The U.S. Navy is planning to unleash unmanned surface combatants — military robot warships, basically — to accompany other boats that are controlled by a human crew.
Robotic ships are cheaper to operate than manned ships are. Sea Hunter cost around $20,000 per day to maintain, according to DARPA.
A manned destroyer costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per day.
The Navy has done “a lot of work … over the last six or seven months” preparing to formalize programs for large, remotely-operated vessels, Rear Adm. William Galinis, the Navy’s executive for surface ships, told the Surface Navy Association on Jan. 17, 2019.
“We’ve got a set of [requests for information] we’re going to be putting out here probably in the next few days to industry to really start that process, put some proverbial meat on the bones,” Galinis said, according to Breaking Defense , a trade publication.
The programs could cover at least two oceangoing, robotic warship classes.
One is a medium-size unmanned surface vessel around the size of the Defense Advanced Research Agency’s 132-feet-long experimental Sea Hunter robot ship. The medium USVs “will act as scouts and decoys, carrying sensors and jammers,” Breaking Defense reported.
“If their radio and radar emissions draw enemy fire, well, they were relatively cheap and there’s nobody aboard to get killed,” the publication quipped.
There’s also a larger USV around the size of conventional corvette, which Breaking Defense claimed would “provide additional punch, loaded with missile launchers but relying on other vessels to find the enemy and relay targeting data.”