KITTERY, Maine — Gov. Maggie Hassan was one of several state officials to tour a new GHOST boat at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Monday, catching a glimpse of what a handful of entrepreneurs hope is the tactical vessel of the future.
The vessel, created and privately-funded by Juliet Marine Systems, Inc., is the brainchild of Gregory Sancoff, a former medical devices expert who wanted to try his hand at something new. He thought up the idea for the GHOST after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, during which 17 sailors were killed.
“I wanted to do something to help the country,” Sancoff said.
Most importantly, he wanted to come up with a way to help sailors in similar predicaments, those under attack in dangerous waters. He founded Juliet Marine Systems in 2004 and, with the help of other experts, began developing something that would serve as a smaller, stealthier tactical vessel that could provide a variety of services in combat.
“It’s very easy for terrorists to harm a ship,” Sancoff said.
Perfecting the GHOST, which has been taken out for several trial runs in the last two years, is a matter of teamwork. Thomas Richards, a former admiral in the U.S. Navy who has spent his career specializing in naval warfare, serves as a senior military adviser and says he sees many potential uses for the vessel.
“When I walked into this building and I saw this craft, I immediately recognized the number of things where this craft would be hugely applicable,” Richards said.
Hassan agreed, saying she was impressed by what she saw. She emphasized the importance of having entrepreneurs and private investors work on a project that eventually could bring many jobs to the Seacoast.
“This is a great example of New Hampshire ingenuity coming to the fore,” Hassan said, adding the vessel could be groundbreaking. “I’m looking forward to a ride out on the water with this.”
Hassan praised Sancoff’s and the company’s efforts in designing the vessel, saying it was a great example of an entrepreneur responding to a need, and said setting up a new base of operations at the old Great Bay Community College campus would be a positive step toward adding jobs. Hassan also said she hoped high-tech, cutting-edge vessels like the GHOST boat would help get younger people interested in this type of innovation.
Also attending Monday’s tour were N.H. House Speaker Teri Norelli and state Sens. Martha Fuller Clark and Nancy Stiles.
Fuller Clark called the GHOST a win-win, and visually impressive as well.
“This looks like something out of Star Wars,” Fuller Clark said.
If the description from Senior Product Specialist and driver Cliff Byrd is anything to go by, she isn’t far off. Byrd said what makes the GHOST so valuable is its versatility, smaller size, speed, and its smooth ride. Because the engine sits below the water, it is harder to detect by radar, and its structure is such that the hull provides a relatively easy ride, even in choppy waters. Byrd said the goal is eventually to make it so that the vessel can travel around 1,000 miles.
“I’ve driven a lot of vehicles,” Byrd said. “Smoothest ride I’ve ever had of a boat this size.”
The approximately 70-foot-long vessel can fit about 18 people at the most, making it ideal for rescue operations. It’s small enough that it can be reconstructed and launched from a larger vessel. In short, Byrd said the GHOST can fill a lot of safety and security needs.
Sancoff said they have not secured a contract with the Navy, but have been in discussions. The company is planning more sea tests this summer, with the goal of constantly improving the GHOST’s performance.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Byrd said. “Sometimes you sacrifice in a craft. We’re trying to break that mold.”