Stiletto Stealth Ships: Look Different. Ride Different. Buy DifferentMar 15, 2009 09:45 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
With the formal roll-out of the 88-foot Stiletto stealth ship and its cutting-edge “M-Hull” wave-damping design, the late Vice-Admiral Cebrowski’s legacy takes another step forward. The Stiletto is part of Project WolfPac, which aims to test new concepts of shallow-water and riverine warfare organized around swarms of smaller, affordable ships linked by communications. The Stiletto can slip into shallow waters, launching inflatable boats and even UAVs while serving as a communications hub via its “electronic keel.” Best of all, the M-Hull significantly reduces the pounding its occupants take from waves – poundings that often result in back injuries that cut careers short, or leave sailors with lingering disabilities in later life.
After a long, drawn-out testing period, the ship is finally being given a chance to silence doubts about its ability to stand up to open sea conditions. It is now headed out for its 2nd operational deployment, with its crew of Army mariners and Navy personnel…
- The Stiletto Program
- Contracts and Key Events [updated]
- Appendix A: M-Hull Technology – From Venice to Victory
- Appendix B: Additional Readings
The Stiletto Program
Stiletto program manager US Navy Commander Greg Glaros’ entry in the DefenseTech.org comments section provided the best window into the thinking behind Stiletto, whose technology may migrate to other platforms as well:
“Stiletto was constructed in 15 months starting Oct 04. She is made completely out of Carbon fiber. Her purpose is to insert emerging technology at little cost due to her Electronic Keel and to provide a venue for operational experimentation. It is not perfect, nor is she designed to solve everyone’s needs (no she does not submerge – we left that to the Billion $ club). What she is designed to do is expand our technical competence against an elusive adversary and learn operationally in a very short period of time. With regards to its survivability or operational relevancy we will all learn by her mere existence. Easy to kill??? – We seem to easily lose sight that most military systems are all easy to destroy by a willing enemy.
Our objectives should be focused on matching our adversaries at scale with an ability to cope and adapt – surely the Stark, Cole, M-1 ABRAMS, and Hummers have taught us how easy it is to kill systems designed to survive everything our engineering imagined – unfortunately what our engineer imagine often do not align with what our enemy intends…
During the last two weeks Stiletto out performed our expectations – with advanced speeds in calm waters and not so calm…and out performing in other areas in a time frame and within a cost that seems to be out of the reach of our requirements process and acquisition system.
Time to operational market matters…”
The Stiletto will cost about $6 million to build, while the overall costs of the experiment are expected to reach about $12 million. DefenseTech’s main coverage of the Stiletto ship is a good article with a number of valuable links, but the key issue for the ship will be its composite hull’s ability to stand up to the sea’s inevitable pounding.
Contracts and Key Events
June 13/09: A Pentagon photo release notes that Stiletto is scheduled to deploy this day from Mayport, FL to Latin American waters, under the operational control of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet, and under the tactical control of Joint Interagency Task Force – South. Stiletto will conduct counter-drug missions.
March 12/09: Gannett’s Navy Times reports that the new US 4th Fleet, which began operations in June 2008 based in Mayport, FL, will be using Stiletto on an ongoing basis for its operations around the Caribbean and South America.
Other ships that will participate in 4th fleet operations over the next few months will include the hospital ship USNS Comfort [T-AH-20]; the Tarawa Class amphibious assault ship USS Nassau [LHA-4]; the Oliver Hazard Perry Class frigates USS Doyle [FFG-39], USS Ford [FFG-54], USS Kauffman [FFG-59]; the chartered rapid transport catamaran USS Swift [HSV-2]; and the Harpers Ferry class Class amphibious support ship USS Oak Hill [LSD-51].
Sept 22/08: M Ship Co. announces that their craft has completed a successful 6,000 nautical-mile deployment in the waters off Colombia, the Bahamas and the Florida Straits. The deployment was capped off by a dramatic, high-speed chase of a “go-fast” boat near the Florida coast. The chase lasted more than 2 hours at speeds between 40 – 50 knots. When the smugglers realized they could not outrun the Stiletto, they reportedly headed for shallow sand bars and reefs. The Stiletto’s draft is just 2.5 feet, however, and so the 3 suspected smugglers were caught.
