Home » Budget Industry » Experimental Navy Test Ship Weathering Hurricane Michael Off the Coast of Panama City; Warfare Center Evacuates

Experimental Navy Test Ship Weathering Hurricane Michael Off the Coast of Panama City; Warfare Center Evacuates

Sea Fighter (FSF-1) in 2005. US Navy Photo

UPDATE: According to ONR, Sea Fighter successfully weathered Hurricane Michael and is currently off the coast of Panama City waiting for clearance to pull into port.

An experimental Navy catamaran is fighting Hurricane Michael in the bay of Panama City, Fla., unable to take to sea to avoid the Category 4 storm that made landfall early afternoon on Wednesday.

The 950-ton Sea Fighter (FSF-1) is at double anchor in the bay, “engines running and nose to the wind” with a minimal crew aboard, Office of Navy Research spokesman Robert Freeman told USNI News on Wednesday.

The ship is fresh out of a maintenance period, and repairs to its propulsion and steering systems couldn’t be tested in time to escape the weather.

“The timing was bad,” Freeman said.

Ultimately, it was the decision of the ship’s civilian master to weather the storm in the bay, he said.

Hurricane Michael shows the storm at approximately 7:27 a.m. EDT in the Gulf of Mexico as it approaches the Florida Panhandle. US Navy Photo

The aluminum-hulled Sea Fighter has been in service with the Navy since 2005 as a test platform for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City and the Office of Naval Research.

The warfare center at Panama City was the only U.S. naval base that was evacuated in preparation for Hurricane Michael’s landfall, Navy Region Southeast spokesman Bill Dougherty told USNI News on Wednesday.

Of the 4,200 personnel at the center, a handful of critical personnel are weathering the storm at the base, he said.

The Navy has either relocated or hangared its fleet of training aircraft at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Florida, Chief of Naval Air Training spokesman Lt. Liz Feaster told USNI News.

At Whiting Field, the combined 260 T-6 Texan trainers and TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopter trainers of Training Air Wing 5 are in hangars or have been secured to the flight line.

At Pensacola, about half of Training Air Wing 6’s combined total of 63 T-45 Goshawks and T-6s left the base, with the other half in hangars, Feaster said.

  • vetww2


  • BillyP

    Back in the day, the phrase “engines running and nose to the wind” used to be more succinctly expressed as “hove to”.

    These SWATH (Small Waterplane Area, Twin Hull) craft have been around for several decades – what is their track record of surviving extreme sea conditions – better? worse? I know the Cook Strait wave piercers had an evil reputation (e.g. ‘The Vomit Comet’), but that was more to do with the unpredictability of her motion when she lifted one (or more) of her propulsion units out of the water when rolling.

    • BillyP

      I hope she doesn’t get her cables fouled – with two anchors down and recalling what the ‘R’ of a TRS .. .. there could be complications when she tries to weigh anchor.

  • honcho13

    ““The timing was bad,” Freeman said.” Ya think? Jeeezus H Nimitz! Maybe you folks should watch the Weather Channel! Everyone in Florida had a heads up about this storm! Where were our Navy “weather guessers”? Seems in a worst case scenario, they could have lashed a couple of sea going tugs to her and floated it over Mobile or New Orleans. Sounds like the modern Navy never learned the “Six P’s” of management! (Prior Panning Prevents Pi$$ Poor Performance!) MMCS(SW), USN (ret)

    • vetww2

      If all the Economists and all the Weathermen suddenly changed jobs, the predictions, from both, would be about as good as they are now.

      ALSO, I always thought it was the 7 “Ps”
      Proper, Prior, Planning, Prevents, Pxxx, Poor, Performance.

      • honcho13

        I actually think the Weather Channel did a pretty credible job! From people I talked to in and around here (Bradenton) MOST got the word. And were making contingent plans based-on what they had learned from the Weather Channel on either their cell or TV. So, it does serve a purpose, which is good! What I don’t understand why these “TV weather guessers” have to practically wade out into the surf to give us a weather report? All it’s gonna take is one big chunk of FOD (IE: a stop sign) to come along at 90 mph and lop someone’s head off on live TV! Safety is everyone’s responsibility! Just saying… MMCS(SW), USN (ret)

        • vetww2

          As bad as this was, I believe the forecasts were much more dire than the actuality, thank heaven.

          • honcho13

            Agreed! BUT that’s only true if you’re outside of the fish bowl, not in it! “More than a million customers were without power across five states and as of Friday afternoon, 14 people were reported dead across four of the states (USA Today).” They are just now starting to total up the damage $$$. It is expected to be the costliest hurricane in history! Just saying… On a lighter note: Happy 243rd Birthday to our United States Navy!!! Bravo Zulu! MMCS(SW), USN (ret)

          • vetww2

            I agree with you, totally. I have the greatest sympathy for those victims. My point, (if I missed conveying it) was that when eveything is screamed DISASTER coming, the people start to ignore the real ones, sort of a boy who cried wolf syndrome.

