Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

DARPA developing unmanned sub hunters

By

August 21, 2012

Artist's concept of the ACTUV in action (Image: DARPA)

Artist's concept of the ACTUV in action (Image: DARPA)

Submarine combat may seem like an obsolete relic from World War II films and Cold War thrillers, but the past 20 years have seen a growing number of increasingly quiet diesel-electric submarines turning up in some very unfriendly navies. In order to counter this threat, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract to the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of McLean, Virginia to develop unmanned submarine hunters capable of operating for months on end without human intervention.

Diesel-electric submarines are a growing worry for the maritime nations of the world. At first glance, they seem no match for their nuclear counterparts that never need refueling and can remain submerged for months at a time, but the diesel boats do have their advantages.

For one thing, they are extremely quiet when running under battery power because they don’t need to run the pumps and other gear needed for a nuclear boat. Unlike older versions, modern diesels can remain submerged for days. Though they have very short ranges, they can operate in shallow coastal areas where nuclear submarines can’t go. And they are much cheaper than nuclear boats.

With Western navies shrinking and unfriendly diesel fleets growing, something is needed to fill the gap. DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program aims to do this by developing a robot ship that can acquire and track submarines for thousands of miles over a period of months without supervision. Not only that, but it can do so operating safely and in accordance with maritime laws.

Requiring new sensors and advanced autonomous systems as well as propulsion systems capable of outrunning a diesel sub, the ACTUV poses challenges, but also provides new opportunities. Not needing a crew, the robot ship will be much cheaper to build and operate – perhaps a tenth of the cost of a conventional sub hunter. It also means that since it has no crew, it can operate in seas that would be too dangerous for sailors, and it doesn’t need a conventional ship’s dynamic stability and reserve buoyancy.

The ACTUV program is in four phases. Phase 1, already completed, evaluated the concept and performed a risk assessment. Phases 2-4, which SAIC has been contracted to complete, cover the design, construction and demonstration of the vessel. DARPA also hopes that the technology will be applicable to other unmanned ship operations.

Source: DARPA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
Tags
4 Comments

US Navy spent over 2 years renting the Swedish Navy's Sterling electric submarine (with crew). To use as a "target" for submarine hunting games. And they didn't find the Swedish sub (hi hi). Sterling engine is as quiet as a Nuke sub but goes into much more shallower waters. Besides Swedish Navy is very happy to have their people trained for free for over two years. So I am wondering if this new hunting sub is a attempt to try counter the silent Stirling sub also or just the rather noisy Diesel electric ones.

Toffe Kaal
21st August, 2012 @ 10:35 pm PDT

I keep hoping that the military of USA will realize that armed drones are a suicidally bad idea before they are hacked and shoot the crap out of us.

Pikeman
22nd August, 2012 @ 12:16 am PDT

Maybe they could use these to these to not have to kill whales and dolphins when mapping the ocean and looking for submarines and such.

Ben Tumaru O'Brien
22nd August, 2012 @ 09:28 am PDT

Great idea. Now the first strike will be obvious to all. When these sub hunters are killed. The real war begins.

ConcordLift
17th July, 2014 @ 08:24 am PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 29,491 articles