The Ghost is the latest and one of the most extraordinary naval assault crafts currently in development. Although comparisons to a Star Wars X-Wing fighter in attack formation are a bit of a stretch, the Ghost clearly looks like something out of a science fiction film.
Ghost is the brainchild of inventor Gregory Sancoff, who owned a series of successful medical technology companies until the day when al-Qaeda terrorists bombed the U.S.S. Cole in the Gulf of Aden, killing 17 sailors and wounding 39. This was the moment Sancoff realized that there was a need for an ultra fast attack vessel whose purpose was to protect a standing fleet from small, fast moving threats.
In 2002 the U.S. Navy conducted, “Fleet Battle Experiment–Juliet,” a simulation that showed the results of a swarm of such small armed craft attacking a standing fleet, the outcome of which was so shocking that it not only solidified the idea that this vessel was an absolute necessity to national security, but also became the namesake of Sancoff’s new company, Juliet Marine Systems.
The Ghost was developed at Juliete Marine Systems in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the $15 million price tag was footed mostly using Sancoff’s own money. The Ghost’s 38 foot long futuristic, angular cabin rests on two 12 foot struts that are each connected to a 62 foot long tube. The leading edge of these tubes, or pontoons, is sharpened to cut through any debris (or manatees) that they may encounter. At speed the pontoons raise the cabin out of the water like a hydrofoil, and the struts fold or swivel at the base like wings, flattening the ship’s profile to allow for navigation in shallow waters. “It’s such a smooth ride, you can sit there and drink your coffee going through six-foot swells,” Sancoff related.
The drive system of this vessel is what really makes this craft so exceptional, each of the Ghost’s pontoons house a 2000 HP gas turbine engine that rotates two propellers mounted on the front of each tube. These propellers not only provide the ship with forward locomotion but also contribute to an effect known as supercavitation. Cavitation is a complex phenomena that happens when a moving fluid is subject to pressures low enough to essentially stretch the liquid to a point when voids or bubbles form. From a nautical engineer’s point of view cavitation is normally something that should be avoided as the bubbles can cause serious damage to propellers, as when they collapse they create shock-waves. In contrast, supercavitation occurs when an object is completely surrounded by a single cavitation bubble and can therefore travel much faster as drag is reduced by a factor of 900. The Ghost utilizes its cavitating propellers to create a mass of bubbles around each pontoon, then utilizing the turbine engines in tandem with the air intake system in the struts fills-in the foam to create a single bubble around each pontoon, and hence the supercavitating effect.
There have been torpedoes designed to utilize supercavitation, most notably the Russian “Skval” that can travel five times faster than a conventional torpedo. Research has also been done on a supercavitating submarine, but to date the Ghost is the first vessel to claim that it utilizes supercavitation as part of its propulsion system. “We’re basically riding on two supercavitating torpedoes. And we’ve put a boat on top of it,” Sancoff said.
Ghost is made of aluminum and stainless steel and has been designed to have no acoustic signature, rendering it invisible to radar. It is also rumored to be nearly silent from 50 feet away. The top speed is unofficially 80-100 knots (over 100 mph), fast enough to get the job done. Steering and stability is achieved through 16 movable flaps on the pontoons that extend out beyond the supercavitation bubble into the surrounding water.
Ghost has been kept largely secret throughout its development and certain details about the craft are still being kept under lock and key. Needless to say, the interest in the project and its revolutionary drive system among foreign and domestic military departments is high. In fact, Juliet Marine’s website has been reportedly attacked over 350 times a month by mostly foreign hackers.
Whether used for troop transport, Special Ops, or coastal and fleet protection, Ghost is up to the job. Seemingly, the Ghost is on course to become, as Sancoff says, “the attack helicopter of the sea.”