It’s arguably the Navy’s coolest surface vessel and comes with potentially the coolest name.
Meet the M80 Stiletto.
The 88-foot Little Creek-based high-speed craft, owned by the Naval Sea Systems Command, is currently used to test new technologies for the Navy — specifically for Navy Special Warfare forces.
The ship is currently preparing for a trip up the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River to Washington for the annual Sea, Air and Space symposium, which kicks off April 9.
And it will be open for tours, Navy officials say.
Capable of speeds of up to 60 knots, the craft was designed to test the concept of having multiple, high-speed and networked, shallow-draft boats that can operate together in the littorals.
But over the years, it’s spent it’s life demonstrating technology, from transporting Navy SEALs to battle to showing off lots of other cool toys the military would ike to see in action. .
It was designed with a shallow draft of just three feet, making it ideal to operate in littoral and riverine environments. It can cruise for 500 nautical miles at a speed of 40 knots on a single tank of gas.
The vessel even has a small topside flight deck that can launch and retrieve unmanned aerial vehicles, and a rear ramp that can launch and recover 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats and autonomous underwater vehicles.
It weighs 45 tons unloaded and can be hoisted onto a cargo ship, but it can also carry up to 20 tons of cargo.
To date, it’s the largest naval vessel built using carbon-fiber and advanced composite materials, as well as epoxy building, making it lighter but still providing a strong hull.
Though it has spent most of it’s existence in research and development, the Stiletto has been operational. In 2008, it deployed on a 70-day mission for U.S. Southern Command, conducting counter-drug operations in the Caribbean.
Since then, it’s completed odd jobs and research and development for the Navy, something officials say it will continue to do.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.