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Work on Navy’s New Vessel About to Set Sail

Knight & Carver YachtCenter of National City has started work on an experimental, high-speed Navy ship under a $6 million contract.

M Ship Co. of Downtown San Diego is the prime contractor and designer of the 80-foot ship, which rides on two main hulls. Called a “double-M” hull, the design creates an air cushion beneath the ship, allowing for stability, maneuverability and minimal wake at high speeds.

The craft has been dubbed the M80 Stiletto. Its designers predict the ship will have a cruising speed of 40-50 knots.

Knight & Carver says the vessel is envisioned as a troop transport or supply ship. M Ship said the craft has potential for homeland defense. In addition, the ship could be a platform for launching and controlling unmanned vehicles, as well as for launching and retrieving the 36-foot boats used by Navy SEALs.

The M80 Stiletto will be made of carbon fiber and powered by four Caterpillar engines. Construction should take eight months, according to the shipyard.

Other contractors on the project include England-based SP , which will conduct the structural engineering and supply composite materials for the hull , and Virginia-based AMSEC LLC. The latter is a joint venture of Science Applications International Corp. and Newport News Shipbuilding.

Charles Robinson and William Burns are the principals of M Ship Co., which has seven employees. Robinson is a former deputy U.S. secretary of state. Burns’ design credits include Stars & Stripes, a sailing yacht that competed in the America’s Cup races.

The privately financed company has been developing the M hull for six years and has six national and international patents on the technology.

Knight & Carver and M Ship Co. have collaborated on ships with a similar design, including a 65-foot M-hull water taxi for commercial use in Venice, Italy.

Knight & Carver has 159 employees. Its specialties are custom yachts and passenger vessels up to 150 feet in length. The company repairs ships and has a niche side-business: repairing blades from power-generating windmills. Sampson Brown is the company’s chief executive.

This is Knight & Carver’s first major military construction project.

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