Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Navy’s new drone warship may change naval combat

The Pentagon is about to realize its dream of having a drone warship to hunt foreign stealth submarines.

Meet the ACTUV (Antisubmarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) — a crewless,140-ton, 132-foot-long robotic ship unveiled in Portland’s Willamette River on Thursday.

“This is a big, big, deal,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said.

“It looks like a Klingon Bird of Prey,” he added, admiring the vessel’s narrow bow.

“It’s extremely inexpensive compared to a manned system and it takes men and service women out of harms way. So why wouldn’t we want to do this?”

The ACTUV, pronounced “active,” costs $15,000 to $20,000 a day to operate, according to the Department of Defense. It was conceived in 2010 by Darpa, the Pentagon’s developmental wing responsible for testing emerging military technologies.

And those expenses are chump change compared with the operating costs of an aircraft carrier or submarine. For example, the USS George Washington, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, costs a cool $1.1 million a day to operate, the Navy told The Wall Street Journal. Staffing the ACTUV costs an estimated $684,900 a day.

“You can afford to use it in ways or think about using it in ways that would be too dangerous for a manned vessel,” Scott Littlefield, the ACTUV’s program manager, told Business Insider. “Like taking it into a minefield or taking it within range of somebody else’s weapons.”

“I don’t think we’ll ever get away from sailors on big ships,” he added, “but I could imagine a future in which we have a mixture of ...
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