Flight Ops

Flight Ops

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

War at Sea: Missile or Torpedo Firing Unmanned Surface Vessels

USV's that fire missiles must be part of the littoral or near coastal sea battle force . . . from about a year ago, US Navy tests first 11-meter missile-firing sea drone (video):

Now, a little bigger, please. Gimme a quad set of such armed USVs operating from a mother ship and I could make life miserable for someone. here. Here's part of the section on weapons for the USV: Oh, yes, the U.S. Navy has a USV "Master Plan"
• Torpedoes - Under consideration within the analysis were: CVLWT, Mk 54 and Mk 48 (ADCAP) Results: Torpedoes provide dual-use capability (ASW, SUW). Torpedoes could also conceivably have a “dial-a-blast” effect (detonate short of target to vary “shock” factor), but this option is not under development and is not strictly required for this mission to be effective.
• Missiles – Under consideration within the analysis were: Hellfire, NLOS-LS (NetFires), and Brimstone. Missile system capabilities that would be desired include: inertial navigation system, fixed box launcher (reconfigurable/modular), sealed units (fire-through end cap), network-able, discrimination achieved via multiple sensor sources, maritime environment operations capable ("marinized"). Results: Small low-cost missiles would be effective, but not at much greater range than larger torpedoes. Though more capable missile systems (e. g., longer standoff ranges, bigger warheads), they are more appropriately installed on and launched from the host ship. For the sizes of missiles reasonable for USV applications, there is little advantage to USV launch. In summary, the weapons of choice in this scenario appear to be torpedoes, since in the sizes capable of being carried on USVs, they alone have the range to engage the enemy outside the threat's counter-boat weapon range. There is also a much greater chance of the target being unalerted by a torpedo attack than a gun or missile attack.
NLOS-LS is toast, so that leaves smaller systems or making the USVs big enough to handle something larger than Hellfire or Brimstone. UPDATE: A very recent Rand report on U.S. Navy Employment Options for UNMANNED SURFACE VEHICLES (USVs) (PDF). Hat tip: Naval Drones, who notes:
The study analyzed the suitability of USVs for 62 different naval missions (yes, there are that many). USVs were compared to other platforms, including manned, and unmanned (UUVs and UAVs). According to the report, USVs are more suitable than other platforms in missions requiring longer endurance, higher power availability for payloads, and the ability to interface “cross domain” sensors and with other platforms above, on, and below the water.


  1. Anonymous8:57 PM

    Torpedoes can out range these smaller missiles and will do much more damage.

  2. Anonymous7:19 AM

    Holy DASH, Batman......


  3. Un nouveau Jeune Ecole?

    I can see a use for these where blowing the target apart with a Mk 46 is overkill.