US float more robotic warships to examine China

US float more robotic warships to examine China

(MENAFN- Asia Times)

The Associated Press reported last week that the United States is speeding up the deployment of unmanned ships as an affordable way to catch up with China’s fast-growing navy while avoiding costly modern shipbuilding errors.

This year’s iteration of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises from June 29 to August 4 features the newly created Unmanned Surface Ship Division 1 (USVDIV-1), a US naval unit tasked with accelerating the delivery of reliable and reliable operations. Unmanned systems in combination with manned platforms of increased capacity in the fleet,” the US Naval Institute reported.

According to the institute, the USVDIV-1 will operate the USV Sea Hunter and USV Sea Hawk unmanned vessels and the Nomad and Ranger unmanned support vessels.

The Sea Hunter was unveiled in 2016 as part of the U.S. Defense Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Unmanned Ships (ACTUV) program and is suitable for shallow water operations. Two diesel engines give a top speed of 27 knots with 40 tons of fuel for 10,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.

The Sea Hawk is an upgraded version of the Sea Hunter, delivered to the US Navy in 2021. It is slightly heavier at 145 tons and includes more than 300 lessons of the previous design.

According to The Warzone, the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Capabilities (SCO) has converted the Nomad and Ranger from commercial express supply vessels used in various offshore activities, such as resupplying oil rigs and offshore wind farms. As a result, it features large rear cargo areas, which mission planners can reconfigure to accept different payloads.

In September 2021, the US Navy launched an SM-6 missile from a four-pack launcher container from the surface of the Ranger, according to The Defense Post. Testing showed the ability of this type to be a temporary fighter according to the US Navy’s Distributed Lethal Kill Concept.

Trials conducted during RIMPAC 2022 will allow the USVDIV-1 to collect data on ships’ operational requirements and how to integrate unmanned assets into a larger fleet structure, the US Naval Institute says.

The Associated Press report states that the long-term goal is to see how their sensors and radar can be combined with artificial intelligence and manned fighters such as cruisers, destroyers, submarines and aircraft carriers to create a networked, flexible and dispersed fleet that would be more challenging. to track and destroy.

Defense analyst Loren Thompson reports in the Associated Press that cost is the single most important advantage that unmanned ships must offer, as the United States struggles to keep pace with China’s naval shipbuilding program. China already has the largest naval power in the world in terms of the number of ships, and the gap between China and the United States is steadily increasing.

China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning during a maneuver in the South China Sea on April 18, 2018. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The source also states that although the US Navy already uses unmanned ships on a relatively small scale in the Persian Gulf, it should persuade a skeptical Congress to ramp up the deployment of such ships in the much larger Pacific Ocean against China.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released in July 2022 raises fundamental questions about the US Navy’s efforts to expand the deployment of unmanned ships in the Pacific. The report investigates how these unmanned ships are integrated into a larger fleet structure, their concept of operations (CONOPS), acquisition strategies, schedule, costs, technical risks, and implications for US shipbuilding and their potential to contribute to escalation and miscalculation at sea.

The CRS report states that the US Navy is moving forward with developing plans for a more distributed fleet structure in which unmanned ships play an important role, but it also notes that many of the specific details are left to the imagination.

The CRS report also doubts the validity of the US Navy’s focus on the combat metrics of these systems and to a lesser extent on implied indirect sustainability missions and required sustainability assets, such as mother ships and support bases.

Despite these loopholes, Nureddin Seifi, a captain in the Turkish Navy who writes for the Naval Technology Defense website, points out that unmanned ships can be integrated into existing fleet structures as force multipliers by expanding and supporting the situational awareness of manned ships and working with the latter on tasks such as Clear mines, scavenge mines, find, track and engage enemies.

The report also raises questions about how US Navy aircraft develop unmanned surface fighters and how the US Navy will operate and support these systems on a daily basis. The report notes that capacity demands from these systems may constantly change due to the lack of fully developed CONOPS.

Given these questions, defense analyst Robin Laird writes at Defense.info that the United States is exploring how to integrate unmanned ships into joint operations with its allies, how these systems will interact with manned assets and the effects of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. on the capabilities of unmanned naval fighters.

Regarding acquisition strategies, schedule, costs, and technical risks that unmanned ships bring, the CRS report asks whether the US Navy’s risk management and mitigation programs are sufficient to address the risks involved in the technology. It also asks whether operational concepts and enabling technologies such as networks and software are mature enough before the serial production of unmanned ships.

The CRS report notes that the US Navy is using a “learning-on-the-fly” approach to unmanned ships because it has acquired a few prototypes and notes lessons learned from its use. He also states that the US Navy believes this approach is the fastest way to deploy these assets.

However, this practice, as opposed to building ground-first testing facilities, has angered US policymakers in the past due to past failures of expensive programs after the last step was skipped.

Sea fisherman in a file photo. Photo: DARPA

Among these controversial programs are the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which has been discontinued in favor of Constellation-class frigates, and the Advanced Gun System (AGS) for Zumwalt-class destroyers, whose ammunition has proven too expensive for practical use. and the extended development of the Ford-class supercarriers.

Ironically, the CRS report notes that unmanned ships may increase the overall vulnerability to cyberattacks. Their complex systems may increase reliance on human operators, maintenance teams, and manned ships, defeating their goal of dismantling the battlefield.

In a research paper published in 2017 in St Antony’s International Review, Caroline Farren reports that an estimated 30 people are required to operate a Predator or Reaper drone, with an additional 80 people required to analyze drone data. He points out that unmanned ships may end up with similar personnel requirements.

The report also notes that the false promise of battlefield evacuation made by unmanned ships, spurred by misplaced confidence in immature technology and a paradoxical increase in the human input required for these unmanned systems to function, may lead to the premature retirement of manned assets, opening up even the largest gaps in Capacity.

With regard to shipbuilding and maintenance requirements for unmanned ships, the CRS report asks which portion of these unmanned ships could be built by other shipyards that make key combatants in the U.S. Navy and how the production of these systems might affect current U.S. Navy shipbuilding plans and burdens. Work and staffing plans in various facilities.

Perhaps most importantly, the CRS report states that unmanned ships have significant implications for miscalculation or potential escalation at sea. The report notes that these expendable systems may lower the threshold for military action, encouraging commanders to take aggressive courses of action without risking human life.

In addition, the proliferation of unmanned ships can lead to “blitzkrieg,” where opposing autonomous systems interact, resulting in an uncontrollable spiral of escalation.

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