Juliet Marine’s “Ghost” Ship Emerges from Stealth Startup, Gears Up for War

6/21/12Follow @gthuang

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for a supercavitating craft. The typical approach, as in the Russian torpedo, is to propel the craft from behind and eject gas and/or use a blunt shape in the front to create an air cavity around the craft. “I don’t see how they’ll achieve what they expect to achieve,” Balas says. “And I don’t see how they’ll control the altitude and the yaw of the vehicle.”

His colleague, Roger Arndt, also a professor at the University of Minnesota, is an expert in fluid flow and cavitation. He has doubts about the Ghost propulsion method as well. In fact, cavitation bubbles are normally bad for propellers and can cause serious damage. But there is a type of propeller, with wedge-shaped blades, that produces supercavitation in high-speed racing boats; presumably this is similar to Ghost’s propellers. But in this case, Arndt says, “I am dubious about the application of supercavitating propellers.” (To be fair, Sancoff said that what’s in the patent filing isn’t quite how it works.)

Other experts on supercavitation declined to comment for this article. Sancoff emphasizes that the project has a lot of sensitive aspects to it, in terms of national security, so people who know about it aren’t talking. And he claims that Juliet Marine’s website is getting “attacked” 350 times a month by hackers, mostly in foreign countries.

In any case, the current vehicle—which resides under tight security at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (“a great asset” for a startup to be able to rent space in, he says)—holds 18 people and weighs some 60,000 pounds fully loaded; the underwater part of the vessel is 62 feet long. Sancoff says it can be launched from any beach. “A group of these boats coming out of the night in the Persian Gulf, armed with torpedoes, would be undetectable to large ships,” he says. “Ghost cannot be hit by a torpedo. You would have to shoot it with a gun.”

Not surprisingly, Sancoff sees an urgent military need for his craft. The Navy loses sleep about swarm attacks and security in the Strait of Hormuz (which runs between Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Oman) and other strategic waterways, he says. Yet it hasn’t moved quickly enough to do anything about the threats. “We talk with the Navy weekly,” he says. “We believe the U.S. could use a hundred of these boats right away.” At a price of $20 million per boat—fully loaded with electronics, radar, and so forth—that “provides us with a billion-dollar market opportunity for coastal and fleet protection,” he says.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has granted Juliet Marine permission to talk with the governments of Israel and UAE, which both have marine security concerns. The company says it is currently building a manufacturing facility near Portsmouth, in anticipation of ramping up to sell Ghost ships to customers. Sancoff adds that Juliet Marine is planning to build two more versions of the ship this fall, using what he calls “the final configuration.”

And while the startup strives to gain full acceptance from the U.S. Navy and other potential defense customers, it is “working on weaponizing” the craft, says Sancoff. “The vehicle’s done. Now it’s time to get mission modules complete.” That means mounting torpedoes, machine guns, radar, mine-detection systems, and other sensors onto the craft—and making sure it all works the way it’s supposed to.

That remains to be seen, of course. But if it performs as advertised, Juliet Marine could end up playing a vital role in global security on the high seas. “That’s the beautiful thing about being an entrepreneur,” says Sancoff. “You take a risk with it.”

Wade Roush contributed reporting to this story.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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  • PJS

    video or GTFO

  • Logos302

    It’s the Defender from Decent :).

  • Paul van Dinther

    Wow, a fleet of these vessels could finally clean up the waters around Solalia

  • esorf

    The point of a patent is that in return for protection of your intellectual property, you have to share how it actually works.

  • Geowash01

    Two points:
    1- Outrun torpedoes? Until they come with supercavitation, too. (Besides tracking this thing will be easy, and it can’t out run a bomb.)
    2 – How will it see? Speed and boundary layer effects likely make all current acoustic sensors OBE.

    • atypicaloracle

      1. Supercav torpedoes already exist and have for well over a decade. They’re expensive, there aren’t many countries that developed them, and they can’t turn very well. Also, the part of the boat that is in the water (and thereby vulnerable) is stated to be relatively small – this would be like shooting a bullet with another bullet.

      The vehicle is designed for stealth, so tracking it with what? Aircraft? If the thing’s intended use is for naval interdiction against small craft attacks, then you are flying an observation aircraft near a naval group. That won’t end well for the “trackers.”

      I also have no idea what you mean by “it can’t outrun a bomb.” I’m not an air warfare expert, but I can only assume that hitting a 60′ long target going 80 miles per hour with any form of air-dropped ordinance is going to be insanely difficult.

      2. Well, aside from just looking out the windows… I don’t really know a great deal about how an object going 80-100 miles per hour generates enough of a boundary layer effect to blind its own radar, but apparently jet fighters going several multiples of the speed of sound manage it somehow. Technology is amazing.

  • guest

    “Ghost cannot be hit by a torpedo. You would have to shoot it with a gun.”

    Unless you had supercav torpedos. :-)

    • Guest

      Unless as mentioned in the article the torpedos are not able to manoeuvre as well, a small, nimble and fast craft may be very difficult to hit.

  • ddevine

     Hey guys I just invented a $5000 flying car with perfect handling. You should believe me because nobody lies on the internet.

  • Johnbjormn

    The not hit by torpedoes has as much to do with extremely low radar profile as it does with speed — reread the article — or read other sites on this boat

  • Z Bomb

    Supercav torpedos will be the next invention now that this is out there. Bullets were followed by bullet-proof vests. Rockets were followed by rocket-killing devices. Supercav boats will be followed by supercav torpedos. It’s inevitable.

    • Dfgadfg

      Read the article. It’s already been done.

  • RandomDude

    As mentioned, they already have supercav torpedos,  That’s how the Kursk got sunk

  • http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/mhenriday/ M Henri Day

     Vapour/bubbleware ?…

    Henri

  • Valid

    If this ears Up for Warthen it should be destroyed or bombarded by NATO becase it is threat to to world.

  • SoundBytes

    Ever hear of Ekronplan? Or a hydrofoil? This craft seems to be a hybrid of the two but, why?

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/ENWYFOIUQ5LONZ3AF5V4TPFUS4 zensatori

      What  bout  objects  such as  deadhead tree trunks? Hyrafoils can  have a prob  with  those , hard  to spot  even on radar just the vertical trunk has a very small patch.

  • jack

    ha, just what we need, billions more on military spending. good luck with that,
    let the h strait close for all we care.

    • mojo78

      Yeah, because we all know the defense of a nation isn’t necessary, especially these days with all of the super nice people of the world.

  • Kayefsee1

    Here is the secret of the Ghost – the props had to be in the front cause if indeed the torpedos are at super cavitation stage (usually at about 60 knots) a rear driven prop would be caught up in the air cavity tail producing negative thrust.The props at front help keep induced bubbles injected directly behind prop in place even below 60 knots. but props are no good, i know i have a similar craft with superior drive with much less power oh and yeah its a super cavitation vessel and much more.

  • blipfliptipper

    Imagine a fleet of these going up against the PLAN! A whole bunch of Chinese scrap metal sinking to the bottom of the ocean is what you’d get from that. Good stuff.