16, interchangeable "mission modules" -- standard twenty foot containers, tucked into the X-Crafts climate-controlled mission bay.A multi-purpose ramp "will allow X-Craft to launch and recover manned and unmanned surface and sub-surface vehicles up to the size of an 11-meter Rigid-Hull Inflatable Boat," according to the Navy."From its flight deck, X-Craft will be able to operate with two H-60 type helicopters or VTUAVs [helicopter-esque drones] at a time."The X-Craft, weighing in a 950 metric tons and able to speed long the waves at up to 50 knots, will be finished up this April. And then it will move down to San Diego, where the catamaran will have its home port.
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