Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pushing the Envelope on the Water


I was in San Diego for work last week and spent some time aboard a new boat that the DoD Office of Force Transformation just bought-- it's called Stiletto and will be used to test new ideas for command and control of high-speed craft in combat... it's about 90 feet long.

Oh, did I mention that it's fast?

Mships is the company that built it in San Diego. They have more photos there.

I haven't been underway on the boat but maybe will get the chance sometime soon. It's built almost completely out of carbon fiber composites; if I understand it right, part of the purpose of the experiment is to evaluate alternative ship construction methods and materials. My concern for carbon fiber hullforms is their vulnerability to crushing and piercing damage alongside piers or other objects...

Stiletto has about 7,000 HP delivered through four diesels into 4 surface-piercing skewed propellors. They were apparently chosen over waterjets for high-speed performance characteristics. I think I would prefer jets for their low-speed handling advantages, but I'll talk more about that if/when I can finagle a ride...

Initial thoughts: A great science project. It looks cool but in terms of military utility, my biggest question lies in how to get it somewhere far away-- it's not clear that it could ride inside an Amphibious ship on its hard chines, although it is slightly narrower than an LCAC... getting it into and out of a well deck would be tough since it doesn't have the natural cushions that an air cushion provides. It looks stealthy but I'm told it's not. The boat is pretty much empty inside at the moment-- I'm interested to see what systems are installed and tested. Some of them will obviously be classified.

We need to do more of these kinds of experiments-- if we're the most powerful Navy in the World, why shouldn't we be experimenting with new ideas that could help maintain our edge? I wonder why we didn't buy 3-4 of these so we could really test the Wolf PAC idea.

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