Expected to fulfill the roles of offshore fleet protection, general coastal security, and support of SPECOPS, the "Ghost" stealth boat has been designed and developed by millionaire entrepreneur Gregory Sancoff of Juliet Marine Systems beginning in 2004 to produce a viable, working prototype at a cost of just $10 million - a far cry from the normal marine development cycle involving delays and cost overruns. The Ghost fulfills no active USN requirement at this time (2014) but its unveiling has had some observers take notice of the stealth-minded fast craft nonetheless.
The vessel is said to incorporate enough technologies to reduce its signature to wandering enemy radar. Its silhouette is that of an inverted "Vee" which is brought about by its use of positional "wing struts" that lead to engine nacelles operating under the waterline. The 38-foot long hull is of an angled, faceted design more commonly seen in stealth-minded aircraft and minimal use of windows are noted. Overall length of the craft is 60 feet. The hull shape incorporates a stout shape when viewed in profile and showcases a well-slanted forward section complete with 2-inch thick ballistic windscreen. The operating deck seats two side-by-side - a pilot and co-pilot - behind an all-glass instrument panel.
When at rest, only the hull of the vessel is largely exposed - the wing struts and their engine nacelles lying nearly horizontal to the surface of the water and mostly submerged. The hull is then lifted when a speed of 8 knots or greater is attained as the wing struts are brought closer together and lift the hull over the water. The action provides more of a sea-skimming effect than a hover-over effect. Control for the craft is by way of a fighter aircraft-style stick arrangement in the cockpit. Construction of the hull incorporates both aluminum and stainless steel for a more lightweight approach as well as corrosion-resistant effect - the latter important to vessels operating in the salty sea air. The central portion of the hull houses a dual-purpose hold for cargo, weaponry, or passengers. If equipped with quick-release seats, the cabin can seat up to sixteen passengers or combat operatives. No windows are featured in the hold save for two, 6-inch portholes at the cabin floor. The crew and passengers enter/exit the vessel through the sole hull door.
The Ghost features its powerplants in 62-foot long submerged buoyant tubular foils found at the end of each support "wing strut". Each engine outputs a rated 2,000 horsepower and this power allows the Ghost to reach fast operating speeds quickly while its raised hull design limits drag-inducing wave impacts. The result is a watercraft capable of reaching its designated location in short order - ready to intercept illegal shipments or repel and incoming suicide boat attack. Indeed, the vessel is expected to take on an attack helicopter role (though in a boat's body) when outfitted with appropriate weaponry and tracking/engagement technologies suitable for the role.
The lack of wave impact (or "wave hopping") is accomplished by way of counter-rotating propeller units used to pull and stabilize the frontal sections of the engine nacelles. Engineers realized the effect of "supercavitation" could be countered by forward-mounted propeller units to offer both control and push oncoming water aside - this making room for air entering the gap in the water from above. With the help of air funneling down through the struts, the Ghost's propulsion system creates a bubble inside the water large enough to contain an object travelling through the water, thusly greatly reducing drag and enabling the craft to achieve high speeds. Currently, the vessel's listed maximum speed encountered during trials is just 29 knots - though Juliet Marine Systems believes 50 knots is an achievable goal within the scope of the design. The reduced drag approach also leads to a stable weapons platform and one of the other qualities of the Ghost will be engaging targets at speed. The vessel will also sport a wing-strut-detach functionality that will allow it to be air transported (along with its applicable equipment) in the belly of the standard USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III series heavy hauler.
While the USN may not hold a key interest in the Ghost product, several U.S. allies have expressed some in the unique fast-craft offering including Israel, South Korea, and Qatar - nations reliant on fast coastal watercraft for interception/deterrent sorties: Israel tracks for incoming illegal arms shipments to its enemies while South Korea is forced to manage a long-running coastline against North Korean intrusion and Chinese intimidation of disputed islands. Qatar is an American ally in the War on Terror and sits in the volatile, yet utterly important, Persian Gulf region of the Middle East. Another interesting use of the Ghost may lie in VIP passenger transportation - though this perhaps further on down the line if the military endeavor does not pan out.
The expected price tag for a single craft is $10 million USD.
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