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New Boat Offers Military Smoother Ride, Versatility

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2006 – Speed and flexibility make a new military high-speed vessel especially valuable for shallow-water operations, a Defense Department official said.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
The experimental "Stiletto" is a shallow-water transport boat. More than 80 feet in length, the carbon-composite hull can move at more than 50 knots on the cushion of air its "M-hull" creates. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The "Stiletto," a shallow-water craft made of a tough, lightweight carbon composite material, offers a safer, more comfortable ride and is easily reconfigured to accommodate technological advances and the military's needs, said Navy Cmdr. Greg E. Glaros, a transformation strategist in the Office of Force Transformation.

"We can't predict the future," Glaros said. "Therefore, ... we better design systems that are ... flexible."

Stiletto was initiated in the DoD transformation office in association with U.S. Special Operations Command, he said. When fielded, the boat will be available for use my all services. It's meant to get special operations forces to their missions quickly with a top speed of more than 50 knots, Glaros said. Those forces, a total of 15 per boat, also could benefit from its unusual hull design.

Described as an "M-hull" because of its resemblance to the letter "M," the water Stiletto displaces is pulled through tunnels under the boat. The water mixes with incoming air from the forward movement of the craft and creates an air cushion that the boat rides on, he said.

Glaros said this cushion could be a back-saving benefit for those using Stiletto for transport. The vertical impact to the neck and the spine from riding on a traditional small transport craft have been likened to a "10-G shock," or the body suddenly weighing 10 times its own weight, at least twice an hour, he said. If a seat fails, that shock can spike to 20 Gs.

"At any given time, ... 30 percent of (small boat-operating teams) are 'medically down' because of injuries sustained while driving their boats," Glaros said. After about 10 years, most small-boat drivers are eligible for 100 percent disability by Department of Veterans Affairs standards, Glaros said.

Stiletto's other purposes include what Glaros describes as "techno exploration." Basically, he said, the boat is a floating experiment. The office wanted to understand the uses and the limits of composite materials in this type of application.

The boat's design also anticipates advances in technology, he said. "In our world today, the most powerful element is information," Glaros said. "For us, it would be folly to build anything that didn't have the means with which to connect to the outer world."

Stiletto's "electronic keel" provides that connection, he said. The system offers open access to its network for various uses by all services, Glaros said. Its plug-and-play nature makes it adaptable to advancing technologies.

"It'll (reduce) dramatically the cost of upgrades and, more importantly, it gives us options in the future so that we can change the mission and the configurations in the boat," he said.

While any force can customize the hull for a specific purpose, Glaros said, it was designed with servicemembers in mind. "They're at the heart of this," he said. "Give them something that they can change and manipulate on their own and doesn't damage them more than the enemy."

Fifteen months after the contract to build Stiletto was signed, the boat is considered "operational experimental," Glaros said, though he is uncertain when it will be fielded. The boat will be put through its paces with Naval Special Clearance Team 1 in early May.

To date, the ship has cost about $12.5 million, Glaros said. About one-fourth of that went to building computer-aided models and more operational testing.

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Related Sites:
Office of Force Transformation
U.S. Special Operations Command


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