Dangerroom reports on a new technology being developed for the Navy, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, or ACTUV,. This unmanned surface vessel is intended to dog potentially hostile subs during that awkward period when tensions are high, but before the first shots are fired. The idea is that once the sub is located, one of these unmanned (and at least for now, unarmed) surface vessels will be assigned to trail it using active sonar and other sensors. This should cost less than maintaining a continuous track using Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and would allow manned vessels to avoid coming within range of the sub. If shots are fired, presumably the ACTUV would be the first to go, but it would be a minor loss, and allow the manned vessels to avoid being surprised.
The technology may also have some implications for the Coast Guard. We might see a smaller version of this launched from a cutter to augment the cutter’s radar picture. The technology for this requires developing an artificial intelligence capable of applying the rules of the road–essentially a computer OOD. Some day the Coast Guard may be asked to approve fully autonomous merchant vessels plying the trade routes with no one aboard.