The Navy’s New Crewless, Drone Warship Will Begin Hunting Enemy Submarines This Year

The US Navy is looking to unmanned ships to tackle one of the hardest tasks of any fleet: antisubmarine warfare. Their latest attempt at finding enemy subs is the “Sea hunter,” an unmanned vessel designed to travel thousands of miles, all while being guided by remote control. The new class of drone ships are in the water and being tested now, and their potential seems promising.

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The Sea Hunter is large for a drone: 132 feet long. It can stay on the water for up to three months. The ship can hit speeds of 27 knots, and is especially stable, thanks to its outriggers and runs off of two diesel engines.

“After two years of testing,” The Daily Mail writes, “the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has officially transferred the ship to the Office of Naval Research (ONR).”

Each ship is estimated to cost $20 million. Testing of the vessel began back in 2016, and the ship has successfully made autonomous voyages between ports. After two years of testing, DARPA has officially turned over the ship to the Navy.

“Our collaboration with ONR has brought closer to reality a future fleet in which both manned warships and capable large unmanned vessels complement each other to accomplish diverse, evolving missions,” Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO), said.

“The [Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel] (ACTUV) represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditized, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate,” said Fred Kennedy, TTO director.

“The US military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing ‘king’ and ‘queen’ pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of ‘pawns,’ and ACTUV is a first step toward doing exactly that.”

If the program is as successful as predicted, it will certainly pave the way for future development within the Navy. Supporters are looking at the technology for automated cargo shipping, too.