A Pirate-Hunting GHOST?


Check out this crazy little vessel that's been lurking around the harbor of the bucolic New England town of Portsmouth, NH. The stealthy looking boat is Juliet Marine's Ghost, the first ever super-cavitating watercraft.

What's that mean? It means the ship cuts through the water while encased in a bubble of self-generated, low-pressure gasses. A ship traveling inside this bubble generates 900-times less hull friction -- and therefore noise -- than a ship whose hull passes directly through water, making such craft nearly undetectable, according to Juliet Marine. It's also much faster than previous stealth designs, according to the company.

The company is pitching the GHOST concept as a stealthy fleet protection asset that would be armed with a host of weapons and sensors. This breathlessly-worded press release pitches 150-foot-long GHOST ships as pirate/terrorist hunting badasses with the potential to replace the Littoral Combat Ship. It's quite the pitch:

Any Navy possessing GHOST technology could operate in international waters undetected and would have an overwhelming advantage against conventional ships. GHOST is specifically designed for Fleet Force Protection at its present size.  GHOST technology is scalable and JMS is currently discussing a plan to build a larger Corvette-sized vessel (150 feet) by partnering with a large international defense company. The US Navy could reduce its Naval footprint and financial exposure by deploying a squadron of GHOSTs from Bahrain, which would free up larger assets, such as destroyers and cruisers, saving costs in manpower and maintenance.  GHOST is ideal for piracy patrols and could be sea-based to provide protection from pirate attacks that cost our government an estimated $1.5 billion each year.

The world-wide shipping industry could be provided with substantial fuel savings using  JMS hull friction reduction super-cavitation.

A squadron of GHOSTs would not be detectable to seeking enemy ship radar and sensors. GHOST can carry thousands of pounds of weapons, including Mark 48 torpedoes, and would be virtually unstoppable. The GHOST platform and technology could reduce the need for LCS completely with the capability to travel long distances and conduct the same missions. GHOST could make LCS a defensible platform for combat - LCS is not currently rated for combat. Today, Iran has the capabilities to stop the US Navy from operating in the Straits of Hormuz, a critical passage for most of the oil our country uses.

The Navy compares GHOST to an attack helicopter with regard to its capabilities for force protection. GHOST can deliver forces to any beach location quickly and quietly with enough weapons to conduct a hot extraction. GHOST is designed to provide military game changing advantages for the USA.

I've got to say, I think the pitch may need to be tweaked a little. Protecting big ships from swarms of small craft may be an alright pitch-- still, there are weapons in development to deal with that threat. And why would we buy a fleet of stealthy warships to go after pirates and terrorists on skiffs as long as we're operating in international waters?

This tech could still be very useful, but probably in a special operations context similar to the last paragraph in Juliet's pitch above. Then again, don't our submarines already to that type of mission, as this article points out?

While the GHOST has been developed under the shadow of the Navy's Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the sea service hasn't pumped a dime into the program, though it is watching with interest.

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