Fastest Navy Ships in the World

Updated on October 30, 2018
Savio Dawson profile image

Savio is a resident of Mumbai, India. Cars, bikes, and everything fast is his passion, and he writes about them on numerous reputable sites.

Introduction

In the article detailing world’s fastest boats, we had seen one common thread and that was the need for still water surface for carrying out the speed run and usually, all of them would happen on a lake. If it got turbulent the boat may actually crash at the intended speed.

Now let’s talk about navy ships. Anybody has seen still (not calm) seas or oceans? The waves and wind movement make the sea surface a totally different ball game. There is no chance that speeds of 300+ mph can be done here (yes, the fastest boat flies at 300 mph), yet this is where navy needs to handle pirates, smugglers, and non-friendly forces. If so, there is a need for the ships to be fast enough to catch-up or for that matter to reach a spot in good speed. Hence navy ships have to be fast. How fast? Let’s find out.

Just one more point before we get on with the article – when we say navy ships it includes, aircraft carrier, destroyer, interceptor, submarines, etc. All of them vary in sizes and functionalities and hence when we speak of speed, chances are that the smaller ships may make it to the list and not the aircraft carrier size ships. To make it easier a separate article on aircraft carriers is available and readers can read it here.

So, let’s go.

1. A-90 Orlyonok

Source

In the introduction section I had mentioned that there would be no navy ship that would come close to 300 mph, which though is factually correct, I did not mention one exception; in fact, the only exception which does more than 240 mph. We are talking about the A-90 Orlyonok, a Russian built, amphibious, ground effect vehicle (Ekranoplan) which could do speeds in excess of 400 kmph; and we thought ships can’t fly. When I say fly I literally mean fly. The A-90 was capable of not only gliding few meters above the water surface due to the ground effect it could actually fly up to 3000 meters. Sadly, due to other military priorities though, five were built in the 70s and all were retired by 1993. This list will have few “to be introduced” fast ships, but the Orlyonok, which was way faster, was an actual ship having served a country. How interesting is that!

  • Name: A-90 Orlyonok [Ekranoplan]
  • Country: USSR
  • Top Speed: 216+ knots [248.45+ mph or 400+ kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: Same as top speed
  • Displacement:140 ton
  • Range: 1080 nautical miles | 1242 miles | 2000 km
  • Status: Retired

Due to its natural mode of operation, the A-90 was invisible to Radar as it was flying just a few meters above the sea surface. Also, since it was not touching the sea surface it was invisible to the SONAR ping as well. In today’s world, with stealth corvettes, this may seem as not much of a technology but in the 1970s it made a lot of sense. In fact, it still makes sense and this particular model is not history yet. Since 2014 there are talks across countries to build such Ekranoplan. So, we may see it again in the 21st century after all.

2. Special Forces Interceptor, WP-18

Source

WP-18 is the newest entrant in the world of fast watercraft and is built by a relatively new company as well, Abu Dhabhi MAR. The purpose of the craft is - interception - and will be used by navies and coast guards of the countries procuring it.

  • Name: Special Forces Interceptor, WP - 18
  • Country: Abu Dhabi
  • Top Speed: 65+ knots [74 mph or 119.2 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 47 knots [53.51 mph or 86.15 kmph]
  • Displacement:13 ton
  • Range: 400 nautical miles | 460.31 miles | 741.1 km at 47 knots
  • Status: In production

Even the cruising speed of 86 kmph is like driving a car on the road. More or less, across the globe, that is the speed for safe road driving and the WP-18 does that on choppy waters. The shape of the WP-18 allows it to cut through the waves and achieve the speed. The top speed, however, may require calmer seas.

3. HMCS Bras d'Or

Source

This is the first of the fastest unarmed navy ships in the world. In fact, it continues to be the fastest battleship even today. Readers having read the article on the Fastest Aircraft Carriers would know that most of the battleships are half the speed of this ship. The HMCS Bras did a top speed of 63 knots and has a bit of famous past and a bit of infamous end. The famous part is that Alexander Graham Bell’s ideas and concepts on hydrofoil had gone into designing this ship. Take a look at some of its excellent credentials (Excellent because no other ship was closer to these figures at the time):

  • Name: HMCS Bras d’Or
  • Country: Canada
  • Top Speed: 63 knots [72 mph or 117 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 40 knots [46 mph or 74 kmph]
  • Displacement:240 ton
  • Range: 500 nautical miles | 575.4 miles | 926 km at 40 knots
  • Status: Retired. In a museum in Quebec

Now, the tragic part – despite being the fastest ship at a time when ships hadn’t figured out to sail faster than 20-25 knots, resource crunch ended the HMCS’ seafaring time as a warship in 1971. Mind you this ship was literally flying, doing twice as fast as any ship of the time and the A-90 was yet to make its first flight. Also, it was stable at cruising speeds of 40 knots when for other ships it would be 18 knots. Even look at this list, 2016 built WP-18 just about edges past the HMCS. How’s that for speed? Impressive, isn’t it? For those interested, they can still visit the Musee maritime du Quebec and look at history straight in the eye.

