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Sea Fighter’s New Look

November 21, 2009

Sea Fighter FSF-1, photo by Phil Gilston

Check out the FSF-1 Sea Fighter’s new makeover, as seen recently on the Columbia River in Oregon. Very impressive. Ace commenter D.E. Reddick provides an apt description:

Her bow is now higher with what appears to be greater forward clearance. She also has her third configuration of the tower structure above her bridge (an apparently different radar installation is visible). And most interestingly, her flight deck is now concealed behind a seemingly solid stealth shield, rather than the safety screen previously utilized. Aft along that solid stretch of siding there appear to be two structures both port and starboard. I suppose those might be weapons systems structures. Or – something else, altogether – maybe something to do with flight operations?

For comparison, note the photo below from several years ago, to today. Not quite so attractive but she seems eminently functional, and far from a Luxury Combat Ship!

35 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    December 4, 2011 12:55 pm

    Be careful with this toy!

  2. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 20, 2010 6:12 am

    The mystery deepens!

  3. Anonymous permalink
    March 19, 2010 8:46 pm

    I am a crew member on the sea fighter, and the author of the above article is wrong on every detail. Keep guessing!

  4. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 18, 2010 5:28 am

    KOG, thanks for the info!

  5. KOG permalink
    March 17, 2010 11:19 pm

    I worked at Nichols Bros. Boat Builders during the entire construction of this craft. The holes on the side of the ship are exhaust for the turbines. It was never painted above water line just blasted. It goes way faster than 50MPH. Probably closer to 75. The navy took some rough seas and had to rebuild the front end, perhaps they took the T-foils off the front, or redesigned it entirely. No real weapons aboard, it was designed to be undected, and perhaps take Seals to a point of entry. Its a $100 million dollar toy for the navy. Very thin hull, thinner sideshell. you could sink it with a rifle.

  6. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 24, 2009 7:38 am

    I like the 57mm as well, but not so much on a destroyer or LCS frigate. At least not as the main gun.

  7. November 24, 2009 6:39 am

    “Not a perfect solution, but I think they’d bring strong value against likely enemies without the cost of trying to find a place to stick a 57mm cannon or VLS.”

    I was in destroyer/frigate mode not patrol boat/frigate/corvette mode!!!

    And I like the Bofors 57mm. :)

  8. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 23, 2009 10:52 pm


    I’ve been following the Sea Fighter thread over at Information Dissemination and it’s taking a slightly different view of the new features.

    First, FSF-1 is now back dockside in Portland. It’s likely she was simply running some -early- trials after her refit / rebuild. That might explain her apparently unfinished appearance (bare, unpainted, new aluminum hull sections). If you look closely at those construction images taken by the biclyclist, then you could see several sections of what -likely- became the flight deck ‘stealth’ screen stacked vertically behind the bridge superstructure.

    Second, what I’ve supposed to be VLS cells may be new engine exhaust system structures. The previously designed exhaust system vented gases out the side of the vessel just forward of the transom. Those vents are now absent. It is possible that the exhaust gases have been routed underwater. Or, those structures towards the rear portion of the flight deck are new exhausts. If the latter is true, then that would likely interfere with flight operations. At this point, who knows what is what.

    Someone needs to be on a bridge when Sea Fighter passes underneath – with a digital SLR camera.

  9. Graham Strouse permalink
    November 23, 2009 10:23 pm

    Thanks, Mike!

    I still like the idea of giving Seafighter some functional ship-to-ship capability & I think it has A LOT of littoral anti-sub potential but we can’t let the price balloon. I’m still intrigued, obviously, at the idea of adapting Israeli’s land-based gun/light missile RCWS units to Seafighter–Israel is just about the only country we actually buy weapon systems from, right? How about 3-4 RCWS 30 mm cannon stations with 2-4 light missiles each each for pirates, fast-attack craft & low-flying Mi-24s? That would ruin their day. It’s not a battleship but it could take care of itself & protect it’s flight crews & Spec Force/Amphib operations, yah? And fairly cheaply.

