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“Star Wars on the Water”: The JMS Ghost

PortandTerminal.com, November 13, 2019

PORTSMOUTH, NH – If you combined a stealth jet fighter with an attack helicopter and stuck it in the water, what would you get? If you said, “Star Wars on the water” you would probably be pretty close to the mark.

Juliet Marine Systems’ Ghost is an advanced stealth ship that, thanks to a technology called super-cavitation, can reduce hull friction to 1/900th that of conventional watercraft. That lack of friction makes it very fast. The Ghost has achieved speeds of over 30 knots (35 mph) and is being tested to 50 knots (58 mph). It also has a shallow (4 foot) draft which makes well suited for littoral operations and is able to smoothly glide over rough seas with waves of up to 10 feet in height.

What’s more, its design makes its radar signature minimal, so most larger ships won’t even pick it up on their radar displays.

Artist Paul DiMare’s visualization of the JMS Ghost in action.

The warship was designed by serial-entrepreneur Gregory Sancoff’s company Juliet Marine Systems. Frustrated by the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 that killed 17 crew members while she was being refuelled in Yemen’s Aden harbor, Sancoff decided to develop a solution.

“Some yahoo terrorists in a cheap little boat and $500 worth of explosives can kill 17 sailors on a billion-dollar ship?

JMS Ghost inventor Gregory Sancoff’s reaction to the USS Cole attack in 2000

The USS Cole was attacked by a small boat filled with explosives while she was being refuelled in Yemen’s Aden harbor. 17 crew members were killed in the attack, 39 were injured.

Sancoff’s vision was to create a fast, stealthy vessel that would patrol the perimeter of naval fleets, ready to spring into action against attacking small enemy boats. Given its unique capabilities, the Ghost is also being marketed as a means of protecting commercial vessels such as tankers against pirate attacks.

The JMS Ghost is reportedly invisible to enemy ships’ radar, while also being faster and more economical than existing military vessels. The base price for the Ghost is just $10 million. The company’s big claim, however, is that Ghost is the world’s first super-cavitating watercraft.

The “wings” of the Ghost are detachable which allows the vessel to be easily shipped to anywhere it is needed

Super-Cavitating Watercraft

Water is quite literally a massive drag. Because it is more than 700 times denser than air, it exerts a great deal more drag on anything trying to move through it, slowing it down. This drag is the reason that historically subs have been the slowest moving element of any country’s military apart from foot soldiers.

Supercavitation involves surrounding an object with a bubble of gas, so it can pass through the water with very little friction. In the case of Ghost, the objects in question are its two submerged buoyant tubular foils.

The two tubular foils above are surrounded by a bubble of gas which allows them to glide through the water with very little friction

Although the company isn’t clear on how the process works, presumably the foils would have to be designed in such a way that when GHOST’s gas turbines thrust it forward, water is deflected outward at the front of each foil, creating an envelope that closes behind it.

Supercavitation has been used in other military applications such as torpedo design to increase underwater speed

Sancoff explained in an interview that the technology behind the Ghost Ship “is like breaking the sound barrier.” Ghost is stealth, can carry thousands of pounds of weapons including torpedoes, and is “virtually unstoppable,” Sancoff said.

The three-crew-member watercraft is intended primarily to patrol the perimeter of naval fleets. It can reportedly carry “thousands of pounds of weapons, including Mark 48 torpedoes” in an internal weapons bay, and could incorporate multiple weapons systems, capable of firing on several targets simultaneously.

JMS has unveiled the Guardian, a submersible unmanned version of its drag-reducing Ghost marine platform

While the GHOST is a surface vessel, the hydrodynamics of the twin submerged buoyant tubular foils are also a testbed for Juliet Marine’s next planned prototype, a long duration UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle).

The Ghost has yet to be put into operation and has, in fact, been the subject of legal action by the government who Sancoff claims have tried to put him out of business.

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