By Edward Lundquist
What has five hulls, nine radars, looks like the Bat-mobile, and can do 60 knots?
The M80 Stiletto is a proof-of-concept vessel now being used as a platform for the military and industry to affordably and realistically demonstrate technology and tactics—in front of potential users--without the time and major costs associated with a full test and evaluation program.
The Stiletto Maritime Technology Demonstration Program belongs to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO), and is one of several experimental craft managed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division’s Combat Craft Division (CCD) at the Joint Expeditionary Base, Little Creek - Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Va.
When launched in 2006, Stiletto proved the concept that a small, fast and agile platform could operate in the littorals as part of a networked force. The 26-meter (88-foot) ship was built as a prototype to validate the unique, wide M-type pentamaran hull design and the qualities of speed, stability, stealth and connectivity.
According to Dennis Danko, CCD’s program manager for the Stiletto Maritime Technology Demonstration program, responsible for both the platform and the testing and demonstrations that take place using the platform, CCD has added a topside arch, workstations, equipment racks, cable conduits, and additional power generators.
Capability Demonstration 18-2 Maritime Craft Radar Systems
“We’re a pretty robust demonstration platform,” said Danko. “We can install a sensor or system and take it out and run it through “a day in the life,” he said. CCD recently conducted a “Capability Demonstration 18-2 Maritime Craft Radar Systems” using Stiletto to evaluate the state of the art of marine radar systems that can be employed on combatant craft and their ability to detect and track surface targets in a near shore environment. Danko and his crew used various targets-- a jet-ski, an 11-meter RIB and a 7-meter RIB, and a simulated periscope--with different courses and speeds to help stakeholders evaluate the radars.
According to Dr. Julie Stark, science and technology manager for DDC, the Stiletto Demonstration Program provides a unique platform to explore innovative technologies without excessive cost to the government, as well as facilitates collaboration throughout the Naval Research and Development Enterprise (NR&DE). And it provides a way to demonstrate new capabilities quickly so they can get adopted more rapidly. “Capability demonstrations often enable new technologies to get to our warfighters much faster.”
“We have nine radars installed topside right now, and we will demonstrate three of them today. We have representatives aboard from Furuno, Ray Marine and Terma, as well as stakeholders from the Navy’s operational forces and DoD laboratories,” Danko said.
Jeff Schleicher of Terma North America, who was demonstrating Terma’s SCANTER 2602 surface search radar appreciated the chance to showcase the radar to potential customers. “This was an excellent opportunity to share information with requirements people and potential customers we probably would have never known about.”
The Terma SCANTER 2602 is specifically designed for small vessel applications, so the demonstration was especially appropriate.
Schleicher said demonstrations aboard a platform like Stiletto can help a company with both new and proven technology. ”If the TRL (technology readiness level) isn’t high, then a vendor can see what is needed to improve the product. And if our TRL is high, we can develop a test plan that demonstrates our out-of-the-box capability while receiving valuable stakeholder feedback that may be used to improve the product.”