The 132-foot-long unarmed prototype, christened the Sea Hunter, is like a self-driving car, only it does not have to do a parallel park. It is designed to cruise on the ocean’s surface for two or three months at a time – without a crew or anyone controlling it remotely.
It makes it a highly efficient submarine stalker which is cheaper to run than manned vessels.
Deputy US Defense Secretary Robert Work said in an interview he hoped such ships might find a place in the western Pacific in as few as five years.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship.”
The Pentagon planners are building a cunning plan to incorporate unmanned drones – with increasing autonomy – into the conventional military in the air, on land and at sea.
China’s expanding submarine fleet is causing some concern that its carrier battle groups in the Western pacific are a bit vulnerable.
Like the Google car, once the ship is found to work and not hit any pedestrians, it could head to the U.S. Navy’s Japan-based 7th Fleet to continue testing.
His goal is to have ships like the Sea Hunter operating on a range of missions, possibly even including counter-mine warfare operations, all with limited human supervision.
The ship’s projected $20 million price tag and its $15,000 to $20,000 daily operating cost make it relatively inexpensive for the US military.