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The Disco Volante is a fictional ship in the James Bond novel Thunderball (novel) (1961) and its 1965 film adaptation of the same name. It was a hydrofoil craft owned by Emilio Largo, an agent of SPECTRE. A luxurious craft, it was decked out with sleeping quarters, living areas and many other luxuries. It was purchased with SPECTRE funds for £250,000. The craft plays a pivotal role in the seizure and transportation of two nuclear warheads. It is a high-tech ship that possesses a number of smaller underwater submarine craft. The crew in the movie wear shirts that say "M.Y. Disco Volante". The "M.Y." presumably stands for the ship prefix "Motor Yacht."
The Disco Volante was used primarily for the seizure and transportation of two nuclear warheads stolen from a hijacked Vulcan bomber. As part of SPECTRE's plan, the Vulcan bomber would fly to the prearranged rendevous point with the Disco Volante and make a difficult landing on water, using the underwater landing lights which had been set up nearby. Frogmen would then recover the warheads and return to the ship through its underwater hatch. Once onboard, the bombs would be relocated to an atoll hiding place; awaiting the time when Largo would return with the Disco Volante to move the weapons to their target: Miami.
In the movie adaptation of Thunderball, the ship is destroyed during a pitched battle between Largo and Bond. With no one at the helm and the steering jammed, the ship ran aground at full speed and burst into flames.
The Disco Volante consisted really of two vessels, a front hydrofoil and a rear attached "cocoon", this enabled the hydrofoil to be detached and move independently at high speed. It included an underwater hatch for loading the bombs and giving access for divers.
Behind the scenes
The real craft used in the film was a hydrofoil ferry, The Flying Fish, built by Rodriquez Cantieri Navali, who had built the first successful one at Freccia del Sole. The "cocoon" was built on set. It was purchased for the film for $500,000 and brought from Puerto Rico to Miami for refitting and refurbishment. The hydrofoil never sailed again after the filming. It was rented as a stationary houseboat, docked at a marina on Miami's MacArthur Causeway, until it sank at the dock in the early 1980s.
In the non-Eon Productions 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again, the ship was renamed The Flying Saucer, the English translation of Disco Volante, and owned by Maximillian Largo. In real life, the 282-foot yacht that was used in long shots for the film was known as the Nabila and was built for Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi. The yacht was later sold to Donald Trump, who renamed it Trump Princess. Later Trump sold it to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, who renamed it the Kingdom 5KR. These days Kingdom 5KR can usually be found in Antibes, France or cruising the French Riviera during the summer months.