The US Navy's 132-foot drone trimaran, Sea Hunter, which targets hard-to detect diesel-electric submarines, could be weaponised
18 January 2017
Sea Hunter, the US Navy’s submarine hunting drone boat looks set to get an upgrade so it can conduct surface warfare missions, fire weapons and launch electronic attacks.
New plans reveal that a turret on top of the trimaran could be replaced with a range of sensors for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems.
The announcement was made earlier this month at the Surface Naval Association in Arlington, Virginia.
However, developers of Sea Hunter are currently concentrating on the manoeuvrability of the vessel before focusing on any upgrade.
Speaking to journalists, the programme manager Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, Captain John Rucker said: “Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself.”
He said the proposed modification meant it would “have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,”
Watch sea trials of Sea Hunter off San Diego below
According to The National Interest magazine, the135-tonne Sea Hunter can travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.
It is built to cope with rough seas, with waves up to 6.5-feet high.
Sea Hunter uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation.
It has a projected price tag of $20 million (£14.2 million), and will cost up to $20,000 (£14,300) a day to operate.
The trimaran has already undergone sea trials off San Diego.
1 April 2016
The US Navy has launched and speed-tested the latest weapon in its arsenal against enemy submarines.
The prototype for a fleet of unmanned ships, called Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels, or ACTUV (pronounced active) for short, is a 132ft-long drone watercraft.
The ACTUV prototype hit a top speed of 27 knots during its test in Portland, Oregon in the US’ Pacific Northwest in March.
The vessel’s official christening is set for April 7, 2016 and the Navy has plans to trial it in the open ocean this summer off the coast of California.
In the words of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who developed ACTUV, the boat is “an unmanned vessel optimized to robustly track quiet diesel electric submarines.”
As DARPA director Dr. Arati Prabhakar and deputy director Dr. Steve Walker told media in February: “Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles.”
The robot watercraft will have the ability to be at sea for three months continuously and will begin an 18-month trial this spring.
Thus far, the boat has managed to track a target submarine from a distance of 1km, which the Pentagon’s military command that oversees DARPA says is a huge step forward for the technology.
As Rear Admiral Frank Drennan, commander of the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command explained in an alarming report, “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is ‘like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city.'”
The number of submarines has reportedly increased significantly in recent years, with Russian shipyards selling diesel-electric submarines to several nations.
ACTUV robot ships would significantly reduce the cost for the US Navy of tracking enemy subs due to its lack of a human crew.
In addition to anti-submarine work, the Navy said the boats could have a role in supplying other ships, logistics, and countering undersea mines.
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