Gregory Sancoff is a self-made millionaire and the CEO of Juliet Marine Systems, a company he founded in 2004. Interestingly, he was a former medical devices expert but a terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000 during which 17 sailors were killed changed his life. Wanted to do something to help the country, he designed and self-funded a US$10 million futuristic stealth aircraft – GHOST.
Ghost gets its name from it having “no radar signature at all”. Some say this piece of awesome machine looks like a half-submerged Star Wars “X-Wing” fighter or perhaps a Star Trek Shuttle. But there’s no doubt the alien mothership in a 2012 American military science fiction war film – Battleship – gets its idea from Ghost. Of course, there’re many who say Ghost itself got the design idea from Sea Shadow.
Whatever it is, you don’t want to mess with the Ghost, something which was created by combining a stealth jet fighter and an attack helicopter. Juliet Marine Systems claimed GHOST is the world’s first super-cavitating watercraft – a concept involves surrounding an object with a bubble of gas, so it can pass through the water with very little friction.
Having invested a whopping US$15 million in the project, Sancoff’s 18-person startup has attracted US Navy with their Ghost, which the company calls “attack helicopter of the sea”. Ghost doesn’t look like a boat – its 38-foot main hull is designed to travel above the water’s surface, propped up by two narrow struts. Underwater, each strut is attached to a 62-foot-long tube that contains a gas turbine engine.
Four propellers positioned at the front of the tubes are powered by the two 2,000-horsepower engines. They pull the craft and, with the help of air funneling down through the struts, create a gas bubble around each tube, thanks to supercavitation effect. In the case of Ghost, it cuts drag by a factor of 900. In a nutshell, Ghost makes a bubble and flies through it.
Juliet Marine Systems hope to sell Ghost to the Navy for around $10 million apiece, each capable of transporting sixteen people plus three-crew-member through 10 foot seas and higher without spilling their coffee. It’s particularly useful in conducting coastal defense and anti-terrorism missions, not to mention protecting massive naval vessels from swarm attacks by armed speedboats.
Built from aluminum and stainless steel, the vessel is non-magnetic and difficult to target using sonar. As much as the United States Navy is impressed with this mouth-watering machine, it won’t be an easy sell though, if the US government’s dry-docked stealth ship Sea Shadow, which was shelved after two decades of testing is any indicator.
But Gregory Sancoff, who was inspired by Steve Jobs, was adamant that his baby Ghost is exactly what the US Department of Defence needed – a quiet, stealthy means of transporting troops to enemy beaches. He made a cool US$500 million from building and selling his five companies – Block Design, Block Medical, River Medical, Ivac Medical, and Onux Medical.
In the fall of 2009 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) briefly expressed interest in funding the Ghost project, but Sancoff declined its request for a formal proposal because the agency required use rights to all of Juliet Marine’s patents. Nevertheless, it was a huge achievement, considering that the Navy laughed off his design at the initial stage.
As of now, Juliet Marine Systems will continue to test the Ghost and hope their fortunes will turn for the better once it breaks the commercial SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hulls) speed record of 31 knots, from the present 29 knots. The company is optimistic of hitting 50 knots, the speed of Mark V boats. If US DoD prefers to drag its feet, Juliet can always sell their products to anybody out there.
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