BANGOR, Maine — The U.S. Navy has a pretty neat new boat in the water, and a man who grew up in Clifton is one of its 40-sailor crew.
Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Hayes is a gas turbine technician aboard the USS Independence, a 418-foot trimaran, or three-hull, warship built for speed and its ability to travel into shallow waters.
“I’m working towards taking over the ship and sailing it” someday, Hayes said this week by phone from Mobile, Ala., where the vessel was built and will be commissioned into the Navy’s fleet on Jan. 16.
The vessel has two crews, and Hayes, a 1997 Brewer High School graduate, is an engineer on the first crew. He, along with the rest of the crew members, wear three or four other hats and work alongside automated machinery within the next-generation vessel.
“It’s the Navy’s newest program, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” Jan Bowers, a Navy spokeswoman based in California, said this week of the Independence. “She can turn on a dime … [and] Bryan is part of a revolutionary crew.”
When Hayes, 30, recently re-enlisted aboard the newfangled littoral combat ship, he was the first sailor to do so, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello said.
“He kind of made history,” he said.
Hayes joined the Navy in 1998, after working for Getchell Bros. of Brewer for a year after high school. He spent 8½ years working with the Navy’s hoverboat program, and said the second he saw the Independence — with its distinctive aluminum hull, massive steerable waterjets and automated systems — that he knew he wanted to be a part of the pilot program.
“It’s a new, interesting boat,” he said. “I thought, ‘It’s pretty cool-looking and I want to be involved with it.’ It has new technology and it’s a new way of thinking for the Navy.”
The trimaran hull shape allows for a wide flight deck that can accommodate a helicopter and can handle choppy seas, and the boat has interchangeable equipment, including an unmanned submarine, which can be swapped out to match up with the type of mission the vessel is on.
The Navy is planning to build a fleet of new littoral combat ships, and is trying to decide between two prototypes — the trimaran Independence built by General Dynamics Corp., parent company of Bath Iron Works, and the Freedom, a monohull built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
The Independence, dubbed the LCS2, was built by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., and the lead contractor was BIW. The 378-foot Freedom, the LCS1, has a steel hull and looks like a conventional warship. It was built by Lockheed in Marinette, Wis.
The costs of the two ships is about double the originally estimates of $220 million because the Navy wanted them built faster and with specific requirements for technology, speed and shallow-water accessibility.
The Independence reached highway speeds — 44 knots, or 52 mph — and maintained them for four hours during its Navy acceptance trials, held with in the Gulf of Mexico during mid-November.
The November issue of BIW News called this “a milestone achievement” for the entire General Dynamics littoral combat ship team that “reflects the significant contributions of many BIW mechanics, engineers and other specialists.”
The new Independence is the seventh naval ship with that name. The first Independence was commissioned in 1776, and No. 6 was decommissioned in September 1998, around the time Hayes joined the Navy.
Hayes, who says the ship is fast and fun, has sent photos of the Independence to his children, Auden, 9, and Willow, 5, who live in Hampden, and his mom, Kim Hayes-Gray, who last month moved from Clifton to Daytona Beach, Fla.
“That was what drew him,” she said this week. “That and the fact it’s a prototype. He did get a chance to go in the cockpit [bridge] when they went out on trials, and he was pretty excited about that.”
Hayes-Gray said that she is proud of her son for what he has accomplished.
“It has been a good direction for him,” she said.
Hayes, who keeps in touch with his children and his mom with Skype, a Web-based video conferencing system, is scheduled to fly to Las Vegas to get married to fellow sailor Aliscia Russo on Dec. 20, then into Bangor International Airport on Dec. 23.
“I will be home for the holidays,” he said.