Prototype unmanned Australian submarine unveiled

Prototype unmanned Australian submarine unveiled. By Liam Mendes. So much Australian defense news has been downbeat lately, so it’s nice to post some good news instead.

The prototype for a “game-changing” unmanned Australian submarine designed to undertake stealth missions throughout the Indo-Pacific has been unveiled at a top-secret ceremony in Sydney.

The first underwater vehicle, Dive-LD, is capable of spending up to 10 days under water to a depth of 6,000m and will be used to test systems that will eventually feature in three larger autonomous submarines designed and manufactured in Australia over the next three years. …

Compare that 6,000 meter dive depth to the 700 meter hull-crush depth of a manned submarine. (Unless the hull is made of titanium instead of steel, in which case it’s about 1,200 meters. But only four titanium submarines were ever built — in the 1960s, by the Soviets — because they were very expensive.)

The test vehicle for the program, dubbed “Ghost Shark”, was unveiled at a secret location on Sydney Harbour. Attendees were transported by water taxi and closely watched upon arrival, with guests asked to remove location-specific metadata on images captured on phones.

The arrival of the vehicle, never before deployed outside the US, is a major step forward in a $140m partnership between the Royal Australian Navy, Defence Science and Technology Group and Anduril Australia.

Picture: Liam Mendes

The program was described as “stealthy and lethal” by navy capability Rear Admiral Pete Quinn, who said the submarines were a “game changer” for Australia’s defence capabilities.

The range, stealth and persistence would allow the Ghost Shark vehicles to operate undetected through the Indo Pacific, he said. …

“With the advances that will be achieved through the Ghost Shark program, we’ll be able to undertake the dull, dirty, dangerous missions using autonomous and uncrewed systems, safeguarding our personnel and freeing up our crewed submarines for more complex missions, where human decision making is absolutely essential.

Drones driven by AI are replacing humans underwater and in the air, because vehicles without life support can be so much more capable. Perhaps manned fighter aircraft and submarines will be phased out in a couple of decades.

The underwater and aerial environments are hostile to humans, who are not naturally evolved to go there. On the land is a different matter however, and it might be much longer before drones replace humans in land warfare.