The US has always been a leader in the field of stealth weapons, but not all of their weapons projects are successful, the Sea Shadow stealth warship.
A team of engineers from Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works office began developing the Sea Shadow stealth warship in 1978, looking to apply the stealth capabilities of submarines to surface ships. It was not until 1993 that the project was made public with a Sea Shadow prototype. The ship was about 50 m long, the beam was 21 m, the draft was 4.6 m, and the displacement was 563 long tons.
The Sea Shadow program was inspired by the F-117 stealth aircraft, which was also the world’s first stealth aircraft. The ship’s propulsion system was a diesel-electric system that can reach a speed of 14.2 knots (26.3 km/h.)
The Sea Shadow was designed with angled surfaces, an unconventional warship design at the time of its birth. Engineers discovered that the angled surfaces could scatter sonar waves, while also reducing engine noise. The Development Team performed acoustic tests at a number of special facilities and made major improvements to the program. The electronic system of this Sea Shadow was also very advanced at the time of its birth. The weapon system is completely hidden inside the hull to increase stealth. The doors would open when fired and the missile would launch from the hull.
The US Department of Defense showed little interest in such tests, until Ben Rich, the head of Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works office, adapted the idea to apply it to surface ships. The Skunk Works office then contracted with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to apply the concept and stealth materials to surface warships, and examine the influence of seawater on radar absorbing materials.
Sea Shadow was revealed to the public in 1993, and was housed at the San Diego Naval Station until September 2006, when it was relocated with the Hughes Mining Barge to the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet in Benicia, California. Until 2006, Sea Shadow and the HMB-1 were maintained and operated by Lockheed Martin for the US Navy.
The US Navy tried to sell Sea Shadow in 2006, but not many people seem to be interested, because the contract required the buyer not to operate the ship but can only destroy it for scrap. It was not clear why Sea Shadow had not been included in museums or other institutions, but it may be related to the technology on the ship. Sea Shadow was sold for scrap in 2012.