National City, CA - A San Diego maritime design firm on Tuesday announced the launch of an innovative, experimental vessel, marking a step in the next generation of military ships.
The 88-foot-long vessel, designed by San Diego’s M Ship Co., also features the company’s patented M-shaped hull, which provides for a fast and stable platform for mounting electronic surveillance equipment or weapons or for conducting special operations.
“It’s fantastic,” said Bill Burns, who co-founded M Ship Co. with Chuck Robinson. “To take it from a concept to seeing it on the water in San Diego is a treat.”
We are confident that the M80 Stiletto’s design is superior to all other existing technologies,” added Robinson, a former deputy secretary of state under Henry Kissinger.
“Nothing else is out there that can achieve the qualities important to ‘brown water’ vessels at a relatively low cost with short design and production cycles.”
The M80 Stiletto is an operational experiment for the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation as it tries to implement a fleet consisting of numerous small ships all networked together. The smaller ships can work in shallow waters and be more cost-effective to build than conventional ships.
This next generation-type force is the idea of the late Vice Adm. Aurthur Cebrowski.
“What’s really exciting about it is our timing,” Burns said, “because the Navy and the government are changing their focus from ‘blue water’ Navy – large ships off-shore – to ‘brown water’ Navy – smaller ships in coastal areas and rivers.
“(The change) requires faster smaller and more agile ships. Our boat is a perfect fit for the new vision of the 21st century Navy.”
The concept for the M-hull, in the works since 1999, was originally developed to suppress bow waves for boats used in the canals of Venice, Italy. Italian officials were looking at ways to reduce waves, which were eroding the sides of the canals.
M Ship Co. eventually designed a 65-foot “water bus” that could reach speed of 22 knots.
“During sea trials, it had a smooth ride quality as well,” Burns said, “That’s what captured the interest of the (U.S.) government. They wanted to explore a high-speed version.
“When we first started, the sole objective was to reduce bow waves. We didn’t care about the ride, drag quality or the speed.”
They soon realized by channeling the bow wave beneath the vessel, it converts the wave energy into useful form, like vertical lift. Its also creates a frothy air/water mixture that reduces the drag of the boat as well and allows for flat turns.
M Ship Co. teamed up with several collaborative partners and subcontractors to build the M80 Stiletto in less than a year.
Azimuth Inc. developed the vessel’s “electric keel,” a data bus for networked plug and play of communications, surveillance and weapons systems, while SP Systems provided the carbon fiber technology for composite hull.
National City-based Knight & Carver YachtCeneter handled the construction.
Equipped with four Caterpillar engines, the M80 Stiletto can reach speed excess of 50 knots (nearly sixty miles per hour) when fully loaded and can be outfitted with jet drives for shallow-water operations and beaching.
“The M-hull form creates a natural surface effect that not only enhances top-speed performance, but uses the bow wave energy to reduce the overall wake signature,” said Burns. “This makes the boat faster and more maneuverable because it remains flat with almost no keeling, even during high-speed turns. The vessel’s proprietary design also gives it a low-radar profile.”
According to Burns, the military is interested in 40- and 120- foot vessels of similar design.
M Ship Co. also is in discussion with several major defense contractors to capitalize on the success of the M-hull technology and the emerging military market for vessels that can operate in alignment with the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s focus on “brown water” operations.