Indonesian Navy Submarine Still Missing; Officials Say Time Is Running Out : NPR


An Indonesian navy ship searches for the submarine KRI Nanggala 402 that went missing this week in the waters off Bali.

Eric Ireng/AP


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Eric Ireng/AP


An Indonesian navy ship searches for the submarine KRI Nanggala 402 that went missing this week in the waters off Bali.

Eric Ireng/AP

Rescuers scouring the Bali Sea for a stricken Indonesian submarine with 53 sailors aboard are hoping the crew could still be alive, but as the hours since the vessel’s disappearance tick by, the chances of survival grow increasingly slim.

The Indonesian navy chief of staff, Adm. Yudo Margono, told reporters Thursday that a search of the vicinity where the diesel-powered KRI Nanggala 402 is believed to have gone down, about 60 miles north of the resort island of Bali, had located an object with “high magnetic force” floating at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (about 165 to 330 feet). “We hope it is the KRI Nanggala,” he said.

But the navy had said previously that it believes the submarine may have sunk in a particularly deep spot in the otherwise relatively shallow sea — about 600-700 meters (2,000-2,300 feet) down — much deeper than the boat’s maximum operating depth and likely below its crush depth.

Even in a best case scenario, the navy chief of staff emphasized that with oxygen expected to run out early Saturday a quick rescue would be critical. “Hopefully we can rescue them before the oxygen has run out,” he said.

The KRI Nanggala was conducting a weapons training exercise early Wednesday when the navy said the sub was given permission to dive and then never made radio contact again.

Earlier, rescuers reported finding an oil slick on the surface and the smell of diesel fuel, but there was no way of knowing whether it came from the sub. While an oil slick might be a sign that the vessel was destroyed, the navy said it could simply mean that the submarine’s fuel tank had been damaged. It could even be a deliberate signal from the crew.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday that he had ordered an “optimal” search for the submarine and that the rescue of its crew was the “main priority.” He expressed sympathy with family members over their ordeal.

The German-built submarine has been in service since the early 1980s. Despite its age, a refit of the vessel by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering was completed in 2012. A Daewoo official told The Associated Press that the company had upgraded the boat’s internal structures and systems.

Speaking to reporters, the navy chief of staff said the submarine had “received a letter of feasibility from the navy” and that “it was ready for battle.”

Navy spokesman Julius Widjojono told Indonesia’s KompasTV earlier that the boat could sustain a depth of 250-500 meters (about 820-1,640 feet). “Anything more than that can be pretty fatal, dangerous,” he said.

A Daewoo Shipbuilding official, Ahn Guk-hyeon, told the AP that the submarine would collapse if it goes deeper than about 200 meters (about 655 feet).

If the vessel is intact, it could be too deep for a rescue, said Frank Owen, secretary of the Submarine Institute of Australia.

“Most rescue systems are really only rated to about 600 meters (1,969 feet),” he told the AP. “They can go deeper than that because they will have a safety margin built into the design, but the pumps and other systems that are associated with that may not have the capacity to operate. So they can survive at that depth, but not necessarily operate.”

He said the Indonesian sub was not fitted with a special hatch seal that would allow the crew to escape into a different vessel during an underwater rescue.

“So the only system they have is to get to the surface and abandon the submarine on the surface; or if they’re in water that is less than 180 metres [590 feet] in depth they could put a special suit on so they can breathe and not burst their lungs and they can get to the surface,” Owen told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s still risky but it’s doable,” Owen said.

The Indonesian military said Thursday that at least 20 navy ships, two submarines and five aircraft have been searching the area and that a hydro-oceanographic survey ship equipped with underwater detection equipment was also on its way to the area of the oil slick.

Australia, South Korea, the United States, Germany, France, Russia, India and Turkey have all offered to assist in the search for the submarine and a possible rescue, the Indonesian navy said.

Vessels from Singapore and Malaysia are also reportedly joining in the search but won’t be able to reach the area until the weekend.



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Putin’s stealth subs could cripple Britain by cutting undersea internet cables as Russia launches new Arctic front


VLADIMIR Putin’s shadowy fleet of submarines dedicated to tampering with vital undersea internet cables could cripple Britain and plunge the country into chaos.

The vessels are operated by a shadowy branch of the Russian military that answers directly to Putin – with a mission to deliver a catastrophic blow to the West.