4. Skjold Class Corvette

Source

This was one of the fastest navy ships before the WP-18 interceptor was introduced. Skjold which means shield in Norwegian is part of the Royal Norwegian Navy. There were a total of six built and they are super fast, stealth enabled and equipped with attack missiles. Their speed numbers are impressive too.

  • Name: Skjold class Corvette
  • Country: Norway
  • Top Speed: 60+ knots [68.32 mph or 110 kmph] [in calm sea]
  • Sustained Speed: 40 knots [45.54 mph or 73.31 kmph]
  • Displacement:274 ton at full load
  • Range: 800 nautical miles | 920 miles | 1500 km at 40 knots
  • Status: In production

The Other side to Skjold. The Attack Ship!

If it is any consolation then this Corvette is still the fastest combat ship in the world. It has some pretty nasty missiles which can obliterate most enemy craft.

5. Barracuda XSV – 17

Source

The Barracuda XSV – 17, much like the Skjold, is a high speed, wave piercing vessel and is capable of high speeds of 60 knots. There is a video showing the XSV (aka Thunder Child) riding through the waves during a storm. It can be seen that it is capable of handling waves of 20 feet and above and yet carry out its operation.

  • Name: Barracuda XSV - 17
  • Country: Ireland
  • Top Speed: 60 knots [68.32 mph or 110 kmph] [in calm sea]
  • Sustained Speed: 45+ knots [51.24 mph or 82.5 kmph]
  • Displacement: 15.9 ton at full load
  • Range: 350 - 700 nautical miles | 805 miles | 1296 km
  • Status: In production

6. Interceptor DV15 RWS

Source

The DV15 RWS was one of the fastest interceptors before the WP-18. In fact, both these mentioned crafts are from the same manufacturer. It forms a good defense against speedboats. Piracy control, anti-smuggling operations and active patrolling are some of its core strengths.

  • Name: Interceptor DV15 RWS
  • Country: Abu Dhabhi
  • Top Speed: 50+ knots [56.93 mph or 91.66 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 40 knots [45.55 mph or 73.33 kmph]
  • Displacement: Not available
  • Range: 350 nautical miles | 402 miles | 648 km at 40 knots
  • Status: In production

DV15 already is in service with many countries. 45 units of the DV15 have already been delivered and many more are in the pipeline. It is one competitive unit and in many cases, the countries looking at such interceptors, procure both the DV15 and WP-18 as a combination. Mozambique is a good example of having procured both the interceptors.

7. Pegasus-Class Hydrofoils

Source

The Pegasus class hydrofoils were designed by Boeing for the United States Navy. This was more for NATO operations of the U.S. than for the U.S. herself. Much before the touted USS Freedom and Independence joined the navy for their high speed, the hydrofoil was known for its speed, which even today is faster than the former two ships. Of course, those mentioned ships versus the hydrofoils are like looking at two different segments. We will learn about the USS Freedom and Navigation a little later in this same list.

  • Name: Pegasus – class Hydrofoils
  • Country: United States of America
  • Top Speed: 50 knots [56.93 mph or 91.66 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 40 knots [45.55 mph or 73.33 kmph]
  • Displacement: 241 ton at full load
  • Range: 350 nautical miles | 402 miles | 648 km at 40 knots
  • Status: Retired in 1993

There were a total of 6 built and they were commissioned in 1977. They were eventually retired in 1993.

8. USS Flagstaff (PGH-1)

Source

This was the only Flagstaff class vessel built and used by the American Navy. It was a hydrofoil much like the Pegasus class ones. However, its history was wrought with faulty equipment and overhaul need. The PGH-1 was even loaned by the Navy to the Coast Guard, who after two years of use returned it to the Navy. The Coast Guard was quite impressed by the speed of the vessel for anti-smuggling operations and interception of suspicious vessels.

  • Name: USS Flagstaff (PGH – 1)
  • Country: United States of America
  • Top Speed: 50 knots [56.93 mph or 91.66 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 48 knots [54.65 mph or 88 kmph]
  • Displacement: 68 ton at full load
  • Range: Not known
  • Status: Retired in 1978

The PGH – 1 did have an illustrious career, serving in Vietnam briefly and then in the Pacific fleet. Once the coast guard returned the vessel to the Navy, it was decommissioned and later scrapped.

9.a. USS Independence

Source

The USS Independence along with the USS Freedom was being tested by the American Navy for a high-speed Littoral class combat ship. Independence is built by Austal USA, in Alabama. The combat ship reaches a speed of 52 mph, which is closer to the cruising speed of cars in most countries. They are built for anti-pirate operations, interception support and act as support vehicles for large Carriers.

