IO F35

IO F35

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Future is at Hand: ACTUV and the Navy to Come

Future plans:
DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over open seas for months at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).
“ACTUV represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditized, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate,” said Fred Kennedy, TTO director. “The U.S. military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing ‘king’ and ‘queen’ pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of ‘pawns,’ and ACTUV is a first step toward doing exactly that.”
Or, as Robert Work put it:
We are going to remember this because how often can you be at the christening of a robot warship? Now, let me tell you, I'm going to talk a little bit about the Predator in just a few minutes, but in the United States Air Force, there are airplanes and drones. The Navy cannot make that mistake. There have to be warships. And it doesn't matter whether they are manned or unmanned. They will take the fight to the enemy. I'm on a ship that looks like a Klingon “Bird of Prey.”

It's – haze gray. If you look up front of the bridge, at the pilot house, you'll notice big bolts. You can take that pilot house off and this ship can operate autonomously. If the Navy falls in the trap of thinking of these vessels as somehow different than the other haze gray warships that send shivers down the spine of our enemies, wherever they may be in the world, they're going to make a damn big mistake.

Now, I've been waiting for this day for a long time. A long time. We are in a period of incredible technological flux. Advances in autonomy and artificial intelligence and autonomous control systems and advanced computing and big data and learning machines and intuitive rapid visualization tools, meta-materials, miniaturization. They are leading us to a period of a time of great human-machine collaboration.

This will be a change just like other momentous changes in our society. You see this human-machine collaboration in our business and manufacturing now. You see it in our daily lives and you're going to see it increasingly in warfare. So I believe, without a doubt, you're going to look back on this day just like people like you were sitting on the stage when the USS Nautilus was christened, the first nuclear powered submarine, or when the USS Enterprise was commissioned, the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier or when the DDG 1000 was commissioned, our first stealth battleship. And you are going to look back on this and say, "I was part of history."
And it is designed to be very efficient. This ship you see before you costs a little bit more than $2 million to build. It was designed for an operating cost of $15,000 to $20,000 per day, per day. To give you a sense, a DDG [guided missile destroyer], that's $700k per day. We're talking $15,000 to $20,000 for this vessel to operate for 24 hours. An unmanned helicopter operating for 24 hours would cost $300k.

So just like what happened with Predator, I am absolutely salivating to see what is going to happen when this baby gets down to the [Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet] after O&R has checked it all out, made sure it's safe, and see what our creative warfighters of the U.S. Navy can do with it.

You can imagine anti-submarine warfare pickets, you can imagine anti-submarine warfare wolfpacks, you can imagine mine warfare flotillas, you can imagine distributive anti-surface warfare surface action groups, you can imagine this carrying deception vans, electronic warfare vans. You can actually envision, just do the math, these -- we can build these for $20 million, five for $100 million, 25 for half a billion, 50 for a billion.

This area right here looks pretty good. We might be able to put a six pack or a four pack of missiles on them. Now imagine 50 of these distributed and operating together under the hands of a flotilla commander, and this is really something.
Want low cost, potent warships that require no manning, thus saving all that wasted space on the human needs for food, water, berthing? Get on it!


  1. The actual utility of ACTUVs versus the publicly shared concepts described by various press releases, LEIDOS and Robert Work is quite different as potential enemies have no doubt guessed.

    Vessels like Seahunter may be constructed to look alike, but some will be relatively inexpensive decoys to baffle hostile actors. That is all well and good to effectively leverage U.S. defense dollars when we are outnumbered by deployable enemy vessels.

    Without human sailors aboard, however, potentialfoes combatants will hardly think twice before
    anonymously hijacking these ACTUVs upon detection on the open seas to steal technology and hardware or sinking them around sensitive areas as spy vessels.

    The 3 big questions of ACTUV utility then become:
    1- How fast can the U.S. determine the identities of those behind preemptive hijackings and/or sinkings?
    2- In times of peace, what accountability would such foes face if and when positively identified?

    Only friendly countries like Canada may be counted upon to keep their hands off these mysterious platforms.

    3- Due to the doubtfulness of timely legal remedies for their surreptitious theft, sabotage or destruction, will Russia and China will waste no time dissecting variants at will?

  2. Anonymous5:54 PM

    I hope it works. We need something extra as I don't see the US competing with China building enough modern manned ships.