Ghost Fleet: US Navy reveals plans for a fleet of massive unmanned $1bn vessels for ‘dirty and dangerous’ missions
- US Navy wants $400million for the first two vessels to be built in 2020
- The 300ft warships will be packed with anti-air and cruise missiles
- Designed for missions where risk of injury, capture or death is highly probable
- They will be larger than the Sea Hunter, a 132ft unmanned ship, built in 2016
The US Navy wants to buy ten massive robotic ships as part of its Ghost Fleet within the next five years, capable of being deployed on ‘dirty and dangerous’ missions.
The 300ft vessels, packed with anti-air and cruise missiles, will weigh in at some 2,000 tons and the first two are billed at $400million.
Similar to the smallest ‘rated’ class of warship, the Corvette, the Navy wants them deployed on ‘three D missions.’ That is missions which are ‘dull, dirty and dangerous.’
They are deployed in situations demanding super-human physical endurance, on missions which pose a high risk of injury, death or capture.
The Sea Hunter is a 132ft vessel the US Navy recently sent from San Diego to Hawaii and back, the fist unmanned vessel to do so. But they want a fleet of far larger unmanned warships
The Sea Hunter after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The Navy wants to use unmanned vessels in missions it considers are too ‘dangerous and dirty’ for sailors to be put at risk
The Navy already has the Sea Hunter, a 132ft unmanned vessel, which recently sailed from San Diego to Hawaii and back.
The Navy announced last Wednesday it had plans to expand its Ghost Fleet with much larger vessels.
The plans are part of the Pentagon’s desire for ‘attritable’ warfare systems, those technologies which are low-cost, reusable and ultimately disposable weapons.
Of pressing concern to the Navy are new Chinese DF-21D and DF-26 missiles, which can pulverise the greatest vessels in the Naval fleet from hundreds of miles away.
Alan Shaffer, deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told USNI News: ‘We have to guard against things like the DF-21, DF-26 and the whole plethora of Chinese missiles that can reach out and strike a surface fleet or territory out as far as Guam.’
The unmanned warships can also be sent ahead of manned vessels on scouting trips. They are rapid, highly manoeuvrable, have colossal range and endurance.
The Navy’s Ghost Fleet division has already begun work on prototype large robotic vessels, called the Overlord mission, based on converting existing commercial vessels.
These boats have been put through the rigour of war-games and the Navy is satisfied they want the vessels on the seas.
Overlord believes the acquisition of purpose built massive UVs can accelerate their aims to have an operational unmanned fleet in the near future.
The medium displacement unmanned surface vehicle (MDUSV) prototype Sea Hunter pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, October 31, 2018
The Office of the Secretary of Defense states: ‘The Navy is able to rapidly initiate the LUSV (large unmanned surface vessel) program in FY 2020 as a direct result of transitioning the Ghost Fleet Overlord technology.
‘In addition to the two experimentation LUSVs procured in FY 2019 by the Ghost Fleet Program, the Navy will procure two FY 2020 experimentation LUSVs of the same configuration as the Ghost Fleet Overlord systems and modular payloads will be procured to fully populate the 4 Overlord experimentation LUSVs.’
The Navy also has plans for unmanned naval vessels, paying Boeing over £35million in February, for four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles.