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The Panama City Division of the United States Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC PCD) is working to develop a non-lethal tool used to significantly slow down or stop moving vessels.

The Maritime Vessel Stopping Occlusion Technologies (MVSOT) program is looking to grant the Naval warfighter a tool capable of slowing down oncoming ships. The MVSOT team is looking specifically for technologies that can temporarily limit or cut propulsion to a ship in a reversible manner. Reversible attacks allow forces the ability and time to de-escalate a potentially escalating situation.

The MVSOT program is working with companies to test commercially available solutions for stopping incoming vessels without causing them permanent damage. These solutions involve using rope and anchors to restrict the forward movement of ships. Tests for these solutions have shown these solutions to be reliable, however this solution is only limited to certain types of ships.

The program is furthering its research and looking to develop a next gen material that doesn’t yet exist in the commercial market. The intent is to develop an all in one solution that can help block or jam underwater propellers. The material in question involves a mix of synthetic hagfish slime and spider silk proteins. The material has swelling, adhesive and strength properties that make it ideal for jamming propellers. Furthermore, the material developed is derived from natural products and therefore are more environmentally compatible according to

The material is intended to “wrap around a boat’s propellers, allowing the propeller to continue to rotate but disrupting the blades from pushing any water and, thus, propelling the boat forward,” said an NSWC PCD materials engineer.

NSWC PCD have been collaborating with

 the University of Michigan, Chapman University, and Utah State University in order to produce synthetic hagfish slime.

Hagfish release slime as a defense mechanism against predators. The slime swells about 10,000 times its original volume when it touches seawater. 

Spider silk is also helpful for such applications of jamming boat propellers. The material rivals Kevlar and is similar to steel on a weight/strength ratio.

As the MVSOT team develop these next gen solutions, they will also begin developing the total solution package, as well as test it in the near future.