  • Name: USS Independence
  • Country: United States of America
  • Top Speed: 45 knots [52 mph or 83.72 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 44 knots [50.84 mph or 81.86 kmph]
  • Displacement:3,500 metric tons
  • Range: 3,500 nautical miles | 4000 miles | 6,500 km
  • Status: In operation

Needless to say, it boasts of stealth build which is quite evident from the picture. It also has another record of being able to cruise at a sustained speed of 44 knots for 4 hours. Such long hours of sustained high cruise speed of 44 knots is unparalleled.

9.b. USS Freedom

Source

Now, most of what we have read under USS Independence is true for USS Freedom and whatever new information that we have here is also true for USS Independence. After all, this is the same RFP which two different manufacturers have responded to. The Freedom though is developed by Lockheed Martin

  • Name: USS Freedom
  • Country: United States of America
  • Top Speed: 45 knots [52 mph or 83.72 kmph]
  • Sustained Speed: 44 knots [50.84 mph or 81.86 kmph]
  • Displacement:3,500 metric tons
  • Range: 3,500 nautical miles | 4000 miles | 6,500 km
  • Status: In operation

The ship comes with helipad and hangars, meaning it can actually carry helicopters in its bay. The total order for the ships in the littoral class was reduced from 52 to 40 and it is expected that the Navy will choose one vendor going forward. Till such time, both Lockheed and Austal are the vendors manufacturing their respective ships.

Back to Port

Like in many of our articles on military vehicles, traveling by land, sea or air, there is always a surprising element thrown in; an unexpected twist to the otherwise expected line-up. We have seen submarines being designed for Mach 6 speed (No jokes), flying ship in this article and Mach 20 drones. These are amazing creations and hopefully, we will see more of them in civilian use.

Which Navy Ship was exciting to read about?

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Disclaimer: The videos added in the article belong to the users who have posted them on youtube. The Author does not own them nor validates that they belong to the ones who posted them on youtube. The videos are included to give some additional information about the subject being discussed.

© 2018 Savio Koman

Comments

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    • Savio Dawson profile imageAUTHOR

      Savio Koman 

      4 weeks ago from Mumbai, India

      Hello JRC,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read the article. It's a pleasure having knowledgeable readers commenting on the article.

      Also, thanks for pointing out aspects that appear to be inconsistencies. But let me explain if you will?

      1. Ekranoplan wrong classification: Agree that the Ekranoplan is neither a ship nor an aircraft and in few of my articles I have mentioned so. I write on the fastest things. So it is not just ships but cars, bikes, aircraft, SUVs, etc. Now the thing is that Ekranoplan as a subject is either past or expected in future. There are no Ekranoplans in service as we speak. But Russia is building the Chaika A-050 to be ready by 2022 and so are few other countries. The question then was should I make a separate list of such fascinating vessels which do not have an equivalent today or club them with some other similar vessels? I settled for the latter. Should we see Ekranoplans operational again, I will definitely make a separate list. Also, A-90 is not the only one. Read more here:

      https://hubpages.com/travel/Fastest-Civilian-Ships...

      https://owlcation.com/misc/Fastest-Aircraft-Carrie...

      As you can see I have considered them as ships and further classified as navy or civilian ones.

      2. HMCS Bras d'Or: Here a bit of history reading and classification nomenclature did me in. The fact was that the ship was to be fitted with defense and attack armors, but for the resource crunch and operating expenses which put things on hold made me classify it as I did. Now if you are like me then you would have also noticed the size of the ship and therefore the reason for it to be classified as a warship. I take that point, though.

      3. Faster than 20-25 knots: Okay, this one is more about the exception to the rule vs. the rule. When the general rule was ships doing about 20-25 knots, there was one ship doing way more than that. Not only the ships you mentioned, but USS New Jersey (1943), USS Wisconsin (1944), USS Enterprise (1961) and more were capable of doing 30-35 knots and more. I mean, I was aware of the period and other ships doing speeds faster than 20-25 knots. The link that I had posted under point 1 will show you these behemoths and more.The point is, my statement was to mean when most of the ships of the world were crawling, this ship was flying... that's all.. :)

      By the way, I will bring in a special mention of Turbinia, Yamato and Le Fantasque in my articles very soon. :)

    • profile image

      JRC 

      4 weeks ago

      There are many inaccuracies in this article that I wish to point out. To start, the Ekranoplan, A-90 Orlyonok, should not be on this list as it never classified as a ship, it is its own classification - a ground effect vehicle. Secondly, you referred to the HMCS Bras d'Or as a 'battleship', which it is very far from. The correct term is 'warship'. Battleships are heavily armored, heavily gunned ships, and this ship had neither. Lastly, you said that "despite being the fastest ship at a time when ships hadn’t figured out to sail faster than 20-25 knots". This is completely incorrect. The Turbinia, built by the British in 1894 was capable of travelling at 34.5 kts, and even the Japanese super-battleship, the Yamato, was capable of travelling at 27 kts despite it weighing 73,000 tons. This isn't even mentioning the Le Fantasque, the French destroyer of 1934 that could travel at 45 knots.

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