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Friday, 6 October, 2000, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Navy tests 'revolutionary' warship
Trimaran test vessel
Designers say the trimaran can store more weaponry
The Royal Navy has started to test a three-hulled warship hailed for its revolutionary design.

A successful two-year trial could help decide if trimaran hulls are used to replace the current fleet of Royal Navy frigates.

The RV Triton is a 98.7-metre demonstration model, the largest steel trimaran in the world and cost 13m to build at Vosper Thornycroft in Southampton.

Trimarans have been hailed for improved stability and less drag at high speeds.

Other benefits cited include more deck space for storing weaponry and helicopters than conventional warship designs.

Landmark design

Triton's designers have hailed the vessel as the most significant step in warship design since the advent of the ironclad ships of 140 years ago.

The sea trials will involve co-operation between experts from the Ministry of Defence and the US's Department of Defence, which has taken a keen interest in the project.

UK and American defence chiefs are hiring the vessel from its owners, the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera).

It says various Nato and other allied nations are interested in taking part in trials.

'Changing warfare needs'

A Dera spokesman said: "During the Cold War period it was always thought the most important thing for a warship was to carry large numbers of crew and heavy military equipment.

"But the nature of modern conflict is changing. If you look at the conflict in Bosnia and Sierra Leone the demand has been for flexibility and fast response. This vessel could allow us to do that."

Triton is expected to pay a return on investment within 15 years of trials.

Trimaran designs have proved to be popular on many commercial yachts on routes around the world.

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