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ABSTRACT

A vessel (10) designed to operate efficiently as both a catamaran and air cushion vessel can travel at low speed (e.g. Froude number (Fn)=0–0.3) in a catamaran or displacement mode and at high speed (e.g. Froude numbers (Fn)=0.3 or more) in an air cushion or dynamically supported mode. The vessel (10) includes molded catamaran hulls (11, 12) with parabolic waterlines, a flexible, air cushion seal system (16, 17), surface piercing propellers (20) and a propulsion system (e.g. combined diesel and gas turbine). There are preferably auxiliary gas turbines for generating lift air pressure. Forward mounted independently stabilizing foils (30), can optionally facilitate ride stabilization and load compensation at high and low speeds. The foils also generate transverse roll forces to improve high speed maneuvering.

Inventors: Kenneth J. Maloney, Charles S. Whipple, Jr.
Original Assignee: Textron Innovations Inc.
Section: Performing Operations; Transporting
Classification: Ships Or Other Waterborne Vessels; Related Equipment

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS


Incorporated herein by reference are U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/661,113, filed 12 Sep. 2003, published as publication no. US2004112268 on 17 Jun. 2004 and International Application No. PCT/US03/28848, filed 12 Sep. 2003, published as publication no. WO2004024552 on 25 Mar. 2004, and those publications. This is a continuation-in-part of both of these prior patent applications.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT


Not applicable

REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX


Not applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION


1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to catamaran air cushion ships. More particularly, the present invention relates to an improved surface effect ship or air cushion ship with a catamaran hull that enables low, high and intermediate speeds with improved efficiency.

2. General Background of the Invention

The typical side hull geometry that has been employed by surface effect ships is a prismatic, hard-chine planing hull. These types of hulls are inefficient at developing lift and have very high wave making drag characteristics when the ship is off cushion in the displacement mode. Their primary advantages come from their ease of production and their tendency to introduce a degree of dynamic stability at high speeds. In some situations, an intermediate speed that is in between a low displacement mode and a high speed air cushion mode is desirable.

In general, catamaran air cushion ships, also known as surface effect ships, are known. Examples disclosed in U.S. Patents are listed in the following table. The following table also lists some propeller related art.

TABLE 1


Issue

U.S. Pat. No.

Title

Date

1,976,046

Waterfoil

Oct. 9, 1934

2,405,115

Floating Structure

Aug. 6, 1946

3,065,723

Supercavitating Hydrofoils

Nov. 27, 1962

3,077,173

Base Ventilated Hydrofoil

Feb. 12, 1963

3,141,436

Hydrofoil Assisted Air

Jul. 21, 1964

Cushion Boat

3,458,007

Captured Air Bubble (CAB)

Jul. 29, 1969

Ground Effect Machine

3,621,932

Gas-Cushion Vehicles

Nov. 23, 1971

3,917,022

Twin Cushion Surface Effect

Nov. 4, 1975

Vehicle

3,987,865

Gas-Cushion Vehicle Skirt

Oct. 26, 1976

4,469,334

Sealing System For The Air

Sep. 4, 1984

Cushion Of An Air-Cushion

Vessel

4,489,667

Surface Effect Ship Seals

Dec. 25, 1984

4,506,618

Propeller And Keel

Mar. 26, 1985

Arrangement For Surface

Effect Ships

4,535,712

Variable Air Cushion Mode

Aug. 20, 1985

Vehicle

4,543,901

Surface Effect Ship Air

Oct. 1, 1985

Cushion Seal System

4,646,866

Surface Effect Type, Side

Mar. 3, 1987

Keel Vessel Fitted With An

Improved Forward Buoyancy

Cushion Seal Apparatus

4,660,492

Catamaran Air Cushion Water

Apr. 28, 1987

Vehicle

4,708,077

Hull Shapes For Surface

Nov. 24, 1987

Effect Ship With Side Walls

And Two Modes Of

Operation

4,714,041

Structure of surface effect

Dec. 22, 1987

ship with side walls

4,739,719

Movable bow seal air ride

Apr. 26, 1988

boat hull

4,767,367

Integrated Combination

Aug. 30, 1988

Propeller Drive Shaft

Fairing and Water Intake

Sea Chest Arrangement, For

High Speed Operating Marine

Craft

5,651,327

Displacement, Submerged

Jul. 29, 1997

Displacement, Air Cushion

Hydrofoil Ferry Boat

5,711,494

Aero-Hydroglider

Jan. 27, 1998

5,934,215

Stabilized Air Cushioned

Aug. 10, 1999

Marine Vehicle

6,293,216

Surface Effect Ship (SES)

