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February 2006
Article Archives:
February 5, 2006 The M80 Stiletto Experimental
Vessel was launched this week offering a sneak peak
at the next generation of military vessels. The Stiletto
is an operational experiment by the Pentagon’s Office
of Force Transformation (OFT) and its revolutionary
carbon fibre structure and hull enable it to operate in
shallow water, with 50 knot speeds, stability and great
stealth as part of its armoury. Costing US$12.5 million
to develop and build, the 88ft vessel is capable of
carrying 37 tonnes at speed over a range of 500
nautical miles. The patented M-hull design transitions
automatically and efficiently through hydrostatic,
hydrodynamic and aerostatic lift modes with
increasing speeds effectively creating a cushion of air
and providing a comfortable high speed ride with
great stability, and has enormous promise for a wide
range of nautical applications for boats from 8
through 200 feet (see these stunning concepts). The
Stiletto is powered by four 1,650-horsepower
Caterpillar engines, and can cruise comfortably near
its top speed of more than 50 knots (60 miles per
hour). With a shallow draft of less than 3 feet, Stiletto
has a three man crew, and will carry a complement of
12 US Navy Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) commandos,
an11 metre rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) and either
Manta and Silver Wing unmanned aerial vehicles
The M80 Stiletto initiative is part of OFT’s Wolf PAC
Distributed Operations Experiment, conducted in
association with USSOCOM, to explore command and
control of geographically dispersed, but networked,
autonomous and semi-autonomous military forces.
This new concept of operations by the Department of
Defense is in response to diffuse threats that are
perceived as emerging in the future. An extensive
overview of WolfPAC can be downloaded in PDF
format here.

The M80 Stiletto and Wolf PAC operational
experiment was USN (ret) Vice Admiral Arthur
Cebrowski’s vision for a more adaptive force using
high numbers of smaller, faster networked vessels
designed for littoral, or near shore, waters and costing
less to build than conventional ships, said Cmdr.
Gregory Glaros, Stiletto’s project lead and a military
transformation strategist who worked for Cebrowski.
Cebrowski died last November, but the new Navy
Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), announced
in January 2006, is, in effect, implementing the vice
admiral’s vision for expeditionary combat in the 21st
century, said Glaros.

“We are confident that the M80 Stiletto’s design is
superior to all other existing technologies. 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,” said
Chuck Robinson, co-founder of San Diego-based M
Ship Co. and a former deputy secretary of state with
Henry Kissinger.

The 88-foot long vessel marks a breakthrough in
naval architecture, featuring M Ship Co.’s patented M-
shaped hull that provides a stable yet fast platform for
mounting electronic surveillance equipment or
weapons, or for conducting special operations. The
hull design does not require foils or lifting devices to
achieve a smooth ride at high speeds in rough
conditions. Its shallow draft means the M80 Stiletto
can operate in riverine environments and potentially
allows for beach landings. The fuel-efficient M80
Stiletto is equipped with four Caterpillar engines,
yielding a top speed in excess of 50 knots (nearly 60
miles per hour) when fully loaded and can be outfitted
with jet drives for shallow water operations and

“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 Bill Burns, co-founder of M Ship Co.,
noting that the military is also interested in 40- and
120-foot vessels of similar design. “This makes the
boat faster and more maneuverable because it
remains flat, with almost no heeling, even during high-
speed turns. The vessel’s proprietary design also
gives it a low-radar profile.”

The M80 Stiletto is also notable because it is the
largest U.S. Naval vessel built using carbon fibre
composite and epoxy building techniques, which
yields a very light, but strong hull.

M Ship Co. leveraged its network of collaborative
partners and subcontractors to build the M80 Stiletto
in less than one year. Azimuth Inc. developed the
vessel’s “electronic keel” -- a maritime 1 Gbyte local
area network and data bus for networked plug and
play of emerging technologies such as
communications, surveillance and weapons systems.
SP Systems provided the carbon fiber technology for
the composite hull. The vessel was built by National
City-based Knight & Carver Yacht Center.
An online magazine dedicated to the lifestyle and challenges
of professional towboating.
An online magazine dedicated to the lifestyle and challenges
of professional towboating.
An online magazine dedicated to the lifestyle and challenges
of professional towboating.