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The subs are carried underneath beneath an enormous “mothership” undersea vessel and are built to lurk at the bottom of the ocean – entering the Atlantic by sailing down from the Arctic.

They then use robotic arms to tamper with or even cut key cables that help keep the world’s economy moving with potentially devastating consequences.

It comes as Putin has opened up a new front in the North Pole as he builds new military bases in the frozen wastes – giving him control of polar waters across 11 of the world’s time zones.

Tensions continue to simmer between the West and Russia who have both beefed up their presence in the polar region, which is believed to hold significant natural resources.

And cutting the undersea cables could be a key element in any conflict between the two sides.

Undersea cables crisscrossing the seafloor carry 97 per cent of internet traffic with $10 trillion worth of daily financial transactions dependent on them.

Cutting enough of the network in the Atlantic could cause chaos for Britain, with Air Marshall Sir Stuart Peach previously warning such a breach could be “catastrophic”.

It could shut down the internet, cut Britain off from the rest of the world, paralyse financial transactions, and damage communications with the military overseas.

And the US is also under threat, with a report Director of National Intelligence urging Washington to push for stronger protections for the undersea cables.

The US Government is reliant on the cables to transfer information with their NATO allies – and as well as cutting them, its also feared Russia or other state actors could tap into the cables to steal information.

Defence expert Rob Clark from the Henry Jackson Society told The Sun Online “the threat is very real” from the secretive Russian subs.

“Their aim is to retain the credible capability either to disrupt or destroy the cables that the UK’s economy and its entire communications rely on,” he warned.

“Even slightly damaged that can cause untold chaos and disruption to the UK.”

And the cables are not hard to find, with their locations being open to the public as global shipping networks have to be aware of their locations.

The dire warning comes as it emerged the threat is being taken so seriously that the Royal Navy has recently ordered a special surveillance ship to protect cables from the Russians.

And one US submariner even described to The Sun Online how he witnessed the Russians practicing lifting the cables in a dress rehearsal for cutting them during any showdown with the West.

A rare picture of what is believed to a Losharik submarine, launched from the Belgorod

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A rare picture of what is believed to a Losharik submarine, launched from the Belgorod
The giant Belgorod 'mothership' submarine

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The giant Belgorod ‘mothership’ submarineCredit: Getty – Contributor

The concentration of cables in chokepoints means any disruption is likely to hit hard, as an earthquake under the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines showed in 2006.

The quake severed six out of the seven cables used to distribute internet and phone services from North America to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

That led a 100 per cent internet outage to Hong Kong and South East Asia, cutting off millions of citizens and businesses from internet and mobile phones.

It has been estimated that cutting three cables could lead to some countries losing 70 per cent of their data traffic.

‘CRIPPLING BLOW’

The impact of any outage on that scale would severely damage the world financial system.

Globally, it has been estimated an average of 15 million transactions a day are wholly reliant on undersea cables alone.

Now Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP penned a paper on the threat in 2017 in which he warned of “full-scale outages” caused by the cable cutting and coordinated sabotage is a “major threat to the UK”.

“A successful attack would deal a crippling blow to Britain’s security and prosperity,” he wrote.

Putin’s mysterious cable cutting submarines

RUSSIA is believed to have six submarines dedicated to the cable cutting mission – with the Losharik the most modern and capable.

Only a handful of grainy photographs exist of the vessel and everything known about it comes from educated guesswork.

A fire on board Losharik in 2019 resulted in the deaths of 14 submariners, reportedly including some of the most experienced decorated in the Russian navy.

The Kremlin has never explained what the submarine was doing just 60 miles off the coast of Norway in the first place.

According to submarine expert H.I Sutton, who writes the Covert Shores blog, the submarine is constructed from seven spherical titanium hulls strung together which gives it extraordinary strength.

The vessel is named after a Russian cartoon horse, which is made up of lots of many spheres joined together.

It can operate at up to depths of 3300ft, far greater than conventional submarines and have special attachments allowing them to rest at the bottom of the sea.

The submarines are deployed from the giant Belgorod, itself designed for special operations, and currently the longest submarine currently serving in the world’s navies.

Mr Clark said disrupting the undersea cables rather than completely destroying them would fit into Vladimir Putin’s goal of goading the West.

“A more likely scenario would be to disrupt the cables rather than destroy them,” he said.

“What should be the response to this? Should we torpedo the submarine or launch a cyber-attack on the Moscow stock exchange?

