US Military Unveils Monstrous Drone Warship "Sea Hunter"
It’s called the “Sea Hunter,” and if you’re an enemy submarine, it could be your worst nightmare.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the Sea Hunter is a 132-foot beast that can traverse the ocean for months at a time, hunting for undersea vessels.
It costs only $20 million to build and $20,000 a day to run, despite its advanced equipment. And there’s not a single person on board.
According to a news release from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the secretive division that handles the development of emerging military technologies — the Sea Hunter was turned over to the Navy for testing last week after DARPA completed its work. It’s technially called the “Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV),” although “Sea Hunter” sounds a lot cooler.
Sea Hunter has transitioned to @USNavyResearch! ONR will develop the prototype as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle, the 1st of what could become a new class of vessel able to traverse 1000s of kilometers over open seas for months at a time. https://t.co/8TMBZR49L8 pic.twitter.com/iL2YzamV9H
— DARPA (@DARPA) January 31, 2018
Whatever you want to call it, the technology demonstrator is the first example “of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over open seas for months at a time, without a single crew member aboard — as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).”
Now, it’s been turned over to the Office of Naval Research, which will continue to develop the vessel.
In the end, developers hope for a drone ship that can operate for 30 to 90 days at a time with its two diesel engines, crossing the seas at 27 knots per hour.
“ACTUV’s move from DARPA to ONR marks a significant milestone in developing large-scale USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) technology and autonomy capabilities,” Alexander Walan, a program manager at DARPA, said in the release.
“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.”
The story of the Sea Hunter goes back to 2014, when defense contractor Leidos started on building it. The first speed tests were conducted in the spring of 2016 — which, according to Engadget, is when it earned the moniker “Sea Hunter” from DARPA.
It also completed an autonomy test during that time, where it managed to pull off a multi-way-point mission without any additional human directions in terms of speed or course.
However, there will initially be a pilot on board during the test phase. Later test versions are expected to be completely unmanned.
“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, director of the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, in the agency’s news release.
“The U.S. 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.”
While it may be some time before the Sea Hunter — or whatever is developed from it — enters the Navy’s fleet, it’s a critical development in keeping ahead of countries like Russia and China, as well as dealing with asymmetrical submarine threats from countries like North Korea.
Plus, it’s darned cool. I think everyone will pretty much agree with that one.
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