Public Release: 

Keel laid for revolutionary dual-use catamaran vessel, M/V Susitna

Office of Naval Research

Arlington, Va.-- On August 24, 2006, onlookers gathered at the shipyard of Alaska Ship & Drydock Inc. in Ketchikan, Alaska, to witness the keel laying of what will be a very unusual and versatile ship.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the vessel's sponsor, performed the honors as she welded her name onto the keel of the M/V Susitna, a twin-hulled catamaran ferry that is being funded jointly by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Alaska's Matunuska Susitna (Mat/Su) Borough. Attendees also included ONR's Chief of Naval Research RAdm. William E. Landay, Mat/Su Borough Mayor Tim Anderson, as well as State of Alaska and Ketchikan officials and the management team for the Susitna program.

When complete, the Susitna (which is named after a river and mountain in south central Alaska, and means "sleeping lady") will be operated by the Mat/Su Borough as a ferry between Anchorage and Port Mackenzie. ONR also is interested in the vessel's transformational hull form as a technology demonstrator to support the Navy's sea basing and expeditionary warfare concepts.

The ship will have a center "barge" that can be hydraulically raised and lowered; it also will have the option to adjust the buoyancy of its catamaran hulls while under way. The vessel will demonstrate the functionality of a ship that can provide a multipurpose, expeditionary cargo and troop ship that performs efficiently at high speed, in ice, and in shallow waters, and that can even beach itself to load/discharge vehicles up to tank size.

The vessel will have three distinct modes of operation: a catamaran mode for high speeds; a small-water-area-twin-hull (SWATH) mode for stability in high sea states; and a shallow-draft landing-craft mode that provides substantial buoyancy for maneuvering in shallow water. In addition, the Susitna will be the world's first ice-breaking twin-hulled vessel.

Vessel Characteristics:

  • Length -195 Feet, Beam - 60 feet
  • Displacement: 940 tons full load
  • Variable Draft - SWATH mode is 12± feet, shallow-draft landing-craft mode is 4± feet.
  • Capacity: 100 Passengers and 20 vehicles.
  • Speed: 20 knots
  • Power Plant: 4 ea., MTU 12V 4000 diesel engines


The Susitna project is a collaboration between the Office of Naval Research, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and Alaska Ship & Drydock. It is funded through the Office of Naval Research's Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, Code 33X (Paul Rispin, program manager).

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