The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will launch in April a sleek, 132-foot warship from Portland, OR, testing its abilities over a succeeding period of 18 months. The ship is entirely autonomous, fully operational without an onboard crew.
The Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel, or ACTUV, is scheduled to be launched April 17 from the Vigor Shipyards in Oregon.
The ACTUV will continue sea-trials for 18 months following its maiden voyage, where it will be tested for its long-range tracking and self-driving functions.
“Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles,” said DARPA’s Deputy Director Steve Walker, according to the magazine National Defense. “We think the real cost savings will be in operating this vessel at sea compared to how we operate vessels today.”
In addition to locating spying submarines, the ship could also have a role in supplying other U.S naval vehicles and running logistics in operations. At just 140 tons and 132-feet long, the ACTUV is actually small for a warship, and the U.S. naval forces will likely make use of its nimble TK.
It will be christened in April in Portland, Oregon, and then begin to demonstrate its long-range capabilities over 18 months in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research and the Space and Naval Systems Warfare Command.
The diesel-electric submarines, with their nearly-noiseless engines, are incredibly difficult to track from afar. They're also cheap at $200 million to $300 million apiece, making them affordable to the likes of Iran, which claims to have a fleet of 17.