WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy is currently testing a new and improved lighterage system that can be assembled into causeways, docks, or ferries, providing the Navy and Marine Corps with a safer, more versatile way to deliver vehicles and critical supplies from ship to shore during war or peacetime operations.
"The new system will enhance the Navy's Logistics Over the Shore capabilities and replace the Navy's existing lighterage system," said Charlie Blum, an engineer with Naval Facilities Engineering Command's (NAVFAC) Sealift Support Program Office, which manages the new lighterage program.
Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific and Amphibious Construction Battalion One are currently testing the new lighterage at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. The testing, through spring 2006, will demonstrate whether the system can operate in higher sea states, at faster speeds and with better maneuverability.
"Military equipment has gotten bigger and heavier," said Blum. "The amount of time it takes to unload utilizing the current system has become longer, too. The Navy and Marine Corps want to get ashore in the minimum amount of time and that's what this new [system] provides."
The Improved Navy Lighterage System (INLS) is a redesign of the existing Navy Lighter (NL) system that has been around for almost 50 years, developed for use in World War II and used consistently throughout the years. Now, nearing the end of its useful life, the NL system with less cargo capacity and power needs to be more efficient and reliable especially in turbulent seas. INLS's flexibility and stability make it more resilient under such conditions.
"The old system was limited to operating in a sea state two," said Blum. "The current system is capable of operating in a sea state of three and is expected to be survivable at a sea state of five. It is also designed and built with enhanced technology and is truly a quantum leap over the previous system."
The new lighterage system comes in sections that lock together like building blocks to create a variety of floating structures. These structures allow Navy ships to transport heavy equipment, such as tanks and trucks, to shore, and cargo, such as food, water and equipment parts, between ships and from ship to shore when moorings have been damaged or are unavailable.
"We're very confident in these craft because we pretested them for five months before bringing them here," said Blum. "The Navy and Marinette Marine have worked closely to get this done. We feel it's a superb product and will exceed everyone's expectations."
Marinette Marine Corporation, Marinette, Wis., was awarded a multi-year contract in 2003 to manufacture 29 INLS modules. The total contract is valued at more than $404 million. Full rate production modules are slated for delivery to the Navy's Amphibious Construction Battalions and to all three Maritime Prepositioning Force squadrons through 2010.
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