The Sea Fighter (FSF-1) has been used by the United States Navy (USN) as an experimental "Littoral Combat Ship" (LCS) for its time on the high seas. The design was ordered on February 15th, 2003 and built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland, Washington. Its keel was laid down on June 5th, 2003 and the vessel was put out to sea on February 10th, 2005. It formally entered service on May 31st, 2005 and maintains an active status in the USN inventory.
The vessel has been developed (with British participation) under the project name of "Littoral Surface Craft-Experimental", or "LCS(X)". Other related names include "X-Craft" and "Fast Sea Frame".
The Littoral Combat Ship is a multi-role naval vessel intended to operate close-to-shore in support of amphibious operations and land forces in general. Modern forms of this ship type exhibit heavy reliance on physical stealth features including low profiles, minimal structural protrusions, and shallow draughts. The two main USN classes used are the "Freedom" and "Independence" ships - all detailed elsewhere on this site. The FSF-1, however, maintains a very distinct profile when compared to these two very different ship designs - but its mission role remains the same.
The Sea Fighter showcases a displacement of 1,600 tons and has a bow-to-stern length of 262 feet with a beam measuring 72 feet and a draught down to 11.5 feet. The latter quality is of particular note especially when operating close-to-shore. Power is from a COmbined Diesel-Or-Gas (CODOG) turbine arrangement which provides the ship with an impressive ocean-going speed of 55 knots. Range is out to 4,400 nautical miles. Installed power comes from 2 x MTU 595 diesel engines coupled with 2 x General Electric LM2500 gas turbines. The diesel units are used for general cruising actions and the gas turbines are relied upon for sprint actions as needed. The combination powerplant arrangement has been found to be more fuel efficient than previous single-type arrangements of past generations. Four waterjets, driven by the gas turbines, supply even more sprinting power when needed and add a key maneuverability quality lacking in other warships of similar size and displacement.
Aboard is a crew complement of twenty-six made up of both Navy and Coast Guard personnel.
The overall design of the ship of utilitarian in appearance with the stepped bridge superstructure offset to the portside of the bow. The main bridge section is seen at the lower level with the flight command center fitted on the overhead deck. A landing deck area takes up most of the ship's exposed horizontal surfaces. The deep hull can house a variety of military equipment useful in amphibious operations. It is of a modular design to better react to changing mission scopes. The hull design is unique and based around the Small-Waterplane-Area Twin-Hull (SWATH) concept - similar in theory to a catamaran with minimal cross-section but useful in minimizing drag/surface area at the water's surface. In this way, much of the ships displacement can be held under the waves (unlike a catamaran which features its bulk above the waterline). The hull is constructed largely of lightweight, yet strong, aluminum alloys.
Two helipads take up the flight deck of the ship and can serve medium-lift types line the USN's "Seahawk" series. In addition to this, there is full support for some of the service's small- and medium-sized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
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