Navy operations are more and more dominated by operation with small craft from larger platforms. Interceptions and boarding’s are done with fast manned RHIB’s. Minesweeping gear is more and more carried by relatively small unmanned surface craft, while unmanned subsurface craft are already a dominant factor for some years for mine hunting systems. Unmanned (sub)surface vehicles are also foreseen in the Anti Submarine Warfare scene and for the gathering of intelligence. These trends has consequences for the larger naval platforms as they become more and more craft carrying ships, where modularity is the most important keyword. A good example of such a platform is the US Literal Combat Ship (LCS).
This new role poses new challenges and demands to the design and operation of the naval platforms. One of these new challenges is the launch and recovery (L&R) of the smaller craft in a dynamic environment. For RHIB type craft the solution is often sought in some form of stern ramp (or slipway), while other craft are normally launched with a crane or davit system, which are often dedicated to the specific craft. The modular concept of the new platforms means that they must be able to operate with a wide range of these smaller craft. Continuing the current practice of dedicated L&R systems would mean that these platforms have to be fitted with a large number of dedicated L&R systems. This is expensive, space consuming, requires a lot of training of the crew and conflicts with RCS requirement.
So overall a need for having a standard launch and recovery system, which is easy to handle in a large environmental envelope, becomes clearly visible. Having a standard for a launch and recovery system will give the benefit, that ships of various nations can exchange craft with each other in operations and that the developers of new small craft can design to this standard interface. Overall this will extend the operational envelope of a single platform (being able to deploy several crafts without needing several launch systems) as well as operations with two or more vessels cooperating in a (international) mission. In addition, cost savings are expected from the standardization.
The LAURA project will more specifically focus on the development of a reliable concept design for a single launch and recovery system, which can be utilized for a wide range of variety of small craft, and which can be operated in a severe hydrodynamic environment.
The aim is the development of a design for a common system that can launch and recover a wide variety of small craft, and which can be operated in a wide environmental regime. Such a system should comply with the following:
- The system should be flexible enough to handle a wide variety of small craft (50 kg – 12 ton).
- The system should be operational up to moderate sea states (4-5, possible up to 6).
- The system should preferably be used at low to moderate ship speeds.
- The system should be able for relatively quick L&R operations ( 5 min, targeting at launching every two minutes).
- The system should be operable with a limited number of crew.
The full chain will be regarded for a launch and recovery operation, so including handling and stowing. The focus will be on critical operational issues in relation to the environmental hydrodynamic conditions. The goal is to set a high operational limit and safety enhancement proven by analysis and testing in a relevant environment. It is aimed to obtain a feasible modular design.