Author Topic: Who needs sailors anyway?  (Read 27144 times)

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Online Colin P

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Re: Who needs sailors anyway?
« Reply #50 on: January 23, 2018, 10:21:12 »
In the marine environment, everything gets attacked at the mechanical, biological, chemical and electrical level. You really have to stay on top of that corrosion.   

Offline Chris Pook

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Re: Who needs sailors anyway?
« Reply #51 on: February 17, 2019, 15:13:36 »

The US Navy

The Navy Just Ordered the 'Orca,' an Extra-Large Unmanned Submarine by Boeing
The Orca unmanned autonomous submersible will be capable of crossing entire oceans and fulfilling a variety of missions, from hunting mines to sinking submarines.

By Kyle Mizokami
Feb 14, 2019

The U.S. Navy has awarded a contract to Boeing for four Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (XLUUVs). In other words: giant drone subs.

The unmanned submarines, called Orcas, will be able to undertake missions from scouting to sinking ships at very long ranges. Drone ships like the Orca will revolutionize war at sea, providing inexpensive, semi-disposable weapon systems that can fill the gaps in the front line—or simply go where it’s too dangerous for manned ships to go.

The contract, announced today, stipulates Boeing will get $43 million for “fabrication, test, and delivery of four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) and associated support elements.” That’s just over ten million bucks per boat.

What does the Navy get? A lot.

The Orca is based on the Echo Voyager technology demonstration sub. That boat is an unmanned diesel electric submarine launched and recovered from a pier. It has a range of 6,500 nautical miles and can run completely alone for months at a time. It measures 51 by 8.5 by 8.5 feet and has a weight “in the air” of 50 tons.

The sub features an inertial navigation system, depth sensors, and can surface to get a fix on its position via GPS. It uses satellite communications to “phone home” and report information or receive new orders. Echo Voyager can dive to a maximum depth of 11,000 feet and has a top speed of eight knots.

One crucial piece of Echo Voyager is the modular payload system that allows it to take on different payloads to support different missions. The unmanned sub has an internal cargo volume of 2,000 cubic feet with a maximum length of 34 feet and a capacity of eight tons. It can also support external payloads hanging off the hull.

How much Orca will improve upon the tech already inside Echo Voyager is unknown. U.S. Naval Institute News says the Orca will be capable of, “mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions.” Orca could carry sonar payloads, sniffing out enemy submarines and then sending location data to friendly helicopters and surface ships.

Orca could even pack a Mk. 46 lightweight torpedo to take a shot at an enemy sub itself. It could also carry heavier Mk. 48 heavyweight torpedoes to attack surface ships, or even conceivably anti-ship missiles. Orca could drop off cargos on the seabed, detect, or even lay mines. The modular hardware payload system and open architecture software ensures Orca could be rapidly configured based on need.

This sort of versatility in a single, low-cost package is fairly unheard of in military spending. The nearest rough equivalent is the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, which costs $584 million each and has a crew of 40. While LCS is faster, has the benefit of an onboard crew, and carries a larger payload, Orca is autonomous—and cheaper by orders of magnitude. For missions such as anti-submarine warfare, dozens of cheaper Orcas could saturate an area better than a single surface ship or perhaps even a manned submarine. A single shore-based crew could control several Orcas, allowing the autonomous subs to operate independently for days or even weeks at a time before issuing fresh orders.

Another benefit of unmanned submersibles: They're more or less disposable and can operate in dangerous waters without risking human lives. Orca could pretend to be a full-size submarine, waiting for enemy submarines to take a shot while a real Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine sits back, waiting to ambush. Orca could take on dangerous missions such as laying mines in heavy defended waters, leaving behind a deadly surprise for enemies that think minelaying in their waters is simply too dangerous for a manned submarine.

Orca may or may not be a system that becomes a full-fledged member of the fleet, although the Navy’s purchase of four of the drones indicates it does plan on using them for real-world missions. The Navy is probably purchasing enough to continue testing while having a few on hand for actual use.

Inexpensive systems like Orca could go a long way towards one of the most understated promises of unmanned air, land, and sea drones: reversing the out of control costs of today’s weapon systems. While the cost of manned ships may not be coming down any time soon, inexpensive unmanned ships could bring overall costs down while adding capability to the fleet.

If you want to watch the future of naval warfare unfold, keep an eye on the Orca.

And on the other side of the Atlantic

Royal Navy wants armed drone ships

THE Royal Navy could have missile carrying robot drone ships within the decade, defence sources say.

PUBLISHED: 16:19, Sun, Feb 17, 2019 | UPDATED: 16:27, Sun, Feb 17, 2019


The ATLAS minesweeping system has already entered service (Image: NC)

The craft would accompany flagship aircraft carriers, freeing up the rest of the fleet to patrol elsewhere. A senior serving admiral said last night: "We are on the cusp of a revolution. We are talking about platforms that will work alongside our existing frigates and destroyers. "We are developing vessels which can be both manned and unmanned; unmanned when escorting taskforces - with the ability to overcome anti-air and ship capabilities - and manned when deployed on more manpower intensive tasks. "History tells us that escorts are there to protect our highest-value units and are therefore at greatest risk. It makes sense to have unmanned platforms for that purpose." Once deployed, drone ships will probably be carried on board destroyers or towed until a taskforce reaches the danger area, where they will be released to operate on the outside edges of the flotilla. The US Navy is already planning to equip small unmanned vessels with missiles and 30mm (1.2in) cannon to protect against the threat of enemy swarm boats.

However, using such vessels would probably increase the risk of force being used, added the admiral. "If you take the man out of the battle-space it clearly becomes a much less high-risk activity, in terms of casualties. There is, therefore, a higher possibility that any enemy will use force against such vessels."

The naval drone initiative follows last week's announcement by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson that the Army will begin using "swarm squadrons" of flying drones to help overcome enemy defences.

According to the MoD's Future Operating Environment 2035 paper, automated systems would result in fewer casualties which "may lower political risk and any public reticence for a military response.

"Automated systems offer almost unlimited potential yet using them is likely to be more constrained by legal and ethical concerns than by the technology itself." While unmanned aerial vehicles have already come a long way, unmanned ships are lagging behind, hampered by the need to ensure safety in crowded waters. But non-weaponised systems, such as mine-hunters and submarine detectors are already entering service.

The ATLAS system, made by Dorset-based Atlas Elektronik, uses "sense and avoid" technology as it tows three or more craft which emit electronic signals to detonate mines.

Unmanned submarine detectors are also near to being deployed in "pinch points", where Russian submarine activity is a problem.

Portsmouth-based L3-ASV is already producing autonomous vessels for the Navy.

Senior director Dan Hook said: "When it comes to mine-hunting, the rate which an autonomous vessel can cover an area far exceeds a conventional vessel. And when we say it operates 24/7, we mean it." Last night, former Sea Lord Admiral Lord West confirmed: "The Navy has been taking these developments very seriously.

"This technology is excellent as long as you're fighting people, but it has limitations in other types of policing missions…which really do require conventional vessels carrying crews."

Judging from the CSC imagery it seems to me that a CSC could transport, support and deploy 5 of those Atlas minesweepers (with or without offensive payloads) and/or something similar to the Orcas described above (depending on the weight capability of the crane assembly in the Mission Bay.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2019, 15:21:16 by Chris Pook »
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