    Not a perfect solution, but I think they’d bring strong value against likely enemies without the cost of trying to find a place to stick a 57mm cannon or VLS.

    I DO THINK there’s a lot of potential ASW value here & that 324 mm torpedo mounts would be worthwhile. Seafighter is fast enough to give brown-water lurking diesel-electrics & AIPs fits & with it’s own air-support & torpedos, Seafighter could be a serious shallow-water submarine killer. The Spec Force potential is also pretty exciting.

    Can I have one for my birthday?

  10. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 23, 2009 9:30 pm

    D.E. thanks for the links!

    Graham-a destroyer escort for the 21st century? I think you hit the nail on the head. This is what we need to fight the pirates, and lots of them!

  11. Graham Strouse permalink
    November 23, 2009 9:20 pm

    D.E., Mike,

    I’m pretty intrigued by this ship. I don’t know if I’m so keen on VLS cells, but adding some RCWS stations & 324 mm ASW capability could be useful. This ship could be a pretty nasty ASW/anti-pirate platform with some command ship & amphibious capability. Maybe a DE for the modern era? A mini-Hyuga? Thoughts?

  12. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 23, 2009 8:02 pm

    I’ve found three additional images of FSF-1 during her recent reconstruction. These are from a bicyclist blogger in the Portland area. He and his teen-aged brother-in-law saw her in drydock while doing some night cycling and so took some pictures. Scroll down and you can’t miss the three pictures. They show details of the then in-progress rebuild – with the new tower mast being open & exposed; along with the start of fabrication for that ‘stealth’ screen added to the flight deck. Click on the pictures for higher resolution imagery.


    Post-Script: A Little Story:

  13. November 23, 2009 7:44 am

    “looks ugly”

    I am not sure whether designs (in any sphere) that make it look right because of familiarity. Or there is some intangible quality; good design begets if not an attractive design but something that just looks right.

    I agree that most megayatchts look awful. :)

  14. Bill permalink
    November 22, 2009 4:49 pm

    The ‘looks ugly” thing is something I am all too familiar with in my dealings with the megayacht world. One the one hand, some of those ego-centric gazillionares want to have the fastest yacht money can buy. On the other, when presented with an SES yacht concept design that can do 70 knots with same power that the best monohull could manage barely 45..
    …the respone is inevitably “but its ugly..can’t you do anything about that?”

    That’s a fact of life in the yacht world..but for the life of me I cannot see how it matters a wit in the naval warship world where only capability should really matter.

  15. November 22, 2009 4:10 pm

    “When one starts saying a warship and naval auxiliary can be variations of the same hull design, one risks sounding ahh …. well lets just say it is not a smart idea.”

    Lets just say yes and no. I said above certain front line tasks are volume intensive.
    MCM need ROVs and all that other gubbins. ASW needs sensors and operators and somewhere for the helicopter. Torpedoes can be just launched over the side. And intra theatre troop movement too is volume intensive (though personally I think this role is very limited.)

    And as I said certain roles are more dynamic. Guns need to track targets. Missiles need to clear the ship; they can’t be placed in the middle of a fat hull without impinging on other aspects of the designs (in a detrimental way.)

    With traditional designed hulls moving stuff broad beam, shooting stuff narrow beam.

    I think these new hull/ship forms mean we have to re-examine our point of view.
    If we can dismiss these new ideas after working through the challenges to our preconceptions that is OK. But to dismiss that out of hand would be wrong.

    The main problem with these new ships as mentioned above is that they look ugly. All I will say is that most hi-speed, multi-hull ferries are quite handsome. All we can hope for is that future classes of multi-hull warship follow that trend.

  16. Bill permalink
    November 22, 2009 4:08 pm

    John said: “The scientists at the Navy are smart people. They know what they are doing.”

