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Stiletto versus the Pirates

May 12, 2009

StilettoNo secret yours truly is a fan of the M80 Stiletto as an affordable pirate-buster. Apparently we aren’t alone in this assumption; just read this from an article in the Washington Times titled “The convoy solution“:

Thankfully, our Navy is not as overtaxed as other military services in the current wars, so adding five to 10 more American vessels to the operation should be feasible. Over the longer term, this is an added scenario in favor of smaller-ship technologies for the U.S. armed forces.

One is the so-called Stiletto, a boat of considerable dimensions but modest weight and cost that captures its own wake and thereby can maintain high speeds at modest cost. It is a $10 million vessel, even counting UAVs (armed or unarmed) operated off its decks.

All for $10 million!! One of the authors is Michael E. O’Hanlon (the other is Stephen J. Solarz), a Democrat analyst who early on declared “the Surge in Iraq is working”. Thus we have high respect for his opinion.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. leessea permalink
    May 14, 2009 9:14 pm

    I talked to the PO down in Green Cove Springs. Then looked up what I could find on ONR site. Being a assualt craft aka ligher guy from way back, I really think that the thinktank gots don’t understand what is right or wrong. Nifty design but WHY?
    you get my other email?
    You seen any more on CNIM L-cat assualt craft?
    http://www.meretmarine.com/article.cfm?id=108703

  2. May 14, 2009 6:16 am

    “bill You’re on T-Craft? The transformer ship? Oh pls don’t get me started. Cost vs payload?”

    Keep yr powder dry… I’m not at liberty to discuss this one much..yet. I will say this though…after over two years of hard work, darned if its not looking like a killer concept. That view is a far, far distance traveled for me, who, when presented with the ONR BAA and the question “waddya think?” laffed out loud..long and hard. ;-)

  3. May 14, 2009 6:12 am

    Mike; I’m not ‘here’ to slam you or your site; I think you provide a great froum and valuable insight and opinion. My revulsion at the various ways the USN has found to botch small combatant ships and craft does not stem in any way shape or form from this ‘souce’, rest assured. It goes back long before anyone coined the term ‘milblog’. ;-)

    I would be just another angry frustrated retired USN advanced ship design guy venting his spleen at a SNAME dinner meeting if it were not for one very important thing: I have been fortunate enough in my own career to have discovered that the USN’s bullheaded insistence on being permanently incompetent is not how it ‘has to be’ at all – because I experienced the exact opposite (success) working with navys outside our borders.

    Run the Stilleto..work the heck out of it. But be methodical about it and DOCUMENT it so that someone somewhere can apply lessons learned in the design of another one.

  4. leesea permalink
    May 13, 2009 10:44 pm

    bill You’re on T-Craft? The transformer ship? Oh pls don’t get me started. Cost vs payload?

  5. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 13, 2009 7:48 pm

    “the USN has a history of “test forever, deploy never”

    Lee I have noticed that as well. Thanks for bringing this up!

  6. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 13, 2009 7:11 pm

    Bill, I admit I’m no engineering expert, and I’ve no reason to doubt your expertise. Consistently, we have been getting larger and larger ships from the experts in Washington, and a rapidly shrinking fleet. I have been watching this as a concerned citizen since my youth, and it isn’t getting better.

    I think over-engineering of vessels is the basic problem. Sure, we could always use more shipbuilding funds, but by packing every conceivable capability, defensive weapon, into naval ships, we have gotten a smaller fleet too exquisite to fight the kind of combat against Third World navies we most often deal with.

    Today we have gotten to the point that the perfect is enemy of good enough, or even practical. Earlier I compared Stiletto to Stryker, and here is another land comparison i think that fits here: We have packed every conceivable capability on the armored tank, as to price it out of the arsenal. We make do with 20-30 year old M-1 vehicles, partly because they are good enough for the insurgency conflicts against non-peer adversaries, but also because we can’t afford to replace them. we canceled the replacement tank in the early 1990s because we couldn’t afford it, and again most recently with the FCS.

    We are currently using these wheeled armored vehicles on the frontlines, and guess what? they are proving “good enough”. Some say they won’t stand up in a conventional fight, but they are contending with these immensely powerful IEDs in Iraq, and holding their own. So I have to wonder if the experts who still claim the MBT as Queen of the battlefield is right.

    So I keep pushing for Stiletto and her small ship kin, until someone proves to me otherwise in combat she doesn’t work.

  7. May 13, 2009 6:26 pm

    “bill you headed to this years MACC? I’ll be at a reunion that week.”

    Leesea, I’ll be missing it for the third year in a row..darn it. I’ll be in Norway for a quarterly program review for our T-craft program(;-)..there is yet hope)

    Ah yes..the stories I too could tell about the poor PC..

  8. leesea permalink
    May 13, 2009 6:15 pm

    bill’s points about the actual problems with Stiletto are correct.

    In addition, the USN has a history of “test forever, deploy never” It was mear temporary aberations that the Asheville class PG and Pegasus class PHMs ever got deployed. The later I would note was with a designated AGP mothership, the former had shore based support.

