The GHOST sitting on the hard in Portsmouth, NH
PORTSMOUTH, NH – A number of people going over the middle bridge between Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, Maine, have noticed a strange looking watercraft on the hard. This watercraft sort of looks like the bug that floats on top of the water. If you look at the cabin you can see her name, THE GHOST, and if you Google this you will see just how innovative her design is, especially how she sails compared to a traditional hull in moderate or heavy seas.
There is no question that the U. S. Navy has a gap in its defenses as proven by the attack on the destroyer USS COLE and the Millennium Challenge Exercise of 2002. This proved that a large group of small high-speed craft could overwhelm a conventional surface force and do considerable damage with extensive loss of life. Anyone who thinks that our enemies have not noticed this issue, you are wrong, and this could have catastrophic consequences.
This project started with Gregory Sancoff who brought together investors, engineers and those with an understanding of the U. S. Navy and her needs and formed Juliet Marine Systems (JMS). Before this Sancoff had spent three decades developing breakthrough technology in the field of healthcare. Here he developed 87 patents and inventions that improved medical care. The team of engineers and naval experts developed a design and began building a prototype in 2007. After almost five years under construction and millions of dollars she was ready for sea trials. A quick glance at her cabin she looks like a F-117 stealth fighter and this translates into a very small radar signature. She is powered with a hybrid engine (twin 1,800-hp gas turbines) and an electric drive. However, what some will miss is that her propellers are on the forward end of the hulls. The engineers developed a way of controlling small waterplane area twin hull (SWATH) vessels at high speed and a method of reducing drag. There are computer systems on board that controls the stability of this vessel at high speed. Also, by mounting the propellers on the forward section of the hull, bubbles are created and this significantly reduces drag. This is termed a super cavitating propulsion system. She carries a crew of two; 16-18 passengers; speed, maximum, 70 knots and can operate at this speed in 6 to 8-foot seas.
The U. S. Navy’s Mark V is what is currently in use when introducing soldiers into an area quickly. They have a problem – at high speed the occupants are subjected to hard impacts from bouncing over the waves in a moderate sea state that will decrease their performance in the field. In fact, some have develop broken teeth and back issues. If you watch the video on Youtube, it is impressive to see this boat operate like it is in smooth water when it is actually transiting in a moderate sea state.
The number of applications she can be used for are numerous. She could be used for security, quick transits, law enforcement or pleasure.
What is interesting is that THE GHOST was built for the U. S. Navy at no cost to the taxpayers. When offered to the Navy there was some initial interest. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) sent a contract that said they would take ownership of all the patent rights. Sancoff knew that some of the technology could be used in other applications and giving up the rights would mean that he could not use the technology and he refused to sign the contract. He hoped the Navy would return with a counter-offer and when they did not he offered THE GHOST to foreign allies. When the government heard this they told him that he could not sell it to them and the Navy had the technology used in THE GHOST classified with secrecy orders on four of the patents in October 2009. Now they could not sell or even allow anyone else to see it. Then in August of that year the patents were reinstated and then taken back off again in mid-2011. However, five months later the secrecy orders were lifted. Four years later the Chief of Naval Operations viewed THE GHOST and then asked the ONR about it. The rumour was that they said it was dangerous and it was also rumoured that they were trying to develop their own super cavitating technology.
When JMS was not under secrecy orders they shopped THE GHOST to friendly allies, who after seeing it were interested. Then they received word from the State Department saying that they could not market the system to foreign countries without permission and when asking for permission they would by extremely limited by the State Department’s guidelines.
Sancoff reached out to Senator Kelly Ayotte of NH and despite her efforts this has not gone anywhere.
Five years ago, Sancoff took the government to court claiming that the secrecy orders had damaged the company and its ability to market THE GHOST. The government’s response was that the secrecy orders had not done any damage to their company. When the case went to court all the government layers did was stall continually asking for extensions. Finally, on 14 August 2018 JMS said that a settlement had been reached with the government. Back on 7 May the parties in the lawsuit met with a federal judge mediator and the Justice Department and U. S. Navy agreed to a judgement in favour of JMS with an undisclosed amount being awarded to JMS.
Now, four years ago JMS said that they had plans to build a submersible unmanned surface vehicle called GUARDIAN. She is designed as a surface craft, but is fully submersible and Sancoff said that this will fill a military need that is not being fulfilled currently. Some of the design features of GUARDIAN were tested in THE GHOST, but unlike THE GHOST she can be manned or unmanned and can operate underwater. She will be between 30 to 45 feet in length, powered with a diesel with a hybrid electric drive, which will push her along at 35 knots. Since this announcement there has been nothing else said as to the progress.
Why do people stay away from developing items for the government or simply dealing with them, well this is a perfect example. In the early history of this country there were several instances where a city or state would fund a vessel and donate it to the government who happily accepted it. There are other times, similar to JMS’s issue with THE GHOST, that a private company developed a design for the Navy and were stonewalled even though their design sank during the sea trials. If you want a great example read Andrew Jackson Higgin’s biography.