Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stiletto - 80 ft. Littoral Warfare Testbed

M Ship Co. | MS 80 Stiletto | Next Generation Hull Technology This is so cool. I love modern naval technology.

Littoral warfare refers to coastal engagements or what is often called the brown water navy. The Office of Force Transformation actually managed to put something spectacular together for about 6 million bucks. (Next to nothing in defense arena, and not bad for an 80 ft boat.)

M-ship had developed boats that minimized wake for use in Venice, Italy where the wakes from power boats are seriously degrading the canals and even the foundations of the buildings. The water bus they developed, Mangia Onda 65 Vaporetto, has been delivered and will be used as a shuttle between the local airport and the Grand Canal. It can carry 149 passengers at 20 knots.

This got the attention of the navy and they commissioned a prototype/test bed for evaluation as means for deploying in shallow coastal waters. The MO 65 Vaporetto draws just under 4 feet - nearly miraculous for a 65 ft vessel. The result was the M80 Stiletto. The Stiletto has a loaded draft of less than 3 ft, and is designed for speeds of 50 to 60 knots. (A boat's draft, or what it draws, refers to how much water is needed to float it safely.)

There is a lot of video on the site, even if some of it is in the form of advertising. Other video is in the form of evening news reports from San Diego when the Sitletto was unveiled for a military convention. There are 4 bits of animation that are interesting as well, some scenarios about the possible uses of these boats: Special Forces use, River Patrols, Coast Guard use and a conclusion. These are all wmv files to be downloaded.

This design makes me smile because it is very close to what was featured in the novel Sea Fighter, by James H. Cobb. That novel actually was about military hovercraft, but while those were evaluated in the early 1990s, they never went beyond landing craft. While the Stiletto isn't completely amphibious, it appears to be nearly the same boat that was in that story.

The M80 Stiletto was built in 6 months. It isn't a prototype so much as it is an experiment. M-Ship believes that were it to be put into production, build times could be reduced.

Update Aug. 20, 2006: There is a fairly heated debate over at Defense Tech about this ship.

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