Sep. 25, 2001

Hull Configuration Having

Improved High Speed

Performance and Handling

Characteristics

6,439,148

Low-Drag, High-Speed Ship

Aug. 27, 2002

6,526,903

High speed M-shaped boat hull

Mar. 04, 2003

6,609,472

Stable efficient air

Aug. 26, 2003

lubricated ship

2003/0000440

Air Assisted Landing Craft

Jan. 02, 2003

Incorporated herein by reference are U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,767,367; 6,293,216; and 6,439,148. These three patents relate generally to surface effect ships or hovercraft.

Also incorporated by reference is the following:

JOHN LEWTHWAITE, “The PACSCAT Concept and its application to Fast Landing Craft”, presented at MACC Multi Agency Craft Conference 2002, The Pulse of Technology, 18–20 Jun. 2002, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk (19 pages)

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION


The present invention comprises a vessel designed to operate as both a catamaran and an air cushion vessel. This hybrid catamaran air cushion ship has several advantages over previous air cushion and surface effect ship designs. It will be able to efficiently travel at low speeds (Froude number (Fn)=about 0–0.4) in the catamaran or displacement mode. It will also have the ability to operate efficiently in the air cushion or dynamically supported mode at high speeds (Froude number (Fn)=about 0.4 and greater) and with the ability to operate at all speeds. Any number of intermediate dynamic support modes can be achieved by throttling the lift fan system that supplies pressurized air to the air cushion.

It will be able to efficiently travel at low speeds (e.g. about 0–20 knots (0–37 km/hour)) in the catamaran or displacement mode. It will also have the ability to operate in the air cushion or dynamically supported mode at high speeds (e.g. about 50 knots (93 km/hour) and greater) and with the ability to operate at all speeds. The air cushion can also be used to reduce the ship's already shallow static draft from, for example, approximately five meters to less than one meter. This ability decreases underwater signatures and has been proven in several full-scale tests to improve survivability in the event of a mine encounter.

This design concept departs from previous surface effect ships in one key area. With very few exceptions, the surface effect vessels built to date have been designed to optimize high speed performance. The vessel of the present invention will operate efficiently at high speeds, but will also be able to operate efficiently in the lower speed regime.

This multi-mode operation capability will enable the marine vessel of the present invention to adapt to sea conditions and operate for extended periods without refueling.

The marine vessel of the present invention features molded catamaran hulls with parabolic waterlines, a flexible, air cushion seal system, an independently powered lift fan (air cushion) system, surface piercing propellers (optionally controllable pitch) and a power plant for each propeller (e.g. combined diesel and gas turbine propulsion system).

Lift air pressure can be generated, for example, by auxiliary gas turbines or diesels. Intermediate operating modes that are in between displacement mode and air high speed air cushion mode can be achieved by varying power to the lift fan system. Forward mounted lifting foils may be used to facilitate ride stabilization and load compensation, at high and low speeds. These foils may also be used to generate transverse roll forces to improve high speed maneuvering.

The vessel of the present invention can displace e.g. up to 2,400 long tons, but is scalable and may be manifested in lesser or greater displacements. A vessel in this displacement range, can be, for example, approximately 90 m in length, with about a 30 m beam. Speeds cited earlier would be consistent with this size vessel.

The concept of the hybrid catamaran air cushion ship of the present invention combines an improved, specially configured catamaran design with equally viable concepts in air cushion vehicle technology. The side hulls of the present invention are designed to be as efficient as possible, by reducing wave making resistance. The marine vessel of the present invention provides superior performance via lower wave marking drag at all speeds. Total resistance is further reduced at high speeds, through reductions in wetted surface area resulting from the lift provided by the air cushion. To accomplish this task effectively, the present invention provides several features.

The side hulls of the present invention are preferably molded (rounded) forms featuring parabolic waterlines and semi-elliptical cross sections (see FIGS. 6–7). These forms minimize the characteristic wave trains associated with low speeds and have been shown to have superior drag characteristics at both low and high speeds.

