China Seizes US Unmanned Underwater Vehicle


A U.S. Navy glider similar to one seized by Chinese forces. US Navy Photooceanglider

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

“A U.S. Navy unmanned buoyancy glider was taken by Chinese forces in international waters earlier this week, two defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Friday.

“The glider was operating with U.S. Military Sealift Command ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS-62) about 50 miles off of Subic Bay in the Philippines when a People’s Liberation Army Navy ship took the glider both defense officials said.”

Perhaps this will prompt some rethink on the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, or ACTUV. Maybe a self destruct option is in order.

ACTUV and TALONS–Cheaper High Tech

NavyRecognition reports that DARPA has tested a combination of two of their projects that we have previously discussed, the Active Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) and the Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS). This is a bit of departure for the ACTUV since it is designed to track submarines, but it might be applicable to counter drug operations in the Eastern Pacific.

“TALONS’ surface-track radar extended its range by 500 percent—six times—compared to its range at sea level. Its electro-optical/infrared scanner doubled its observed discrimination range. The TALONS team plugged in a commercial handheld omnidirectional radio; that radio’s range more than tripled.”

SOUTHCOM has been advocating using his area of operations as a testing ground. Perhaps DARPA would like to try this in the drug Transit Zone.

This is potentially high tech like our computers and cell phones, works better, cost less.

“TALONS is part of DARPA’s Phase 1 research for Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). Now that at-sea demonstration is complete, DARPA is transitioning TALONS to the Navy.”

Wonder if it might fit on the Webber class WPCs? They are larger than the ACTUV.

Here is the DARPA news release.

Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC)

These little Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) may be one way to enhance our Maritime Domain Awareness. They have already traveled a million nautical miles.

NavyRecognition has the story.

I could see a line of these in the Eastern Pacific, used to detect drug smuggling semi-submersibles.

Perhaps we will also see them used to cue Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels.(ACTUV) or maritime patrol aircraft to the presence of submarines. It might not be too expensive to provide a line of them covering an entire trans oceanic route.

There will almost certainly be a war time role for launching these or something similar. Maybe a role for our buoy tenders.

Coming Unmanned Surface Vessels

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.