Sea Hunter Passes First Operational Tests
Technology company Leidos has begun operational testing of Sea Hunter – an unmanned anti-submarine vessel it is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Sea Hunter can shadow diesel-electric submarines for months, without human contact, across thousands of miles of ocean and chase them out of strategic waters, says Leidos.
Relatively cheap and virtually silent diesel-electric submarines are challenging to track and are considered one of the key threats to naval and commercial shipping operations. Costing around $200-300 million, they are available to smaller or more volatile nations. Leidos says that Russia is building submarines to buoy up its shipbuilding industry, triggering what some consider as an undersea arms race. Algeria has reportedly ordered two Russain submarines, Venezuela five and Indonesia six.
Testing of Sea Hunter is underway off the coast of San Diego, California, and follows the successful completion of performance trials over summer.
The 132-foot (40 meter) trimaran has commenced at-sea testing of sensors, mission control hardware and software and the autonomy system. In initial testing of Sea Hunter's autonomy capability, the ship successfully executed a multi-waypoint mission with no-one directing course or speed changes.
Leidos also completed a test of the Remote Supervisory Control Station, which allows remote supervisory control of the vessel and enables new mission tasking from a remote location, either afloat or ashore. The completion of the station test was the final test before beginning more extensive autonomous operations.
Testing of the Sea Hunter autonomy system in a variety of mission scenarios is scheduled to continue through fall 2017 as part of a two-year test program jointly funded by DARPA and the Office of Naval Research.