“Because of that Russia will try to exploit it because they know it’s a weakness.

‘Destroying them would be such a provocation from Russia the likes of which we’ve never seen since the Cold War, even compared to the Salisbury attack.

“So disrupting them is a much more likely scenario. So for example if there was an escalation of UK commitment to the Ukraine, where the British army and Royal Navy are training, then that would a response from Russia.”

The subs are directly controlled by Vladimir Putin

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The subs are directly controlled by Vladimir PutinCredit: AFP

The Russian’s tactics were first deployed during the Cold War and they have been refining them ever since.

Former US submariner Aarron Amick. witnessed the cable cutting subs in action firsthand while working as a sonar operator off the coast of Norway.

“We were monitoring a unit around the coast of Norway when they sent out a mothership, which was a specially modified ballistic missile submarine that had the missiles removed,” he told The Sun Online.

“The area where the missiles were was basically a hanger for a second mini-sub, which they would dock in the belly and they would go down the coast of Norway, which very convenient as it was the closest country with cables.

“They would undock the sub and it would dive very deep, practically to the bottom to locate where these cables where so they could go right to them.

“They would also practice picking them up, not necessarily damage them because it was peacetime, but give them experience in doing everything except that.”

Undersea cables carry 97 per cent of the world's internet traffic

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Undersea cables carry 97 per cent of the world’s internet trafficCredit: Alamy

Vulnerable undersea cables – the width of a garden hosepipe

THE FIRST cable was laid across the Atlantic 1858 and have been at the heart of global communication ever since.

They are mostly operated by private companies with Google recently announcing plans to install a cable linking the US, UK and Spain that would come ashore in Cornwall.

Most cables are around 3cm in diameter, roughly the size of a hosepipe and are cased in galvanised steel armour with a plastic coating.

Data is transmitted down the optical fibres as wavelengths of light travelling at about 180,000 miles per second.

Each fibre has the capacity to transmit as much as 400GB of data per second – about enough for 375 million phone calls.

A single undersea cable can contain anywhere between four and 200 of these fibres.

With so much of the world now dependent on the internet, they have also seen as an Achilles heel.

The idea of tampering cables as a weapon of war was developed by the British in World War One, when German communications were intercepted and its cables cut.

But the Russians have in recent years been seen as a looming menace, building on methods from the Cold War.

When he was an MP, the current Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned about the threat in hard hitting report.

“A successful attack on the UK’s undersea cable infrastructure would be an existential threat to our security,” he said.

He said the US Navy crew observed the operation over a three months and said he was “impressed” by the Russian’s capability.

 “I was doing my job and being professional but in the back of my mind was impressed. At the time the American navy had none of this capability.

“It’s fantastic that this thing goes and this activity continues today.”

Navy warfare expert Sidharth Kaushal from defence think-tank RUSI said the submarines are operated by the GUGI or Directorate for Deep Sea Research, which answers to Putin.

“They’ve been developing a variety of special purpose submarines which are deep diving and have the capacity to withstand very deep pressures,” said Dr Kaushal.

“They could be used for a wide range of activities from tapping into the cables to gather intelligence to severing them to cause economic disruption in an extreme scenario.”

He said cutting cables “fits well” into a Putin’s strategy for fighting the West.

“He knows his conventional forces are inferior to Nato so the emphasis is to impose as much disruption to Western society to convince them the game isn’t worth the candle,” he said.





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HII Awarded $194M Navy Submarine Overhaul Support Extension


March 25, 2021
Contract Awards, News

HII Awarded $194M Navy Submarine Overhaul Support Extension

USS Columbus submarine

Huntington Ingalls Industries (NYSE: HII) will continue engineered overhaul work on USS Columbus, a nuclear powered fast attack submarine in the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles class. under the potential $194.5 million contract modification.

HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division in Virginia will receive nearly $191 million at the time of award for continued efforts toward completing the fiscal 2018 project for SSN 762, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

The company initially secured a $288.6 million in August 2015 to help the branch plan modernization of the undersea vessel and received a $136 million modification in November 2019 for repair, upgrade and maintenance services.

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SASC Leader Supports Maintaining Nuclear Programs


JUST IN: Senate Leader Supports Maintaining Nuclear Triad Budget


2/24/2021


By
Meredith Roaten

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, a B-2 bomber and the Ohio-class submarine USS Tennessee

Photos: Defense Dept.

