Fox News on April 5, 2016, reported that the US Navy will soon turn to the open sea to operate drones. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ( DARPA) hopes to track submarines that that haunt the depths of the ocean with drones. Excerpts below:
The very first prototype hopes to demonstrate the potential of what will ultimately become a fleet of unmanned ships, known as Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels (ACTUV to be pronounced “active” for short). The 132 foot long vessel managed to log a top speed of 27 knots during its test in Portland, Oregon, and it’ll be ready for open seas this summer when it launches from the California coast. The drone ship’s official christening is fast approaching on April 7, and the Navy seems pretty excited by the prospects of “an unmanned vessel optimized to robustly track quiet diesel electric submarines.”
In addition to tracking submarines, the ACTUV could prove useful in a number of additional operations. Everything from serving as a supplier to other ships, countering undersea mines, and aiding in the logistics of complex operations could be carried out with these unmanned vessels, especially given their ability to remain at sea for three months at a time without a human crew.
In preliminary tests, the drone has successfully tracked a submarine from 1 kilometer away, which the Pentagon says is a major improvement in the technology. “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” said Rear Admiral Frank Drennan, commander of the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command.
Comment: The new droneship was launched at the Vigor Shipyards in Oregon. It will commence extensive open-water trials for 18 months in California. Throughout this next testing phase, DARPA will closely liaison with the Office of Naval Research and the Space and Naval Systems Warfare Command. The ACTUV is equipped with a Raytheon Modular Scalable Sonar System (MS3), the vessel’s primary search-and-detection sonar and purportedly the first fifth-generation medium-frequency hull-mounted sonar system built by the U.S. defense contractor. The MS3 is designed to autonomously conduct active and passive sonar searches.