    There are indeed some smart folks within the USN technical community that know a lot about SWATH designs and many other advanced hull forms..but they are close to retired and nobody listens to them anyway. Imagine their frustration, if you can.

    The Sea Fighter hull is a semi-SWATH are the Austal hulls like JHSV. Sea Fighter’s lines are specifically British in origin (not MOD..a private outfit with ferry experience) USN input to those lines whatsoever.

    My last comment should not be taken as a negative. Just clarifying the baseline.

    btw..the IslandBill monicker over on ID is a new one I had to create to get back online with G’s new comment software. It’s still just lil ole me.

  17. leesea permalink
    November 22, 2009 3:23 pm

    The FSF-1 was originally called X-Craft. It was meant by ONR as a technology demostrator and to determine IF a design while building process was feasible. ONR later tagged it as a test bed for LCS type missions. I believe it has been successfull at all of those jobs? Taking it further would be icing on the cake, but CNO doesn’t like cake~

    When one starts saying a warship and naval auxiliary can be variations of the same hull design, one risks sounding ahh …. well lets just say it is not a smart idea.

    When anyone says a HSV can be a logistics ship, I question their premise and ask for specifics. HSVs are payload dependent and logistics is by definition a missiion which requires heavy payloads.

  18. November 22, 2009 3:21 pm

    “contemporaries the Spruances”

    Um. I am big Spurance fan. One of my favourite books is the NI book “Electronic Greyhounds”.

    I think they are super, flexible design. More should have been done with that hull.

    I don’t see them competing with OHP frigates. I thought both designs complement each other.

  19. Tarl permalink
    November 22, 2009 3:11 pm

    It looks like a coal barge on the Monongahela.

  20. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 22, 2009 3:00 pm


    Here’s a larger format file of that new picture of Sea Fighter (it’s a 1200 by 800 pixel image). Some details are more clearly visible in this larger format picture.

    Those two structures aft along the flight deck appear to be real and rectangular in terms of basic layout. And it appears as though they are each possibly divided into eight sub-components – VLS launcher cells, anyone.

    You can actually see the bare metal patchwork that joins the new ‘stealth’ flight deck screen to the bridge superstructure in this larger version of the picture.

    The tower mast appears to be composed of two materials. I’ll suppose that the upper portion is radar transparent and there’s a rotating radar dish or array hidden there.

  21. Mike Burleson permalink*
    November 22, 2009 2:28 pm

    “I can’t see how one hull can do both”

    If only the Navy could get the idea that every ship didn’t have to be a Swiss Army Knife. Then you would see numbers rise and we wouldn’t be stretched thin everywhere. And low cost warships can be just as useful and versatile as their larger high tech brethren. Just look at the Perry’s which the Navy initially didn’t want either. These ships are everywhere, and we can’t get replacements for them fast enough. they have also outlasted their contemporaries the Spruances.

  22. Hudson permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:45 pm

    As you know, SF was proposed as an alternative to LCS and has been in the shallows while LCS was under development and in the spotlight. Now that the Navy has seen both versions of LCS and knows the costs, etc., and is pushing them more in the direction as a replacement for the Perry frigates, maybe the Navy is now turning to SF as the true littoral ship, at one-third the cost, and that is what we’re seeing in this new look. I just saying.

  23. B.Smitty permalink
    November 22, 2009 9:07 am

    Technically, Sea Fighter is a “semi-SWATH” – more like a catamaran with some SWATH characteristics.

  24. November 22, 2009 8:02 am

    Another thought. Apart from the conning tower everything above the hull could be containerised. The hull top just becomes a table top……….

  25. November 22, 2009 7:53 am

    And I suppose you could ASW to volume intensive. I suppose torpedoes could be launched from between the sponsors. An upside down VLS system!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. November 22, 2009 7:46 am

    What I think we are seeing is the beginning of split between roles that are volume/logistical (MCM, troop support, command and control, etc.) intensive and dynamic roles (guns and missiles, where weapon and sensor arcs.) I can’t see how one hull can do both; well more the topsides not the hull. You need a version of Sea Fighter for the former roles and a version of Sea Fighter to do the other.