The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said he supports maintaining current budget levels for the nuclear triad, but he expects the overall defense budget to flatten.

The newly appointed chairman of the SASC said he supported fully funding the three legs of the triad — ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, long-range bombers and ballistic missile submarines — he told reporters at a Defense Writers Group event Feb. 23.

“We have to modernize the triad and maintain in my view the triad for strategic reasons that have been successful for about 70 years,” he said.

He noted the B-21 aircraft for the Air Force and Columbia-class boomers for the Navy specifically need to be monitored to stay within cost parameters. Both systems would replace aging weapon systems that are rapidly approaching their retirement dates, some time over the next decade or so.

The senator did not address calls from some members of his party to reduce or delay the ground-based strategic deterrent that will replace the Air Force’s Minuteman III.

“But in every one of these areas, we can’t avoid looking at cost and trying to minimize those costs,” Reed said.

Reed added that the defense budget will likely increase at a slower rate from the Trump administration years.

He would not prioritize considering cuts to the Air Force’s F-35A joint strike fighter jet program, but that he would look at analyzing the high costs and reliability issues that have been a target of critics. The service plans on buying 1,763 aircraft.

“I think we have to make sure that we send the right signal, but also don’t compromise the operations of the Air Force,” he said.

Congress also has to be wary of how cutting equipment would impact the defense industrial base, Reed noted. Final decisions will be made once the committee is able to weigh all these factors, he said.

Though Reed supports the push for modernization, he said there may be cuts to legacy weapons systems. Senators such as Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have pushed for dramatic budget cuts, but the slim Democratic majority in the Senate means dramatic changes in either direction are likely off the table, Reed said.

Congress passed a more than $700 billion budget for defense for the 2021 fiscal year.  “We’re going to deal with, I think, a much tighter budget going forward, more flat, then rising,” he said. “But within that, I think we have to make judicious calls about what is worthwhile.”

He acknowledged that individual senators often have vested interests in legacy systems, which make cuts challenging.

Functional cost savings could help the defense work within a tighter budget, he said, while mentioning privatizing military commissaries as one example of a way to save on expenses without touching investment for weapons. A majority Republican Senate defeated a proposal to pilot private commissaries in 2016 after a study was commissioned to assess the costs and benefits of the program in 2015.

Meanwhile, Reed addressed opposition from Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., to the nomination of Colin Kahl, Biden’s pick for the undersecretary of defense for policy.

A spokesperson for Inhofe told POLITICO that the senator has issues with some of Kahl’s policy positions. The news outlet reported Republican criticism of Kahl’s support of the deal with Iran, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Reed said he trusted the hearing process and hoped Kahl would have a chance to defend his positions and his experience during questioning next week, March 4. Kahl’s long-standing relationship with President Joe Biden would help the Defense Department build a strong relationship with the White House, Reed added.

“I think he’ll get a fair shot at the hearing,” he said.

The senator added that the committee will “aggressively” pursue the 59 nominations slated for the Defense Department. The lack of a “real transition” to the Biden administration put the department at a disadvantage that needs to be corrected, Reed said.

“We’ve made the point that we need the nominees as quickly as possible … particularly after the last several years of the Trump administration, with the department really in disarray, acting secretaries and people acting for acting secretary,” he said. “So we’ve got to get back to stability.”


Topics: Acquisition, Advanced Weapons



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“Siri, Find Me A Russian Submarine,” U.S. Navy Asks


Virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s
AMZN
Alexa have become popular technological helpers. Ask a virtual assistant to find a restaurant or tell you today’s weather, a soothing AI voice obligingly responds.

So why not a virtual assistant to help the U.S. Navy find Russian and Chinese submarines?

The Navy wants a virtual assistant — like the ones found on consumer smartphones — to help overloaded sonar operators manage multiple anti-submarine warfare (ASW) systems. In particular, active sonar on Navy cruisers and destroyers come with a variety of settings. “This includes employment decisions such as changing the operational mode between pulsed active sonar (PAS) and continuous active sonar (CAS) as well as changing waveform and various other system settings,” according to the Navy research solicitation. “Operators must conduct sonar analysis of resulting sonar returns and interpret them based on the sonar settings and the environment.”

