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Unique coastal vessel involved in successful drugs haul

M Ship : 18 September, 2008  (Application Story)
Shallow draft customs launch from M Ship involved in the arrest of three drug smugglers off the coast of Florida
The Pentagon's high-speed, shallow-draft "Stiletto" ship, designed and built by M Ship completed a successful 6,000 nautical-mile deployment on a drug interdiction and apprehension mission in the waters off Colombia, the Bahamas and the Florida Straits. The deployment was capped off by a dramatic, high-speed chase of a "go-fast" boat in shallow waters near the Florida coast that resulted in the apprehension of three suspected smugglers.

Even though the Stiletto was officially classified as a "demonstrator," the Department of Defence post-deployment report is expected to confirm that the revolutionary vessel reduced "illicit trafficking sanctuaries," and proved its value as an "affordable, high-speed, shallow-draft craft," according to the author of the report, Capt Jim Hruska, Transformation Strategist, DDR&E/RRTO/Emerging Capabilities Division. The mission went from "concept to deployment in just 6 months," according to the report.

The chase lasted more than two hours at speeds between 40 and 50 knots. When the smugglers realized they could not outrun the Stiletto, they headed for shallow sand bars and reefs, not realizing the draft of the intimidating-looking ship was just 2.5 feet.

The futuristic-looking vessel was deployed in June for a 70-day mission by USSOUTHCOM as part of a joint agency operation with the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Drug Enforcement Administration and US Coast Guard. The objectives of the deployment were to evaluate the potential of the 88-foot craft to support Detection and Monitoring (D&M) and Interdiction and Apprehension (I&A) of vessels engaged in drug trafficking.

"The Defence Department's Director, Defence Research and Engineering (DDRE) has done a remarkable job of introducing and vetting the Stiletto platform to government maritime communities, showcasing not only its advanced M-hull design, but also many ancillary technologies, including composite materials, C4ISR and unmanned systems," said Bill Burns, designer and co-founder of M Ship.

The Stiletto won Time Magazine's 2006 Best Invention Award for the Armed Services, and demonstrates a refreshing "try before you buy" approach to developing new ship designs and technologies that offer joint agencies and coalition forces affordable, mission-accomplishing capabilities.

The Stiletto is capable of speeds exceeding 50 knots and boasts a cavernous interior, yet has a draft of just 2.5 feet. It has a topside flight deck for launching and retrieving UAVs and a rear ramp that can launch and recover an 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) or unmanned water vehicles (surface and subsurface). Military officials praise the Stiletto's inherent flexibility to meet the needs of a variety of missions. It is equipped with an "electronic keel," a plug-and-play computing suite that allows various types of specialised electronic gear to be quickly swapped in and out, depending on the specific mission.
The Stiletto and the patented M-hull Technology are available from M Ship through licensing and construction contracts. In addition, the design and technology are available as a phase three, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program allowing sole-source acquisition contracts.
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