Every shipbuilder in the Navy these days talks about how his hulking destroyer or Cold War sub is now going to sneak SEALs onto shore. A couple of weeks back, Military.com overlord Chris Michel was down in San Diego, and saw a pretty cool new prototype ship that's been designed from scratch to handle the mission.The 89-foot, 60-ton Stiletto will be one of the quickest ships in the fleet, using four Caterpillar C32 engines to cruise at 50 knots or more. It'll also be one of the sneakiest, according to New Scientist.
Stiletto's hull has a double-M shape that channels the wake under the craft. There it mixes with oncoming air to produce froth that lifts the ship part-way out of the water, reducing drag and increasing stability, says Greg Glaros, the programme's leader at the defence department's Office of Force Transformation.While a crew of three runs the Stiletto, a dozen SEALs can slip off the back of the ship, in an 11-meter rigid inflatable boat -- or they can send a set of flying drones out on spy missions from the upper deck. The ship can stay on station for eight hours while the robots or the special forces are out on their operations. And the Stiletto can keep an even keel while it waits; it's cleared to operate in Sea State 5 -- waves twelve feet high and 157 feet long.If the Stiletto works out as planned, it'll be good news for special forces. Because while every ship-maker says they've come up with the ideal commando-delivery system, several of the options haven't worked out as planned.Take the Advanced SEAL Delivery System. "The subs were originally expected to cost $80 million each; the first one alone has cost $446 million," notes the Times-Dispatch. "The vessel was noisier than planned -- bad news for a submarine. Designs were changed to muffle the sound, and now the mini-sub vibrates too much." Which is defnitely not how commandos like to travel.UPDATE 1:28 PM: Of course, Inside Defense had details on the ship months ago. A few:
* One reason for the unique shape is the ship was designed like an aircraft... OFTs first director, Arthur Cebrowski, who died last month, was very firm that were going to build an aircraft on the sea"... The hull has four distinct arches, which look like wings, that utilize air pressure to funnel water and glide along the surface.* Through its maritime data bus, or on-board computer, the vessel will have the ability to plug and play with different sensors, linking with unmanned vehicles and other crafts of varying sizes, he said. With only one panel of windows for looking ahead, Stiletto will use deck cameras to give the crew a sense of what is happening around the ship.* Production of the Stiletto prototype began in October 2004, costing $6 million in funds from OFT. Nearly the same amount has been earmarked by OFT and SOCOM combined for experimentation and testing.UPDATE 2:37 pm: As C-Low notes in the comments, the latest issue of Defense Technology International has the Stiletto on the cover.