Capt. Jim Hruska, a Transformation Strategist in DDR&E/RRTO/Emerging Capabilities Division is listed by M Ship as the author of the post deployment report. The corporate release highlights conclusions re: the ship’s value as an affordable, high-speed, shallow water capable craft. An Inside Defense article adds that the report also concluded that the ships are suited to shallow littorals rather than high, rough seas. This has been a widely held concern regarding composite craft more generally.
June 30/08: Stiletto makes a refueling stop at the American territory of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The ship has been moved to NAVSOUTH’s area of responsibility, where it will support the Coast Guard’s efforts and participate in anti-drug operations around the Caribbean.
The ship is actually operated by a small crew of Army mariners from the 7th Sustainment Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division. They can also deploy a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) with 7 fully armed Coast Guardsmen from the ship, in order to conduct ground operations. US Navy | Venezuela’s El Universal.
July 2008: A National Defense Magazine article says that Stiletto has been in use as a test bed ship, courtesy of the Pentagon’s rapid reaction technology office. The office inherited the ship when the Office for Force Transformation was disbanded, and needed a maritime test bed for the concepts companies brought to it. Since Stiletto was designed from the outset to accept new technologies quickly and easily, it was a natural fit.
May 9/06: M Ship Co. announces that the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research has awarded the firm a $750,000 contract, including options, to validate the potential of the innovative M-hull technology.
The Navy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract calls for tank testing and sea trials for the M-hull technology, and the development of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools for quantifying the hull’s performance. This seems arcane, but it’s vital if one wishes to model the hull’s performance in a variety of sea conditions. Existing ship hull designs have undergone extensive modeling, as well as real life use, allowing certification agencies to declare them safe within a certain range of conditions. New hull technologies need this, too, but the cost burden for the inventor can be crushing without funding like this.
Jan 31/06: M Ship Co. announces the launch of the M80 Stiletto, designed as an operational experiment for the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation (OFT). The vessel combines carbon fiber construction with a networked architecture and a revolutionary M-hull. The release also discusses Cebrowski’s legacy.
Appendix A: M-Hull Technology – From Venice to Victory
Interestingly, the M-hull evolved from a challenge to help solve the serious problem of wave erosion to the ancient buildings of Venice, Italy. Since the streets of this city are water, the authorities were faced with the unique problem of reducing waves created by motorboats to protect the foundations of the buildings along the canals. Chuck Robinson, who lives in the USA but has an apartment in Venice, decided that he had to do something.
The result of this effort was the M-hull. This patented hull form exhibits the shock mitigation features of the deep-V hull with the roll stability of a multihull. In addition, the hull form creates a natural surface effect that not only enhances top speed performance, but actually uses the bow wave energy to reduce the overall wake signature.
Current M-Hull products include water taxis, the EcoBarca environmentally sensitive tourism ship, and a sport fishing vessel in addition to the Stiletto. Other proposed variants include cargo, commercial shipping, Coast Guard, and larger military applications like the MS 120 and MS 200 Littoral.
“I think there could be some opportunity for seabasing using the M-hull technologies, not only for the connectors but also for the seabase itself,” he said. “And we are developing some conceptual designs where we can actually build square ships that can link together and break apart based on the mission needs.”
Appendix B: Additional Readings
- M Ship Company
- Stiletto named one of TIME Magazine’s best inventions of 2006.
- National Defense Magazine (July 2008) – Office Seeks to Quickly Field Counter-Terrorism Technologies. The Pentagon’s rapid reaction technology office is using Stiletto as a maritime test bed, due to the ease with which new technologies can be inserted and removed.
- WIRED Danger Room (April 19/07) – Orphaned Ship Looks for Sugar Daddy
- = Re: the UAV photo above, DID mistakenly identified it as a ScanEagle. Fortunately, one of the people present for the photo wrote in to say: “What is shown is [Advanced Ceramic Research's] Manta UAV launcher shortly after it was launched and conducted a successful autonomous underwater mine detection mission during the Howler Experiment with Naval Special Clearance Team One. Our Silver Fox UAV was also launched by the Navy team from the rigid hull inflatable hull boats deployed from inside of Stiletto. The Stiletto made naval history that day during the experiments with the first ever mine counter warfare missions that included our UAV operations.”