> our title:

Will Underwater Drones Bring Sea Change to Naval Warfare?

> original title:

Will Underwater Drones Bring A Sea Change to Naval – and Nuclear – Warfare? (excerpt)

(Source: Drone Wars; issued February 24, 2016)

By Chris Cole

Although aerial drones have taken off a lot faster than their maritime and ground-based equivalent, there are some signs that the use of naval drones – especially underwater – is about to take a leap forward.

The US Navy has taken a particular interest in this area and this month, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Pentagon plans to spend $600 million over the next five years on the development of unmanned underwater systems.

Here be drones…

As illustrated by the graphic from the Pentagon’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap (above), there are two basic categories of naval drones; those designed to work on the surface and those for underwater.

Surface unmanned systems already available include the Israeli Protector, an unmanned patrol boat whose “stabilized weapon station has excellent hit-and-kill probability”, and the US Common Unmanned Surface Vessel. However, a much larger and more autonomous unmanned ship is about to take to the seas. DARPA, the research arm of the Pentagon, has just announced that a 40 meters long drone – the snappily named Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) – recently dubbed the Sea Hunter – will undergo 18 months of sea trials beginning in April. This is a demonstrator version of a planned 130 meter long unmanned ship which will run autonomously for 60 – 90 days at a time.

Techblog Jalopnik reports that: “Sea Hunter will go about its mission by heading to sea and searching for underwater contacts autonomously. Once it has found something or is directed to a contact by another asset nearby, it will sprint to that location and attempt to lock onto the submerged contact with its on-board sensors by continuously pinging that same contact with active sonar while using other sensors to collect data on it.”

But it’s research work on underwater drones – known in the military as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) or autonomous underwater vessels (AUV) – that is receiving most funding dollars. In December Rear Adm. Mat Winter, chief of US Naval Research, told an industry conference that the navy planned to field a squadron of underwater drones by 2020. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Drone Wars website.