French shipyard CMN—whose specialty has been small, fast, heavily armed vessels—was showing arguably the most unusual and innovative design of the show. It was so unusual that the design, which only exists on paper, was patented—the Combattante SWAO 53. This small-waterplane-area outrigger (SWAO) combines the speed of a slender boat with a large platform, on a starboard outrigger, for 5-ton helicopters or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
The 53-meter-long (174-ft.) aluminum alloy ship has a 16-meter beam. Designed for littoral waters, maximum draft is 2.6 meters, and three fixed-pitch propellers provide propulsion. Top speed is 30 kt.
Benoit Andrieux, CMN's purchasing director, says that the stealthy vessel—crewed by 26 but with space for 35—is mission-flexible. It is designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; commando support (it carries three 7.5-meter rigid inflatable boats); integration within a naval task force; deterrent strike; and helicopter and UAV operations support (there are two UAV hangars but none for helicopters).
The fastest, if not the most flexible, vessel at the show was the handiwork of a small Italian company named FB Design, after founder Fabio Buzzi. Fifteen years ago, Buzzi shifted production from racing boats to military speedboats. Days before the Euronaval show he broke a long-distance record by traveling the 684 nm (1,267 km or 787 mi.) between New York and Bermuda in 17 hr., 6 min., at an average speed of 39.8 kt, in the new FB 40'SF.
FB's military speedboats are not only in service with navies, but law enforcement and customs officials in more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Singapore.
The eye-catcher on the stand at the show was the unmanned FB38, already bought by one undisclosed customer, which can be manned in 8 min. by removing a hatch and adding a canopy. The 12-meter-long, 2.33-meter-wide boat fits into a container for transport aboard a ship. The bow contains a gun pit with rotary mounting device, the center section is for operators, and aft is the electronic piloting system (not provided by FB) for unmanned operation. The radar folds away and does not have to be removed during containerization.
Alessandro Borgolotto, one of the designers at FB Design, says the vessel is for anti-piracy and anti-smuggling missions. It is not, however, for anti-mine operations because a growing number of FB boats are made of structural foam. That substance makes the craft virtually unsinkable, he remarks, but the foam cannot withstand or deflect a mine blast. The boat has a molded hull and countermolded floor of laminated fiberglass and is divided into six chambers. The military versions of the boats have shock-absorbing seats, while a carbon-fiber front ramp can be added for rapid troop disembarkment.
Flexibility is how Arend Schulze, sales director of German shipyard Lurssen, chooses to describe the requirements of his clients. Lurssen is unique in the international shipbuilding market as it is family-owned. Now in the hands of the fourth generation of the Lurssen family, the company, with 1,400 employees, builds big ships—from patrol craft and fleet-support vessels to corvettes and frigates. “The only things we don't do are aircraft carriers and submarines,” says Schulze.
“What clients are looking for are multirole, multimission ships,” he says. As a result, Schulze sees “huge potential” in offshore patrol vessels (OPV). Lurssen sold three OPVs to Brunei and has a repeat order. The 1,625-ton, 80-meter-long PV80 OPV, with a 13-meter beam, is based on a modified hull line. Like Fusco at Fincantieri, Schulze talks of “plug-and-play modules” but seems more optimistic as to their practicality. The modules, he says, are customer-defined and allow the PV80 to be modified for disaster relief, hydrographic missions and other operations.