    Imagine a second version with 57mm bofors mounts on each corner. Central conning tower with sensors. VLS tubes just forward of the conning tower. To maximise this hardware in needs to be plumbed in with the hull appropriately shaped. Like that Norwegian patrol boat.

    What SWATH does highlight what a good shape long and thin is for warships. My main trouble with SWATH is about aviation. More about the length of the flight deck more than width. The deck space may be just as great on SWATH, but a lot of the space isn’t sea facing. To get that back you need a bigger SWATH.

    I would love to see a full size SWATH destroyer prototype test bed.

  27. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 22, 2009 2:23 am


    Damned straight! Overlapping roles and capabilities… Where have we seen such, before? Let’s just think about for a moment, shall we?

    What about the Battle off Samar where DDs and DEs both performed the same role of attacking an immensely more powerful IJNS battle group and actually sank several of its heavy cruisers. The DDs had nearly twice the displacement as compared to the DEs. The DDs had five MK-37 RADAR controlled 5″/38 guns while the DEs had only two such gun mounts without fire-control guidance. The DDs had ten torpedoes while the DEs had only three. Yet the four DEs joined the charge of the three DDs in turning back the onslaught of the IJNS battle group.

    In my book those roles’ and capabilities’ overlaps represent a force multiplier, rather than some confusion -seemingly- apparent to those who think they know how to discriminate between platforms, capabilities, and roles.

  28. leesea permalink
    November 22, 2009 12:41 am

    My guess is the extra “cladding” is to change the air flow over deck. Perhaps something that the pilots recommended? Maybe they changed out the boat launch system in the transom.

    What Island Bill says about ride control systems and the Navy not understanding points to the real problem with HSVs, ingrained ignorance.
    The Navy keeps asking for things like 45 or 60 kt ships or my least favorite trans-oceanic lighters and we know what the answers are they are LCS and T-Craft. Ask a dumb question and you know what you get – GIGO!

    I seen the SeaFighter as both a mothership for boat, helos and UAVs and a long distance patrol ship. Since some of those roles overlap on the LCS, the Navy will never buy the concept. What is wrong with have ships whose capabilities overlap?

  29. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 21, 2009 11:09 pm


    Go down towards the end of this ‘Information Dissemination’ discussion represented in the following link. In it ‘IslandBill’ and other commentators relate their observations regarding the excellent sea-keeping characteristics of the FSF-1 Sea Fighter. It’s right there to be read by all who want to learn about the very good handling characteristics of this SWATH-hulled vessel.

  30. John Tuttle permalink
    November 21, 2009 10:54 pm

    The Sea Fighter utilizes a “SWATH” design, and is far different from typical catamarans. This design has been proven to be very stable since much of the ships mass is placed below the water. Think about it: have you ever seen a submarine swaying about while surfaced, even while in rough seas? You don’t since majority of the mass is below the water line. The Sea Fighter works in a similar, albeit less extreme, way. The scientists at the Navy are smart people. They know what they are doing.

  31. Joe K. permalink
    November 21, 2009 10:36 pm

    Yet another ship not usable in anything other than calm seas, relative or otherwise.

  32. D. E. Reddick permalink
    November 21, 2009 10:10 pm


    Sea Fighter’s stern has been altered, also. Previously, she had all sorts of projecting equipment pointing astern from a squared-off quarterdeck / stern aspect. Now, that stern aspect appears to be clean (stealthy?) with an overhang (clear of the waterline) that wasn’t present in the old design. Compare these two old images to the latest image provided at the top of this thread.

    Old image of FSF-1:

    Another older image of FSF-1:

  33. Chuck Hill permalink
    November 21, 2009 9:21 pm

    Maybe the ugliest ship ever, but they could sell advertising space.


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