Lockheed Martin has been selected as the main contractor to conduct a study on how to provide the US Navy with large, autonomous ships that can operate for extended periods without a crew. Part of the Navy's Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV) competition, Lockheed is working with Portland, Oregon-based shipbuilder Vigor Works, LLC, and will provide program management, platform integration, systems engineering, combat management, automation, and cybernetic expertise. With the biggest costs of building and operating a ship revolving around putting a crew aboard it, the US and other navies are very interested in creating unmanned or man-optional ships that can carry out both routine and extremely hazardous duties, leaving sailors to handle the sort of executive and complex tasks that still require a human touch. These autonomous ships of the future could be anything from small autonomous patrol craft, to sub hunters, to full-blown combat submarines. Such craft could, ideally, leave port on their own, remain at sea for months at a time, and then return autonomously for refit and maintenance.
Washington – U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Wednesday an ambitious plan to expand the U.S. Navy with a range of unmanned and autonomous ships, submarines and aircraft to confront the growing maritime challenge from China. The Pentagon chief said a sweeping review of U.S. naval power dubbed "Future Forward" had laid out a "game-changer" plan that would expand the U.S. sea fleet to more than 355 ships, from the current 293. The plan, which requires adding tens of billions of dollars to the U.S. Navy's budget between now and 2045, is aimed at maintaining superiority over Chinese naval forces, seen as the primary threat to the United States. "The future fleet will be more balanced in its ability to deliver lethal effects from the air, from the sea, and from under the sea," Esper said in a speech at the Rand Corp. in California. The expansion will add "more and smaller" surface ships; more submarines; surface and subsurface vessels that are optionally manned, unmanned and autonomous; and a broad range of unmanned carrier-based aircraft.
Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Should more agile, F-35-armed, faster-moving big-deck amphibious assault ships be used as mini-carriers? Should future carriers be built smaller, faster, and less "targetable" by enemy missiles? Perhaps future carriers will operate with massive new numbers of drone attack systems?
Fox Business Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on FoxBusiness.com. The U.S. Navy could possibly operate thousands of combat ships in the coming years as the service seeks to combine surface, air and undersea drones into its fleet. It is part of a formal Integrated Force Structure Assessment in which analysis teams led by the chief of naval operations and Marine Corps commandant explored questions of fleet size in relation to fast-emerging man-unmanned teaming integration. "[W]e came up with a discreet number of ships which was more than 355 and then command and control drone networking separately unmanned," Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, said earlier this year at the Navy's 2020 West Conference in San Diego, California. The assessment, Gilday explained, was not so much "coordinated" as "integrated," taking up a blend between a specific number of planned manned ships and a still "conceptual" number of drones.
One of the most important but generally overlooked missions of the U.S. Navy is port security. While incidents in peacetime are generally rare, the 2000 terrorist attack on the destroyer USS Cole remains a real danger. Now the Navy is experimenting with using one of its newest unmanned boats as a way to protect warships sitting pierside from attack. In October 2000, the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole was refueling at the port of Aden in Yemen when it came under attack by Al Qaeda terrorists. A small boat loaded with explosives sidled up to the 10,000 ton destroyer and exploded, killing 17 U.S. Navy sailors and injuring 39.
The US Navy is designing a system for its unmanned robotic warships that will communicate like human sailors, allowing the craft to safely navigate through waterways. The goal is to enable human bridge crews to converse with robot ships using normal speech over the worldwide radio system used for ship-to-ship communication. The Navy ships would be designed to understand secure radio transmissions, incorporate their meaning into its world model, develop appropriate maneuvering plans and respond via voice on the radio. The announcement is to abide by the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), which includes strict instructions on how ships acknowledge each other and pass one another while traveling through waterways. The US Navy is designing unmanned robotic warships that will communicate like human sailors, so it can safely navigate the waterways.
The potential for advances in information-age technologies to undermine nuclear deterrence and influence the potential for nuclear escalation represents a critical question for international politics. One challenge is that uncertainty about the trajectory of technologies such as autonomous systems and artificial intelligence (AI) makes assessments difficult. This paper evaluates the relative impact of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence in three areas: nuclear command and control, nuclear delivery platforms and vehicles, and conventional applications of autonomous systems with consequences for nuclear stability. We argue that countries may be more likely to use risky forms of autonomy when they fear that their second-strike capabilities will be undermined. Additionally, the potential deployment of uninhabited, autonomous nuclear delivery platforms and vehicles could raise the prospect for accidents and miscalculation. Conventional military applications of autonomous systems could simultaneously influence nuclear force postures and first-strike stability in previously unanticipated ways. In particular, the need to fight at machine speed and the cognitive risk introduced by automation bias could increase the risk of unintended escalation. Finally, used properly, there should be many applications of more autonomous systems in nuclear operations that can increase reliability, reduce the risk of accidents, and buy more time for decision-makers in a crisis.
The US Navy has a new method for transporting supplies to off-shore submarines – drone delivery. The military organization has successful delivered a five-pound payload consisting of circuit cards, medical supplies and food to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) while at sea. Delivering supplies by drone will eliminate the need for submarines to pull into ports for goods and allow them to spend more time in the fight. This is the first time the US Navy has employed the use of a drone to deliver goods and Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Keithley, assigned to COMSUBPAC said'What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability.' 'A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than five-pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.'
The U.S. Navy is testing a radical new style of long-distance drone that can take off and land vertically, making it deployable from almost anywhere. The V-Bat drone, which recently completed a fly-test over the Atlantic Ocean can be equipped with an 8 lbs. In prior test, the V-Bat pushed the boundaries of its ceiling altitude, soaring to a height of 15,000 feet and returning safely. V-Bat's defining feature, vertical landing and take-off, make it unique and in some ways, more capable, than other drones used in military operations, according to MartinUAV'With these milestones, V-BAT has demonstrated all of the key performance parameters we set for it two years ago,' said Phillip Jones, Martin UAV's Chief Operating Officer in a statement. 'The focus for the engineering team will now shift to enhancing and refining these capabilities to even better meet & exceed warfighter requirements.'
The proliferation of robotic warships could make naval warfare safer for human beings. But it also could have the unintended effect of reducing the threshold for military action. Recent events in the Strait of Hormuz underscore that danger. In the summer of 2019 U.S. and Iranian forces each shot down a surveillance drone belonging to the other side, escalating tensions that began with U.S. president Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 deal limiting Iran's nuclear program. "The immediate danger from militarized artificial intelligence isn't hordes of killer robots, nor the exponential pace of a new arms race," Evan Karlik, a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, wrote for Nikkei Asian Review.