Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A modern day Mary Celeste?

El Reg has an interesting story today.
Those splendid brainboxes at DARPA - the Pentagon's in-house bazaar of the bizarre - have outdone themselves this time. They now plan an entirely uncrewed, automated ghost frigate able to cruise the oceans of the world for months or years on end without human input.

The new project is called Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), and is intended to produce "an X-ship founded on the assumption that no person steps aboard at any point in its operating cycle". The uncrewed frigate would have enough range and endurance for "global, months long deployments with no underway human maintenance", being able to cross oceans largely without any human input - communications back to base would be "intermittent", according to DARPA.
ASW  operations are always dicey.  There can be collisions, there can be escalations, and even if everything goes "normally", there's always the extra tension and stress involved with keeping tabs on a sub-surface foe.

I think this is a pretty significant step forward, if DARPA get it's it working.  I can't imagine they would arm the vessel, unless those weapons systems were under positive human control at all times.  But for tracking and reporting?  Why not?

Oh, and as the article concludes:
Meanwhile, it seems to us that there's only one possible name for the first ghostly, crewless X-ship of the class.

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