The Stealth Ship, also named Sea Dolphin II, is a fictional radar and sonar resistant catamaran-style stealth ship constructed by media mogul Elliot Carver in collaboration with rogue elements within the People's Republic of China. Commanded by Captain Scott, the almost undetectable ship was used by Carver in his attempt to provoke a war between the United Kingdom and China and was subsequently destroyed by 007 and the Royal Navy. The vessel appeared in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, as well as its accompanying novelisation and video-game adaptation.
Built prior to the events of the film Tomorrow Never Dies, the stealth ship was constructed from stealth materials stolen from a Chinese military base by Carver's Chinese co-conspirator, General Chang. The vessel was secretly docked (and presumably constructed) in Ha Long Bay in northeast Vietnam, at the most isolated of thirty six harbors and inlets under Chang's control. The vessel's angular design and radar-absorbent materials were designed to significantly reduce its radar signature. Sliding bay doors on the ship's port, starboard and underside - normally flush with its streamlined profile - are opened to expose the craft's weapons systems, which are concealed inside the ship when not in use.
After sending the British frigate HMS Devonshire off-course into Chinese-held waters in the South China Sea, the stealth ship, commanded by Captain Scott under Carver's right-hand man Mr. Stamper, sinks the frigate with a sea drill and steals one of its cruise missiles. Afterwards, Stamper's men shoot down a Chinese J-7 fighter jet sent to investigate the British presence, and kill the Devonshire's survivors with Chinese weaponry.
Later in the film, Bond and his Chinese counterpart, Wai Lin, find Carver's stealth ship in Ha Long Bay and board it to prevent him firing the stolen British cruise missile at Beijing. During the battle, Wai Lin is captured. Bond captures one of Carver's associates, Gupta, to use as his own hostage, but the media tycoon kills Gupta, claiming he has "outlived his contract". Bond detonates an explosive, damaging the ship's hull and making it visible to radar, and vulnerable to a subsequent Royal Navy attack. While Wai Lin disables the engines, Bond goes after the missile. He kills Carver with his own sea drill. As Bond attempts to destroy the warhead, Stamper appears and fights him. Bond traps Stamper using the missile firing mechanism and dives to save Wai Lin as the missile explodes, destroying the ship and killing Stamper.
Behind the scenes
The design of the ship was partly based on the Sea Shadow (IX-529) - an experimental stealth ship built by Lockheed for the United States Navy. Like the Sea Shadow, Carver's stealth ship uses the Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull, or SWATH, design. This is basically a catamaran-type shape that gives the ship a high proportion of deck area, making it large without being heavy and enabling it to handle in rough seas. A pair of hulls supporting the upper hull sit below the waterline, reducing the accompanying waves. Consequently, most of the ship's floatation runs beneath the waves, like a submarine.
It was director Roger Spottiswoode who suggested to Tomorrow Never Dies screenwriter Bruce Feirstein that the showdown between Elliot Carver and James Bond should occur on a stealth ship. Feirstein instantly thought the ship was a perfect fit for a Bond film and worked it into the script. The exterior shots of Carver's ship were created using a large scale miniature model based on the design of the SeaCat cross channel ferries. The catamaran-style model was built by special effects designer John Richardson.
- "The stealth boat was 30 feet long, and weighed about three and a half tons. We shot it in the tank in Rosarita, Mexico that was built for Titanic (1997), the James Cameron film. It was a difficult model to shoot because [the scene] took place at night, and having a black stealth ship on the black sea against the black sky at night, lighting it so that the audience can see it, and making it look real at the same time is not something I'd like to do too often."
- ― John Richardson, special effects designer.
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