For decades the U.S. Navy has flirted with the small attack boat concept. PT boats in World War II, riverine boats in Vietnam (the so-called ‘brown water navy’), and a series of hydrofoils in the 70s and 80s culminating in the Pegasus-class hydrofoils. Since that time, however, the Navy has invested money or effort into a new class of patrol boats. Patrol boats in the current Navy inventory have been repurposed from civilian models and are not blue water capable or all that formidable in anything other than a harbor defense and control role.
That could all change if the Navy takes a good look at Juliet Marine Systems GHOST program. The GHOST uses a dual-pontoon, supercavitating hull that has achieved speeds of 29 knots (33 mph) and is being tested to 50 knots (58 mph). The boat is made of aluminum and stainless steel which makes it hard to detect on sonar, and its hull angles are optimized for stealth warfare, making it even harder to spot on radar.
Weapons systems currently include the M197 20mm rotary cannon, launch tubes for the BGM-176B Griffin missiles and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rocket for anti-surface warfare (ASuW). It can be equipped with a dipping sonar and four torpedo tubes for Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) or a towing boom for mine-hunting sonars.
The GHOST is crewed by 3-5 sailors and can stay out to sea for up to 30 days. In addition, it can be partly disassembled to fit inside a C-17 Globemaster aircraft. But, the best part of the GHOST system is that it only costs $10 million apiece.
“The cross platform uses of GHOST technology are exactly what a modern, flexible, highly-mobile and lethal US Navy needs for fleet protection as well as shore-line interdiction and rapid, stealth beach landing capability by US Marines. Yet, also, the myriad commercial markets for GHOST beckon with even larger billion dollar markets,” said Kevin J. Kinsella, founding partner of Avalon Ventures and JMS lead investor.
The GHOST can be used for littoral combat, harbor defense, piracy and drug suppression, and fleet protection in littoral areas. It is a quick response boat on the cheap. So why is the Navy even hesitating?
Officially, the Navy is ‘interested’ in the system, but they were looking for a larger littoral combat ship that is blue water capable. Juliet Marine Systems offered a larger version of GHOST, three times the size or 150 foot long that came in six times cheaper than the Freedom-class and Independence-class ships.
As Cmdr. Thurraya Kent, spokesman for the assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition stated in an e-mail, “It’s not procedure to procure a system without established requirements. That said, industry input is encouraged and assists the [Department of the Navy] with innovation and the pursuit of emerging technologies.”
Sometimes the best ideas come from outside-the-box thinking, and the current climate of cost reduction means that looking for innovative solution outside of the normal procurement chain can create opportunities. This is one of those opportunities.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.