    IRT small warboats, I have it on good authority from different sources that the Cyclone class PC were mis-begotten from the start. A unfortunate marriage of two different small vessel rqmts.

    It should be noted that SOCOM has taken over procurement of the next-gen version of the MkV SOC. RFIs are on the street, results to follow.

    That said the USN RCB aka CB90s are a product of the “guys in LCRK” CCD. And that is proven existing design.

    bill you headed to this years MACC? I’ll be at a reunion that week.

  9. May 13, 2009 5:53 pm

    It doesn’t require big ship-building pork, graft, corruption. How can that be U.S. Naval strategy?

  10. May 13, 2009 5:24 pm

    Mike, I ‘put forth’ my views standards and practices for small warship design and construction that based on and are very successfully practiced outside the US..especially in countries with a long heritage and tradition in the art of building and operating same… like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, to name but a few. Its funny how often even you hold up their accomplishments as an example we should well pay heed to or their small warships and craft as ones we should have to. I must not be making my points well because you keep missing them entirely.

    On the other hand, I take no issue with your points regardingt the USN’s need for capable small ships in many roles and seldom take any issue with your reasons why you think we do.

    But I will not concede that I am wrong about my assertions regarding Stilleto, its originas and its true capabilities vice other options, and and I am fairly certain you do not have the technical background and experience to rebutt that assertion. I’m violating my own rule about making assumptions there..but you’ve never crossed my path ever in more small warship and comabatant craft design and building programs worldwide over the last 25 years than I could begin to count (the good and the bad.

    Why do we end up with Stilletos as our ‘designated’ only choice to consider when we could do so much better?? That is the fundamental question here…for me at least.

    Yes, we have Stilleto, LCS and JHSV. All suffer from deficiencies of varying degree because the USN insists on being clueless about small high-performance ship and craft design (clueless at higher levels..some very savvy folks are still hidden away in teh various centers gritting their teeth). Yes, of course we should use those and experiment with them. Hell..they are indeed all we’ve got. But please…stop pretending somebody actually knows what the heck they are/were doing in making that the case we are stuck with.
    If I follow yourr logic to its ultimate conclusion, we’d advocate sending folks off to fight Sukoi jet fighters in the latest Rutan ultralight because..well..we have one.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 13, 2009 4:24 pm

    Bill, does ANY USN ship get built by the standards you put forth? How did we get LCS, or DDG-1000, or the San Antonio’s? The only reason the Arleigh Burkes and the carriers work is because they are evolutionary warships with little change in design other than to get bigger and bigger over the decades.

    It seems the only way to get a unique and revolutionary hull in the service is “through political connections”, as you say. They are few new ideas coming from the Navy these days. I root for Stiletto because of its stealth and small size, and affordable cost. Lets get as many as we can in the water, and if we are wrong, it is much easier to change our mind than if we are wrong about the half-billion dollar LCS. And how much did we lose on the Zumwalt before the Admirals decided they made a mistake?

    We are losing time in this century. The pirates have already discovered a hole in our maritime strategy where they can circumvent our Big Ships. So far they are only an embarrassing nuisance, but what if the suicide bombers join in, or the Islamists like Iran, or even China? We need small ships to start making a nuisance of ourselves in these littoral waters, a ship to go in harms way, not one too costly to risk or some pipe dream down the road, or a foreign hull Congress is unlikely to fund. There is Stiletto and the HSVs, and yes even LCS ready to go. Put them to work, I say and let the Navy get into the War on Terror, while the terrorists and the pirates are still in their home waters, and China is not quite ready yet for her day at sea.

  12. May 13, 2009 2:39 pm

    BTW..how does Stilleto deploy ‘armed or unarmed’ UAVs? Which UAVs? And by deploy, I mean, of course, all operational aspects..transit storage, configuration and maintenance..weapons storage and loading..launch and recovery. I haven’t been able to dig up anything on that.

    The 100-ton scale model of the 3KSES frigate successfuly launched an anti-ship missile too…but one look at the pictures and even my 12-yr-old son knows it wasn’t quite up to the standards of a ‘deployable configuration’.. ;-)

  13. May 13, 2009 2:16 pm

    Mike; I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m not against the concept of a vessel the size and with the capabilities ‘advertised’ by the Stilleto’s proponents and PR machine. Quite the opposite is true, in fact.

    I AM very much against the Stilleto in particular and against unchallenged PR hype masquerading as naval architecture and marine engineering..or implications that it is somehow really a well-executed answer to well-developed operational requirements when it is nothing of the kind. ‘kay?. And Stilleto is not unique in that department either; she is, instead, another in a long string of plus-up based wild ideas that got funded through political connections and shoved down somebody’s throat.

