The SkyCatT series of hulls allow scaling to designs with heavy-lift capabilities. The SkyCatT 200 and 1000, with 200 and 1,000 - tonne payloads respectively, could transform a number of markets. Slower but much cheaper than air freight and much faster but slightly more expensive that sea freight, the heavy-lift hybrid-airship fills a gap in the service offered. In some sectors that gap presents problems. For example, the highly productive agriculture of the West Coast of the US is separated by the growing populations of the eastern Pacific rim by the world's greatest ocean. To use sea freight requires produce to be refrigerated, something that affects the quality of some produce and is not possible for others, soft fruit, for example. A 1,000 - tonne hybrid operating with high value agricultural produce one way and car the other could be a highly profitable pursuit as inventory costs are taken far more seriously than before. Over 800 medium sized cars could be transported in a SkyCatT 1000.
Of particular interest are those areas of the world where economies are advancing faster than infrastructure can be incorporated at the peripheries of large regions. China is an example of this. Large hybrids offer a quick and cheap means of opening up remote regions before the necessary air and ground links can be built. It also opens up remote areas for consideration for development where before the economics of the case proved too fragile.
Following the experiences in the Gulf War (1991) and since in the Balkans (1999), strategic airlift features as a top priority force structure improvement for the US, the UK and NATO as a whole. In the Gulf, where units were split between airliner, air freight and sea freight to get to the theatre, the task of re-constituting into fighting formations was described to Congress as a "nightmare". In the Balkans, the politically delayed announcement of the despatch of troops to the area, some 150,000 - 175,000 left the allies critically short of strategic lift, not helped by the poor airfield infrastructure in the forward area. Poor fuel stocks at the theatre airports meant that the C-17 strategic airlifter, capable of carrying loads in excess of 70 tonnes, averaged only just over 40 tonnes into theatre because it had to carry exit fuel.
The speed of a SkyCatT is less than that of a C-17 but the SkyCatT load is much larger. Speed follows the hare-and-the-tortoise model, that when a transport stream is considered, as is the case in any large deployment, once the pipeline is filled the speed becomes largely irrelevant. Only the tonnage delivered per day is important and SkyCatT can do as well as any of the on-line strategic airlifters and at a much lower cost; in acquisition, Direct Operating Costs and in aircrew terms.
The larger SkyCatTs would lend themselves to distant and long-standing patrols, over-the-horizon, carrying a large number of land-attack cruise missiles in the form of the recently mooted Arsenal Ship concept. Not so invisible as a submarine but in other ways more flexible with greater speed to deploy, or to withdraw, and a very much greater war-load, a particular disadvantage of the present generation of submarines.
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