With ever tightening budget constraints on the US military, reduction in machinery is inevitable. No branch feels this more than the Navy. Put simply, less money means fewer ships. To be able to execute the same mission profiles without compromising mission standards the remaining ships must become more capable and more flexible. The Ridgeback is able to meet these demands. It is designed to operate in two distinctive modes, as a ground effect vehicle and as a conventional warship.
In mode one, the Ridgeback operates as a ground effect vehicle, allowing the Ridgeback to lift out of the ocean and fly over the water. Much research has been done on these types of vehicles, including some with several hundred-ton payloads. The advantage of a ground effect vehicle is no drag due to water; allowing incredible speed advantage over current fighting ships. While comparable fighting ships might be able to obtain a maximum speed of 35 knots, the Ridgeback’s top speed could easily exceed 300 knots. This speed advantage allows for first response in time sensitive missions. In addition, fewer ships are needed to patrol the same area, saving money. The speed advantage comes at no cost to fire power, as depending on the configuration, the Ridgeback can carry anything from several harpoon missiles, to mk 41v, to advanced radar system or any combinations of these.
While in flight mode, ground effect vehicles are extremely hard to attack, giving a dominating upper-hand in many naval battles. Basing the design off of modern stealth aircraft, the Ridgeback has a low radar presence. Combined with its speed and low altitude above the water, the Ridgeback could achieve combat dominance in a warzone before the enemy knows it’s there. With many anti-ship missiles being based off of radar systems, this provides a major defensive advantage. Using a heat seeking system to attack the ship is also ineffective as the engines exhaust is vented both under the Ridgeback and against the cooling water of the ocean. Torpedoes and mines are totally useless as no part of the ship is in the water. Gun and cannon fire can be mitigated using a combination of composite materials and speed.
One drawback of a ground effect vehicle is what happens when the craft encounters bad weather. Mode two of the Ridgeback mitigates this problem. The bottom of both the main body and the wings have specialized ballast tanks that when filled with water will allow the Ridgeback to sit low in the water and not be bounced by the incoming waves. An impeller in the back of the wing tanks allows for maximum control and maneuverability, a key feature for control when in harbors and near refueling ships.
In the end, the Ridgeback allows the Navy the most flexible ship platform ever fielded for the price considerations of a high-end plane. The attributes of a ground effect vehicle allow for the flexibility that is demanded of the modern United States Navy.
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