    That last sentence aside, again I dearly wish a rational fully-funded and long-term program existed to allow for the continuous experimentation and evaluation of concepts like the Stilleto that were truly based on sound engineering principles, used input from the end-user communities (needs and requirements definitions) and produced transparent and honest evaluation reports as an output. The USN even has already in place the facilities and expert personnel to manage such a program in the NSWCCD folks at Little Creek and AMTC, Pax River. Such an apporach would have immense value..and it would effectively defeat the unfettered PR machines that now exists without real challenge to the validity their content and assertions.

    By way of illustrating the difference.
    The Skjold has been fully tested and documented to be exactly what it is represented to be and is exactly (no more and no less) what it was specified to be; those specifications based on a rigorous analysis of past, present and future missions and capabilities turned in to a very precise staff requirements document to which the vessel was designed and built.

  14. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 13, 2009 12:51 pm

    All the arguments against Stiletto still sound eerily like those made against the Stryker land vehicles, which was supposed to explode enmasse when they first saw combat. But the skeptics were wrong on land and I think wrong in this case as well. In combat conditions we might see the need for additional protection on the M80 AS WE DID ON THE STRYKER IN IRAQ. Now the Army is considering more to replace the defunct FCS.

    We need vessels of all types as I also see a use for larger vessels of the Skjold class. Each would have a different function, instead of the multi-mission, swiss army knife LCS. I am for choice in shipbuilding, while the Navy seems to think the piracy problem solved with the 3000 ton Freedom and her clones. But i am not convinced.

  15. May 13, 2009 12:28 pm

    Actually..where I was really heading was that, unless some kind of well-integrated and well-oiled mothership asset group and associated conops suddenly appeared out of nowhere, I could never see Stilletos operating as pirate busters. I certainly could see a number of USN ‘Skjolds’ do that though. They are large enough to operate almost autonomously in the range of sea conditions (both in the AO and deploying to/from the AO on own bottoms) and provide good crew accomodation..Stilleto is simply not that.

  16. May 13, 2009 12:15 pm

    I realize the size difference between Skjold and Stilleto is considerable and therefor my comments were made with some ‘license’. But yes, the accomodations and crew amentities onboard Skjold are quite remarkable for a vessel of its size and speed..especially when you also factor in her organic offensive capabiiltes. Her lack of range is a red herring..applies only to the RNoN version and not a version built for other end users. With 3000 gas stations sprinkled about her designated littoral operating area..range is not an issue. ;-)

    A more valid comparison, of course, is made (and is the one that HAS been made, for real) between Skjold and our own Cyclones.

  17. leesea permalink
    May 13, 2009 9:53 am

    bill to be fair Skjold is a cadillac compared to a delivery van Stilleto? But still I have my NSW sources who did not like her combat capablities, and I know from my own experience what an RPG can do to even a fantastic plastic boat the PBRs. The NSW types really liked the Skjold!

    Yes I have seen modern composites and I am impressed. The builder of a hovercraft said there were questions about how the Stilletto’s type of carbon fiber compsite would take the stress of sea movement (~I am a driver not an engineer!)

    One still can’t deny that Stilleto is a go fast box truck NOT a Fast Attack Craft by any definition.

    P.S. the have all that on the Skjold!?! you got to love it.

  18. May 13, 2009 9:15 am

    The talking heads that postulate on various operational capabilities of that thing would quickly change their tune if they simply took a couple days away from their keyboard and deployed on it.

    Having myself been underway extensively on the slightly larger KnM Skjold, by comparison, I became quite fond of being served excellent cuisine 3 times a day on white linen, having my own head attached to my own stateroom, a big-screen TV in the wardroom with a large CD librar..and, last but certainly not least, a nice ride in rough seas at 50 knots
    ;-)

  19. Mike Burleson permalink
    May 12, 2009 8:27 pm

    Actually Sven, today’s Neocon movement began in the 1970s BY DEMOCRATS, who were opposed to détente and disarmament.

  20. leesea permalink
    May 12, 2009 5:06 pm

    M80 is a plastic eggshell rejected by Navy SWCCs and now the company is shopping it around hoping to find a command stupid enough to buy more. But of course that is all the more reason the USN might buy another?!!

    Remember M80 was designed to be a SEAL transport and lacks organic weapons. An RPG (B40 or B50 round) could tear a hole the size of a refrigerator in the M80 and then spray shrapnel on the troops inside, so you had better hope they don’t get close to any decent Somali pirates (isn’t that the point?). The smugglers in the Carib are comparatively unarmed.

    Give me more RCB aka CB90s which NECC is already testing at Little Creek. Put the proper guns on them and deploy them off Navy or Coast Guard ships with stern ramps (something else you cannot do with the M80).

    goto: http://www.safeboats.com/default/boats_dynamic_detail.php?boat=7

  21. May 12, 2009 4:28 pm

    Oh, and “Democrat”?

    He’s a Neocon.

  22. May 12, 2009 4:27 pm

    Was that ironic?

    This talking hat
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_O%27Hanlon
    has a track record of getting things grossly wrong about 75% of the time and just wrong 20% of the time.

    He owes his salary to his ability to get almost daily into TV shows or newspapers – but that dropped significantly in the past two years. Even journalists learn to recognize a serial loser after a while.

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