Underwater armada: US Navy eyes drone wolf packs

Underwater armada: US Navy eyes drone wolf packs. By Dave Makichuk.

It’s bad enough that nuclear submarines are plying the sea, each capable of wiping out a continent — but could you imagine a swarm of robo-subs attacking enemy ships, other manned subs, carrying out clandestine missions or laying mines, all autonomously.

The benefits are obvious — risking an expendable robot will save lives, and, may also save the Navy potential costs down the road.

On Feb. 13, 2019, the Navy awarded Boeing a US$43 million contract to produce four of the 51-foot Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) that are capable of traveling some 6,500 nautical miles unaided, The National Interest reported, citing a US Naval Institute report.

The Navy could potentially deploy the Orcas from existing vessels to conduct “mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions,” USNI reported.

But as Popular Mechanics points out, the Orca’s modular design and relatively inexpensive price tag make the robo-subs a potential game-changer for the Navy.

More broadly, the service is eyeing potential unmanned systems for “robot wolfpacks” of remotely-operated surface vessels to function as scouts, decoys, and forward electronic warfare platforms …

The Navy has pulled all the stops in “the last six or seven months,” Navy surface ship executive Rear Adm. William Galinis told Breaking Defense.

By 2040+ Australia might have 12 expensive French-built submarines of a 2010 design. They will be underpowered, running on lead acid batteries in boats originally designed for nuclear power. Perhaps they will also be fundamentally obsolete.

hat-tip Nick