- For the first time, an unmanned US Navy surface vessel launched a missile.
- The missile, SM-6, is capable of engaging almost anything at sea.
- Unmanned ships will increase the firepower of the Navy inexpensively and efficiently, while creating room for new tactics.
In new images from the US Department of Defense, Tidy, an unmanned Navy drone, launched an SM-6 missile (one of the most advanced guided weapons in the service) as it sailed at sea.
The video, posted September 3 to Twitter, is not just for fun, it marks an important first for the service; unmanned ships like Tidy promise to increase the number of missiles a Navy fleet can carry at sea, while reducing shipbuilding costs.
Tidy is designed with a long, flat cargo area behind the deck, allowing it to accommodate all kinds of mission payloads, from anti-submarine warfare to minehunting. In the video, Tidy appears to be carrying a number of shipping containers on board with a single 30-40ft white container parked prominently on the stern of the ship.
Suddenly, the roof of the white shipping container rises 90 degrees, showing what appears to be four missile launchers. An SM-6 missile then rises in the air on a column of fire. The SM-6, for its part, is a versatile missile capable of engaging drones, airplanes, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles. It can even attack enemy warships, hitting them at Mach 3.5, and sprinkle their vulnerable electronics and weapons systems with a small but powerful blast fragmentation warhead.
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The Navy is betting big on unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). The service envisions several roles for them, but one of the most important is that of a floating missile loader, increasing the firepower of a manned warship. Current guided missile cruisers and destroyers are equipped with 90, 96, or 122 missile silos, each capable of carrying a single SM-6 missile, an SM-2 air defense missile, an SM-3 ballistic missile interceptor, or an anti -missile Tomahawk. naval or land attack cruise missiles.
The rise of the Chinese navy prompts the American navy to increase the number of warships in its fleet from 296 to 355. Warships, however, are expensive and the ambitions of the service come up against a budgetary saw. The last Arleigh BurkeClass destroyers – cost around $ 1.8 billion per hull, for example, which prompted the Navy to ask for just one in this year’s defense budget (although, thanks to Congress, that number seems be adjusted upwards to three destroyers.) Crewed vessels are also expensive to operate and the Navy has to pay people for the crew.
The solution? Place plenty of missile silos on unmanned ships and have them sail alongside crewed ships in wartime. A cruiser with 122 silos can control two other USVs, each with 48 silos each, giving the ship a total of 218 silos. That’s the firepower of a destroyer without the $ 1.8 billion price tag.
Unmanned missile ships could also allow the Navy to mix tactics. If the Navy engages an enemy fleet, for example, unmanned ships could navigate to engage the enemy from an unforeseen direction. This would force the enemy to train sensors and weapons in all directions, weakening their overall defenses.
One day soon, an enemy fleet will be the target of a powerful US Navy strike force, with carrier-based attack fighters approaching from the air; submarines under the sea; and surface ships firing missiles with or without crew. It’s a powerful incentive to stay home and not cause trouble. So if the Navy gets its way, unmanned ships may well prevent a war.
Now watch this:
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