The Disco Volante (from Italian meaning "Flying Disc" or "Flying Saucer") was a fictional luxury hydrofoil yacht owned by SPECTRE operative Emilio Largo. The vessel first appeared in Ian Fleming's 1962 novel Thunderball and was later featured in its 1965 James Bond film adaptation of the same name. The vessel was subsequently re-imagined as the Superyacht Flying Saucer for the unofficial 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again and was mentioned in the 2015 mobile video game James Bond: World of Espionage.
The motor yacht, Disco Volante, was a hydrofoil craft, built for Emilio Largo with £200,000 of SPECTRE funds by the Italian constructors, Leopoldo Rodrigues, of Messina. With a hull of aluminium and magnesium alloy, two Daimler-Benz four-stroke diesels supercharged by twin Brown-Boveri turbo superchargers, the Disco Volante could move her 100 tons at around fifty knots, with a cruising range at that speed of around four hundred miles. An expensive vessel, its design had been chosen for the organization's scheme due to its unique combination of speed, cargo/passenger space, high stability, and the essential shallow draft for Bahamian waters. In addition, the Disco Volante assisted Largo in maintaining his front as a millionaire treasure hunter. The vessel was shipped out to the Florida Keys by the South Atlantic route six months prior to the events of Thunderball and served as the method by which Largo moved their stolen atomic bombs.
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.
Aside from its underwater hatch, the vessel's cinematic counterpart came equipped with numerous pieces of equipment which were not included in the novel Thunderball, including:
|Underwater hatch — The vessel is equipped with a concealed opening on the underside of its hull, below the waterline, accessed via a moon pool. The hatch allows divers and equipment to be covertly deployed from the ship.|
|Cocoon section — The aft end of the vessel can be jettisoned from the ship and is armed with a pair of .50 BMG caliber Browning M2 machine guns and an armored Lahti L-39 Anti-Tank Rifle.|
|Smoke screen — In addition to other counter-measures, a smoke screen can be vented from the aft of the ship.|
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.