Over the last week, the US Navy reportedly christened a brand new vessel dubbed the “Ghost Fleet”, an uncrewed surface vessel referred to as a Marine. It is designed to function without human crew members. The ship is expected to be a test vehicle for the service’s Unmanned/ Manned Ships program, which sends manned warships participating in the battle accompanied by one or multiple unmanned escorts. The Ghost Fleet Overlord program is the Navy’s ideal chance to affordably expand its fleet and capabilities.
Marine was launched in Maryland’s Annapolis, the US Naval Academy’s home. The ship is the third of four Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), which the service deploys to examine the concepts of uncrewed ships. The first two are Tidyand and Nomadic. The fourth, Avant-gardeIs, is under construction.
Per the US Naval Institute News, Gulf Craft, a Louisiana-based manufacturing major, built Mariner. The firm specializes in manufacturing offshore supply vessels, particularly for the oil and gas sector. Offshore supply vessels need small crew members and typically have long, flat payload beds for carrying oversized cargo and shipping containers. The Navy finds the beds quite beneficial for installing mission payloads and missile launchers. In 2021, the service reportedly installed a modular launcher on Tidy and shot an SM-6 air defence or an anti-ship missile from it.
The US Navy has been betting big on its uncrewed ships as a way to expand its fleet without disrupting its budget. The service, which now boasts 300 warships, aspires to grow by 2045 to 523, with 150 vessels being “ghost ships”.
Ghost ships are cheaper to build and, do not need human crew members, are also cheaper to operate. They can be sent on more dangerous or tedious missions that do not require human crew members and can function autonomously, alongside manned ships, or even alone.
The first mission for unmanned vessels will be as part of a team of unmanned/manned ships, for instance, as a floating store for some manned warships. Ticonderoga missile cruisers boast 122 MK 41 vertical launch missile silos, whereas the Arleigh Burke destroyers have 90 or 96 silos. These accommodate anti-ship, anti-aircraft, land attack, and anti-submarine cruise missiles.
What a robot vessel could achieve in the future?
As artificial intelligence advances, a ghost vessel could also be equipped with advanced hardware mission payloads that permit it to carry out missions successfully. A MUSV could also have an antisubmarine warfare module with a towed sonar array, allowing the vessel to patrol a designated portion of the ocean for several weeks. Once the sonar could locate an enemy submarine, the ship would transmit contact data to a human operator located miles away from the sonar.
On determining that there isn’t any friendly submarine in the vicinity, its human operator may command the ghost vessel to launch a MK 54 anti-submarine torpedo in the mystery contact.
The antisubmarine warfare scene is efficient and, at the same time, bad news for any enemy submarine. Instead of a single burk-class destroyer that costs about $1.8 billion and almost 400 humans patrolling a particularly narrow stretch of water, the Navy could patrol 12 times greater the area with 12 unmanned vessels costing about $150 million each, controlled collectively by only a dozen humans.
Unmanned ships, like tanks, aeroplanes, and unmanned systems, are there to save the Pentagon from weapons. Cheap yet capable unmanned systems promise to reverse the trend of fewer weapons becoming more unaffordable. How they will fare remains to be seen, particularly on a mixed battlefield that is populated by civilian ships in this case.
Reference: Popularmechanics, todaycastlive
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