THE US Navy wants to build a fleet of ten robot warships over the next five years.
The huge ships referred to as Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs) would function as scouts for the main battle fleet, carrying radar and sonar as well as anti-air and cruise missiles.
The vessels will mostly carry out “3D work” – dull, dirty and dangerous.
A document shared with potnetial contractors, posted on the FedBizOpps website, said: “The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.
“With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants.
“The LUSV will be capable of semi-autonomous or fully autonomous operation, with operators in-the-loop (controlling remotely) or on-the-loop (enabled through autonomy).”
The US Navy hopes to build two ships a year, costing £330million per pair, over five years, according to US Naval Institute News.
Each ship would be about 200 to 300ft in length with a displacement of about 2,000 tonnes.
The ships are described as essentially “a light frigate” and will also have some limited accommodation for a human crew, if necessary.
The plan is to have the ships as generally unarmed but with the ability to carry missiles if needed.
LUSVs will also be capable of acting as floating scouts, sailing ahead of manned ships to detect threats early.
CRUISE MISSILE CAPABILITY
The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office originally spearheaded LUSV under a programme called Overlord which initially tried to convert a fast commercial vessel into an unmanned ship capable of travelling for thousands of miles and weeks.
The US is also acquiring a fleet of unmanned submarines.
Boeing was paid £35.4m by the US Navy in February this year for four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles, according to The National Interest.
The 51ft Orca can travel up to 6,500 nautical miles.
In February this year the China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company unveiled a small robotic warship that could give China the edge over the US fleet.
The JARI unmanned surface vehicle is 49 feet long and displaces 20 tons of water, Defence News reported. It can sail for around 500 miles at a top speed of 42 knots, according to the trade publication.
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