  • vetww2

    i posted an historical item on swath development, but i guess the editors didn’t like it

    • dboconnor

      Sorry it was deleted. I was wondering about that.

      • vetww2

        Why was it deleted? It was unclassified,actual, historical and informative.

        • BillyP

          They do that, a lot! Most frustrating.
          Chances are this comment will be deleted soon.

  • muzzleloader

    They just showed some extensive aireal footage of Tyndall AFB. The place was devastated.

  • PolicyWonk

    So – has anyone heard how well the SeaFighter did now that the storm has passed?

    • vetww2

      See above.

  • vetww2

    1. I helped develop Bill Ellsworth’s SWATH concept, KAIMOLINO of 600 tons
    2, I rode in her lucite nose dome hull through SS4, comfortably. We operated
    helicopters to and from her, continuously. Later, after I left, his final contribtion was, the SWATH. Shadow.
    3. in 1979. I traded SWATH technology with the Japanese, resulting in their 3,000 ton
    oceanographic ship KAIYO, Thre is also one operated by the Monterray Aquarium.
    4. Since the change in displacement is small as the waves pass the thin struts,
    motion. is much reduced (dependant on strut height.)
    5. I understand (from ONR) that the ship, FSF-1, weathered the storm, very well.
    6. Are you confusing catamarans or hydrofoils with SWATHS?, which NEVER lifts a hull out of water. This would be equivalent to a displacement ship or a planing ship broaching.
    &. Both the SES and the SWATH concepts were eliminated, (I feel foolishly), for the LCS program

    • PolicyWonk

      “Both the SES and the SWATH concepts were eliminated, (I feel foolishly), for the LCS program…”
      Especially given the evidence: two “littoral combat ship” classes, costing the US taxpayers $36B, that successfully managed to leave the USN without a littoral combat solution, with a staggering on-going, proprietary, maintenance burden (an added “bonus”).

      The USN desperately needs combat-capable assets, and all we have to show for all the years, effort, and treasure expended, is a less-than-useful collection of liabilities.

      • vetww2

        Accurate. There were both SES and SWATH candidates in the LCS competition. Both eliminated by SEA05 early in the selection. A volunteer “Tiger Team” of retired advanced ship denvelopers was turned doiwn by NAVSEA as “Out of Touch.” Probably the worst contract competition, ever, but I don’t know them all.

        • PolicyWonk

          On one hand I see some minor satisfaction in the “We told you so” department. But at the end of the day, the LCS program will end up as a considerably more than $36B waste of money, and the USN is still without a littoral combat platform that it desperately needs.

          The wonderfulness that is LCS, designed by the demonstrably incompetent fools that stamped out the Tiger Team as “Out of Touch”, in their arrogance, failed to recognize that experience is far more often than not the best teacher.

          These geniuses failed to consult NECC (the littoral combat specialists) for requirements, and furthermore failed to take into account the hard-won lessons of littoral combat in either class of commercial-grade, hyper-expensive, sea-frames they built. The USN itself calls LCS “the program that broke naval acquisition” – yet no one at PEO LCS was held responsible for this horrifying waste of taxpayer funds.

          It was so bad, that PEO LCS has now been renamed PEO USC, via the magic of marketing. To add insult to injury, they’ve been given more responsibility instead of being deservedly demoted and drummed out of the service.

          BTW – those same clowns that will be choosing who builds FFG(X). Subsequently, my expectations are very low.

          • vetww2

            May the Good Lord (or CNO or SECNAV or the PREZ) help us, because they are, already talking about an UPGRADED LCS.

          • PolicyWonk

            Get used to that: they’re going to be trying to find a way to make LCS useful for the rest of its miserable existence. The challenge, despite the much-ballyhooed mission packages, is the lack of room for growth.

            The ASW and MCM packages already had to be tossed and redesigned because they weighed too much. The tradeoff’s between mission package weight, and adding more armament (or protection), is a nasty one because adding too much of one or the other ruins the performance of the ship.

            This is why they keep coming up with new “lightweight” weapons (the box o Hellfires, for example), to try to give LCS some bite without weighing it down too much. The major problem, even if they figure out how to better arm LCS (either class), is that the sea-frames are built to commercial standards. Hence, sending LCS into harms way isn’t likely to end well – no matter what you do.

            Look at other navies ships of similar size (or even half that!), and compare ’em to LCS. LCS crews aren’t stupid – they’re acutely aware they are massively out-gunned/protected – no matter what the USN does.

  • vetww2

    Please reinstate my former, more informative post. ther was not a perjorative, classified, improper, inacurate or untrue word in it.