The Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel is a unique design, originally developed by Silverport Dockyards Limited and put into service for a foreign university and their institute of oceanographic research. It is a relatively small, ingenious design.
The Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel is a so-called Small-waterplane-area twin hull (SWATH for short) vessel. While resembling a catamaran on the surface, the two kinds of ships differ in many aspects, most noteably where the bulk of displacement is located: Beneath the surface, in case of the SWATH-design, which minimizes the mass located near the water-surface, where the most energy of the waves meets the ship. Due to this, the Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel has a high stability, even in heavy sea.
Like any SWATH-Design, the Aiteal-class provides a stable platform and large decks for a superstructure, for example laboratories or crew quarters.
It took many ideas, much time and a huge amount of sanity to work around the some of the major disadvantages of SWATH-Designs, namely the disadvantages of high maintenance costs and requirements.
Normally, every bit of energy generated by the engines would either be produced in the large submerged hulls below the waterline or above the waterline and then transmitted down via gears and gearboxes, both of which have high maintenance cost and requirements. However, the Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel has an Integrated Electric Propulsion System, which basically means, that the fuel on board is used to power electric generators, which then transmit the electric power through cables to the engines and the shafts, which then turn the propellers at the end of both submerged hulls, which then move the ship.
It is a considerably less complicated design, cheaper and easier to check and repair in case of problems. The ship gets much quieter and sheds weight, especially due to the fact, that the same engines, that move the ship, also provide the electrical power needed on board anyways, reducing the costs considerably.
To produce the 6,500 kW of energy, the Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel has three diesel engines, each of them individually being capable of providing both the required power for every base function of the vessel and for bringing it up to its cruise speed of 8 knots.
The Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel is a science ship. Due to its large deck and relatively small permanently fixed superstructure (the bridge and quarters for crew and scientists are fixed on deck, as well as a small crane, while the engine rooms and storage rooms are below deck), containers with laboratory equipment can easily be placed and removed from the deck. These containers should either be of the ISO 20' or 40' standarts.
If wished, we can also build a fixed superstructure on deck without an upcharge, but that would rob the vessel of its high adaptability to many different research situations and missions.
The Aiteal-class Research Vessel also has a small helipad, which can be used to transport a small floatplane as well. There is no enclosed hangar though, so maintenance on them can get a bit complicated.
As for lowering the floatplane into the water and out of it again, the crane is positioned to take care of that. The plane has to be bought seperately.
The vessels also come equipped with navigation radar, an air surveillance radar specifically developed for tracing birds and similar small objects, sonar and towed array sonar, an internal wireless LAN-network, satellite access for telecommunications and a sickbay equipped for tending to five people. Two dinghies provide a way to land a beach-party on shore an to transport it back to the ship.
The Aiteal-class Oceanographic Research Vessel began its life in 2000, as the Office for Yacht Development (today the Department for Prototype Development in Yard 15) asked itself, how they were supposed to make a ship more stable at sea. This was an internal contest, the winner, the later base for the Aiteal-class, being archived and stored under P-4459.
In 2010, a foreign university asked Silverport Dockyards to develop a new research vessel for their use and to make it stable at sea, while also making it easily adaptable. Someone remembered the old P-4459 and got the plans, developing them further in accordance with the orderer's specifications: The Aiteal-class Research Vessel was born.
It was built within one year, it went on its first research cruise in 2012. Since then, it made several discoveries about water temperature and marine beings in the deeper parts of its home nation's waters, where the Aiteal-class is simply known to be one ship by the name of Árkefthos.
Building them also provided us with the opportunity to learn more about SWATH-Designs and their practical application - more designs of this kind are in development.
As a Oceanographic Research Ship, the vessels of the Aiteal-class are ships dedicated to make scientific discoveries about the sea, the currents and so on, but they can also operate as base for scientific discoveries on dry shore.
Their use as ships for war-purposes is rather limited, though: They can be used as mobile weather-stations and for finding tactical advantages at sea, but in a direct confrontation, their use is next to zero.