DARPA to launch autonomous submarine hunter vessel

The ever-quieter diesel-electric submarines posing a threat to surface ships might be a thing of the past.

The U.S. Navy, and NATO, who fears the evolving Russian subs, are probably looking up to DARPA’s new anti-submarine warfare “drone ship” which is now being prepared for the sea trials.

U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing an unmanned vessel optimized to robustly track quiet diesel electric submarines under the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.

Officials said the 40-meter unmanned vessel would be launched this spring.

The aim of the project is to make a vessel at a fraction of the price of regular anti-submarine surface combatants. The fact that it would never have a man onboard will allow the vessel to easily match and exceed the speeds of submarines as the vessel would have reduced constraints on conventional naval architecture elements such as layout, accessibility, crew support systems, and reserve buoyancy.

According to DARPA, an advance unmanned maritime system autonomy will enable independent deployment of systems capable of missions spanning thousands of kilometers of range and months of endurance under a sparse remote supervisory control model.

This means the ships would be leaving and returning to harbors autonomously while all the time complying with maritime laws and conventions for safe navigation. The vessels will also be equipped with an autonomous system management for operational reliability, and autonomous interactions with an intelligent adversary, the research agency said.

Should everything go according to plans, the vessel could be expected to enter service sometime in 2017.

The concept video below illustrates the ACTUV program and how it is supposed to work.