This is where a Siri-like assistant would come in handy. The AI would use sensor data and monitoring of environmental conditions to recommend optimum sonar employment, and to assess potential moves of the enemy sub. The system would provide sonar operators with “situational awareness regarding key parameters such as primary propagation path(s), bearing-dependent complications (such as sea mounts that might obscure threats), significant topology features into which a threat might retreat to minimize detection, best tactical waveforms, and situational best practices to enable operators to maximize the potential of the tactical sonar suite for the specific conditions present at that time and location.”

The Navy is hoping to see at least a 25 percent gain in active sonar efficiency by employing a virtual assistant.

Phase I of the project calls for developing an AI architecture and algorithms. Phase II calls for testing the virtual assistant on the hull-mounted sonar fitted to Navy cruisers and destroyers, as well as the Variable Depth Sonar on Littoral Combat Ships.

Submarines have been long been the nemesis of the U.S. Navy, whose carrier battlegroups can dominate the surface – but are vulnerable to subs armed with sophisticated missiles and torpedoes. In addition to Russian and Chinese nuclear-powered attack submarines, even smaller powers like Iran and North Korea may eventually field a new generation of ultra-quiet diesel-powered attack subs. This will place an even greater strain on the ASW capabilities of a U.S. Navy surface fleet already undermanned and overworked.

The deeper question is whether military technology is becoming so complex that a virtual assistant has become a necessity. Pentagon research agency DARPA, for example, is working on AI battle command assistants to help human commanders.

As always, the benefits of advanced technology must be weighed against the challenges that humans face in mastering it. A Siri-like AI assistant can help.

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Amid delays, new Electric Boat subs set pace for General Dynamics


On the heels of a government audit that illuminated early delays in the construction of a new submarine class at its Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, the CEO of General Dynamics said that she expects the program to be left unscathed by any military budget revisions the Biden administration might seek.

Electric Boat is Connecticut’s largest private-sector employer with more than 12,000 workers at last report at its Groton shipyard and a New London facility, and about 4,000 more at two plants in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island facilities saw a burst of hiring of late after the award last November of a $9.5 billion contract to build the Columbia ballistic missile submarine and a second vessel in the Columbia class that will include a dozen in all if Congress delivers on the Department of Defense’s wishes. The new submarines will replace the U.S. Navy’s existing fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile boats built over two decades beginning in 1976.

During the campaign, President Biden pledged to maintain U.S. military superiority with an emphasis on drones and artificial intelligence, with the Pentagon not expected to release its next budget request before March. New Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is a former U.S. Army general.

General Dynamics recorded profits of $3.2 billion last year on revenue of $37.9 billion. The company has an order backlog of nearly $135 billion it expects to deliver over several years.


On Wednesday, CEO Phebe Novakovic highlighted the Columbia contract amid the continuing impact of the pandemic. The Marine Systems division that includes Electric Boat led all General Dynamics units for growth last year, with revenue up 9 percent to just short of $10 billion.

The two Columbia subs were more than double the size of the next biggest order booked by General Dynamics in the final three months of the year, a $4.4 billion contract to move Department of Defense applications and data to the cloud for remote access using the Microsoft 365 platform.

“If you look at the U.S. Navy, submarines are its top priority — and the Columbia in particular,” Novakovic said Wednesday. “I am quite confident, … given my belief that the defense budget is driven by the threat, that key elements of our marine group growth will be nicely supported.

“It’s the height of hubris to assume that any organization is immune from constraints in budget,” she added. “But performance matters. … When I look across our portfolio, I’m pretty comfortable that we are in very good stead.”

In mid-January, the Government Accountability Office published a public version of a report it issued in November faulting what GAO auditors described as “persistent problems” with new software Electric Boat is using to design the Columbia-class subs, leading to delays in delivering missile tubes and other components.

The same report noted the relative inexperience of some managers and workers on the Columbia program on the heels of a hiring boom, after visits to Electric Boat’s facility in Quonset Point, R.I. and the Newport News Shipbuilding plant in Virginia operated by Huntington Ingalls Industries, which will ship several sections of the Columbia subs to Groton on barges for final assembly.

GAO predicted that Congress will likely have to approve additional funding to complete the first two subs, with DOD targeting 2030 for Columbia’s first patrol.

In a statement forwarded by a General Dynamics spokesperson, the company indicated that the report was based on a “snapshot” from an investigation more than a year ago.

“While we faced early challenges with our design tool, those have been resolved over the past year,” the statement reads. “Our progress in design products has allowed us to aggressively procure materials needed to support the construction schedule. The submarine enterprise, recognizing the generational material demand challenges associated with submarine construction in the coming decades, has been actively engaged in supplier development and readiness throughout the last several years.”

