US Navy Getting Ten Robotic Combat Ships

The US Navy is buying a new breed of armed unmanned surface combat ships that will add more sensors and weapons to the current fleet. These will be 200-foot to 300-foot ships that displace 2,000 tons.

The Navy plans to buy two large drone ships a year from FY2020-2024 for a total of about $2.7 billion.

The corvette-sized USVs are being developed to field different types of sensors and, eventually, vertical launch system (VLS) cells for a variety of guided missiles.

21 thoughts on “US Navy Getting Ten Robotic Combat Ships”

  1. Your statement proves the need for these ships. Losing these ships would be an expensive loss. Losing our people would be a tragic.

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  2. Great point. I’m assuming that you are correct about the Iranians doing that. Imagine our “Ghost Fleet” suddenly attacking the rest of the fleet. We couldn’t even counter attack the true enemy.

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  3. Actually infrared is unnecessary. The latest satellites have a resolution of 5″.
    “Three are “visible light” satellites, the most recent of which resemble the Hubble Space Telescope and were built by the same contractor at the same Lockheed Martin facility in Sunnyvale, Calif. They are known in the spy trade as “Keyhole-class” satellites. And they have a resolution of 5 to 6 inches, meaning they can distinguish an object that small, but no smaller, on the ground. Two other satellites are radar-imaging, built by Lockheed Martin in Watertown, Colo. Their resolution is about 3 feet.

    While satellites cannot read license plates, they can tell if a car has one. While they cannot tell a mullah by the length of his beard, they can help analysts figure out how many people are chanting along with him at a street demonstration. And while they cannot hover over an area and provide real-time images, other “assets” such as unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, can do that.”

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  4. I wonder if drone technology, on this kind of scale, increases the probability of going to war? How much money would an adversary be willing to lose?

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  5. It’s probably not a stretch to imagine the heavy rayguns getting airborne a decade or so after deployment on ships. Or maybe some new system with a way to elevate the energy projectors temporarily. Maybe a sub with a tethered projector elevated by water jets to a few hundred meters.

    Like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiE58Ri5axQ
    but bigger

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  6. Not at all. The hull normalizes to the surrounding water temperature rather quickly and if the power plant is below the water line it’s pretty easy to shield it which means the satellite has to look for a very diffuse cloud of gas with a slightly elevated temperature (keep in mind we’re not talking about a jet engine here) over an absolutely enormous surface area… and if there’s any wind then that gas cloud becomes even more diffuse even quicker… and if there’s any cloud cover your IR is out of the game.

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  7. Directed energy (laser in particular) are LOS (line of sight), so the response is to launch OTH (over the horizon) weapons in enough numbers to overwhelm the laser defense. In particular, longe range missiles like the JASSM, LRASM, etc. There are always counters to every new weapon.

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  8. A satellite with infrared detectors can spot any surface vessel. Face it, all surface vessels are sitting ducks in a war against China or Russia. Even if the ship was invisible it would have a clear heat signature.

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  9. Exactly, the lower to the waterline the better, makes it harder to detect. The best way to use these is for an ambush style tactic since you could leave them in standby to wait for the right moment.

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  10. Depends on how high they sit above the waterline and whether they have their targeting or navigational radar on. If you keep the radar off until the targets are close and they sit low enough, they will be difficult to find, especially over the horizon. If a aircraft approaches that is hostile, the aircraft wont know it is there until its in firing range. Its hard to pick up an object at sea that is barely taller than a wave. Since they are drones they can essentially sit in standby mode until needed.

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  11. Kind of surprised they don’t have a much lower profile in the water, with pop-up masts or some such to deploy sensors above wave height or whatever. If more storage is for ammunition or fuel, it could be made wider just above the waterline – it appears they are already using an outrigger…

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  12. The question is what doctrines will be invented once there are directed energy weapons of sufficient power to punch holes in current aircraft in a fraction of a second. Air dominance has been key for a very long time but that may change very quickly when aircraft get fried 1 second after detection. Stealth may not be the answer with advancements in new types of radar systems.
    Perhaps heavier and slower designs capable of resisting directed energy weapons? They will need their own anti missile protection because armor can’t handle projectiles. Expensive guided missiles may become useless. We are back to direct fire in combination with directed energy. Drone swarms and more heavily armored units? Space based kinetic weapons for strategic attacks.

    AI systems will target, shot and kill quicker than human reaction time so electronic and cyber warfare will be key assets. Anti sensor technology will perhaps become the new armor. If you can fool the enemy AIs for a few microseconds longer, you win.
    It will look like Star Wars on the battlefield.

    Highly mobile armored ships may actually be quite survivable when no guided flying objects can come close. Energy weapons and heavy armor needs a lot of power so small, modular nuclear power plants will have to be mass produced.

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  13. That’s a pretty nifty idea regarding adapting a sub to AA purposes. Not entirely sure about deploying “radar buoys” but I’m sure there’s a way you could rig up some sort of a targeting chain.

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  14. practically undetectable, due to their tiny size

    That’s a bit of an exaggeration, they are 100 metres long and 2000 tonnes which is much the same size as a guided missile frigate.

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  15. So China and Russia continue on the path toward a few aircraft carries to match the US and building faster missiles to take out the US ships. Now the US is gonna build a bunch of these little ships that carry all the missiles you need and are practically undetectable, due to their tiny size. If you build a bunch of these that can carry sea and surface strike missiles with good range, It allows the US to get in and strike without much notice, since they can be pre-positioned in areas where they can be easily hid, but in range of target areas and wait to be activated. If you equipped a few with AA systems linked to fighters or an AWAS you can use them to take out enemy air forces over the seas quickly.

    Another great Idea would be for the Navy to create a drone sub equipped with an AA missile system and a bunch of radar buyos it can deploy. So in times of a war with a major nation it can set up a radar system and fire on enemy aircraft from below a fight. Even turn it into a SM-3 launcher and position them along the coasts of nations with ICBMs.

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