GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – Looking less like a littoral combat craft and more like something out of a James Bond movie, M-80 Stiletto, an experimental high-speed Army vessel, pulled into U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay to refuel and resupply before continuing South.
“We’ll be performing counter-elicit trafficking operations in the Caribbean,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Isaiah Smith, Stiletto’s skipper. “Basically we’ll be doing drug interdiction ops.”
Designed by M Ship Company, Stiletto was “purposefully designed to rapidly acquire, deploy and employ new capabilities to explore the military utility of emerging technologies and concepts of operation for special and expeditionary forces,” according to a company brochure. However, for the crew of Stiletto, it’s purpose is a little more cut and dry: to go fast.
“We can get up over 50 knots,” said Army Sgt. Ronnie Monroe, crewmember. “It’s just awesome. Sitting up in the bridge in those chairs when you’re going that fast, it makes you feel like a rock skipping over the water.”
Designed for a speed of 50-60 knots, the M-80 can travel at more than twice the base speed limit.
This is made even more incredible by it’s “M” shaped hull, which, along with it’s super-lightweight carbon fiber hull, creates a short draft that shrinks to mere inches at high speeds, allowing Stiletto access to much shallower waters than vessels half its size.
“The ship is intended for military use, but similar technology is used in fishing boats, yachts and even water taxis that cross Venice’s shallow canals,” continues the brochure.
In an interesting twist, Stiletto is operated by a small crew of Army mariners from the 7th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Eustis, Va. Their mission is to deploy a rigid hull inflatable boat, or RHIB, with seven fully armed Coast Guardsmen to conduct ground operations.
“We get in and get out,” said Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Carpenter, Stiletto’s chief engineer.
Stiletto’s speed and agility allow for operational flexibility that previous vessels of its kind were not afforded.
Stiletto is still in its experimental phase, and is currently the only one of its class.
“The testing has been pretty good,” said Smith. “We haven’t had any major setbacks and the vessel is running really smooth. The crew has been instrumental in keeping all systems up and running.”