The present invention may optionally employ small lifting surfaces to provide load compensation, ride control and high-speed stabilization. These surfaces can take the form of two, independently controlled, wing sections mounted port and starboard below the waterline on the side hulls (e.g., inboard and forward). Their primary task is to provide ride control at all speeds but they will also provide high-speed stability, enhancing both directional control and maneuvering.

A hybrid hullform was designed, using slender forms for the sidehulls rather than the long planing bodies used for most surface effect ships. The sidehull depth was set to provide a cross structure (wet deck) clearance (e.g. two meters) above the water, enabling operation as a catamaran, with some allowance for future weight growth.

The lift system and air cushion seals provide additional wet deck clearance (of, e.g., five meters) when on-cushion (when the vessel is operated in conjunction with a pressurized air cushion), resulting in a low keel draft (e.g., about one meter) in calm water conditions.

The marine vessel of the present invention can be operated with varying levels of air pressure, with the advantage of improving sea keeping. It is feasible to run in catamaran mode and then transition to the air cushion mode while underway at high speeds. This feature avoids high drag transition speeds of prior art surface effect ships.

The propulsor is preferably designed for high efficiency in a low speed mode and high speed mode as well as numerous intermediate modes. Propellers can be used as propulsors, propellers being preferred across the entire speed range. To be efficient at high speeds, a propeller preferably operates in the partially submerged mode to avoid prohibitively high drag from the hub and related support structure. Because of the change in keel immersion as the ship goes from off cushion to on cushion, a stern-mounted propeller can be arranged to naturally operate fully submerged in the catamaran mode and surface piercing in the surface effect ship mode.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS


For a further understanding of the nature, objects, and advantages of the present invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description, read in conjunction with the attached drawings which are identified as follows:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the displacement mode;

FIG. 3 is a side view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the high speed, planing mode;

FIG. 4 is a rear perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the high speed, planing mode;

FIG. 5 is a sectional view taken along the lines 5—5 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is a sectional view taken along the lines 6—6 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a sectional view taken along the lines 7—7 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 is a sectional, end view taken along the lines 8—8 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary perspective view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention illustrating the propulsion system for one of the hulls;

FIG. 10 is a front view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the displacement mode;

FIG. 11 is a rear view of the preferred embodiment of the apparatus of the present invention showing the displacement mode; and

FIG. 12 illustrates multiple intermediate waterlines that can be achieved in intermediate modes that are in between the low speed displacement and high speed air cushion modes.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION


The marine vessel of the present invention is designed to operate as both a catamaran and air cushion vessel. The hybrid catamaran air cushion ship of the present invention is designated generally by the numeral 10 in FIGS. 1–4. Marine vessel 10 has several advantages over previous air cushion and surface effect ship designs. It will be able to efficiently meet the demands of the low speed (Froude number 0–0.4) requirements in the catamaran or displacement mode (see first water line, numeral 27 in FIG. 2). The vessel 10 of the present invention will also have the ability to operate in the air cushion or dynamically supported mode, (see second water line, numeral 28 in FIG. 3) where it will meet the high speed (Froude numbers 0.4 and higher) performance targets and provide the ability to operate in extreme sea states.

Vessel 10 will be able to efficiently meet the demands of the low speed (e.g. 0–20 knots (0–37 km/hour)) requirements in the catamaran or displacement mode (see first water line, numeral 27 in FIG. 2). The vessel 10 of the present invention will also have the ability to operate in the air cushion or dynamically supported mode, (see second water line, numeral 28 in FIG. 3) where it will meet the high speed (e.g. 50 knots (93 km/hour) or higher) performance targets and provide the ability to operate in extreme sea states. In FIG. 12, the numerals 31 show that several intermediate water lines can be achieved, each in between the first and second water lines 27, 28. Such an intermediate water line 31 can be selected for example in rough seas or when a reduced wake is desired.

The air cushion can be used to reduce the ship's static draft (from for example approximately five meters to for example less than one meter). This ability decreases underwater signatures and has been proven in several full-scale tests to improve survivability in the event of a mine encounter.

