Country: UK - Channel Islands
Length: no boat
Join Date: Sep 2006
Like an attack helicopter on water
After years of research under top-secret conditions, Greg Sancoff has unveiled a "game changing" invention he describes as "like an attack helicopter on water."
Named Ghost, it's the world's first "supercavitating" water craft, meaning it travels across water like a boat, but through a tunnel of gas below the surface, he said. The significance of the technology means Ghost moves through the gas instead of water which has 900 times more drag, he said.
"We're creating an artificial environment around our underwater structure," said Sancoff, who is developing Ghost with his own money, while the project is "controlled by the government."
"We're reducing hull friction, which hasn't changed much since the Vikings," he said. "This, in many ways, is probably one of the largest advancements made in the Navy. It's like breaking the sound barrier."
Ghost is also stealth, is powered by jet fuel, can carry thousands of pounds of weapons including torpedoes and is "virtually unstoppable," Sancoff said. He added the cockpit of the prototype is like one found inside a plane and the rear can seat multiple Navy SEALS.
According to a statement by retired Navy Admiral Thomas Richards, who serves on Sancoff's board of directors, Ghost can travel at speeds "in excess of a mile a minute."
The technology can be applied to surface or submersible watercraft which can be manned or unmanned, Sancoff said.
"You can leave Portsmouth and come up off the coast of Africa," he said.
"Secrecy orders," which barred images of Ghost being released to the public were lifted by the Navy on Aug. 10, coinciding with the launch of a prototype in waters off the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
"It'll be seen," explained Sancoff, who said he's discussed the project with officials from the Navy, Coast Guard, Drug Enforcement Agency and the defense industry.
"The government is very interested," Sancoff said, while declining to discuss specifics.
Ghost is being tested from a previously vacant building at the shipyard that Sancoff is leasing. Headquarters for the company he built around Ghost, Juliet Marine Services, are in a circa 1725 ship captain's home on Deer Street in Portsmouth. The doors are always locked, he said, and exterior surveillance cameras are visible to visitors.
"We don't usually let anyone in the office," Sancoff said.
A "medical device guy" with 38 medical device patents, Sancoff, 53, said he's started and sold multiple companies, which has allowed him to retire "a bunch of times" and enjoy financial comfort.
"This is not about making money," he said. "I've been very successful and instead of retiring or playing golf, I'm focused now on solving this problem for the government."
The problem, he said, is attacks on American service people at sea by terrorists, as well as attacks on civilians by pirates. He said he began thinking about it in 2002 after the USS Cole was attacked while the destroyer was refueling in a Yemeni port. The suicide bombing killed 17 sailors, injured 39 "and just about sunk a billion-dollar destroyer," he said.
"Every single day there are men and women out there who are unprotected on ships," he said.
A former inboard hydroplane boat racer, Sancoff said he began reading "every thesis I could find" and talking to experts about the subject of supercavitation.
"I came up with the concept," he said, adding, "We don't want anyone to understand how this works underwater."
Patent protected, Ghost has been under development since 2005 and because of his working relationship with the Office of Naval Research, Sancoff said he's "been unable to talk about it without specific approval" until last week.
"We're very limited on what we can say," he said. "It has to be that way."
He's hired nine employees, including marine design engineers, and has multiple advisors. They've adapted a "skunkworks" model, which Sancoff said means "we're a small company, but we're a sophisticated company."
"We're a group of highly technical people with clearly set objectives," he said. "There are millions of decisions and we make it happen or we don't go home at night. It takes a very special group of people."
Sancoff said Ghost is being developed with private money for the government and "if we do our job correctly, they'll be interested in it." His goal, he said, is to "grow a very successful business here" and be "a leader, a pioneer in hydrodynamic research."
Other applications for the technology could include cruise ships, container ships, torpedoes and unmanned underwater vehicles, he said.
"We have interest from the shipping industry, which loses 10,000 containers a year," he said. "We're just not focused on that now."
Sancoff said he expects to open a second facility in Portsmouth within seven months, then possibly build "a sizable manufacturing facility" at Pease International Tradeport.
"I'd like to have a building where the scrap metal pile, or the salt piles are right now," he said, referencing Portsmouth's working waterfront. "We are very interested in having this be a New Hampshire-based company."
Sancoff said he's already turned down offers for government earmarks and outright company buy-outs.
"I'm not interested," he said.