The air cushion craft is one member of a class of advanced marine vehicles that offers superior performance or some other unique advantage over conventional craft. Along with the hydrofoil it offers the high speed and improved rough sea performance over displacement craft of the same tonnage and payload. In contradistinction to other advanced marine vehicles, it offers, in its amphibious form, the unique capability of independence of the surface within certain limitations, and thus can operate over water, land, ice, or other terrain.
Since Sir Christopher Cockerell's ideas evolved into the first modern developmental hardware, the Sr.N1 in 1959, developments have expanded in its birthplace, England, and in other corners of Europe, in the United States, and in Russia.
The air cushion craft, in all its forms, is still a little tender in its development as it seeks its true place in the commercial field of transportation or as a fighting vehicle in the navies of the world. Its characteristics and cost change significantly as its speed, size, and seakeeping requirements change. Variations in these requirements have ramifications in the various technologies that need to be developed. For example, if speed is increased for some military or economic advantage the state-of-the-art of performance, seakeeping, and materials becomes less defined inviting protracted development periods.
This book examines the air cushion craft in its various forms and accumulates the results of those who have helped in its development, in order to determine the present state-of-the-art. Naturally, on a subject as broad as this and containing many important details, the study frequently must be selective and sometimes qualitative. There are many excellent papers covering either detailed, technical aspects or operational considerations and related subjects.
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