Stiletto Boat: The Water's 'Batmobile'

If Darth Vader drove a boat, it might look like this. The Stiletto is a new experimental high-speed boat being tested by the United States military's Office of Force Transformation.

"I'd say it's a maritime version of a Batmobile," one mariner onboard said. "It looks pretty stealthy and futuristic."

The Stiletto's experimental M-shaped hull is designed for maximum speed even in shallow waters. It can sit in water three feet deep and cruise at 50 miles an hour.

"It's the funkiest looking, fastest thing on the water," said Stiletto vessel master Isaiah Smith.

ABC News was given exclusive access to the Stiletto while it was being tested off the waters of Cartagena, Colombia -- a hotbed of cocaine trafficking.

The U.S. military doesn't normally go to a foreign country to test its experimental military hardware, but officials decided to bring the Stiletto to Colombia to see if it is the boat that will finally enable the Coast Guard to interdict drug smugglers.

In an exercise organized by the U.S. military and Colombian Navy, Colombian sailors pretended to be drug smugglers, using small high-powered boats called "Go Fasts" that typically outrace the Navy or Coast Guard.

The Stiletto is the new exception. In less than a minute, it can launch a 33-foot Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat, or zodiac, with a fully armed U.S. Coast Guard boarding party. No other military craft can launch a boat as fast.

"Our ability to arrive on scene, to get to the target, is so much faster here versus the normal ship," said a U.S. Coast Guard officer, who asked to remain nameless. "Before we could never catch up to a 'Go Fast' once it was spotted."

With coast guard teams using the Stiletto, smugglers seem not to stand a chance. In this test, they were able to outrun the smugglers, cutting off their route even before the drug-smuggling stand-ins had time to throw any of the drugs overboard.

"These guys will typically throw their cell phones and contrabands into the water," said a Navy member. "The sooner we can get to them, the better for us. We can recover the evidence and use it in the trial."

Military Still Assessing $10 Million Stiletto

It's not just the strange-looking carbon hull design that makes the Stiletto different; it's also the way it was built to begin with. The Stiletto cost about $6 million to build, which is a bargain by modern shipping standards.

All of the equipment onboard, from the high-powered mast and 16 cameras, was off-the-shelf technology, with a price tag of $4 million.

The Department of Defense chose to build such a strange-looking craft, bringing the most advanced technology to the cockpit, to compete with their smuggler adversaries.

"I think to get as advanced technology out to the fleet as possible, affordably and quickly," said Cmdr. Kevin Quarderer, project director of the Stiletto and chief innovations commander for U.S. Southern Command. "It's important because our adversaries, they are innovative, they are agile. If we are going to keep up with them, we have to do the same thing."

Before the Stiletto can go into production, the prototype needs tweaks. It is so rough at high speeds that some crew members have gotten hurt. Watercraft operator John Treichel says it's also common for the crew to get sea sick.

Since the Stiletto's first deployment to Colombia, technicians have worked out a few of these kinks in the vessel, installing new sensors and weapons systems. The U.S. Department of Defense is still assessing the $10 million Stiletto. It's not yet clear where a refined design could fit into U.S. military needs. They plan to test the craft again in the open water this spring.

The Stiletto has one other advantage. It is such a mean-looking boat that it doesn't have to fire a shot to intimidate its adversaries.