Hybrid catamaran air cushion ship 10 has a catamaran hull defined by port hull 11 and starboard hull 12. The vessel 10 provides a bow 13 and stern 14. Platform 15 is connected to and spans between the port hull 11 and starboard hull 12. The catamaran hull and platform 15 carry a powered lift fan system (e.g. gas turbine) for forming an air space between hulls 11, 12 and seals 16, 17. Such powered lift fan systems are known in the art. The horsepower to the lift fan system can be varied using a throttle for selecting any number of intermediate water lines 31 of FIG. 12.

Each hull 11, 12 can optionally be provided with hydrofoil stabilizers 30 (see, e.g., FIGS. 10 and 11), being very stable without hydrofoil stabilizers. At bow 13, forward seal 16 can be in the form of a plurality of individual finger seals 25. Such a seal 16 can be seen for example in prior U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,621,932; 3,987,865; and 4,646,866, each incorporated herein by reference. Forward seal 16 includes preferably a plurality of between about four and ten (preferably eight) fingers or elements 25. These can be optionally retracted when low speed operation (FIG. 2) is required. However, the retraction feature is optional because tests show that there is no measurable drag penalty with the seals 16, 17 dragging in the water during low speed operation. These fingers 25 can also be used to generate transverse roll forces to improve high speed maneuvering.

An aft seal 17 is provided at stern 14 as shown in FIG. 11. The forward and aft seals 16, 17 in combination with the catamaran hulls 11, 12 provide a space that can be pressurized with air for providing an air cushion that supports the ship 10 in a high speed mode shown in FIG. 3. In the mode of FIG. 3, the second water line 28 extends through the center of rotation of propellers 20, enabling the air cushion ship 10 of the present invention to attain high speeds of for example in excess of 50 knots (93 km/hour) with minimal resistance. Propellers 20 are designed to operate in a surface piercing mode and/or fully wetted mode (where the propellers 20 are typically fully submerged) and can for example be driven by a diesel or a gas turbine power plant or a combined diesel and gas turbine power plant.

In a slow travel mode of for example between about 0 and 20 knots (0 and 37 km/hour), vessel 10 can travel in a displacement mode that is shown in FIG. 2. That vessel 10 is in the displacement mode in FIG. 2 can be seen by observing first water line 27. In the displacement mode of FIG. 2, the propellers 20 are fully submerged as is each of the rudders 23, 24. In the displacement mode of FIG. 2, the forward and aft seals 16, 17 can be retracted or removed.

In FIGS. 5–9, each of the hulls 11, 12 is a smooth hull providing a smooth outer surface that does not have any hard chines. Such a hull construction as shown in FIGS. 5–9 is very efficient at low speeds. Each of the port hull 11 and starboard hull 12 has a smooth curved bottom 18 and a pair of opposed smooth side walls 19, 21. The side walls 19, 21 include outer side wall 19 and inner side wall 21. The side walls 19, 21 can be generally vertically oriented as shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. These hulls 11, 12 preferably have parabolic waterlines.

A propeller shaft housing 22 that is tubular in shape can extend from the rear of each of the port and starboard hulls 11, 12 as shown in FIGS. 2, 3, 8, and 9. Each hull 11, 12 has its own surface piercing propeller 20. Port hull 11 provides port rudder 23. Starboard hull 12 provides starboard rudder 24.

A deck area 26 can be provided that includes a super structure 29. This deck area 26 can provide a hangar, flight deck, and a plurality of hatches to enable numerous uses for the ship. It is able to operate efficiently at high speeds, but is also able to operate efficiently in the lower speed regime.

The hulls 11, 12 can be made of aluminum, steel, composite materials, or any other suitable material which will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in this art.

The following is a list of suitable parts and materials for the various elements of the preferred embodiment of the present invention.

PARTS LIST


Parts Number

Description

10

hybrid catamaran air cushion

ship

11

port hull

12

starboard hull

13

bow

14

stern

15

platform

16

forward seal

17

aft seal

18

curved bottom

19

outer side wall

20

propeller

21

inner side wall

22

propeller shaft housing

23

port rudder

24

starboard rudder

25

bow seal element

26

deck area

27

first water line (displacement

mode)

28

second water line (planing mode)

29

superstructure

30

foil stabilizer

31

intermediate water line

All measurements disclosed herein are at standard temperature and pressure, at sea level on Earth, unless indicated otherwise.

The foregoing embodiments are presented by way of example only; the scope of the present invention is to be limited only by the following claims.