Thursday Nov 22, 201208:45 AM GMT
US drone submarine-hunters to patrol oceans
Thu Nov 22, 2012 8:45AM
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The United States Department of Defense is in the initial stages of creating unmanned drone submarines that will navigate the oceans, tracking and following enemy subs for months at a time.

 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for developing new military technologies, started the project because “the growing number of adversaries able to build and operate quiet diesel electric submarines is a national security threat that affects U.S. and friendly naval operations around the world,” according to a statement on the DARPA website.

 

Normally, anti-submarine warfare has been conducted by U.S. Navy captains at the helm of ships, but humans will never board these drones, also known as a “Continuous Trail Autonomous Vessels,” according to Discovery News.

 

The subs will be able to patrol the U.S. coastline for up to 80 days at a time covering thousands of kilometers using non-conventional sensor technologies that “achieve robust continuous track of the quietest submarine targets over their entire operating envelope,” DARPA stated on its website.

 

The vessel’s main task will be to patrol the waters for enemy submarines and then chase them away if located. The sub will also gather information deemed necessary by the U.S. government, which will then be sent to U.S. naval commanders up above on land, according to Discovery News.

 

The only time humans are needed to operate the unarmed drones will be to navigate the robot subs through crowded harbors.

 

In August, DARPA awarded a $58 million contract to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), which is now responsible for designing, constructing and creating a prototype of the vessel. RIA Novosti

 

FACTS & FIGURES

 

In October, the Navy christened its newest nuclear-powered submarine, the $2.6 billion USS Minnesota at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia. The Navy is experimenting with launching robotic mini-subs and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Virginia-class attack subs like the Minnesota. defense.aol.com

 

The Navy is also designing a "Virginia Payload Module" that would increase future submarines' launch capacity, but it's uncertain whether actual development will get funded. defense.aol.com

 

What's more, while sub-launched drones are a new idea to American admirals, "the Israelis experimented with it more than 20 years ago," said naval historian Norman Polmar. "The US Navy's just been horribly slow." defense.aol.com

 

The U.S. Navy in October also launched six Israeli-made Spike missiles from an unmanned 36-foot motorboat after the U.S. Air Force's drones have been firing all sorts of air-to-surface missiles and bombs for roughly a decade. Foreign Policy

 

AHT/HJ

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