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman



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50 famous firsts from presidential history | Features


George Washington, the country’s first president, won both of his elections unanimously, with every elector casting their vote for him. That’s a far cry from today’s bitterly contested battles. President Washington was followed in office by John Adams, the first resident of the new White House, then still called the President’s House.

Presidential firsts made headlines and history through subsequent administrations. In the early years of the country, precedents were established and earlier flaws in procedures were remedied. A separate vote for the vice president came about in 1804 after a marred election four years earlier. Then Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied and the winner was chosen by the House of Representatives. James Monroe, the last of the Founding Fathers to hold the presidency, became known for what was later called the Monroe Doctrine, the United States establishing its sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere and warning Europe in the process.

Presidential firsts can include not just what presidents do in office, but the identity of the presidents themselves. The country has seen two father-son pairs win the White House: first the Adamses and much later the Bushes. Women and candidates of color joined the competition and with the victory of the Biden-Harris ticket, Sen. Kamala Harris became the first woman and woman of color to become vice president. President-elect Joe Biden will be the oldest man ever to serve. And while the Republican and Democratic national conventions to chose each party’s candidate seems like an enshrined practice now, candidates were once chosen differently, and the procedures governing each selection process have changed over the centuries. 

If the country began by rallying behind President Washington as the one man to lead the United States, the last election was one of the most divisive. President Donald Trump has become the most norm-breaking president in history, accruing his own large list of presidential firsts. 

Stacker compiled a list of 50 presidential firsts from the founding of the country to the present by looking at government records, official documents, and news and historical reports. Here is a look at some of those milestones over the years.

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The U.S. Navy Wants Two Large Drone Submarine Prototypes


The U.S. Navy is moving quickly to build two new undersea large drone prototypes to launch from a submarine, surveil the undersea, locate enemy mines, subs, and surface ships, and coordinate targeting for torpedo attacks. 

Naval Sea Systems Command just released a request to industry to submit proposals to build two prototype Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (LDUUV) to begin construction next year. The LDUUV program is intended to complement a sweeping broader scale Navy unmanned system effort intended to deliver as many as twenty-one new large drone boats within just the next five years. The LDUUVs could be launched from submarine missile tubes to engage in long-dwell undersea reconnaissance missions and use various kinds of data gathering and transmission technologies to inform submarine commanders of relevant combat information. 

A December 2020 Congressional Research Service report, called “Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles,” cites the LDUUV program as one of a number of high-profile undersea vehicle prototype programs likely to transform the undersea domain.

“UVs are one of several new capabilities—along with directed-energy weapons, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and cyber capabilities—that the Navy says it is pursuing to meet emerging military challenges, particularly from China. 2 UVs can be equipped with sensors, weapons, or other payloads, and can be operated remotely, semi-autonomously, or (with technological advancements) autonomously,” the report states. 

As computer algorithms continue to become more advanced, undersea platforms such as the LDUUV can increase levels of autonomy, thereby expanding mission scope and adding new abilities to respond to emerging circumstances and make adjustments while performing operations. 

For example, AI-enabled algorithms could help an undersea drone identify specific classes of mines, enemy ships or submarines by bouncing new incoming sensor images off of a vast database to perform analyses, make discernments and offer optimal courses of action for submarine commanders to consider. Payloads can be sonar detection systems or other kinds of undersea reconnaissance and weapons applications. 

“The LDUUV will achieve full integration with Modernized Dry Deck Shelter and Payload Handling System-equipped submarines. Initial vehicles will be designed to support Intelligence Preparation of the Operating Environment missions,” a NAVSEA report states. 

The Navy is acquiring the new drone, called Snakehead, on an expedited, massively fast-tracked basis to meet pressing, even urgent, needs for long-dwell undersea surveillance. A Snakehead could, for instance, conduct much longer reconnaissance missions in high-threat areas near enemy coastline without needing to return a manned crew. 

“Snakehead is a long-endurance, multi-mission UUV, deployed from submarine large open interfaces, with the capability to deploy reconfigurable payloads. It is the largest UUV intended for hosting and deployment from submarines, and has been designated a Maritime Accelerated Acquisition,” the NAVSEA report states. 

The NAVSEA solicitation reports the service intends to award a deal to a single contractor to build two LDUUV prototypes next year. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.



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