Zyvex has made 54 foot long speed boats out of its carbon nanotube enhanced fiber, Arovex. Arovex is about twice as strong by weight compared to carbon fiber. It promises significant efficiency gains over boats made from fiberglass or aluminum. The 54-foot craft has demonstrated a fuel consumption of 12 U.S. gallons (45.4 liters) per hour at a cruising speed of 24 knots (44 km/h). This, Zyvex claims, constitutes a 75-percent fuel saving compared to a “traditional” boat consuming 50 U.S. gallons (189 liters) per hour, allowing ten times the range. That’s a claim almost as bold as it is hazy, and in lieu of any precise figure on range, it’s worth repeating the claims made about the prototype: an 8,000-pound boat capable of carrying a 15,000-pound payload a distance of 2,500 miles (4,000 km).
The Piranha concept will not be the only one of Zyvex Marine’s Arovex-fashioned watercraft for long. The company has announced two new “platforms” based on the Piranha, the LRV-11 and the LRV-17 – both of which will be offered in manned and unmanned configurations, though there’s no word yet on what these models are for, or what they will look like.
But a clue comes in the shape of the company’s PR bluster. Zyvex is positioning its ultra-modern boats for a new era of naval supremacy, in which huge fleets of colossal ships are not only prohibitively expensive but also undesirable. In a world in which (it claims) the main marine threat is posed by piracy, gun-runners and water-borne terrorism, fast and nimble is what counts. Perhaps for this reason (and maybe for some good PR), Zyvex suggests that the obvious role for an unmanned, long-range USV is as a convoy escort. But it also points out that one of its USVs could be used for stealthy strike attacks, loitering “silently for days or even weeks,” before launching Hellfire missiles or Mark 54 torpedoes. Perhaps less controversial is the potential for such a boat for minesweeping purposes.